The Snuts live in DC review: The passion is real

The band delivers.
Jeff J Mitchell/GettyImages

“That’s one of the great things about being in a band. You don’t have to do requests.” That’s how Jack Cochrane, frontman of the Scottish indie rock quartet the Snuts, brushed off a fan who had shouted out the name of an early Snuts hit. “I mean, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Cochrane maintained his friendly, edgy vibe throughout the 75-minute, 19-song set the band blistered through at the Atlantis in Washington, DC on Monday night. It was their first visit to Washington and the opening night of their first headlining tour in the States. A planned tour in 2021 was canceled due to COVID. Cochrane admitted to some jet lag, but it did not show up in their ferocious performance. He said they actually felt pretty good.

“But tomorrow will be “s**t.”

Cochrane was joined on stage by Joe McGilveray on guitar, Callum Wilson on bass, and drummer Joko Mackay. They have been playing together for ten years, since meeting as kids in West Lothian.  After releasing two EPs and a couple of singles back in the late teens, they put out their first album in 2021. This tour is largely in support of their third – Millennials – released just two weeks ago.

The Snuts deliver in DC

Half of Monday night’s setlist was made of songs from the new album. “Novastar,” maybe the boppiest song they’ve ever recorded, got show off and rolling, and they followed it with the anthemic “Millionaires.”  Earlier Snuts songs had hinted at their basic attack – echoing the American band “fun” with song structures that use fast-paced, hooky verses to tee up titanic choruses. Cochrane usually pauses ever-so-briefly before those choruses, building expectation. As he begins to sing  “Don’t you worry, we’ll be rich, I swear – If love was money, we’d be millionaires,” it’s almost impossible not to sing along.

They concluded the early part of the set with the lead track from the new album, “Gloria,” and “Butterside Down.” On “Gloria,” Cochrane channels Brit folk-rocker Passenger, only with a bigger, fuller sound behind him. “Butterside Down,” which in the hands of many other artists might become a small, poignant lament about the way things go wrong, can’t help but burst out into another upbeat sing-along. Even with a chorus that goes “La la la la la la – La la la la la la”  Cochrane lets you know exactly what he’s feeling.

If Cochrane’s voice and lyrics are the Snuts' main weapons, he gets solid support, especially from Wilson’s bass, which carries a lot of the songs forward. Combined with Mackay’s steady drumming, that allows McGilveray to use his guitar to create lots of interesting sounds. The songs don’t often give him chances to play traditional solos, but he is constantly filling in gaps to create a wall of sound.

The Snuts are decidedly not a jam band – I don’t think any song they played ran more than four minutes. But their finely crafted singles are well beyond the short jolts you might get from traditional punk bands. The Snuts often get the generic “Indie” label, but to my ears, this is actually what melodic punk should be. They manage to combine the raw energy of punk within polished pop tunes. The mixture can be very potent.

The new album turns away from the political, but they transitioned in the middle of their set to a series of songs from the second album, 2022’s Burn the Empire.  “The world is controlled by people controlling people – So come on people, burn the empire, burn the empire,” is a pretty clear statement, still wrapped up in a strong pop tune. They also got the crowd to engage in the first officially sanctioned sing-along of the night on “The Rodeo.”

Cochrane expressed mock frustration when another fan requested “Knuckles” later in the show, and as it turns out, it happened to be the next song on their setlist. At first, Cochrane said the request made him not want to play it, before giving in to popular demand.

Though the set was dominated by the last two albums, Cochrane sprinkled in a few older songs. “Seasons” came early and “What’s Going On” appeared in the middle. But he adamantly refused to play “Coffee & Cigarettes,” the dancey tune from the 2020 EP, whose mention had prompted his line about not having to take requests.

But he did give an offhand nod to the song that helped launch them, before serving up a lovely and high-powered version of “Glasgow.” They followed it with a gorgeous plea for unity which also turns into an anthem. “Pigeons in New York,” from Burn the Empire, probably should have closed the show, but they added one final cut from the new album, “Circles,” before calling it a night.

Local DC favorites Flowerbomb opened the show with a strong 40-minute set, which showcased drummer Dan ABH’s dynamic beats and frontwoman Rachel Kline’s soaring vocals. If you’re in DC and get a chance to hear them, you should.

And if you’re in New York, Boston, Chicago … or any of the other northern, western, and southwestern cities the Snuts will be hitting throughout the month, you should definitely hear them as well. Sadly for fans in the south, they won’t be making a swing into Georgia or Florida on this tour. That’s why the mom and her adult son I met while waiting to enter Atlantis had made the trip up from Jacksonville, Florida. The Snuts have some very passionate fans.

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