It’s crazy just how much can change over ten years. A decade ago, the closest thing to a smart phone was a Sidekick, MySpace was the king of all social media, and Florida’s I Set My Friends On Fire had released their debut album, ‘You Can’t Spell Slaughter Without Laughter’.
Since then, the experimental post-hardcore troupe have had more than their fair share of speed bumps and set backs, like label troubles and several line-up changes, to the extent that third album ‘Caterpillar Sex’ is still in the works after several years, and is almost becoming the next ‘Chinese Democracy’.
On the verge of finally putting a firm new release out there, they’re over in the UK supporting Annisokay whilst also celebrating ‘You Can’t Spell Slaughter…’‘s ten year anniversary milestone, and between their off days they keep their relentless tour ethic going with a few DIY booked headline shows of their own.
One of their headline stops is at Manchester’s Satan’s Hollow, and they’ve reeled in some locals to cover the support spots, with Ventures  batting up first. They’re very metalcore-by-numbers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For a band so young their confidence is somewhat admirable, but evidently they’re still finding out who they are, and that shows in ‘Legs’, which gets very messy and muddled when the band try to pounce into the mix after Ollie May‘s opening yells.
Following act Citadels  crank it up a little further, and frontman Fred Thomas actively tries to get those standing in the sidelines and by the bar to come forward and get involved with the crowd in front of them. Unfortunately, his vocals sound a little low in the mix for the majority of the set and, much like the evening’s openers, there are brief moments where the band could potentially stand toe-to-toe with some of the genre’s more established contemporaries, but they seldom last.
With their debut album’s instrumental interlude playing overhead as they take to the stage, I Set My Friends On Fire  bring out every song from their decade old debut full-length tonight, though not necessarily in its original running order. In fact, the band jump right into its nearly 7-minute long lyrically violent closer ‘Reese’s Pieces, I Don’t Know Who John Cleese Is?’, a song that details someone being forced to watch someone’s gruesome murder, and from there on the cuts from their noisy and obscenely weird record continue to come.
The room roars in unison to the opening bark of “What the fuck?!” before the band dive into ‘Ravenous, Ravenous Rhinos’, a slight deviation and anomaly to the sets theme rears its head when the bonkers ‘It Comes Naturally’ makes an appearance, and every room bangs their heads back and forth during the crunchy closing breakdown in ‘ASL’.
Admittedly Matt Mehana‘s grunts and screams sometimes get a little too distorted and hard to decipher through the microphone with the sheer force he’s putting into them, but his lack of auto-tune on the cleans in a live setting which are present on the record in abundance actually goes to show he can hit a majority of the notes, even when he does nearly completely face plant bassist Connor Mitchener‘s shoulder.
Half of a taped recording of ‘HxC 2-Step’ segways into a partial performance of their arguably infamous cover of ‘Crank That’, which definitely makes it feel like it’s 2008 all over again, and Ventures frontman Dan Donovan makes a brief re-appearance back onstage to help out.
Of course, it’s the equally soaring and manic electro-hardcore-pop-esque ‘Things That Rhyme With Orange’ that sees the evening off, proving that even a decade on these songs have still got plenty of weight behind them.
Whatever you opinion of them, I Set My Friends On Fire‘s relentless touring commitments and determination are beyond admirable, and have gone through things many bands would’ve thrown the towel in over. Maybe with a little bit of long-overdue luck passed their way, they’ll finally be able to reignite their fire, fuelled by a long-awaited third and fourth album.