There’s a unique feeling of pride that hits whenever you see a band you’ve been following for some time take what’s been a constantly developing live show up to that next level. It’s like all the pieces of the puzzle you’ve been seeing come closer together over the last few years finally click and, when you stand back and look at the final product, all you can utter is, “Well, damn. There it is.”
That’s the exact moment I had watching Horror My Friend on Friday night.
Launching Stay In, Do Nothing at Jive after a national album launch tour, plus some great support shows alongside Grenadiers, Horror My Friend brought all that touring experience to fruition at this, the final show of the tour.
The line up was a local smorgasbord of rock goodness, starting with Dilettantes, who I managed to only catch one or two songs of (again). A young band with strong potential, the group had an enthusiastic crowd of people who had arrived early. Battlehounds, who I haven’t seen in a decent while, took me by surprise – they too, like the headliners, have benefitted from the opportunities to perform to more people between the last time I’ve seen them and now – their live output is harder, more relentless and fiercely entertaining.
People were crowded into the venue by the time Sincerely, Grizzly were setting up their stage, many interested in seeing this particular set. The first show the band were performing following the departure of bassist Griffin Farley, the Jive crowd were experiencing the Sincerely set up as a duo. Performing largely new material was a clever move – new slate, new introduction.
What we got early on showed some promise, but things turned left fairly quickly. It became painfully evident that the band was suffering from some bad sound tech issues on stage and the effects were filtering out – the guitar and vocals were barely distinguished, the percussion too overbearing. Frontman Joshua Calligeros moved from microphone to microphone trying to regain control when communicating with drummer Rowan Mount was failing, probably due to the fact they couldn’t hear each other, much less anything else.
The set was cut short in the end, with the band exiting three or four songs in. It was disappointing, again as a long time fan, mainly because I’d wanted this to go so well for the now-twosome. Still, hopes are high for this new dynamic and I’m keen to see how the new music continues to develop – what I heard (clearly), I was intrigued by.
Horror My Friend were soon on stage and whatever worries people may have had for their set were quickly squashed. As I mentioned earlier on in the piece, this is a trio of musicians who have been pounding the pavement hard over the last year, fashioning themselves into a live band not to be f-ed with. With Stay In, Do Nothing finally seeing release earlier this year, the band has been able to fully unleash on stage and, as the fans have been soaking up the new material, Horror My Friend have been able to focus on getting the live show as best they can in order to do the album justice.
Between Tom Gordon and Josh Battersby, there exists a dynamic that has become so fine tuned; they switch guitar, bass and vocal parts effortlessly while remaining utterly engaging with the crowd clamouring toward them on the dance floor beneath. Gordon’s vocals in particular took me by surprise – his range has matured and it’s like you can hear his throat strained to the limit as he barrels through some brilliant wails, almost guttural.
The album is fleshed out brilliantly in this set up – when we last saw Horror My Friend, they were performing it at a special in-store show at Clarity Records, a show so popularly attended that people were put out on the sidewalk outside to watch. Now, with decent sound behind them and much more room to play around, the band took album cuts that already punished on record and delivered them with a refreshed rawness and brutality that I didn’t think was quite possible.
“We’ve been Horror My Friend, have a good night,” Battersby murmurs at the end of the set, exhausted but clearly hyped by the reaction the band was receiving and of course, by the show they’d just delivered. Hanging back and watching as all three band members launched themselves into the crowd, to be lifted up by punters and mates in the sweaty melee, I couldn’t help but think of that feeling of satisfaction they must’ve been feeling – what a pay off.