I shouldn’t be here. I should be at home, dressing gown clad, half cut and punching nostalgic travel plans into Skyscanner. But I’m not. A pantomime of missteps has brought me to the second room at the Hare and Hounds; fully dressed and upright I’m watching Hidden Charms, a band I didn’t know until chance and their PR company (Sonic, a more reliable source) threw me into this review. And so it begins.
The first two bands tonight have been superb: The Lizards, with their Faustian approach to distorted psych/prog rock, and The Bay Rays – a stadium seducing blues rock three piece. It’s competitive. Rob and I joke about having to follow this kind of support. I don’t know much about tonight’s headline band but the stakes have been raised at each sound check and they’d better have big enough feet. Hidden Charms saunter into view, croaky, crumpled and confident; just like a rock band. A harmonica sounds, a hand goes up. We are called to the front of the stage. We are Act III. We are on.
A brooding screech cuts through a driving rhythm guitar; the beats drum, a whammy pedal breaks, Americana pours through the room like ill tempered bourbon. I am standing in the cracked mirror ball lights of an old motel bar. Then Bez in a cowboy hat (apparently ‘found on a beach in New Zealand’) drags us further into the stage. We shuffle through imagined broken glass and comply.
‘Over Now’ brings some serious shoulder drop blues; Addidas and broken Converse in a fist fight with keys and guitar. It’s Thursday night in a tired second city, but a complicit front row continues to accept this increasing and almost violent invitation – before ‘Long Way Down’ presses us further into our focal point and foe. John Lennon with balls. There’s no escape; it takes less than ten minutes and Hidden Charms’ front man is climbing into the crowd.
I was promised the London four piece would be ‘well worth seeing, you’re in for a good night’… but what does that ever mean. There is no truth, right? But the energy in this small live room is immediate and palpable – the music, ferocious and infectious. If chairs start getting thrown I don’t think anyone will care, or notice. As long as sound stays on and the bar open.
Usually I step through a set list, number punching the pertinent plot points and looking for chances to sound funny, but not now. After a small stationary skirmish I am reminded… I am here. So I put the pen down and dance. Anyway, you could pick five words (on, driving, cowboy, blues, rock) to surmise this review but in essence you only need four: go see Hidden Charms. You can get the rest from YouTube, Spotify or (better still) iTunes.
I did write the following (as I took a five minute double whiskey break at the back of the room) so I guess I should give them to you. Unedited, picked from the drunk spider scrawls in my now slightly crumpled notebook:
‘Punching it up between foot stamp blues anthem 101, seduce the front row, all round awesomeness – the whole room is, or should, or wants, to be having as much fun as possible. Then at some point, I’m not sure when, the front of the stage moves into the front of the crowd and we’re buying rounds of Tequila.’
Tonight has been a barrage of blues, psychedelic and prog rock – delivered by a live triptych of almost absurd quality. Raw and unexpected. You don’t see this too often. So go and watch all of these bands: The Lizards, The Bay Rays, Hidden Charms.
And by the end of a night I hadn’t planned for, I was picking my way off a fan fervent stage – full of pedals, alcohol stains and stories for the next day. Which reminds me of two more words: happy accidents.
Hidden Charms @ Hare & Hounds 16.02.17 / Rob Hadley
For more on Hidden Charms, visit www.hidden-charms.com
The Bay Rays – supporting Hidden Charms @ Hare & Hounds 16.02.17 / Rob Hadley
For more on The Bay Rays, visit www.thebayrays.com
The Lizards – supporting Hidden Charms @ Hare & Hounds 16.02.17 / Rob Hadley
For more from the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath), including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk
For more from Birmingham Promoters, visit www.birminghampromoters.com