Cage The Elephant Take On Bristol

by Chloe Nelms

Photo Credit: Joe Papeo for Rolling Stone

On first walking into the Bierkeller I was struck by how much it reminded me of a larger version of Cavern. To the right, and curving round the back was an array of wooden tables, and on the left was the stage and dance floor. This was relatively full already as Chrome Pony finished up their set, I arrived too late to hear much of the support act but Brad Schultz gave them a shout out in the middle of the night saying “If you’re going to buy any merch before you leave buy these guys not ours. They’re awesome.” It was a point of the night worth remembering; to see a prolific band promoting the music of those still working their way into the industry.

The brothers Brad and Matt Shultz provided the zest and energy of the band. Matt took stage right, bouncing towards the clamouring crowd, hyping them up; whilst Brad dictated stage left staring fans dead in the eye and remaining in an authoritarian stance, simply radiating cool.  There wasn’t any pretence, or pretention, these guys were sharing their music and loving it.

As soon as the first chord was struck the crowd was electric. Within minutes I’d had a pint thrown down my back. If you’re not so into sweaty and aggressively passionate fans then the dance floor wouldn’t have been for you but if you don’t mind your feet not touching the ground it was a fun place to be. As anticipated the sweat drenched Matt said goodbye to his shirt half way through the night, which unfortunately encouraged several members of the audience to do the same.  Luckily the bar area and tables acted as a safe zone where the band could still be seen and appreciated. One of the great things about the gig was the range people Cage had attracted. Easily 25% of the audience were over 50 which is something I haven’t seen for a while, proving how Cage isn’t just for indie kids and wannabe rock stars.

Honestly it’s difficult to fault Cage’s performance. Even if you didn’t know the words to every song you felt like you did. There was no song that was a flop. The band’s new material was particularly well received, Trouble and Too Late To Say Goodbye, being a favourites of the crowd.  Too Late To Say Goodbye was my personal highlight of the night with its contrast of quiet ethereal verses and emotionally charged choruses. The standard repertoire of Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked and Cigarette Daydreams were also naturally great. It seems their records really don’t do justice to the band’s tightness and effortless talent. Before seeing Cage I was excited but not as much as I had been to see, say, Alt-J, but Cage felt more alive. There was no light show or massive arena for them to hide behind and it was evident they preferred it that way saying how much they enjoyed playing in Thekla last time they were in Bristol.

The band left an uncomfortably long break for their encore but the crowd was insistent - “we want more, we want more” being chanted for a good five minutes. No one wanted to go home without hearing Shake Me Down. Brad returned to the stage saying, “Sorry, Matt just died back stage so you’re going to have to put up with me.” Oh Brad, you joker. The rest of the band came back, laughing, Matt included, and finished off the night on a high: everyone throwing themselves into singing Shake Me Down.

The gig that was supposed to end at 10:30pm wound up at 11:15pm giving my flatmate and I just 15 minutes to run a mile to the train station. Totally worth it.