Blood curdling howls fill the air, rising from the throats of whitewashed faces and staring, hollowed eye sockets. It’s the final night of the NME Next Generation. It’s also Halloween? at The Haunt, handily enough? and I’m glad to see I’m not the only berk in fancy dress along to see the latest crop of buzz-word bands gracing this year’s line up. Even the bands were good enough to get in on it.
This year’s, there’s an eclectic line up. With Gross Magic’s set the opener for the night, Sam McGarrigle’s girlish vocals and lo-fi pop that recalls 90’s indie, in the grand tradition of Wavves and Yuck, looks positively sedate when followed by the math rock of The Cast Of Cheers. Their debut album Family has brought with it references to the likes of Foals, Bloc Party and even Alt-J, but it’s impossible to see them on anything other than their own terms when faced with the raw, throbbing energy of their live show, that propels them writhing frenetically across the stage, frantically bouncing off each other and racing to a climax, as the guitar melodies and driving bass give way to reverb, with Conor Adams rasping out lyrics the crowd are soon picking up. And of course, no NME set would be complete without the presence of the latest ‘Saviours of Guitar Rock’, this year’s requisite band being Minneapolis-made Howler. Making good on a promise made at the beginning of the tour to provide some covers in their final show, as well as the many favourites from America Give Up, they open with Queen’s The Boys Are Back In Town; the crowd are distracted from the too quiet mic drowning out the gravelly vocals of Jordan Gatesmith by the charismatic frontman’s antics, as he collapses to his knees, curled over his guitar with (inexplicably) a bouquet of roses protruding from his rear end. It turns out it’s a fitting start to a set that’s plagued with malfunctioning equipment? at one point, they laughingly give up on the drums completely, chatting to the audience instead who are pressed up at the very forefront of the stage? and is ultimately utterly shambolic, chaotic and completely bloody brilliant. There can be no question in the minds of anyone present as to why Rough Trade would sign them off the back of a demo by the end of the night.
Once again NME, you’ve delivered with three bands who are all but guaranteed to be three Google search results of Next Big Thing.