First up are local regulars Wood and Nails. Despite support slots and constant shows around town they were a band that had eluded me and I kind of wish they still did.
Here comes the reality check. They are safe, lyrically juvenile and unimaginative. Every other song seemed to be littered with dreaming references. With overly American vocals that create a jarring disconnect when it’s time to unleash the Brummie accent for between song flannel.
Erring on the college rock spectrum, with a 60s surfer vibe, they falter due to the lack of any catchy hooks or harmonies to engage the crowd. Sadly this is a band that should stay at home.
New York’s Crying, are not a universal band. They are marmite. Personally I perpetually waiver between thinking they are the best band ever, to believing they are the worst, before pondering whether they are so bad they’re genius. From the over excited, uber fan gushing in the corner and losing their mind to the guy who hangs his head in his hands before blasting them online; their divisive sound is visibly apparent amongst the crowd.
There is a nostalgic kitchness to Crying that I love. Using a backing track of 80s synth and 8-bit beats, I envision a real life ‘Jem and the Holograms’ on stage and feel certain there was a nod to the original 80’s Transformers the Movie soundtrack. The twee vocals from Elaiza Ryan even extend to a Fresh Prince-esque rap.
Whilst I giddily enjoyed the show I couldn’t help but feel cheated by the backing track, I’d expected a knob twiddler on stage, free styling some rogue samples every now and again to keep us on our toes. Using such enigmatic samples, reminiscent of the best 80s cartoons, I’d expected a dynamic performance to boot. There was a lack of sparkly, rainbow drama and instead a more relaxed vibe, as if you were watching some mates perform awkward karaoke. I found this both endearing and lack luster. If you can’t convey the emotion, passion or fun of your sound then how do you expect that energy to be returned? Maybe you don’t? Or maybe the state of the world has taken the sparkle away?
The Hotelier can only ever open with one song “An Introduction to the Album”. The sound has been a bit ropey throughout the supports but it’s all resolved for these headliners from Massachusetts.
Special recognition has to go to Mama Roux’s. Having never been before I had not anticipated walking into a set for a Gene Kelly musical, a magical space whose uniqueness did not go unnoticed by The Hotelier; likening it to an over the top US furniture chain.
“Such a cool venue… we get to see such cool pretty places when we come to Europe… in the US it is so sterile” – Christian Holden – lead singer
Like many a good band they suffer from sophomore success. Their debut album ‘It Never Goes Out’ from 2011 was locked in a record label naming quagmire. which didn’t see wider distribution till after their critically acclaimed release ‘Home Like NoPlace is There’. This is the album whose tracks the crowd hang on for, with this being The Hotelier’s first full headlining UK tour.
However, with their third album, ‘Goodness’ dropping last year, these are the songs that take centre stage, including its spoken word intro. The Hotelier are perfectionists, as the opening riffs of ‘Piano Player’ emerge, the song is stopped as something is awry, only known to the keen ears of the band. Once order is resumed the aching harmonies and gut wrenching passion of songs from brooding teenage toxicity to a universal spirituality ring out to leave goosebumps.
A birthday request treats us to older tracks ‘Ode to the Nite Ratz Club’ and ‘Weathered’ but its the new ones such as ‘You in this Light’ where the harmonies ring effortlessly through the room.
‘Your Deep Rest’ sees a crowd wake up and the finger pointing begins from a respectful, somewhat sombre showing of Birmingham. A surprise encore sees the set finish on ‘Opening Mail for My Grandmother’. The Hotelier are not a band willing to play to convention, but one whose song writing has evolved to enable greater access points of interpretation and meaning. If you’ve only ever felt ambivalent about this band then seeing them live will change your mind.