There is no time for formalities at STONE’s home show at the O2 Academy Liverpool. During the shattering intro of the first set ‘Keep Running’, frontman Finlay Power launched himself over the barrier and began a frenzied moshpit. It’s the perfect introduction to the Merseyside Gen Z punks, who have exploded onto festival stages this year with raucous hymns crossing a sea of contemporaries on guitar.
Meeting NME a few hours earlier is not an easy task. It’s Friday night and downtown bars are already booming, but when we finally find a spot outside of a street bar, he makes a more elongated figure alongside drummer Alex Smith. The two refrain from drinking beer, knowing they have a long drive south to the Isle of Wight festival looming the minute they leave the stage. It feels good to sum up the band’s busy schedule since the easing of lockdown restrictions, but Smith insists they love every minute: “So far we haven’t had any reference to a fan base. , so being on the road and having the bouncing places was crazy.
He makes a good point. The group broke with their single ‘Leave It Out’ in 2020; A visceral slice of post-punk, it provides an exciting backdrop for Power’s seething delivery of Scouse: “So your eyes are on your ex-daughter’s social media / It’s okay buddy but I promise it won’t cure you.” He says the lyrics – which were written outside of Liverpool dive bars – became a watershed moment for STONE. “It was an absolute eruption of energy and we carry it into the live show – we were desperate to get out and play.”
Before confinement, their previous group The Bohos had reached a natural end. Power says there was a growing urge to move away from their classic indie sound and free himself from the weight of his father, John Power, a member of Merseyside The La’s legends and frontman of Cast. “I felt like I was either something I wasn’t or John Power’s son,” he says. “I knew something new was going to happen; I was writing these spoken word songs, and they felt more like me – and then STONE started in 2019. It was an evolution.
Finding such moments of clarity before a global pandemic was far from ideal. Tonight, however, you can’t help but feel that being locked inside for a year only intensified the scale of the show they put on. Power spends as much time in a crowd as on stage, spitting bars in the middle of a circular pit, with a foul smell of low shots hanging heavily in the air. There is a depth and substance beyond conflicting and direct lyricism; tracks like “Let’s Dance To The Real Thing” and “Stay Silent” offer a more melodic and versatile side – there’s still that biting thrash, but they carry sprawling melodies.
The scenes were similar to their triumphant Reading & Leeds sets this summer. Images show Power’s camouflaged pants thrown high above the crowd, as he rides waves of wild hands. They made such an impression that news of his antics was passed on to Reading Festival staff before they even got there, with security threatening to pull their show off if there was a repeat of the carnage the night before in Leeds.
“Reading & Leeds was one of the priorities. Playing a show at such a historic festival was important to us, ”he says. “During the lockdown, I felt like my dreams were fading – then going on stage and having such an incredible turnout… it was surreal.”
At the back of the set, STONE has been invited to open Yungblud’s tour, which will see the band perform in some of the biggest venues they’ve taken to date, including two huge shows in their hometown at Mountford Hall. from Liverpool. Needless to say, they’re ready to grab the opportunity with both hands. “Yungblud fans will be lining up from 10am so we know there will be a bunch of people dying to absorb new music,” he says. “We will take care of them. I’ve always said I wanted to be an underground voice for lost youth, and I feel like Yungblud is doing it on a much bigger scale.
As Yungblud embraces its regional identity much like STONE, there is a clear mutual respect between the artists. “You don’t have British superstars like him these days. When I first saw Yungblud I was like, ‘Woah, this is a little overwhelming!’. But when you see it live you get it – the kid is a rock star, and there’s not much left. “
For the future, STONE is focusing on its live shows. Power says, “I just need to be in front of these crowds – for us it’s all about live performance. Put me in a room with anyone and I will convert them all to fall in love with the group. These are confident words, but after their show tonight, you’d be hard-pressed to disagree with him.
STONE is currently supporting Yungblud on their UK tour dates