If you took all the hipsters in Shoreditch and laid them end to end, not only would it look funny but the line would probably stretch to the Borderline where last night a Hoxton Expeditionary Force was present in full voice cheering on one or other of XFM’s Best New Bands as part of HMV’s Next Big Thing series of gigs.
XFM’s breakfast DJ David Berry was persuaded to stay up past his bedtime to compère the evening, which featured three bands lauded by the station over the last year. Luna Belle played at last year’s Latitude Festival but we think that their sound makes far more impact in smaller venues. Coming across like a modern day Sleeper (complete with Sleeperblokes), the lead singer has a strong voice and the confident sexual allure of Debbie Harry. Tip for the guitarist: if the audience’s eyeline is at your crotch level, wearing tight jeans is not a good look unless, or even if, you're well-endowed.
Up next, Romance arrive on stage with the warning: “for those who haven't seen us before, it'll be quite an experience". That is nothing but truth. The music is non-stop full-on cock-rock. Jamie Lovatt is a modern Billy Idol, all angry vocals, blond hair, waxed chest and dangly earring who fights for stage presence with bassist Samantha Valentine as she channels Melissa Auf Der Maur at every opportunity. They are easily the best band on the night for us, just on entertainment value; their wall of sound is an uncompromising tour de force, a violent reproach to the pervasive notion of the independent music scene as four skinny indie kids playing weak rock in a Camden boozer.
Headliners Wolf Gang play unashamed party rock with 1990s keyboard-laden hooks big enough to catch Moby Dick. The singer is a charismatic and capricious frontman who can’t make his mind whether he looks cooler with his guitar or without. The only all-male band tonight, they bring out the greatest reaction in the crowd especially when stadium-size numbers like Lions In Cages or Back To Back get an airing.
You can follow our coverage of HMV’s Next Big Thing 2011 here.