1st October | O2 Academy
Photos: Alesha Hickmans
What’s so refreshing about the triple-bill of Sports Team, The Orielles and headliners The Magic Gang is their sincere lack of sorrow and self-indulgent sadness which has tended to pepper indie-rock throughout its history. Also, 3/14 of the musicians in the line-up are women – a relatively impressive feat for such a boys’ game genre. Baby steps, people!
Sports Team are super-duper energetic, thanks partly to their contortionist lead singer, Alex Rice, who body-pops-and-locks enough to dislocate a shoulder. Mainly, however, they have a whimsically-mature sound. The highlight of their short-lived set, ‘Kutcher’, was less of an ode to the ‘mid-noughties MTV star’, but more of an on-brand comical tale of melodramatic longing to be the real-life substitute for a devilishly handsome pin-up. When the percussionist, nonchalantly shaking a pot of Extra Spearmint, throws little sugar-free pieces of gum into the crowd, the front row kids dive for one like single ladies grasping at the bride’s bouquet.
The Orielles also have an air of mischief to them. The Halifax-based four-piece are purveyors of fuzzy psychedelic surf sounds that not only hark back to Pixies and Sonic Youth, but also nods towards early-2010s bands like Swim Deep and Best Coast, who probably have far-flung legend status among these chipper young whippersnappers.
What sets The Magic Gang apart from their stellar supports, however, is their more polished sound and raucously catchy sing-alongs. Geeky indie rock is on the menu this night, and the Brighton boys have enough sunshine in their pocket to make us forget that summer has already slipped away from us and the leaves are turning orange. The set feels a bit cluttered, a cluster of well-written tracks packed tightly together with little space for chat in-between. Nevertheless, just the coy purr of the basslines are more than enough to get the room swaying and singing along. It doesn’t even matter that the show isn’t completely sold out: the crooning from the crowd is loud enough to rival many bands who’ve graced the Academy stage before.
The shoulder-climbing crowd-surfers are smitten with the indie dreamboats from the susurration of “take one step, see how it goes, nobody wants to listen.” Maybe the band’s appeal to the hyper-conscious youth of Generation Z is the universality of their shared experiences: “party drugs don’t do anything, I don’t know why I bother.” Maybe it’s this feeling that leaves you with a long-lost guitar-induced euphoria as you skip all the way home.
There’s something so nostalgic, yet so fresh about these boys. Maybe it’s because this type of music takes me back to my pre-pubescent youth, but, more interestingly, it’s reassuring to see a band who appear completely comfortable in their own skin – and that’s the nucleus of their undeniable appeal. The Magic Gang’s songs are delightfully kitsch and could appear in a Richard Curtis indie-pop musical. From the downbeat drums of ‘Jasmine’ to the twinge of the riffs on ‘All This Way’, the gang know their way around a chorus, making you believe in a very real kind of puppy love. From up here, it’s coming up roses, baby.