Hidden away in the depths of Digbeth, in Birmingham, is a pub with a small concert venue attached. The place in question is called Dead Wax, and something extraordinary will happen there, unbeknownst to everyone outside said venue. It’s a dark, cold, December evening, and stepping into Dead Wax is akin to receiving a warm embrace as you are met with a blast of warmth from inside. But this feeling of comfort and fuzziness does not last long. As soon as Pet Needs walk on stage, it is replaced with buzzing energy, excitement, and noise.
The venue is silent, as anticipation for the show begins to grow. And then a sound cuts through the silence, it is lead singer Johnny Marriott singing: “I think I’ll lock myself away with wine and a guitar”. It is the first line of Pet Needs’ song ‘Lost Again’, and it is a line that is immediately followed by a raucous explosion of guitar, drums, and bass. It’s an explosive start to the show and sets the bar high for the rest of the performance. After ‘Lost Again’, the band jump effortlessly from song to song. They move from ‘Pavlovian’ to ‘Kayak’, two songs off their 2019 debut album, Fractured Party Music. It got them noticed by their record label, and it is an album that Marriott describes as being full of “ratty punk songs”, which is a fairly accurate description.
But all of this is just a warm-up. The band continue with ‘Ibiza in Winter’ and ‘Tried and Failed’. However, it is not until the scathingly witty ‘Punk Isn’t Dead; It’s Just Up for Sale’ that the room explodes into what can only be described as an explosion of energy. People gleefully sing along to the undoubtedly catchy ‘la la la’s in the chorus until the crowd is louder than the band themselves.
From then on, it’s plain sailing. Pet Needs make their way through their jam-packed set, singing songs about everything under the sun. A noticeable moment is the band playing ‘Primetime Entertainment’. “I remember going to our record label after they’d signed us for a second album and having to explain to them we’d written an epic, five-minute song about quiz shows,” Marriott explains. It helps contextualise the song and makes its scathing commentary about quiz songs all the more poignant. ‘Fear for the Whole Damn World’ then helps transition from the slow pace of ‘Primetime Entertainment’ to the biting bitterness of ‘The Argument’, a song about a wholly fictitious argument between Marriott and his wife. They perform it alongside Bridgit, who opened for them that evening, and her guttural screams pair well with Marriott’s frustrated cries. They are meant to be acting out an argument, but the electricity between them brings so much power to the stage that it is impossible to believe they are actually angry.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a Pet Needs show without Marriott’s effervescent stage presence. He can’t stand still for more than a minute at a time, as he jumps and runs around on a wire-laden stage trying not to trip. In retrospect, it’s a miracle he didn’t. He is beaming and clearly enjoying every minute of the chaos as sweat drips down his forehead from the sheer amount of energy he pours into the performance. The stage is too small for him, but this only goes to show how Pet Needs are destined to play in larger venues.
After the band pretend to finish their set, they walk off, leaving nothing but people shouting for one more song. Of course, their pretending fools no one. Soon enough, Marriott comes out on stage to sing the beginning of ‘Nobody Ever Warned Us’ before the rest of the band joins him and follows suit. They then play ‘Tracey Emin’s Bed’; it wouldn’t be a Pet Needs show if they didn’t. “It’s like Tracy Emin’s bed in my head / Kind of creative but mainly just a mess,” Marriott sings. It’s witty, catchy, loud, and undoubtedly the quintessential Pet Needs song. At this point, there is only one song left: ‘Get on the Roof’. It’s punchy and fast-paced and serves as a way for excited concert-goers to expel the final remaining shreds of their pent-up energy before they return to the real world.
Review and photos by Sophie Flint Vazquez