Three years ago I went along to a random gig at The Barfly in Camden with my mate, before he flew out to live in New Zealand with his girlfriend. That night we met the lead singer of a band called City of Ashes, with whom I discussed my plans to start a blog about new bands.
Now, three years later and my best mate is married to the Kiwi on the other side of the world while I remain here in London in part indebted to said lead singer Orion Powell for his advice having finally delivered on this blog. And on Wednesday night, I went to see Orion and City of Ashes alongside three other awesome British bands, 48Hours, Hyla and Love|Less at the O2 Academy 2 in Islington.
We were treated to a feast of British rock, which began with incredible opening act Hyla, who sound like the band that could have been if Nirvana had said ‘let Kurt stick to guitar, and let’s bring in Courtney as lead singer.’ And that’s not even close to being an overstatement.
The band has created – as far as I know – their own genre of Aggro-Grunge, and trust me it is awesome. There’s a distinct Marmozets-esque tone with lead singer Vicky Holburt’s raspily engaging voice, which is superbly supported by the impressive guitar skills of Aaron Blandford, who at times baffled me as to how there weren’t two guitarists on stage.
Their sound is perfected in lead single Why Blame Me? which features the chorus line: “Well fuck me I got off so easy, I got off easy, but you satisfy me, I got off easy,” then blitzes into an awesome outro of guitar noise.
Their set was topped off by a grime track they wrote after covering the Skepta track Shutdown, which was famously covered by Slaves. Hyla’s unique burst of rocky grime had the audience smiling and getting more into the music as Holburt was rock-rapping, including the lyric “Tell me a fucking name I wanna go inside your brain,” before telling the audience “that song’s a good one if you ever hate someone” – she’s not wrong. Check out their version of Shutdown below:
They were followed on stage by Love|Less, a fun blend of big loud punk rock, with a glam goth feel akin to the likes of Ashestoangels. After seeing off a few microphone issues, the band saved the best for last with The Lonely, a heavier singalong track that had the crowd belting out “we are, we are the lonely.”
Then it was time for the band I’d come to see, City of Ashes, who opened up with a couple of tracks from this year’s second album Rise before moving onto a very poignant subject. The band recently released a short film and did some impressive charity work to raise awareness of depression for their single Sometimes, which they played as their third track of the evening. They asked people to shine their phone lights and lighters for this moving track about an even more moving subject, which we’ll have more on for you very shortly.
They then moved onto a couple of the best tracks off their impressive 2013 debut album All We Left Behind. Falling Star was great, but bettered by a fantastic rendition of In Restrospect, which Orion revealed was “about me being crap with women.”
They then asked the whole crowd to move forwards and to join in with the repeated ‘woh-oh’ lyrics through Waves, the final track on their debut album. I remembered hearing this track for the first time last time I saw City of Ashes play and it was just as good this time around, with the entire crowd joining in for the choruses.
Orion’s voice is amazing live, and I wholly recommend you get out to see City of Ashes play live next year. Although I was a little bit disappointed they didn’t play my favourite track Ode to Innocence, it was great to see them again and they were even more impressive than three years ago.
The night was brought to a big, loud, almighty crashing end with the superb trio of 48Hours. Their massive guitar riffs had the crowd bouncing along to huge tracks like Nothing Left, with it’s booming guitar intro and darting riffs, Given Up, and the naughty riffs and cheeky high notes on Liars.
Scars opened up with a huge smash of drums and fast guitars, before they were joined on stage by Orion. The set was chocked full of awesome heavy metal guitar riffs, singalong tracks, big drums and massive on-stage energy from the trio. You have to check this band out.
Having gone along to check out City of Ashes I was delighted to find three new bands that I didn’t know, but absolutely loved. It was an awesome gig and we’ll hopefully bring you more information and news on all these bands very soon.