There’s a celebratory mood in the air, and it’s not just because it’s nearly Christmas. Tonight is the last date of Don Broco’s Birthday Party Tour, and their third night at London’s Koko. The rockers from Bedford have been gathering fans like a hyped up snowball, and tonight, in the layered theatre in Camden, it’s time to party.
Don Broco @ Koko
It takes less than three minutes for the circle pit to open and the first pints to fly overhead as the eternally catchy opening to Gumshield captures the euphoria. Vocalist Rob Damiani shouts like it’s his last day, but without aggression: he’s just giving voice to the elevated mood from a collective good time. The video game retro electronica creates chants from the pit as pink lasers cut their own narrative for Manchester Super Reds No 1 Fan. Don Broco have cemented their place as nu-metal’s descendants, all Fred Durst posturing and rhyme-spitting over killer guitar. Their sound is very much a homage rather than a satire: they’re the rock stars they wanted to be when they grew up listening to Limp Bizkit.
“This is gonna be a proper little send off,” grins Damiani. He’s in a neck brace due to a mid-tour injury. “I did it in a week and a half ago, and can’t move,” he explains, “The physio said two weeks rest, bare minimum!” We boo. How dare the real world get in the way of a Don Broco show? Damiani agrees. “I said, we’ve got Koko to play!” Then the eighties laser sirens signal the star of Uber, and it’s a call to action to fling ourselves around the pit and bounce like we’re spring powered. Before being told a circle pit opens, leaving one brave, phone waving island of a fan in the middle. They bottle the feeling surrounding your best nights out, shake it up and let it explode, especially on poppier tracks like Come Out To LA. Live, the song is harsher, the lyrics leaving a sweet chemical aftertaste via the megaphone effects and moonwalker leans from guitarist Simon Delaney. He stretches out each chord to bridge to slow, attention-grabbing oblivion, designed to push the momentary quiet to its limit.
Most of us have seen Don Broco before, some of us multiple times over the last few days. “We played this venue as our first proper decent headline show ten years ago, and when we heard Koko was re opening…we just wanted to do something special,” Damiani explains before launching into the deeper and darker Actors. Security below him scurry to catch all the crowd surfers. Don Broco’s community isn’t just their ‘Bro Co’, as we’re affectionately nicknamed. Support bands Trash Boat and Ocean Grove join them for ACTION, and Ashton from musical collective The Color 8 has flown in from Phoenix to add his guest vocals to Birthday Party. Seeing them with their friends mirrors our own experience and just helps us feel even closer to the band, rushing with the same Endorphins that Damiani sings about. We’re treated as friends and given an acoustic rendition of Yeah Man as an early Christmas gift. Crooning over the solo guitar, they offer us a special personal moment, their hollered venting solidarity building a wave of our claps.
Don Broco have always had the ability to be genuinely funny without descending to becoming a joke band. For the encore, they re-create East 17’s Stay Another Day video for their cover, complete with shiny white parkas and sincere gazing while perched on bar stools. It would be tacky if it wasn’t so incredibly unexpected and well-done. Fingernails injects a neon pink whirlwind energy boost as they and we give a last push. The frontman leans forward to push more fire into our veins, the pit a beating heart. Damiani rips off his neck brace with a flourish. “Bro Co! You’re healing me!” He passes it around the other band members who gingerly touch the sweaty bandage to add their signatures before launching it into the crowd. “This song is…well, we’re gonna rename it tonight: it’s not T-Shirt Song, it’s Neck Brace Song.” The newly-rechristened final encore sends t-shirts whirling like grass in the wind above our heads, bare torsos revealed. Security look on bemused. For a long moment, the pit opens and the bare floorboards are revealed beneath our feet, until they’re swallowed again beneath jumping feet and Santa hats.
This will be the last Don Broco tour for the moment. “After this we’re going away for quite a long time, I gotta tell you that…” Damiani apologises throughout the show. “We’re writing a new album, it’s for a good reason!” With a run of shows with this much heart and sense of good, honest fun, the bar is high for their next release. However, with a fanbase this dedicated and a firm grasp of what makes a brilliant live show, it’s got to be one of the most anticipated releases of 2024.
Live review of Don Broco live at Koko, London on 19th December 2023. Words by Kate Allvey, photos by Louise Phillips.