With this year's excellent The Price Of Life album, an explosive, politicised clash of punk, grime, grunge and heavy metal, lairy London duo Bob Vylan reasserted why they're one of the most exciting young British bands in rock right now. Last night, we got to witness them bring the ruckus to the intimate surroundings of 250-capacity Milton Keynes venue The Craufurd Arms, partway through their Price Of Life UK tour. Here's what we learned on a fun (and sweaty) night in Buckinghamshire.
You're never too small for stage props
Even before Bob Vylan hit the stage in Milton Keynes tonight, there are a few telling signs that this isn't going to be like most local rock shows. First of all, we're pretty sure we've never seen any band cover the stage of The Craufurd Arms in a pristine red carpet. And second of all, we're definitely sure we've never seen any band bring two fully functioning gambler machines with them onto the stage of The Craufurd Arms. They even have a big ol' banner - albeit a homemade, spray-painted one ("We're on Top 20 album money, not Top 10 album money" frontman Bobby later jokes). Remember, kids: it's never too early to start thinking big.
Meditation and stretching is punk rock now
Anyone thinking Bobby is joking when he casually strolls out at the start of the show and announces that the set will be kicking off with some "guided meditation and light stretching" isn't laughing when the singer actually closes his eyes and begins mindfully stretching out over a couple of minutes' worth of abrasive, pre-taped riffs playing over the PA. Unusual? Absolutely, but it helps build an extra bit of fun anticipation for a crowd that is 100% ready to throw down tonight.
Minimalism is still punk rock too, though
While the stage set may be impressive for such small surroundings, in terms of the band themselves, things are very much kept at bare basics, with just Bobby and drummer Bobbie (yes, really) on stage together, accompanied by a backing track for the entirety of the show. It's raw, it's no-nonsense and it feels the right kind of gritty for a band who position themselves at the forefront of UK punk in 2022.
On a stage is where Bob Vylan come to life the most
If there's any concern that two people isn't enough to anchor a show like this, fear not: Bob Vylan immediately prove why they're one of the most hyped live bands in the UK scene right now. Bobby is a magnetic presence on the mic, throwing himself around the stage and into the front row with abandon as Bobbie smashes the crap out of the kit behind him. The frontman is also great value between songs, managing to effortlessly flit from earnest, politicised diatribes to emotional anecdotes and hilarious, good-natured crowd-baiting (at one point he cheekily attempts to push his luck by slagging off Elvis, Churchill, The Beatles and Bowie one after the other).
They already have anthems to spare
That they barely have an hour's-worth of material in existence right now but could have comfortably doubled the number of straight-up bangers they play tonight is testament to Bob Vylan's hit rate. From the scuzzy punk of Big Man and We Live Here to the fuzzy alt-rock of GDP, to the big beat vibes of Take That all the way to the grimey, proto-d'n'b thump of Wicked And Bad - complete with an invitational stage invasion - every single song aired demands immediate movement, and Milton Keynes is happy to oblige. In 45 minutes they turn the Craufurd into a sweaty, steaming mess - hell knows what would have happened if they'd been given another half-hour.
It'll be fascinating to see how Bob Vylan can grow from here
The Bobs are no strangers to big stages, having recently supported none other than The Offspring at Wembley Bloody Arena. That said, after landing a Top 20 album with The Price Of Life - the first time an album recorded, produced and distributed entirely by an independent band has ever reached that high in the UK charts - and selling out shows on this current run, it's safe to say they're gonna have to get used to playing larger venues on a regular basis very soon.
The two-man-plus-PA set-up works great in intimate settings, but it'll be interesting to see if the duo decide to welcome more musicians into the fold as the crowds get bigger and the spaces in front of them get more cavernous. If not, they may have to get creative (not a problem, on early impressions, to be fair). For now, though, Bob Vylan's modus operandi is clear: drag the punk scene kicking and spitting into a new era, one carpeted stage at a time. On the evidence of tonight, they're doing that just fine.
Sold out show last night in Milton Keynes at @craufurdarmsmk was intense! So hot and was worried about that stage during the invasion but it made it through. Another sold out show tonight in Cardiff @ClwbIforBach 📸 - @joe_guppy pic.twitter.com/SwM3xzThQ9May 17, 2022