The Forum, Tunbridge Wells

2nd July 2023

Photography: Samuel Franklin

Photography by Samuel Franklin

Sam Howell

Taken to the internet after my friends stopped listening to my music recommendations. Brighton based. 19.

SOFT PLAY, the newly named duo comprising of (drummer/ singer) Isaac Holman and (guitarist/ bassist) Laurie Vincent took fans by surprise after announcing the end of their 4 year hiatus in December last year. Upon announcing their reunion gig in The Tunbridge Wells Forum, the tickets sold in 0.2 seconds. 

Some didn’t see the appeal of the new moniker thinking it was unnecessary. Others appreciated it as symbolic of the growth and maturity experienced by the band. They are no longer brimming with that youthful rage that wanted to be heard screaming, to shock and attract. Both members have entered new chapters in their lives, taking on parental roles, no longer working those 9-5 jobs that inspired the groups inception. 

In direct response to the criticism, in an as of yet unreleased track preformed in the show, Holman waxes satirical from the perspective of a disgruntled fan trying to dictate SOFT PLAY’s artistic choice ‘I don’t like change’. It was SOFT PLAY sticking to their guns, proving that they could still stir up a crowd. 

Their set list slotted in the perfect middle ground between the bands established hits, bookending the show with ‘Sockets’ and ‘The Hunter’ that featured both audience and Holman alike chanting the lyrics. 

One commendable aspect of the show was its pacing. As Holman says “we’re not spring chickens anymore”. The near two hour set, while never dragging, offered points of rest for crowd and band alike where Vincent would vamp on a dusty guitar melody, underscoring Holman’s anecdotes on subjects ranging from the band’s history reaching their current point, to local folklore featuring Kentish Apemen haunting the woods. 

‘The Velvet Ditch’ and the first half of ‘Beauty Quest’ showed the bands versatility and ability to embrace a softer side contrasting louder moments such as: ‘Fuck The Hi-Hat’, ‘Bugs’ and ‘Feed the Mantaray’ that ruptured the crowds ear drums even more. 

A welcome addition to their original tracks was a cover of Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’ which they moulded into their garage punk aesthetic effortlessly, slotting into their sound while paying tribute to their influences, becoming one of the show’s highlights. 

You can tell a lot about a band by the way that they handle technical difficulties. It is an unavoidable nuisance that comes with the territory. Some bands will freeze or fumble not knowing how to move on from that. This was not the case. When Holman’s mic began to cut out they turned it into an opportunity to shout out their sound check, keeping the audience engaged throughout, starting chants and shining a light on their team. 

If I had to describe this concert experience in one word it would be ‘love’; namely the love the Forum had for the band, welcoming them back into the fray with open arms and the love from each fan towards the act, never thinking they would see the duo take the stage again. Even after the show, The Forum was filled with strangers sharing their personal experience with the band and how much they meant to them.

And, of course, the love SOFT PLAY had for one another, Holman and Vincent’s comradery seeping out of every single note either of them played, always locked in sync with each other as if they hadn’t missed a day. 

There was an electric feeling throughout the show, brought on by the uncanny ability of the two to switch from laid-back to vicious ferocity. Holman’s stage banter was always playful, including the audience in the joke, and unapologetically authentic. There was no barrier between the band and audience. It was an honest performance, where they gave exactly who they were. 

One particular moment that sticks is when Holman turned an oncoming mosh pit into a mock story time with everyone sitting down with the two before resuming the wildness that spread from stage to floor. 

SOFT PLAY are gearing up for a tour supporting veteran Big Beat legends The Prodigy throughout November, after a set in 2000Trees Festival on the 6th July. If their reunion is any indication to the quality of show the two can put on, then I would thoroughly recommend anyone who enjoys modern British punk to attend.