Live Review: Cub Sport at The Waiting Room, London, 9th May
Brisbane’sCub Sport enchant their first sell-out London crowd with delicate and tender queer pop.
It’s 7:50pm on Thursday night in the tiny basement bar of the Three Crowns pub on Stoke Newington High Street. Couples and singletons are sat awkwardly on benches at opposing sides of the bar, balancing pints in between their legs, looking nervously at one another like a 2007 school disco. It feels like an intimate open mic night – the stage is set-up and ready to go, all that’s needed is a few more people to listen.
Kicking off the night to a crowd of about 25 is BATTS, born in London but an Aussie resident since the age of 13. Her curiously sweet accent blends Aussie euphemisms and English self-deprecation, giving her a socially-awkward but completely lovable persona. She slips through the crowd to the small raised stage and plays ‘Change’ from her 2017 EP 62 Moons, recent single ‘Shame’ and undefined title song currently named ‘Gun’. Her tone is Sigrid-esque and accompanied by a slow, twanging electric guitar lovingly named Thomas. In between poetical love stories and battles with her mental health, she tells funny anecdotes from the night before; setting off her uncle’s house alarm and regretting a scolding hot coffee from Pret. She’s completely human; genuine and relatable.
After a brief pause, the crowd woops and whistles at the cotton-candy blue head bobbing towards centre stage. Tim Nelson and his band, without a word, launch straight into ‘O Lord’ from most recent album BATS. Nelson, lead guitarist Zoe and keyboard player Sam blend harmonies beautifully atop a droning organ and melodic drum beats. Immediately, their sound says up-tempo choral pop. ‘Hawaiian Party’ is second on the set list, allowing Tim to show off his impressive vocal range. He transcends vocal boundaries with the assistance of an echo-effect on the mic, channelling Ariana Grande with fragrant falsettos.
The crowd are alight with joy. Groups of Australian fangirls and cuddling couples gather tightly around the stage, eagerly clapping and whistling for more. Thumping bass reverberates around the tiny basement venue for ‘Runner’, taken from the 2016 EP This Is Our Vice. Delicious pop hooks and quotable lyrics (“Begging me to take you home / Sick of riding on your own / But I’m a runner too / It’s killing me that I need you”) get the entire crowd chanting and grooving softly with friends and new acquaintances. In a sharp slow in tempo, the band gives a shout-out to their Aussie attendance with ‘Banyo Blue’, inspired by a recent house-hunting trip in the homeland.
Tim’s wobbling vocals lead nicely into popular track ‘Good Guys’ from the BATS album. The band layer their sounds by exploiting symbiotic harmonies with both live and synthetic drum beats that give the track a thumping, anthemic feel. Muffled screams into a second mic create an ethereal sound, bringing the tempo of the entire gig to a calm halt.
A pause here, with Tim taking to the mic to tell us a touching queer love story. After 8 years of platonic friendship, Tim and keyboard/vocalist Sam suddenly realised they were completely in love with one another. ‘Crush’ illustrates the boys’ tender, queer awakening through a simple back and forth dialogue and picky guitar. The room is so transfixed by their electricity it almost feels intrusive. ‘Soul III’ oozes intimacy and infatuation; Tim and Sam shower each other with impassioned, sensitive messages (“What did I do / Do I deserve you?”) over a spiritually-charged organ and floating vocal riffs and runs.
The four-piece project the depth of a 50-piece church choir in a fascinating cover of Kanye West’s ‘Ultralight Beam’, with their own signature dainty pop twist. Lead guitarist Zoe takes the spotlight with a piercing guitar solo which links well into the final two tracks of the night. ‘Chasin’’ is a mover and shaker with interspersing drum beats and mid-range harmonies. The perfect soundtrack to an American coming-of-age movie; its words are annoyingly relatable.
The gig ends on a high: channelling teenage summer after finishing high-school vibes. ‘Come on Mess Me Up’ is certainly their most popular track for a reason. Everyone has fancied the bad boy, felt that twinge to fall headfirst into an intoxicatingly exciting relationship, knowing full well you’re going to get burned: “And you can break me, if you’ll still take me / Ruin me, if you’ll let me be / One of the ones you say you won’t forget”.
The Aussie four-piece band were a true delight from start to finish. From Tim’s wavy dance moves to tender, inclusive love songs to anecdotal lyrics detailing the relatable millennial experience: explosive relationships, falling in love with your best friend, and house-hunting.