The world’s number one tribute to Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys, the Antarctic Monkeys, embarked on the steel city’s Plug venue for yet another unforgettable performance. I spoke with the quartet prior to the show to find out more about life as a tribute band.
Arctic Monkeys are a band that the Sheffield people are incredibly proud of. With five number one albums and more iconic songs with every passing release, the band have quickly become one of the Steel City’s most impressive exports and the sound of a generation.
So is it a scary prospect performing to these fans as a tribute to the Monkeys? Well the Antarctic Monkeys don’t seem to think so, showing clear confidence (with the help of a few Red Stripes!) ahead of their first ever show at Plug.
Glenn, who plays guitarist Jamie Cook, explained: “There’s always a good crowd here. I don’t know if they’re the biggest but they generally give the best reaction. You get a much more hardcore crowd as you’d expect with it being the home town. On the flip side of that, there’s always more pressure to play in front of the home crowd and do it justice.”
The hardcore nature of the Sheffield crowd was clear to see this evening, with many down in the moshpit knowing every word to every song. The band even unearthed a new fan-favourite to add to the regular setlist as the debut album track ‘Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But…’ went down a storm with the highly-excitable audience.
The Antarctics’ confidence is entirely understandable with their ability to thrill audiences on a weekly basis. The band, who actually hail from Wolverhampton (except bassist Adam, who insisted I point out he is from Birmingham!), have been around for some time now and celebrate their tenth anniversary this year – frontman Dean (‘Alex’) and drummer Darren (‘Matt’) having been involved since the beginning while Glenn (‘Jamie’) and Adam (‘Nick’) joined more recently to make it “the best the band’s ever been!” according to them!
But how did they get started? Well the exact process of becoming a tribute band appears to have been lost in time with conflicting stories from Dean and the band’s manager Mac. However, one clear message across the board was a frustration at difficulties in finding success with their own original material:
“With an original band you have to be very committed to meet up at least twice a week and work at it. And you spend all your money playing for nothing in front of almost nobody! Whereas us, we don’t really have to rehearse because we play every week so it’s already in our brains. It’s only when we want to do stuff like this where we haven’t played the songs for a while that we have to get back and get it together.” explained Glenn.
Having been around for so long, it is no surprise that people close to the real band have become aware of their tribute counterparts:
“We played on the same night as Reverend & The Makers last year (in Sheffield) and it was really nice, we met John McClure afterwards and he said he hadn’t seen us but he’d heard about us. It was like a validation really! And we played a charity gig and Alex’s Mum was there. She loved us, didn’t she! And the original bass player Andy Nicholson was there DJing as well.”
Antarctic Monkeys have become a regular feature on tribute festival bills across the country and two of these, ‘Fake Festival’ and ‘Glastonbudget’ have provided two of the most memorable shows for the four-piece – Adam explaining:
“Glastonbudget for me, when we headlined that last year it was the biggest one I’d played in the band . They know how to put on an event and everyone there looks after you, it’s all really professional. But I wouldn’t have said it was the best at the time, I was too nervous!”
Naturally, as all tribute bands will have experienced, the Antarctics have received their fair share of criticism over the years.
“I think a lot of criticism comes from people who don’t come and see us. And that goes for all of us I think. I mean there’s a lot of really bad tribute bands out there, but there’s some really good ones too. You find a lot of hate on social media but often people will tweet negative things about us but then comes and see us and say ‘oh actually that was really good’.” said Adam before Glenn added that he feels the positives outweigh the negatives:
“It is a strange phenomenon, tributes to bands that are still going. It takes a bit of getting your head around. But I think it creates a niche for fans to see it in smaller venues for a fraction of the price, especially for the youngsters – it allows you to bring the kids in whereas you might not necessarily be able to take them to a Wembley Arena or somewhere like that. And also for these smaller venues, it puts money in their pockets. Lots of these smaller venues are shutting down week after week which is a real shame.”
All the positives of a tribute performance were proved in abundance on this Saturday evening in Sheffield as a large crowd bounced and sang along (looking like “a scene from the Walking Dead” as ‘Alex’ described it on stage!) to the perfectly performed anthems of one of the finest bands ever produced by the city.
The set was split into two halves – the first hour seeing the debut album ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ performed in full to celebrate it’s tenth anniversary, before the hits from the remaining four albums were played in the second half (including a number of tracks such as ‘Do I Wanna Know’ and ‘R U Mine?’ from the Antarctics’ self-confessed favourite to perform, ‘AM’).
Luckily for those delighted fans, they won’t have to wait long for one of the country’s greatest tribute acts to return to the steel city as they headline Sheffield’s Fake Festival on May 21st, alongside tributes to Foo Fighters and Stone Roses, before headlining the O2 Academy for a fourth consecutive year in November.
// A View From The Afternoon // I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor // Fake Tales Of San Francisco // Dancing Shoes // Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights // Still Take You Home // Riot Van // Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured // When The Sun Goes Down // From The Ritz To The Rubble // A Certain Romance //
// Do I Wanna Know // Brianstorm // Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair // Teddy Picker // Crying Lightning // Leave Before The Lights Come On // Old Yellow Bricks // Arabella // Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? // Snap Out Of It // Fluorescent Adolescent // R U Mine? //