There’s always the risk when talking about gig nights at smaller venues to oversell and romanticise what they are. Truth be told it’s unlikely that one show will set you on some unbelievable path as a musician, one night won’t end with you signing contracts and headlining festivals in the blink-of-an-eye, but thanks to venues like the 229 in London at least they might be on the right path.
Thursday 23rd saw three different acts take to the mic, all showcasing different stages of their time as a band. First up was indie band Hope and Ruin, who despite being a group very much in their infancy in no way let that hold them back, smartly blasting their way through track after track. In a genre where it’s all too easy to fail to stand out, the group kicked off the night in impressive fashion. Arriving to their first-ever London show with no Spotify and just a SoundCloud with 50 odd followers it would have been easy enough for some nerves to show, but despite having an audience largely unfamiliar with their work placed in front of them the band confidently went through their setlist. Like a lot of young bands there was obviously room to grow, but credit has to go where it’s due, and each track sounded just as strong in a live capacity as it did when listening to it back via their SoundCloud in the following nights.
Next up were melody heavy group Marlow, who despite normally having more members were instead just limited to a two-piece on the night. With Freddie George on both vocals and acoustic guitar, the two-piece tried their utmost to engage with the crowd and not let the fact they were down 3/5 of the band hold back their set. Working their way through their tracks, it felt like a set that on another night would have gone down a lot better. Between the limited members, and at times a crowd that didn’t seem totally engaged, it will stand as a ‘rough with the smooth’ kind of night for Marlow. At times, particularly near the end of the set the engagement they sought from the crowd was delivered upon, and the tracks felt more complete, and if their next show is to see the whole band reunited, then the only way is up.
Finally, taking up the headline slot on the night was The Horn, who based on the amount of their merch that could be seen amongst the crowd alone were clearly a fan favourite. With over 20 thousand monthly listeners off the back of just four released singles, you’d have been forgiven for expecting The Horn to perhaps still be feeling their way through this music lark, but across their set there was no such signs of inexperience. Mixing their instruments and vocals better than the earlier acts, this is not a knock to those that performed earlier that night, but a testament to just how well The Horn seemed to know their songs, and their audience. Perhaps it was the guiding hand of bassist Nick True, with his touring credits dating back four decades earlier that helped deliver such a composed show, or maybe it’s just that The Horn, despite only releasing their first single six months ago, have a pretty firm grasp on what kind of band they want to be. A set so strong enough that the crowd demanded an encore, and over 200,000 total listens on Spotify. Simply put, well that’s not half bad for six-or-so months work.
Ultimately it all comes back to the point made at the start of this article, we need venues like the 229. Bands need them, and with the rising price of mainstream gigs fans need them. Blur can stroll back into London for the first time in 8 years having cemented their legacy and charge up to £146 for a ticket knowing full well it’ll be a sell out regardless. Maybe the three bands on at 229 this week or the week after won’t ever get that opportunity, maybe they wouldn’t want to if they could, but what matters is as long as venues like 229 exist, they just might get the chance to find out.
229 have live music almost every week, and you can check out what they have lined up next here.