The Grace in Islington is a narrow hall with low vaulted ceilings, and a stage that puts the performers almost at level with the crowd. Yet, despite the space’s intimacy, Flawes never seemed able to engage with the crowd in any meaningful way. The setlist, including both ‘oldies’ and new material, along with a beat-for-beat cover of Billie Eilish's Ocean Eyes, seemed to elicit the same polite and gentle movement from a crowd as homogenous as the band they had come to see.
Flawes are an indie rock band hailing from Huddersfield, active since 2015 with a fairly steady release of singles since then. Their debut studio album arrives in January, and when front man JC announced the album’s upcoming release the excitement from the band was tangible. It was one of the only moments of an otherwise low-key show where the crowd responded with equal enthusiasm. If there was an impression of the band left after the performance, then it would be that they, at least, certainly cared about their performance. As the band left the stage, JC, on vocals, gave an earnest thanks to the crowd for showing up to one of the band’s first headline shows in a while. Flawes received passionate encouragement, which was strangely absent during the actual performances.
This followed a performance of the final song of the set, Don’t Count Me Out, which seemed somewhat appropriate for a band on the cusp of their label debut, and yet struggling to move the humble crowd that showed out. Perhaps it may be too soon to write off Flawes, though, and perhaps their upcoming material will draw in audiences in a way which the set at the Grace didn’t seem to be able to.
Ultimately, the band’s weakness, despite the passion on display, was the lack, perhaps, of any real artistic principles. The songs sounded a lot like the British pop-punk bands of the beginning of this decade, but as someone who felt very strongly about that scene, it’s hard to overstate how utterly uncompelling Flawes’ material was in a live setting. They’re a band that clearly wants what a populist rock band like Bastille has, and yet never manage to strike that balance between ‘alternative’ adjacent aesthetics and smooth pop songwriting. I also cannot criticise the musicianship, in part because the songs did not show a lot of range. However, within their own framework, Flawes performed their material well—the issue was with its blandness.
With sentiments and sounds like the musical equivalent of an H&M V-neck t-shirt, there were no new perspectives in the music, nor even any original articulation of old ideas. Even for a genre as watered-down and inoffensive as alternative rock, it came across as generic. And unless the upcoming material from their aforementioned new album takes their sound in different directions, I don’t see crowds responding any more passionately to Flawes at future shows than they did at the Grace. The show was by all accounts a moderately good time, but for someone who would love to see the emergence of an indie rock band with character, in the footprint of say the 1975, overall this was a disappointing show.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Digital Editor
Photo credit: RedBull Records