Gig Review: Personal Trainer 

From emotional accordion playing to a topless man with a tambourine, Personal Trainer at Bootleg Social kept an eclectic gig on the right side of chaotic.

Kicking off the night Amsterdam-based garage rock act Queen’s Pleasure. The unprepared masses in Bootleg Social were suddenly assaulted by a defiant and relentless single-note bass intro that caught the attention of the crowd and dragged some of them forward straight away.

The four-piece were alive and electric, as exciting to watch as they were to listen to as each member brought movement and energy to the stage. While most punters didn’t have their dancing shoes on just yet, there were nodding heads aplenty as they soon got into the groove of Queen’s Pleasure’s genre-spanning psychedelic noise rock.

Their closer Monday was the highlight of their show with its crunchy bass intro and cacophonic guitar

Guitar lines run the gamut from haunting and self-reflective to bombastic cock rock at a moment’s notice, scoring whoops and cheers from the won-over audience. Meanwhile, vocalist Jurre Otto leant on the mic stand like it was the only thing keeping him up, fully immersed in the music.

In the hands of a lesser band, this bouncing from one genre to another might be an indicator of a lack of discipline, but Queen’s Pleasure walk the tightrope carefully enough that it just about works for them. In fact, it may work to their advantage because as soon as the set threatened to become samey, a change of pace or direction injected it with life.

Their closer Monday was the highlight of their show with its crunchy bass intro and cacophonic guitar backed by arena style drums, finally descending into noise rock chaos – what would become a theme of the evening.

Next up was Mumble Tide, an enchanting indie-pop duo made up of Gina Leonard and Ryan Rogers. Acting like something of a palate cleanse between the noise of Queen’s Pleasure and the impending chaos of Personal Trainer, Mumble Tide made the space their own with their emotional sound, uplifting as well as heart wrenching.

they were feeling every word they sang, every note they played

Both positioned up front and facing inwards as if they’re singing to one another, there was a unique intimacy there, as if we’d gatecrashed a practice and were eavesdropping on something we shouldn’t. There was distinct and genuine emotion in both their words and their faces – they were feeling every word they sang, every note they played, and they communicated with one another wordlessly, with merely the flick of a hand or a familiar look into the other’s eyes.

Leonard’s voice, in particular, was ethereal and strangely distant. It was almost as if you were hearing it from another room. Pleasantly disconcerting.

The crowd were, at times, unsure of what to make of the duo, with half of them dancing and the other half whispering at various times during their set. This uncertainty clearly made its way to the band as Leonard hesitantly announced towards the end that they “might do one more, if there’s time”. Fortunately, this statement was met with a gigantic warm reception, showing Mumble Tide exactly how much they were appreciated.

For their last track Roger produced an accordion from out of nowhere, which complimented Leonard’s beautiful guitar picking. The song was layered and triumphant, and wouldn’t have been out of place during the climax of a film where the protagonist got the girl, or the guy, or won the game, or defeated the bad guy. Simply stunning.

By the time Personal Trainer made their way onto the stage, Bootleg Social was packed out and the audience was eager to hear their favourites. All seven of them danced their way onto the stage to a bombastic, synthy track, squeezing into every available place on the small stage.

Personal Trainer’s show is one of discipline and musicality, but paradoxically of chaos, confusion and mayhem.

From the instant they began playing in earnest, frontman Willem Smit was in the crowd, wearing one audience member’s hat and drinking another’s pint. Literally hanging from the rafters, he was confidently and playfully interacting with the crowd; it was all too clear he was having a lot of fun.

The same can be said for the rest of the band. Personal Trainer looks like an immensely fun band to be part of. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a small part of me that wishes I was on this UK tour with them.

Anthemic banger Stormchaser of the Month was an early highlight from the Dutch indie-rockers. Lots of gang vocals from the rest of the band made the place feel like there were thousands, rather than hundreds, of people singing the lyrics back at the band.

Similar to the opening band, Personal Trainer span multiple genres, making them incredibly difficult to describe. One moment they’re beating all hell out of their instruments, stacking discordant sounds on top of one another: diminished guitar chords, twangy bass lines, dueling drums and percussion, a surprise appearance from a rogue trumpet. And then just as you think that they’re about to lose all control, they impeccably resolve it all and move seamlessly into a melodic singalong that wouldn’t be out of place on The Beatles’ White Album.

Personal Trainer’s show is one of discipline and musicality, but paradoxically of chaos, confusion and mayhem. They may not have a punk sound, but they appear to wear the punk ethos on their sleeves.

The audience moved as one, feeding off the energy of the band, and the band inevitably fed right back off their adoring crowd. The low-key introduction to their album’s title track Big Love Blanket was chanted right back at the band to a very visible smiling Smit, who afterwards thanked the fans for making them feel welcome and showing up to their show in a town they’d never visited. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them return with the reception they had.

There were almost too many highlights to single out, from fan-favourite Key of Ego which produced the liveliest pit of the evening, to Rug Busters with its spoken-word verses which sound like LCD Soundsystem and Yard Act had a baby.

The night ended with the spectacular The Lazer, which climaxed with most of the band half-naked and the percussionist battering a tambourine on top of the front speaker. This is a band that are terrific to listen to at home, but they were kind of made to be seen live. Don’t miss them next time they swing by.

Personal Trainer are currently on a UK tour, and return to the UK in April 2024. See their website for more details.

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  • Mully is a writer and musician from Blackpool. Formerly an English Literature teacher, he is currently a copywriter, and enjoys movies, long walks on the beach, and clichéd lists.

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