The Hawley Arms was a real discovery for me, not only conveniently placed in the heart of Camden, but also hosting shows of emerging acts, and for free. Its only drawback is the size of the actual live venue, which could hardly accommodate more than 30 people, but if you do manage to place yourself strategically you are sure to hear some amazing new music.
Thursday night was the fifth instalment of Hawley’s newest clubnight, Live Forever! – a night of live music and DJs, showcasing among other talents, the host himself – London musician Joe Fox. Arriving on time for it proved to be a good choice, as I managed to catch the pretty decent German indie rockers The Sparkling, the soaring melodies of synth-infused indie band Farrow, and the crisp, bright voice of ukulele-playing solo act Hayley Harland.
Before I knew it, it was time for the band I had come to see – Carousels & Limousines. As soon as they started playing, I was immediately aware that this was an act of a different measure – their songs had a complete and polished sound, and the incredible connection between the Bath foursome gave off the feel of a band that have been playing together for decades. It was hard to believe that the band as it is today has only been around for about a year, as it is then when drummer Martyn James stepped in and their playing style underwent a complete transformation.
Their current sound, worked upon by producer Richard Causon (Kings of Leon, Tom Jones and Rufus Wainwright), is heavily influenced by Americana legends such as Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty; and by the folk/punk of The Gaslight Anthem, whose t-shirt lead vocalist and guitarist Sam Gotley was strutting in. Yet they manage to produce their own distinct style without sounding like Gaslight Anthem copycats, and their retro riffs avoid being cliché by sounding refreshingly energetic.
What truly made the band stand out was the passion the four of them were playing with: Sam Gotley and Jamie Wales had their guitars on fire, Finn McNulty on his bass and Martyn James rounding it all off with his crashing drums, all clad in Sam’s husky voice. Despite having made it to Glastonbury earlier this year, the Bath lads were giving their all on the small pub stage as if their audience was at least tenfold in size. One could see they were completely absorbed by their performance; at one point Sam erupting into mad leaping that crashed into a coffee mug and a few beer bottles but made him all the more likeable for his honest fervour.
The set itself was a mixture of their debut that came out last year – Andy’s Home, and their upcoming EP set for release next month – Strange Love. While both records are of top-notch quality, even the less-spectacular numbers, such as ‘Spider’ which didn’t really do it for me upon listening to it on the album, sounded incredible live. Which made my favourites – debut single ‘17’s’ and ‘Don’t look down’ from Strange Love – sound absolutely incredible.
It was a highly enjoyable gig, with a short but vigorous performance by what is no doubt the new band I will obsess over for a while. Carousels & Limousines are sure to conquer big concert halls and stadiums one day, and I am absolutely positive about that; but for now make sure you check them out at one of their upcoming Bath, Bristol or Camden shows.