Words by Molly Forsyth / Pics by Phil Drury
I step into the O2 Academy in Birmingham, a venue that has been a staple in my perusal of live music for over a decade, and feel apprehension for the first time.
I am still accustomed to being below the average age of attendees at gigs. Tonight, it is clear I am not. The hum of teenage excitement is all too familiar to me, except this time I am not part of it. College kids glug double pints of Somersby’s. Hives of young girls are buzzing around the venue, a swarm of double dyed-denim, glitter eyes, high-waisted jeans, vintage windbreakers and bleached buzzcuts. They look fantastic, and I have no doubt they are about to have the time of their lives tonight watching one of the fastest rising bands in the UK, The Hunna.
Opening this evening are Night Riots, who feed off the energy radiating around the hall to put in a blistering performance, complete with a mini LED display at the start of the set.
They are so good it is hard to believe they are supporting a gig of this size rather than filling the venue themselves. Night Riots effectively combine chugging riffs reminiscent of early emo bands such as Jimmy Eat World with the flamboyant sensibilities of new wave, and it’s a concoction fit for tonight’s crowd.
Frontman, Travis Hawley, strolls whimsically across the speakers throughout, shirt buttoned down past Simon Cowell-level, but not quite Morrissey-level.
Their standout track is ‘Spiders’ – one of the strongest songs I hear all evening – which serves to show the band’s identity beyond their influences. The lo-fi drums, building anthemic verses and a smooth slide into delicate synth work, demonstrate the finesse that Night Riots possess. They return to UK shores from their native California in just a few short months and I will certainly be in attendance.
Next are Coasts, providing a tighter, crisper sound than their fellow support act, if perhaps lacking in originality. Compared to the more grandiose Night Riots, Coasts feel minimal in the space they occupy, their strength lying in the clarity of their layered tracks. At no point in their set does any instrument bleed into the other. The slightest pluck of the guitar can be heard against the gentlest beat, which is testament to their skill as musicians.
After ploughing through a set consisting of pleasant, albeit forgettable dream pop, they end with ‘Oceans’ to a big cheer. Undeniably their most immediate and memorable moment of the night, it feels unfortunate that diversity is lacking in the rest of their catalogue. If they are capable of writing songs as impactful as ‘Oceans’ however, I remain hopeful that Coasts can expand on their sound with new and more unique ideas in the future.
In contrast, it seems that The Hunna have made a breakthrough in establishing their identity. Shrouded by dim strobes of magenta and indigo, they turn up with every intention of causing a frenzy. What follows is a 45 minute onslaught of menacing indie rock aimed squarely at your adrenaline reserves, complete with choruses containing clear ambition for chart success.
Highlights include early favourite ‘She’s Casual’, sung mainly by the crowd, current Radio 1 favourite ‘Flickin’ Your Hair’, and new song ‘Dare’, which perfectly demonstrates the band’s development in their songwriting. While the songs from their debut album, 100, are solid stabs at straight-up garage rock made popular in the Noughties, ‘Dare’ indicates that The Hunna are ready for bigger things.
Making their way back on the stage in coordinated jackets to spell out the song title, The Hunna launch into a dirty, distorted riff. The direct lyrics assert their authority to a lover, rather than wondering out loud if she cares about their existence (see ‘Still Got Blood’, ‘You Don’t Want It With Me’) and are imbued with a certain confidence that matches the growth the band have experienced in just two years. As they play the last notes of fan favourite ‘Bonfire’ the last remnants of cerise confetti float over a crowd still hungry for more, and I make my exit with every faith that 2018 belongs to The Hunna.
As impressed as I am with the three bands, the hero of the night is the crowd. I love young crowds, not for their ‘energy’ (being 24, I can’t claim I’m exactly tired yet) but for their commitment to having a good time. They aren’t jaded or overly educated in what makes good music to stop them from enjoying themselves to the fullest. They are a generation raised on a diet of too-cool-for-school trap beats and icy pop – Drake, Post Malone and Taylor Swift are played during intervals – but their appetite for indie coexists.
While applause and tacit appreciation is something I come to expect from crowds these days, tonight is all about festival-level screaming, stomping until your Vans are worn down from the sole, and climbing atop the shoulders of the first strapping young man you can find. And I can’t ask for anything better.
The Hunna @ O2 Academy 11.01.18 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review
For more on The Hunna visit www.thehunna.com
Coasts – supporting The Hunna @ O2 Academy 11.01.18 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review
For more on Coasts, visit www.coastscoastscoasts.tumblr.com
Night Riots – supporting The Hunna @ O2 Academy 11.01.18 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review
For more on Night Riots, visit www.nightriots.com
For more from High Tide Records, visit www.hightiderecordings.com
For more from O2 Academy, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham