It’s a rare thing these days for a band who are so ingrained in a DIY ethos to have a sudden and rapid rise in stature to the point where they’re able to pull in such a sizable audience of animated fans on their first overseas tour, but given how good Nashville’s Snooper have already proven themselves to be, it’s hardly surprising they’ve managed to do just that. On the final night of their maiden voyage to the UK, their performance at Bristol’s The Lanes was expected to bring mayhem, and it’s fair to say they quite possibly exceeded those expectations.
For a band whose brand of high-energy punk gives off an undeniable sense of fun and frivolity, it felt as though the iconic venue-cum-bowling-alley would have been the perfect environment for their antics. While those looking to topple some pins that evening might have been somewhat distracted by the rambunctious Tennessee group, those actually there for the music were treated to a delightfully wild set.
Whetting the appetite for the headline act were Bristol queer punks GorZ, who while not as seemingly sugar-addled as Snooper and certainly more overtly socio-political in their lyrical themes, did manage to win over many attendees with their intense and direct approach to addressing societal ills. There’s some shabbiness when it comes to their overall tightness as a band, but their overall strength comes through in the sheer passion it’s delivered with.
With the stage bedecked in all sorts of homemade decorations – a giant phone, a vending machine, terrifying insect puppets – the band took to the stage in their usual attire of shell suits and wraparound shades save for vocalist Blair Tramel. While the band are no slouches in terms of giving it their all, it’s Tramel’s energy that is the most palpable and that rubs off onto the audience with instant effect. Her personality and presence is akin to that of a psychedelic children’s TV presenter; somewhat apt given her day job when not moonlighting in Snooper is working as an early-years educator. Bouncing around the stage and using comical props such as papier-mâché dumbbells (for the track ‘Fitness’), she’s certainly the livewire that gets things going.
The band on the other hand are deliberately jerky in their movements, looking like a track-and-field Devo while ripping through each track as though they’re racing to the end of the set. Despite playing at around 100 mph for the duration of the show, they remarkably don’t miss a single beat while they play through virtually their entire discography. Debut album Super Snooper lasts a mere 23 minutes, and you better believe they played all of it with a handful of spares to boot.
While Snooper don’t waste time with idle chit chat between tracks, they instead choose to keep the flow of things going with soundbites and samples between songs, whether that’s clips of interviews with bodybuilders, jingles promoting Nashville’s musical heritage or the most punishing breakcore you’ve ever heard. This does mean that everything merges into one half-hour hit of unfiltered Snooper, but the songs don’t feel like they become indistinguishable from one another, with highlights including tracks like ‘Pod’, ‘Microbe’ and ‘Defect’, as well as a cover of Suburban Lawns’ ‘Unable’.
The crowd certainly tried to be as wild as the band, with some valiant attempts at crowdsurfing made at various stages of the show along with the customary moshpit, but nothing could match Snooper’s displays of athleticism as they jogged atop their guitar cabs and climbed lighting rigs during closing epic (ie. a rare 5-minute song) ‘Running’. When the set came to its sudden end, the audience were obviously keen for more, and the band obliged with a whole extra minute in typical Snooper fashion.
If the point of DIY punk is to defy expectation and question norms, then Snooper are certainly excelling in both senses. Perhaps with six weeks remaining in 2023 it would be a little hasty to crown their UK farewell the best gig of the year, but let’s face it – nobody is topping that.
Words: Reuben Cross // Photos: Wendy Stone
‘Super Snooper’ is out now via Third Man Records. Stream or purchase the record via Bandcamp.