Gig Review: Personal Trainer at The Crescent


Gregor Brindle celebrates the importance of local venues for the music community in York

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Image by Gregor Brindle

By Gregor Brindle

A bitingly cold Thursday night did little to dispel my excitement as I ventured through the streets of York in search of my gig for the evening, Personal Trainer at The Crescent. Hidden away off the high street and nestled amongst a row of high terraced housing, it’s an unassuming entrance to one of the city’s most exciting and important venues. Over the years, The Crescent has cemented itself as a true community venue, being independently founded and run on the site of a renovated Working Men’s Club; and it has maintained itself as a core part of social and cultural life in the city.

Not only is The Crescent community run, but it has also built itself as a cultural hotspot for the city, hosting bands, comedy acts, DJ sets and more. Stepping inside I immediately felt at home and welcome, The Crescent is always an inclusive and friendly place, and it doesn’t take long before you feel part of its community that it has built up over the years. Without sounding pretentious, you immediately feel part of something greater here!

That evening, Personal Trainer would be playing as part of Independent Venues Week and would be joined by fellow Dutch indie-rockers in Real Farmer and The Klittens.

Real Farmer kicked the night off with a set brimming with energy and hitting the audience with a wall of sound to get the crowd going. With their angry brand of indie punk, they left everything on the stage, putting heart and soul into their performance, and a couple of cans of lager too!

The Klittens then followed, delivering a set oozing with dreamy ethereality blending punchy guitar pop with mellow vocals. They also spoke of the importance of venues like The Crescent for up-and-coming bands in providing a space to cut their teeth, grow a fanbase and also to meet like minded musicians for future tours and collaborations

Finally, Personal Trainer took to the stage to a tremendous reception, eliciting excited grins from the band. They were as happy as the audience to be there, that was for sure!

The band went onto deliver a refreshing brand of indie rock that encompassed all that is great about the genre, whilst not shying from embracing its chaotic side. They seamlessly blended Real Farmer’s boyish enthusiasm with The Klittens’ sweeping choruses.

It might surprise you to learn that, despite the band consisting of around seven members onstage, only one of them, Willem Smit, is a permanent member! The others comprise a rotating roster of musicians from the Amsterdam indie scene. This makes every live performance unique, with different musicians’ playing in different performances. Personal Trainer are therefore a band that have to be seen live to be properly appreciated. Yet this ever-changing cast does mean that the performance can be a little rough around the edges at times, but they take this in their stride to deliver a genuine sound that embraces the opportunity for improvisation and spontaneity onstage.

This roughness and sometimes improvised feel only added to the energy in the room. You could also see how much fun the band were having. Band members would goof about on stage, trumpets would be played with one hand whilst the other stayed on the keys, two drummers kept in perfect unison whilst also chipping in with vocals, and a sweaty towel was thrown about to cover the heads of soloists, before spinning them around to deliver a scintillating sax solo.

There were infectious levels of fun, and the crowd were lap-ping it up. Joining in on belting out choruses, cheering on the band and laughing at their antics. Audience interaction and engagement like this can only truly occur in small, intimate venues, where the crowd is as much part of the experience as the band is, and Personal Trainer made full use of The Crescent’s tight surroundings to create a participatory and collective experience like no other.

As much as this article is me reviewing a gig, it is ultimately a celebration of independent music venues and their community building powers. The space that these institutions provide is in-valuable in creating a vibrant music scene, which benefits music lovers and musicians alike by giving them the opportunities to connect to one another. Personal Trainer embodied the communality of The Crescent by embracing the crowd and bringing them along on a frenzied musical journey.