Tonight has been the source of much anticipation here at Hidden Herd HQ. In the capital’s north, The Finsbury plays host to our leg of the second ever BLOGTOBER Festival – a whole month of blog-curated gigs presented by our long-standing friends Lost In The Manor. This evening the four-strong lineup is bigger and better than ever before, as we welcome a slew of scintillating new bands that look set to make waves in 2018 and beyond.
Cue the first. Brighton’s Thyla kick-start proceedings with a captivating and utterly absorbing stint in which the four-piece do what they do best: fill four walls with bewitching and brooding sounds that are part The Cure, part Siouxsie and the Banshees. Echoey guitars, euphoric choruses and ethereal atmospherics are boiled up in the alt-rockers’ musical cauldron to make a distinct strain of noirish guitar-pop, which quite rightly thrills the bedimmed back room from the get-go. ‘Ferris Wheels’ is the highlight – a rousing anthem coated in a dreamy veneer – and it’s followed by blistering new single ‘Pristine Dream’, which takes pride of place at their BLOGTOBER set’s summit. The latter’s explosive refrain burrows into the brain and takes up residence.
With the venue now crammed to the brim and suitably sweaty, the stage plunges into darkness and fellow south coasters MarthaGunn take the baton, beckoning the horde of onlookers on a mesmerising jaunt through their exceptional output to date. The effortlessly chic quintet’s sound and style has more than a whiff of Woodstock whimsy about it, but the band’s 70s-seeped rock gems do much more than mimic decades past: ‘Honest’ is a beautiful bruised piano ballad with a searing emotive hook, ‘Honey, Let Me Know’ is the sort of bluesy psychedelic epic that would leave Alberta Cross and the like green with envy, and Fleetwood Mac-ish finale ‘Heaven’ is a modern classic that coaxes the throng to clap and chant at its sonic climax. Mightily impressive throughout, MarthaGunn are long overdue their moment in the spotlight.
Then it’s over to Orchards – another surefire stand-out who’ve gained an enviable reputation by the sea for myriad time signatures à la Dutch Uncles and masterly fretwork. Their appeal on record is instantaneous and it only takes a few bars of fidgety opener ‘Honey’ this evening to realise the Sussex noiseniks have glittering live chops to boot. The frenetic four sound impeccable song after song with zero dip in danceability, flaunting the fruits of their intricate math-pop singles so far to BLOGTOBER‘s enamoured attendees. ‘Peggy’ pricks the ears with its Rubix Cube of skittering drums and organ-like licks, and ‘Darling’ dazzles thanks to frontwoman Lucy Evers’ earworming vocal hook and high-octane delivery. Colour us impressed; we’re left frantically thumbing a phone screen to find out when and where we can get our next Orchards fix.
Under a throb of dancing lights, it’s left to The Lightning Year to follow the stellar supporting cast with an electric headline performance and they duly deliver. Born in the summer months of 2016, the fivesome have quickly established themselves as purveyors of rapturous riffs and freewheeling hooks, and tonight the South Londoners bolt through them all with vim and vigour, airing their bank of blissed-out rock ‘n’ roll nuggets with aplomb. The big bright bursts of technicolour come thick and fast, with a euphoric ‘Endless Memory’ and a towering rendition of ‘The Needle’ coming over louder, brasher and more ramshackle in the flesh, all the while still channelling the Eighties drivetime affections of The War On Drugs et al. It’s a set that blooms with life, wrapping up Hidden Herd‘s sophomore BLOGTOBER in emphatic style.