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Live Review: Set Your Goals, A Loss For Words, This Time Next Year & Decade - Underworld, London - 1/6/11

Slam Dunk, apart from being the place to be for all the summer's pop punking rock goodness, has the added bonus of bringing some of our favourite acts to our shores for their own headline shows in and around the festival, and just two days after Less Than Jake closed the final gig in the Slam Dunk series up in Birmingham, Set Your Goals grace the capital to call time on their latest UK tour.

Being an opener is tough. Playing in front of people, many of which don't care if you're any good or not can be brutal, but tonight's headliners would testify to the fact that everybody has done it. It's like crossing the music Gods' palm with silver before advancing to bigger and better things. And while it's not quite a case of Decade forgetting their wallets, the Somerset 5-piece fail to really capture those select few who aren't at the bar, try as they might with their fusion of sandpaper riffs and spit shined vocals.

This Time Next Year, apart from a zealous group singing every word at the barrier, appear to be new to the majority of those in attendance, an insignificant detail which fails to stop California 5-piece making the stage theirs in oh so impavid fashion, the delightfully named powerhouse 'Alex in Wonderland' only bettered by front man Pete Dowdalls' rooster like stage moves.

There seems to be almost as big a buzz surrounding tonight's main support A Loss For Words as there is for messrs Wilson, Brown and Co. The Massachusetts mob are regarded by their peers as one of the most dedicated and passionate around, and their recent addition to the ranks of Velocity/Rise Records should see them gracing our ears more often. As for their set, seldom does a band perform with so much abrasive force, and still sound so tight. Faultlessly rifling through tracks like 'Stamp of Approval' and 'Hold Your Breath' whilst just as accomplished in the soft yet piercing tones of 'Mt. St. Joseph', the quintet are true to their name and leave a now bouncing Underworld speechless.

When it comes to experience, Set Your Goals know every brick of the proverbial block. And what is so striking about watching these young men transform the room into a dripping blur of hair, flailing arms and skinny jeans, is their entirely genuine nature. They're not about ink, or hair, or status. It's fitting that their perch in the venue is barely knee height, as while you watch the San Franciscans, you get the sense that they don't see themselves as in any way above the girl who stumbled whilst attempting a stage dive, or the 15-year-old kid swinging his fists in the pit, or those content to sing along from the back. A back catalogue of anthems including 'Mutiny!', 'Echoes', 'Goonies Never Say Die!', 'The Fallen' and 'Summer Jam' is received vociferously by the youthful throng, and an anything but surprise encore (they barely left the stage) is ended in vertebrae tingling fashion, with every voice in the dingy basement united to deliver the potent closing line of 'Our Ethos: A Legacy To Pass On' - "traditions, our mission, to listen learn and pass them on, our ethos, it's all we know, we can't let go".


Words by Liam McGarry

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