‘The dance-punk inflections and full-room choruses in the collective’s repertoire ensure their place on any list of live bands to see in 2023 from those in the know.’
Personal Trainer have expertly honed a live sound that perfectly balances a truth to the recorded music the audience are there to see and that sort of ephemeral magic that only the most adept of live acts can sprinkle across there set, leaving us enveloped for hours even after the final note has rung out. The Amsterdam-based collective were rounding off a run of small UK venues as they take to the hallowed stage of Edinburgh’s premier sweat-box, Sneaky Pete’s, following a classically frenetic performance by central-belt regulars, The Wife Guys of Reddit.
Even as the band announce that they’re getting an early night because they have a tragically early flight (to go play SXSW), there’s a sense that they’re still going to put everything they have into the rest of the performance, and they do.
The set is weighted towards with the more anthemic numbers off their 2022 debut album Big Love Blanket: ‘The Lazer’, ‘The Key of Ego’, ‘Former Puppy’, each raising the bridling crowd into a passionate sing-along. Even while the selection of songs leans on the louder, more raucous numbers – it’s a live show, of course they’re playing their most infectious and danceable numbers – the group demonstrate a strong aptitude for dynamics, with softer moments hitting as hard as the more room-filling choruses.
Crowd interaction extends far beyond the enthusiastically met call-and-response lines, or even the collective’s friendly seeming nature as they take plenty of time to chat with fans after the show: the lyrics leading the refrain of one track are hilariously modified to ‘why didn’t you save me a slice of pizza?’, a moment that was briefly lacking context. This was fixed as a crowd member apologetically shouts back to Willem Smit – earlier in the night she’d been walking around with a box of pizza that the band were dipping in and out of; it seems like a certain swaggering singer was forgotten.
Near the end of the evening, the band’s sound engineer takes to the stage to announce, ‘now we’re going to try something really silly.’ Chiming keys begin and she takes the lead vocals on ‘Milk’, carrying it through to the middle of the song where Smit resumes his position. It wasn’t a high point, losing a little of the strength of the recorded version and Smit’s wavering between half-spoken and half-falsetto twistingly humorous lyricisms.
Nonetheless, it was met with applause by the crowd who appreciated how wholesome it was – and she by no means did a bad job. It was a little silly, but by no means stupid. If anything it highlighted the person who played a large part in ensuring the band sounded as good as they did. As the rest of the band jump in to chant, ‘I drink straight from the carton’, Smit holds up an open carton of milk to a rapturous reaction.
The dance-punk inflections and full-room choruses in the collective’s repertoire ensure their place on any list of live bands to see in 2023 from those in the know.