I’m a huge Frank Carter fan, watching him fronting Gallows at the Exeter Lemongrove back in 2009 was a huge influence on me getting so heavily into punk. The intensity of his performance was something I had never seen before, erratic, dangerous and captivating, I was immediately hooked. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him several times since, in Gallows and Pure Love and tonight with The Rattlesnakes for the first time.
Frank Carter’s career is fascinating, he burst onto the scene fronting hardcore punk band Gallows; whose chaotic live show helped them become one of the most talked about new bands of the mid 2000’s. It seemed they would only get bigger before Franks abrupt departure in 2011. His next project Pure Love was a huge change; Frank traded in the shirtless blood soaked punk maniac look for something a bit more sophisticated and donned a suit to sing in what was essentially an indie rock band. Unsurprisingly this alienated a huge amount of his fan base and the band went on indefinite hiatus after 3 years and 1 album. Frank returned to his other profession of Tattooing and it seemed that would be the end of the story.
2015 saw Frank Carter return not only to music but to his hardcore punk roots; "Juggernaut" was the single that caught most people’s attention a crushingly heavy track with an unforgettable chorus. The album Blossom from which "Juggernaut" came is incredible throughout, the dark imagery, the turns of pace, it has everything I appreciate in a good hardcore album. However the follow up Modern Ruin is a change of tone once again, less shouting and more singing, the success of Blossom pushed Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes into the mainstream, with big festival appearances and heavy coverage from NME, it’s clear that this band is now bigger than punk rock and the newest album seems far more aimed at this new audience than appeasing the old. We were at Exeter Phoenix to see how the two albums would fit together live.
Opening a show like this is no easy task, a sold out Phoenix eagerly awaits the rattlesnakes but first up Yonaka take to the stage. By the end of the first song you could have easily believed this is who the crowd had come to see, Theresa Jarvis owns the stage with absolute confidence her unique vocals are a wonderful hybrid of Siouxsie Sioux and Gwen Stefani.
The band play modern hard rock and while the vocals take centre stage electric drum pads and large pedal boards allow the sound to vary on different songs while still feeling like one consistent tone. This is a very strong showing from the young Brighton band who are surely destined for big things.
The perfect main support for this show; Strange Bones play gritty rock and roll with more than a hint of hardcore punk. It’s abrasive and in your face from the start. Melodies descend into harsh shouts and screams and the visuals match the noise as a shirtless frontman throws himself into the crowd, starting his own mosh pit in true DIY spirit. T
he set is an onslaught of fast punk tunes and the crowd loves it, ‘Rats’ stands out as a particular crowd favourite as does ‘Big Sister Is Watching’. There’s always something different happening from megaphones and balaclavas to two bassists the variation adds to the frantic feel of Strange Bones’ set. Safe to say they’ve won themselves some new fans here in Exeter.
With the crowd suitably sweaty, a sharp suited Frank Carter accompanied by his rattlesnakes took to the stage. From the opening line of "Snake Eyes" the crowds familiarity with the material was clear and they sang along to every word of the scintillating set.
The band are a well oiled machine and Frank is on great form, far more of an entertainer than an animal these days. The aggression is still there but it comes out at appropriate moments as opposed to the constant madness of his younger days. A Frank Carter show is always as much about the audience as it is the band and tonight, the audience is amazing.
Frank does everything he can to ensure a safe environment for the audience encouraging female only crowd surfing, scolding the security every time they failed to catch someone and even stopping in the middle of "Devil Inside Of Me" to ensure the safety of one fan.
These shows are a long way from the dangerous atmosphere that Gallows had all those years ago, instead it’s an inclusive show with an audience more likely to attend Reading & Leeds than the Rebellion Punk Festival.
This is a new Frank Carter, professional and responsible but every bit as captivating as he’s always been. While for me the material from Blossom still hits substantially harder, the tracks from Modern Ruin do sound heavier live and this audience clearly love every moment. "I Hate You" is the perfect ending to a faultless set, the sing-a-long is louder than the band and a circle pit starts up despite the slow tempo, much to Frank's amusement. The combination of pop hooks and ferocious performance makes for a memorable, yet welcoming show.
Regardless of your music taste if you get the opportunity to see this band in action you will not regret it.