Hailing from Leeds, Britain, the punk rockers known as Yard Act traveled across the pond to air their grievances at an American audience. Fortunately for us, they made a stop at The Basement East in Nashville along the way. Although they aren’t touring for an album—they released their debut, The Overload, in January of 2022, and are set to release their sophomore album, Where’s My Utopia?, on the first of March in 2024—it makes complete sense that they’re touring. These guys haven’t rested since the band’s inception, playing over 200 sets since 2020. And there’s no question why: they have a passion for their craft and a message to share with their down-the-line fandom (not to mention their massive critical acclaim). And it’s that steadfast core of fans that will draw them back to Nashville, at least that’s what lead singer, James Smith, promised the crowd.
PVA, a dance-punk and slightly industrial quartet act, primed the stage for the main event. Similar to Yard Act, PVA has not released an album since late 2022 (Blush) but has remained busy regardless. And though they haven’t teased the media with new singles or an album announcement, they shared a handful of unreleased tracks that will undoubtedly be seen on their sophomore record.
With lights flittering left, right, up and down, the chaotic nature of their music was unfettered, contrasting with their relatively unexciting stage presence. Rare is it to see an act simply comprised of two synthesizers and a set of drums, yet despite this plainness and the generally uncharismatic demeanor of members Ella Harris, Josh Baxter, and Louis Satchell, their crisp and coordinated performance was incredibly captivating. Standing in the back of the venue, I watched the modest crowd, whose heads simultaneously bobbed to the beat as if tied together by a single string, progressively condense as the show went on.
For a post-punk concert, the crowd at The Basement East felt unfittingly old (maybe not that old, but 28 years old still seems like an eternity away for me) compared to the younger audiences that encircled me for similar acts such as Shame and black midi. However, this had no bearing on how enthralled and active the crowd was when the foursome walked on stage. Yard Act masterfully interweaves 1970s disco and elements of hip-hop into a rock-centric sound, and they had no issue bringing that to life and drawing the energy out of this audience. Smith, fittingly adorned in a trench coat (we’ll get there), and the rest of the crew filed on stage and kicked things into fifth gear with “The Overload,” an up-tempo, funky, and quirky jam. While Smith orated, Sam Shipstone, rocking lamb chop sideburns so strong they could wrestle a bull, bounced, kicked, and twisted to the beat, absolutely shredding his guitar. His wicked performance throughout the night certainly deserved the spotlight, and he received his due midway through the set when Smith took a seat on Jay Russell’s drum platform and politely observed Shipstone’s wizardry.
The act played a blend of songs off The Overload, their debut EP Dark Days, and their highly anticipated sophomore project Where’s My Utopia?, mixing in the unreleased “Petroleum.” Ripping through song after song, Yard Act’s ragtag mix coalesced into an ultimately cohesive set. On occasion, Smith would put a halt to the performance (obligating the rest of the band to drop their instruments reluctantly) to explore the meaning behind their music or to sing his praises to the crowd. Most memorable was his earnest explanation of the significance of “100% Endurance”—the closer to both The Overload and their Nashville set. The methodical and jazzy track contemplates the complexity of human existence and how, with that “good stuff, that human spirit,” we can keep trekking on with one hundred percent endurance.
It’s all so pointless, sure is
And when you’re gone It makes me stronger knowing
That this will all just carry on
With someone else (Someone else)
Something new (Something new)
It’s not like there’s going to be nothing is it?Chorus of “100% Endurance” by Yard Act
They then proceeded to play the concert-goer’s peek-a-boo, returning to the stage for an encore after quietly departing. Yard Act then capped the night off (legitimately this time) with the grandiose “The Trench Coat Museum” (I told you I’d get there), which juxtaposed the rapid onslaught of the previous 10 tracks they played. The lyrics, which illuminate our inability to comprehend the speed at which our perception of the world changes, only span a third of the song’s entire length, leaving fans to gaze at the conjunction of bass, guitar, and drums in orderly disarray. The epic finale satiated the audience, who hurled a heaping applause right back onto the stage.
Let’s hope that Smith upholds his word and returns to Nashville to give concertgoers another opportunity to appreciate Yard Act’s performance, as they are not a band to miss. Give “Dream Job,” their lead single to Where’s My Utopia? a listen here: