The Big Ups are a Brooklyn post-hardcore band who have just released their second album this year. Nearly a week after buying said album Before a Million Universes, I discovered that the band were voyaging across the Atlantic to play in our merry little capital on Wednesday 30th March so eagerly I grabbed a ticket.
The Lexington is a small venue on Pentonville Road, with a 200 max gig room above the bar. The bar was cool to sit in, the walls decked with various animal horns and antique rifles. Upstairs there were two support bands besides the Big Ups. The first band was a surprise, since they weren’t even mentioned on the gig poster. I didn’t catch their name but they certainly made an impression. Not only did they sound like some enraged pub rock band, but the raucous singer was channelling the spirit of Jonny Rotten, from glaring moodily at the crowd to chucking beer. The second band Crows made a hellish post-punk din you could dance to, while the bug-eyed singer jerked and writhed across the venue as if possessed by some demon.
The supports were energetic enough to get the packed room going. When the Big Ups took to the stage, I was surprised. I knew they met at college in New York, so I was expecting some moody art students. They all looked so young and fresh-faced, and their enthusiasm clearly shone. After the two rather assaultive performances from the supports, the Big Ups’ youthful energy was a refreshing blast.
Singer Joe Galarraga certainly knew how to entertain a crowd. Between songs he was a mild-mannered stand-up. When performing he took on a comic intensity, making faces and throwing himself recklessly around the stage. There was one moment when he slithered head first over the edge of the stage and sang to the floor with his skinny legs flailing in the air. I wondered if he was a fan of Jello Biafra, clownish singer from such satirical punk bands as Dead Kennedys.
21/05/15 at Palisades in Brooklyn, NYC. Photo by Max Berger.
So the band knew how to get a laugh out of their audience, but the intensity and quality of their performance was all too clear. The singer could certainly scream, and the crowd screamed along with him, a good amount knowing lyrics to nearly all the songs. It was great to see such enthusiasm. The songs that sounded so cool and loud on Before a Million Universes sounded even more exhilarating live. The quiet moments built up tension that was shattered by the explosive stabbing riffs.
The crowd were very energetic and there was some vigorous moshing. But overall the gig felt very good natured. For me, the Big Ups’ performance distilled everything I wanted in a punk show. There was a good balance of rage, energy and humour and they were rather pleasant people. They played an encore, mingled with the crowd afterwards and personally thanked everyone for turning up and supporting their music. I personally thank them for gracing us with their presence and such an awesome show.
Images from facebook.