Bad Nerves @ Retro, Manchester, 1/4/22

Rock’n’roll is here to stay. It’s donned a Sonic Youth inspired t-shirt, leaned on a pillar in a basement room with a stage just 15 centimetres off the floor, and it’s watching Bad Nerves do it absolute justice in their long-awaited live show tonight. After more than a year since their debut album Bad Nerves came out, bringing a bit of energy to a live-show-less world in 2020, the band are finally able to give it the victory lap it deserves, in the form of the APATHY IN THE UK tour. And it’s worth the wait.

A smattering of festival appearances and shows have bolstered Bad Nerves’s fanbase since then, including a pit-stop in Reading and Leeds to tear up their rock stage, and a support slot alongside fellow Bittersweet favourites Tigercub. But tonight, it’s more evident than ever how strong Bad Nerves cult appeal is – they’re no strangers to an agreeable mosh-pit or two, but this evening we’re greeted with the whole room belting out every word.

At a modest 100 or so capacity, RETRO is concealed neatly beneath a pub, one of those classic basement venues that make you forget the outside world is there till you pop out for a cig. It’s sold out, and buzzing from doors, gig-goers eager to soak up the CBGBs-esque ambience with a pint in hand and to take in Hongza, our groovy warm-up for the evening. Blending massive indie-rock atmospheres with DIY riffs and fuzzed-up warmth, these tunes do precisely what they need to.

And then, it’s time to seamlessly transition into tonight’s main event – the onslaught of guitar punk-pop that seems to go by in the blink of an eye, Bad Nerves’s trademark breakneck haze hypnotising us for the moment. Not a single cut from their back catalogue breaks three minutes, and seeing them whip through their setlist proves the power of this choice – not a second feels like filler, there’s not a pause to catch your breath, the whole show is buzzy and essential and noisy and excellent.

Crowd-surfers boot the ceiling – albeit aimlessly, because the lack of elevation on the stage leaves the crowd to choose between sending the crowd-surfers back or throwing them on top of the band. Not that this stops anyone from leaping around, though – Retro’s elongated shape gathers us together in a throng, magnetically drawn to jump around by Bad Nerve’s frenetic tunes. There’s barely anyone nodding along on the sidelines, and even there, it’s more than your usual headbob; Bad Nerves have crafted bangers that are addictive, inviting, and bitesize enough that the crowd renew their excitement for their next favourite every couple of minutes, leaving the show without a low point.

Despite the lack of low points, there are definitely a few high points, where Bad Nerves’s biting tunes hit their fever pitch – new track Alright is one of them, promising even more buzz ahead. And there’s also considerable love for the likes of Wasted Days, Terminal Boy, etc… we could fall in to listing the whole setlist right now. We’ll hold off, and just advise you to throw yourself in ASAP and get the feel for yourself. Fortunately, you only have to wait a couple of weeks, as Bad Nerves are supporting Salem on their exhaustive Unholy Communion tour later this month. Let’s get right back into it – because after Friday, we’re hooked.

Tickets for Bad Nerves with Salem are available here.