Alvvays – KOKO, Camden, London. 8th September 2017
Toronto-based Alvvays came to KOKO to play tribute to their new album, Antisocialites.
KOKO is an old Victorian-style theatre with steeply banked levels and balconies overlooking a crowded dance floor. It’s gone through other incarnations (I used to go clubbing there when it was Camden Palace), and the opulent red and gold chamber acted as an intimate space for tonight’s gig.
Before I pitched up to Camden, I had a conversation with a smart looking guy at a law firm who told me that he “always had Alvvays on his Spotify”. So the band has already arrived in the City and are feeding the ears of the men in suits. I even noticed their poster on the tube on the way to the gig – a ploy usually associated with the likes of Coldplay and Stormzy. Someone somewhere is pushing them hard.
I made it just as Alaskalaska were playing their last song, thanks to the very early 7:30 pm start. I’m shooting them at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club on 28th September, so watch this space. What I can say is that they sounded slick, had a sax on stage and despite having to finish at 8 PM sharp, they had a good crowd who provided enthusiastic support.
Alvvays appeared at an equally early 8:15, by which time the photographers in the pit had been cleared and stuck on a balcony (hence my uninteresting and slightly blurred pics). The five-piece strode on and kicked off their slick set of latter-day, indie-pop songs and celebrated their Antisocialites album that had been released earlier in the day.
Refreshing the 80s?
I suspect most music bloggers will say that singer Molly Rankin reminds them of Debbie Harry with a Fender. Her voice would indeed be well suited to Union City Blues. The rest of the band, if they wore black suits, could easily do a good impression of Blondie, too – even if Alvvays obviously have more girls, including recent addition Sheridan Riley on drums.
Molly’s voice and the jangly guitars threw me back to the late 80s/early 90s, and I heard elements of other bands like The Primitives, The Shop Assistants, The Darling Buds, and The Motorcycle Boy. Ask your Dad.
Molly said that she liked the light in KOKO. I guess she could see the capacity crowd bobbing up and down in time to their carefully crafted tunes. There was a sense of urgency in their set – probably to make sure they hit the curfew of 9:45.
Liking that Fender Jaguar sound
Alvvays are a pop band and deserve their sold-out audience. Pick of the crop (for me)? Probably the oldies that peppered the set: “Your Type”, “Atop a Cake”, and “Next of Kin”, that are all happy indie songs of the first order. The anthemic “Archie Marry Me” made me want to be a student again (or at least learn to play guitar).
I expect Alvvays to cross over to mainstream chart success later on in the year. No doubt they will soon join the happy throng of bands occupying the lower reaches of the main stages of next Summer’s festivals.
Lucky for me that, for once, I had a long lens in my bag too.
The band is currently on tour with a full list of dates here.
Marcus Jamieson-Pond is a regular gig goer in London – for more than 200 photosets of bands he’s seen during 2017 visit his website
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