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When It Drops: Sports Team at O2 Academy Bristol Review

★★★★★

Much has been made of the rude health that indie rock appears to be in at the moment. After a ‘recovery period’ throughout the 2010s following on from the late 00s landfill indie epidemic, it would appear that guitar music is back in style. If you needed any confirmation of this, you would have found it in Bristol on Wednesday night.

Sports Team hit Bristol on their UK tour having just released their sophomore album ‘Gulp!’ which both continued and expanded the band’s signature style they began to hone in on with 2020’s ‘Deep Down Happy.’ Right from the start, it was obvious this would be a show to remember.

Beginning with the one-two punch of “Here It Comes Again” and “The Game,” the energy level was set high and rarely dipped throughout the performance. A lot of this is thanks to frontman Alex Rice and his Jagger-esque antics strutting around the stage whipping the crowd into a frenzy. 

Honestly, this was probably the liveliest mosh pit I’ve ever been in, with fans enthusiastically responding to both the ‘old’ classics and new anthems. This is the sign of a well-crafted setlist, as there were no sections where the band drifted off to play numerous unfamiliar new tracks in a row before launching back into recognisable hits at the back end of the set – a trap many bands can fall into upon releasing new material.

The clearest sign of this was when guitarist Rob Knaggs was given the reigns for two songs as Alex Rice went backstage (presumably to rest his blistering feet from the new shoes he was wearing). The first, “Light Industry”, is currently Sports Team’s most ambitious track, as it slowly builds throughout its four-and-a-half minutes towards a passionate finale. This then segued perfectly into “Lander”, the explosive opener of the debut album, where the crowd sung along word for word about The Slug and Lettuce and getting an Uber to the hospital.

Only “Cool It Kid” and maybe the first two minutes of “Light Industry” had given the crowd a rest from the motions of the mosh, and after Lander, it was full throttle to the end. Closing the main set was recent single “The Drop” and early hit “M5,” when Rice made his first visit into the crowd, surfing across the euphoric masses. Before anyone could get too comfortable and start to decompress, the band came back for a three-track encore – starting with their frenzy-inducing breakout track “Here’s The Thing,” and ending on fan favourites “Kutcher” and “Stanton.”

It took a decent amount of time outside and a J2O (with plenty of ice) to even begin to cool down after 80 electric minutes with Sports Team. If your shirt is considerably heavier when you come out of a gig than when you went in, you know it’s been a good time.

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