UK-based Squid describes themselves as “anxiety rock.” Anxiety for who? Some of their moments on the Union Transfer stage on February 9 were so otherworldly that it was almost anxiety inducing, but not in a bad way. But maybe it’s rock to deal with anxiety. Yelling about late-stage capitalism and spiritual existentialism is as cathartic as anything.
Squid has been to Philly before – they played at Johnny Brenda’s in 2021. This time, they had a stage big enough to spread out. All five members were in a straight line, drums in the center for singer Ollie Judge. Squid is full of multi-instrumentalists. Judge himself sings and drums at the same time while sounding just as good as, if not better than, the studio recordings. The band features Louis Borlase on the guitar, keyboard, and vocals, Arthur Leadbetter on auxiliary percussion and keys, Laurie Nankivell on bass and brass, and Anton Pearson on guitar and vocals.
The crowd seemed to go hardest for one of Squid’s older songs, “Narrator,” which is off their 2021 release Bright Green Field. The final two minutes of this song was almost distressing; Judge repeating the words “I’ll play my part”, the lights shaking in tandem with the lyrics. Something about it felt haunting and ghostly. From “Narrator,” they went directly into a trumpet ballad, giving us a moment of quiet before getting right back into it.
Squid really comes alive when they’re right in front of you, without the boundaries of needing to record a perfect track. If you give them the space and time to do it, they can create a little world for each song to exist in.
Opener Water From Your Eyes oozed cool. The alternative, art rock band is made up of Nate Amos and Rachel Brown, joined by bandmates Al Nardo and Bram Wollowitz. Their 2023 track “Barley” is trance inducing. Recorded, it sounds electronic. It sounds much grittier, and much louder, live. Brown kept their sunglasses on through almost the whole set. Through little moments of dancing, both alone and with their bandmates, it was easy to see how much fun this band has playing together.