This isn’t the first UK gig to rattle the nerves and expectations of Canadians Alvvays, but there’s a different significance. Playing to a sold out crowd is new to them over here. “We didn’t think we’d get people to come see us in Canada. Now they’re here in this country,” says a beaming singer/guitarist Molly Rankin between songs.
What follows is a set up to its knees in triumph. They sound tighter, more sure of themselves than ever before. Their last visit - a flurry of shows at The Great Escape that’d make SXSW schedules look pithy - didn’t provide any stumbling blocks. They were clearly a band on the up. But in celebrating the release of their self-titled debut there’s a verve and an extra spring in their step. Witty, escapist indie finds an unlikely home in a stuffy, super-crammed venue bathed in smoke.
Before Alvvays, another celebration’s taking place. Support act Gengahr are now also label-mates, having signed to Transgressive the night before. Slightly hungover they might be, but their tight, ’90s-fledged routine continues to ascend. Barely reaching their baby steps, these Londoners have something genuinely special up their sleeves. Songs set aside from their debut demos - a potential new single included - give off more force than the sleepy falsetto-ed songs out there currently. They continue to mix a delicate, almost sneaky style of playing with chugging solos, bordering on mindblowing. This to-and-fro seems to be their party trick, and it’s not showing any signs of ageing too soon.
As for Alvvays’ blitz through their debut, it’ll take some topping. Hype surrounds both these bands, but they’re already solved. One’s released a majestic album that’s heartbreakingly timeless. The other have time on their side, and a batch of songs that continue to spread. Tonight’s headliners end on a predictable but perfect singalong: ‘Archie, Marry Me’. It’s difficult to imagine anyone disliking a track like this. It’s pure and free to roam and surely it’ll continue to turn heads. Tonight’s show - for both bands - is both an affirmation of their great beginnings and a surefire guarantee of the great things ahead.