It’s a miserable, freezing cold night in Highbury – the kinda night that makes you long for tea and sofa – to the point that this gig was oh-so-very nearly bailed on. However, like the brave little soldier I am, I battled on and hell, was I glad I did!
Little was expected from support band, Popes of Chillitown, in fact it looked at first glance dangerously like this might be a bunch of half-arsed, baggy trousered, indie landfill wannabes – but when they pulled out a sax and kicked off, well that really couldn’t have been further from the truth – their brand of high energy English ska-punk calls to mind the Specials brought bang up to date, and they’re a big hit with the admittedly fairly sparse crowd. Half the audience are clearly their mates and they play to them very well, involving the audience as much as possible, making it feel more like a party than a gig. They start off sounding a little loose but get sharper as the set goes on and they get into it.
Headlining tonight are Kent based Electric River, the band I’ve been intrigued to catch live ever since hearing their EP ‘In Your Name’, which tonight is the launch party for. Sponge, the singer, looks like he’s walked on stage with the wrong band, incongruous in his trilby and braces, backed by a bunch of raggy ‘aired rockers, but my GOD he’s got some pipes on him! His vocals are really distinctive, the sort of vocals that instantly stamp their identity over the tunes.
I must confess to only having listened to ‘In Your Name’ through once so far, but when the tracks from it are played live, such is their strength that even from that one listen, they’re instantly recognisable, which is the hallmark of some seriously good songwriting.
There’s already a great buzz in the room tonight, but you can feel the energy levels rise even more as the gig goes on. ‘Happy’ from the new EP is a particular high point in the set and they bust that one out nice and early to really send the atmosphere through the roof, leaving the hook-tastic EP highlight ‘Hold Your Nerve’ (so good they put it on the EP twice!) till near the end of the set.
It’s rare to leave a gig feeling quite so uplifted, and it’s a wonderful faith-reaffirming thing to discover a new favourite band – I implore you to catch them when they next hit town so you can see for yourself (which will be soon, according to the band). I reckon you’ll be glad you did.