We meet ENTER SHIKARI’s Chris Batten (bass) and Rob Rolfe (drums) backstage to chat about them, the band and the industry. Contrary to what you might imagine based on their famously crazy onstage antics, the lads are the picture of charm and we’re impressed. They are completely open about the band’s experiences and trajectory, know the industry in and out, and are firm believers in creative independence. They also love supporting a good cause and are eager to show their support for the jailed Pussy Riot girls.
Their live slot as part of LIVERPOOL SOUND CITY is hotly anticipated. I cannot wait for this. It’s well documented that their fans are extremely loyal and passionate about seeing their favourite band live, that their offstage mania is as much of a talking point as their onstage performance.
Here in Liverpool, we’re not disappointed. We enter what has already become a sweatpit. The heat towards the front of the stage is intense simply with the incredible amount of moshing and screaming, people are throwing themselves onto each other and hurtling over outstretched hands and tops of heads towards the stage – this is crowdsurfing on a serious level. The pit photographers are at risk of being clobbered by fans rolling off the front row hands into the pit. Security has been well prepped and are efficiently picking off each surfer as they roll in, expertly guiding them back towards the pack. Things are starting off well.
Track after track is pumped out by the band. The energy is the highest we’ve seen at the festival so far, and for some time. Enter Shikari have always been one for using props on stage to enhance the experience, and they’ve somehow located a shopping trolley which is now pulled out. But that’s not enough for these guys – they then have to load members of the band into it, still playing their instruments, and wheel them around, tossing them out at the other side of the stage!
Lead singer Rou Reynolds now climbs onto the massive speakers flanking the stage – he keeps ascending until he reaches the overhead lights and can go no further. Is he going to jump? Wouldn’t surprise us if he did, but there is a photo pit that is a bit difficult to avoid, so he chooses to ‘serenade’ the crowds from above. He’s sporting a “Youth of Today” t-shirt – the American hardcore band would be proud.
Chris is on a high, sweat flying off him, as he spins around at high speed in time to the music while playing his bass. There’s so much going on onstage that you’re barely able to keep up with each member as they create mayhem – apart from drummer Rob who is on fire, keeping the sound momentum going, reminding us that we are by the way at a music gig.
In a rare break in between tracks, Rou pulls out a packet of Hobnobs – munching away, he then throws them into the crowd (of course). This band is a sterling example of how a band can and really should engage their ticket-paying audience. This is how you nurture loyalty, and the band are clearly enjoying every moment. How on earth they keep themselves coordinated with all the activity is a mystery, but it’s a sign of a band that know each other well and who believe that with great fame comes great responsibility to deliver the goods.
In one bizarre moment, Rou has a shoe on his head. Don’t know whose shoe it is, but does it really matter at this point?
The encore provides more pleasures to come – this is not an obligatory encore, it’s a necessary coda to the night. The crowds want more and the band are just getting warmed up. “We’re gonna treat you tonight!” threatens Chris as the crowds roar in approval. Someone has lost a wallet, probably in their crowdsurfing roll into the pit: “You can have it by telling me who you’re going to see!” as gig tickets are pulled out of the wallet to determine the identity of the holder, who in fairness, is probably quite happy to have dropped it now that it becomes another prop for the band.
Rows and rows of heart-shaped hands are raised in adoration. But this is nothing compared to what comes next. We’re suddenly aware that half the room has sat down on the floor and are rowing along to the music. It’s now spreading throughout the venue. “Row the fucking boat!” yell the band. Chris shakes his head in disbelief: “This is the first time we’ve ever had anyone row the boat…”
They can’t resist climbing and jumping off the ladder which is now centre stage. You really do feel the venue has been taken over by your mates on a wild night out, who play great music and have a rare charisma to boot. The icing on the cake comes when the guitarists fall backwards onto the crowd, still playing. Rou climbs up onto the ladder, hangs off the lighting system and drops right on top of the drumkit, smashing up the breakables upon entry. Rob stands up, throws his sticks into the crowd and salutes them. This wasn’t just a band on a stage tonight – this was a band and a crowd on the same stage, smashing the venue together.