Courting gig review

As my friend and I embark the X21 bus to Stockton after successfully finding the J bus stop – a letter seemingly too far into the alphabet to be a bus stop – we anticipate the 50-minute journey that cost a total of £6, wondering whether it was all really worth it. During the bus ride, I reminisce about the time I saw them in 2019 supporting Sports Team in Liverpool, recalling the cowbell they had that was apparently going to be ‘their thing’, and the hold they had on the crowd despite barely anyone knowing who they were.  

Having released their debut album ‘Guitar Music’ earlier this year, Courting have established themselves as a post-modern, hyperpop, rock band under the whole post-Brexit-post-punk-post-britpop umbrella that’s been emerging over the past few years. Their lyrics, oozing with references to things like The Chase, David Byrne, and Nigel Farage, are accompanied by an ever-changing backdrop of indie guitars, electronic synths, and autotune that culminates into a satirical, youthful, at points quite frustrated, sign of the times. Despite their album being criticised for not really having a cohesive sound, that’s sort of the point – to be a bit weird.  

Entering the venue that looked externally a bit like a Cineworld, we eagerly anticipate Courting to come on given our tiredness and uncertainty of the Stockton-Durham bus routes. Six-piece support band ‘UGLY’ really was a treat to behold, crafting an unexpected moment of calm, intimacy, but also excitement in the venue. My friend and I shot each other a glance of approval, agreeing how they reminded us of Black Country, New Road. The audience was practically rejoicing in the wake of their harmonies, as they shifted effortlessly between crashing drums, soft acoustic guitar, operatic-esque singing, and spoken word – surprising us at every turn. After their set me and my friend instantly followed them on Instagram. Their song ‘I’m Happy You’re Here’ has been kept firmly on repeat.  

After a quick sit down, Courting finally came on stage, embarking it to the resounding sounds of Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar’s ‘family ties’. Adorned in Pavement merchandise – an obvious influence on their music – they opened with ‘Tennis’, a highly energetic song that demands an equally energetic performance. With this being the penultimate stop of their UK tour, Courting was of course tired. Yet, they were somehow still able to give an impassioned performance that the crowd was completely on board with, as frontman Sean Murphy-O’Neill bounded around the stage and at points into the crowd.   

I found myself smiling from ear to ear quite often during their performance, like in their cover of Icona Pop’s ‘I Love it’ and when they asked the crowd to make a mosh pit – not to mosh into – but rather to waltz into during their song ‘Pda’.  To my delight, the cowbell did in fact make a feature during ‘Football’, their satirically unpatriotic track that rebukes the game as anything but “the best of British life”. Frontman Sean leapt into the audience – cowbell and drumstick in hand – offering the drumstick to members of the crowd who could in turn hit this sacred item. I felt like I was transported back to 2019 Liverpool.  

Just as Courting had really got going, disaster had struck. My friend couldn’t see his jacket anywhere, and unfortunately spent the rest of the gig stalking around the venue trying to locate it. I was alone, standing off to the side of the mosh pit trying to focus on the music rather than the lost Carhartt. Amongst this chaos, the sounds of one of my favourites, ‘Jumper’, echoed round the room and onto the streets of Stockton, an indie romp reminiscent of early 2000s that simultaneously makes fun of and romanticises mundane aspects of love, like kissing whilst doing the dishes. The crowd was jumping around the sweaty room in makeshift most pits, certainly too warm to be wearing a Jumper. 

Whilst Stockton on Tees may seem like an unlikely place for Courting to make a stop, the background of post-deindustrialisation, regeneration, takeaway shops, pubs, and concrete carparks, merged effortlessly with their tongue-in-cheek take on British culture today. Their final song ‘Famous’ depicts a universal sense of growing up in a town like Stockton, of seeing your home and childhood friends changing, yet retaining an oddly familiar quality. Confronting the audience with the question “Why’s everybody getting older?” made their jolly guitar chords feel really quite melancholic, but immensely relatable. Whilst at some points their lyrics can feel slightly muddled or buzzwordy, there’s something about them that undoubtably resonated with the people of Stockton and myself.  

With the crowd embracing each other as the gig ended, it made me think that Courting just get it. Their lyrics and references are far from pretence, alike the band’s performance, playing to the crowd rather than to their own ego. We leave the venue, luckily having located the missing jacket, and wander through the streets of Stockton trying to locate the X1 bus that we soon found out didn’t actually exist. Somehow this felt like a sort of fitting end to the night – one that was sonically and emotionally a rollercoaster.  

(Photo: Mark Holt from Flickr)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Our YouTube Channel