Only my second time at a gig since the ‘Big C’ and my first north of the river, venturing to Hackney from the depths of South London proved to be most definitely worth it, once safely ensconced in the ever-kitsch, Twin Peaksy vibes of Paper Dress Vintage.
After sampling some local pale ale downstairs, my ears were treated to the uplifting, punk-pop energy of the night’s co-headliners Brand New Friend. Announcing “we’re gonna do a rock show!” they soon kick off with an infectious jubilant charisma into the lilting, impassioned emotion of ‘She Always Comes Up Smiling’. Expressing thanks for all who’ve made it out, as well as Simba on sound and their van saviour Steve-o, the band’s endearing modesty and gratitude just makes them all the more loveable as they assure us that if we don’t like what we hear, they’ll “keep it off the second album…”
In a beautiful kind of symmetry the band’s last gig “before ‘rona” was also with Cherym, so – as we’re left hoping there’s not another world catastrophe after tonight – they dedicate the next song to their pals as their glistening vocal harmonies and swirling hooks ooze a joyous, scuzzy energy; a comforting hug in sonic form.
Honoured to be treated to the new, first song that Lauren’s written (it’s s good ‘un) and a taster of the new album in the form of ‘Lucky’, amongst the fizzing melodies of older favourites such as ‘I Was An Astronaut’ and ‘Girl’, and heartfelt odes to grandparents past (“… this is the part of the set where we’re at Glastonbury and it starts raining and the crowd fuckin’ erupt!”), the entirety of Brand New Friend’s set exudes a wonderfully life-affirming charm. Interweaving a raw, nostalgic emotion with a refreshing euphoric zest, it’s simply impossible not to sing and bop along to their incessantly catchy offerings and become utterly immersed in their shimmering, buoyant energy.
And the euphoria doesn’t end there. As Derry trio Cherym take to the stage in their matching sports jerseys, they blast into the swirling driving force of ‘She’s Enough Going On’. Immediately capturing our attention with their unique blend of anthemic, honey-sweet punk-pop mixed with a gritty riotous power, I’m filled with a teenage excitement (a rare feeling for someone who’s not been a teenager for many years) to be seeing this refreshing new band – one all too deserving of the acclaim they’ve received so far from the likes of NME and Radio X’s John Kennedy.
Continuing with the fuzzing, catchy hooks of 2019 single ‘Abigail’, and the jangling tongue-in-cheek wit and driving beats of 2018’s ‘Pretty Boys’ (dedicated to Brand New Friend’s da), each offering blasts out from the trio with a vibrant spirit and colourful, charismatic musicality; sticking in your ears instantly. Encouraging some crowd participation for personal fave, ‘Listening To My Head’, Cherym showcase their ability to create instant singalong anthems. With an uplifting, empowering energy, frenzied hooks accompany Hannah Richardson’s luscious angst-driven vocals; a sunny slice of witty lyrical storytelling (it’s inspired by the Netflix series Dirty John) combining a fierce sense of rage with a bubbling, sugar-coated nostalgia.
Alongside the exuberant energy of songs like this and the fiery spirit of ‘Weird Ones’, drummer Alannagh Doherty takes a moment of calm to introduce the exquisite harmonies of ‘Gone Girl’, sharing with us that the track addresses domestic abuse; assuring us that we’re in a safe space here. A stirring and all-too-resonant message right now, and one that I’m grateful that bands such as Cherym are addressing openly and with such passion.
Resuming a sizzling energy with the scuzzy, noughties-indie-reminiscent hooks of instant earworm ‘Kisses On My Cards’ and the buoyant beats of heartfelt celebration of queer love ‘We’re Just Friends’, Hannah, Alannagh and Nyree then draw the set to a close with the buzzing, elevating joy of ‘Take It Back’. A master class in pure, perfect punk-pop.
And what a superb way for the trio to celebrate their new debut EP Hey Tori (one of my albums of the year for sure). Seeing both these Northern Irish bands has left me with a smile on my face and a spring in my step; desperate to hop across the pond to see more.
Photo Credit: Y-Control Photography