Wednesday 5 April 2023

Ist Ist - Leeds Oporto - 4th April 2023

From the highs of headlining the fifteen hundred capacity Ritz in their hometown of Manchester on Friday and the elation of hitting number eleven in the midweek album charts with their new album Protagonists, Ist Ist went intimate on Tuesday night with an outstore performance for Crash Records at Oporto in Leeds. Performing a fourteen song set from across their three albums, they reminded us of their earlier days in venues of this size with a raw intense performance in a crammed space.

Gone are the days where we'll see Ist Ist in venues this small, but the grassroots music venue scene is the one in which they developed their craft, won over their first fans and started the steady build to where they are now - a band that is mixing with big names in the charts despite still self-releasing and facing, with a few honourable exceptions, a wall of silence from press and radio. 

Tonight we can see the whites of their eyes, there's no distance between them and us, no big impressive lighting show or overpowering sound set-up that can mask any shortcomings. Not that Ist Ist have any discernible ones right now. Great bands can deliver in the smallest, and it is so small here that Adam nearly bumps Andy a couple of times, and largest of spaces. And that is exactly what they do.

Their fourteen song set is very generous for events like these which often last half an hour and three-quarters at a stretch. It includes eight of the songs from Protagonists, that are already being mouthed back at them verbatim, starting and finishing with the album's bookends Stamp You Out and Trapdoors as well as selected highlights from The Art Of Lying and Architecture. Older songs like the other worldly waltz of Heads On Spikes and Watching You Watching Me feel like they've had to step up to stay in touch with the new kids on the block, although Black still has a resplendent dark majesty to it that'll never feel past its sell-by date.

Each of the eight Protagonists tracks could be a single in their own right and none of them would sound out of place on any radio station that champions guitar music. Whether it be the knockout punch of Stamp You Out, All Downhill or Something Has To Give, the synth-laden Nothing More Nothing Less, the sublime soaring Emily and Mary In The Black And White Room or the relentless building repetitive mantra of Trapdoors, Ist Ist set out a sonic palette that's both consistent in the tone of the message yet vibrant and varied enough to 

For such a small space and the power which Ist Ist generate, Oporto's sound engineer does a magnificent job of making this all sound perfect, the delineation between instruments crystal clear when it could have been a noisy mess. That allows us to hear the subtleties in Ist Ist's sound at the closest of quarters - the sharpest edges of Andy's bass, often used in place of a lead guitar, the intricacy and rhythm of Joel's drums, the detail in Mat's synth lines and the deep emotion in Adam's vocals as he sings these songs often eyes shut lost in the moment. It's cathartic for him, but the people in the room relate to many of the base emotions in these songs.

Like many of the best bands, Ist Ist mix their set around tonight in order to create an experience that fits the situation. Too often bands will just run through the same songs in the same order, or a truncated version, but there's clearly a lot of thought gone into the order here which is markedly different from The Ritz on Friday. It's this meticulous attention to detail that stands Ist Ist out from most of their peers and why the growing momentum behind them, both here and in Europe, feels like it's become unstoppable.

Ist Ist played Stamp You Out, Extreme Greed, Fat Cats Drown In Milk, Something Has To Give, Nothing More Nothing Less, All Downhill, Watching You Watching Me, Mary In The Black And White Room, Emily, Heads On Spikes, Fool's Paradise, Black, You're Mine and Trapdoors.

Ist Ist are on Facebook and Twitter

Protagonists, as well as previous physical releases, can be ordered via their website. A digital version with an additional eight live versions of tracks from Protagonists can be ordered exclusively from their Bandcamp

Ist Ist play Leeds Oporto (April 4, with Crash Records), Kingston Fighting Cocks (April 5, with Banquet Records), Glasgow King Tut's Wah Wah Hut (April 13), Newcastle Cluny (14), Nottingham Bodega (15), Birmingham Hare And Hounds (20), Bristol Thekla (21), London Omeara (22) and Whitby Tomorrow's Ghosts Festival (29) before heading to Europe to play Antwerp Trix (May 25), Cologne Artheater (26), Paris Supersonic (27), Rees Haldern Pop Bar (28), Nijmegen Doornroosje (30), Bielefeld Movie (31), Rotterdam Rotown (June 1), Hulst Vestrock (2), Amsterdam Melkweg (4) and Berlin Kantine Am Berghain (5)


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