Turns out that rumours of sobriety in the Allo Darlin’ camp were greatly exaggerated. Having seen them previously and observed a few recent singles, I have to say I was a little concerned the naïve joy so marked on their first album may have left them this time around. Something a little too grown-up seemed to have snuck in and taken it’s place, and the excitable fanboy in me (the one who involuntarily shouted ‘yay!’ upon hearing them soundcheck) wrung his hands nervously…
If there are places on new recordings where they feel sedate, as a live beast Allo Darlin’ still sound reassuringly like the most fun you’ve had all year. The band still play like an open-hearted invite to party, and Elizabeth Morris still sings like she feels and dances like she means it. What marks them as different from similarly styled twee-pop acts is the sincerity evident in their songwriting and lyrics – there’s a lot of heart behind the happy.
Bouncing through a set of mixed new/old material, it took the crowd until Polaroid Song to catch on. New single Capricornia is sounding great, as did the album’s title track, with Elizabeth trading her tiny uke for an electric guitar – if there’s an apt symbol for the shift between new and old material, it’s probably that. The crowd seemed to be here to dance to songs they already knew and loved, and the setlist didn’t disappoint. Cambridge’s very own Stephen Hawkings got an airing (the song that pisses off physicists everywhere), plus plenty more from the début. They closed on an encore of Dreaming.
The main crime support bands committed prior to all this was not being Allo Darlin’. Apart from making me feel exceedingly old, relatively new band Forest opened the evening with some bass-heavy, Pavement-esque sounds played at a lazy pace, picking up some harder edges later in their set. Their sound was lit by bright guitars, some charming plugging, and memorable bursts of harmonies that lent the material a hazy, psychedelic feel. They also bravely attempted a cover of My Bloody Valentine’s When You Sleep, apologetically without tremolo, but still warming to see some older material come alive in a newer band. Good stuff.
Probably the furthest from the headliners you’ll get tonight, Dirty Cousins’ set was sharp and short, far punkier and of a more vitriolic bent than their indie-pop peers. Actually they played a lot tighter than I remember them being (possibly an off day), it feels like they’ve really grown into the new material. They seem to go everywhere that Green Mind goes, which sometimes leads to incongruous pairings, like opening for Allo Darlin’ tonight. Luckily, there’s no denying they’ve got the songs and the skills to pull it off. I’d highly recommend pursuing a copy of their new, self-titled EP next time you’re feeling lost in cyberspace.
Striking a far more twee balance along the noise-pop continuum were Violet Woods. Jangly guitars with rich ladles of synthesizer and positive vibes, Violet Woods generally sound a lot poppier and boppier than preceding bands. They also boast a) a synth player with the best beard of the evening, and b) that 90’s Alt-Rock hallmark, the hot female bass player, who’s deft finger work tonight lent many songs their propulsive bounce and other defining characteristics. One track seemed built around a bass line constantly teetering on the edge of psychedelia, but instead of succumbing sustained itself to build along a steady curve toward climax. The set was almost if not completely identical to their previous Portland Arms set (25.03.12), which is not necessarily a bad thing. As before, they ended on a tremendous track, culminating in guitarist Xav creating a wall of noise that felt absolute in tonight’s venue.