Live Review – Holy Moly & The Crackers @ O2 Academy

Holy Moly & The Crackers

O2 Academy

Review by Ian Paget

Holy Moly & The Crackers

Stepping into Birmingham on the back of their recently-released third album ‘Take A Bite’, Newcastle’s genre-defying six-piece Holy Moly & The Crackers manage to balance their determination to bring the fun to venues everywhere with a sure-footed set of songs that take their folk-infused rock ‘n’ roll sound and add a multitude of diverse musical ingredients from across the board.

The band are quick to showcase their new material first, with album opener ‘All I Got Is You’ getting the ball rolling before the gypsy and traditional influences start to blend in on ‘Kiss Me Before You Go’ with prominent accordion and violin against the raw guitars and thumping drums. Co-vocalists Ruth and Conrad’s contrasting styles work well together, the former’s smooth and soulful singing offset by the latter’s grittier approach, and the blues-rock inspired ‘Sister’ is an impressive early highlight along with older track ‘Sugar’.

“Come forward a bit, let’s ‘ave ya!” shouts Conrad, suggesting that the numerous open spaces simply mean more room to dance in – a tempting proposition with upbeat tracks such as ‘Gravel Rag’ and “naughty” jazz number ‘Cocaine’ on offer, whilst ‘Ain’t No Grave’ takes in a light reggae backing. Accordionist Rosie is especially animated, literally bending over backwards and clearly enjoying herself whilst Conrad adds trumpet to give the band’s sound a slightly different edge.

‘Take A Bite’ and ‘Naked In Budapest’ explore Eastern European influences, the latter track introduced with a story about drummer Tommy drinking too much on tour in Hungary and inspiring the audience to sing along to the chorus of “we’re not going home”. Instrumental ‘River Neva’ and the trumpet-led ‘A Punk Called Peter’ continue in the same vein for a little while longer before ‘Cold Comfort Lane’, ‘Mary’ and ‘Upside Down’ return to the band’s more rock ‘n’ roll side.

“Thanks for coming down to see us on a Thursday night!” says Ruth before folky early track ‘Bluebell Wood’, and with one last chance to dance in the form of ‘Devil And The Danube’, Holy Moly & The Crackers have delivered with all the fun and excitement of a band not afraid to think outside the box.

Walsall indie outfit The Assist provide an excellent warmup with a set of Britpop-indebted feelgood tracks featuring jangly guitars and heartfelt vocals from frontman Mikey. First track ‘All That I Need’ in particular has an anthemic quality that demands attention before the streetwise swagger of tracks like ‘Tell Her How You Feel’ and ‘Give It To Me’ come with echoes of the Happy Mondays at their best, or fellow West Midlanders The Twang. With the confidence and attitude to match the big guitar sound on ‘Exist’ and ‘Wonderful’, The Assist have their sound nailed and put on a fantastic performance tonight.

Openers Gathering Tides are a last-minute addition to the bill and their eclectic take on traditional/folk music styles merged with alternative pop is interesting and unique. Beginning with a couple of instrumental fiddle-led tracks, the Birmingham four-piece quickly prove themselves to be excellent musicians first and foremost, with complex rhythms and impressive playing characterising much of the set. From the simple folk melodies of ‘Shady Grove’ to the funk-rock riffage of ‘The Curtain Sniffer’ via a currently untitled Klezmer-inspired track, the band sound incredibly tight and interesting, plus the brilliantly titled ‘Larry, Get Out The Bin’ is absolutely as much fun as it sounds.

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