Making your way into the midst of a wall-to-wall crowd in a beloved independent venue is a surefire way to tackle these sub-zero temperatures - in fact, we’d argue that it’s exactly what dark January evenings are made for. And, judging by the hoards of people queuing around the Old Blue bar for night two of our Hello 2024 gig series - in association with state51 - we’re not the only ones who think so.
Stepping on stage like a dazzling fever-dream vision, Vanity Fairy raises the curtain (or rather, the projector screen) on the night’s proceedings. Landing somewhere between Kate Bush, Sophie Ellis Bextor, and a Christmas-tree ornament, her infectious grooves and irrepressible stage presence come backed up by crystalline vocals that are delivered with all the effortlessness of bona-fide pop royalty. From playing onstage hide and seek with the DIY banner to gifting the audience a choice selection of - ahem - business cards, by the end she has everyone watching in the palm of her sparkly-gloved hand.
Next up, Scottish-born Kaeto offers hypnotics of a different order, enchanting the crowd with eerie vox effects and riffs that drip with shimmering reverb. Punctuating the funk-tinged set highlight ‘Good Morning’ with MJ-esque yelps and the sort of jittery movements that would make David Byrne proud, she delivers a performance that utterly belies her apparent ill-health. Dreamy, heady, and at times vaguely unsettling, it’s a set that leaves us feeling as if Kaeto - and her incredibly tight live band - have cast some sort of spell.
Ramping the energy up a notch (or three), Babymorocco’s self-described “sexy electro” is the very essence of after hours at a festival, distilled down to its purest, most hedonistic form. Straddling the genre boundaries of hyperpop, drum’n’bass, and house, he offers up bouncing cuts from last year’s debut EP ‘The Sound’ before pivoting into a recent Jockstrap collab. Rumour has it, he was the man behind - or rather inside - the duo’s unexpected Barbican stage guest…
By the time tonight’s headliner Antony Szmierek steps up, the anticipation within the heaving room is palpable. But what eager crowd members maybe don’t have on their Hello 2024 bingo cards is a quick sonic trip to the Salford cobbles, courtesy of the band’s Corrie theme walk-on song. “Welcome to the Rovers Return”, Antony grins. What follows is nothing short of joyful: tracks lifted from 2023’s ‘Poems To Dance To’ are received by a word-perfect audience; a rendition of Sugababes’ ‘Destination’ involves one fan joining the fun onstage, karaoke-style; and Antony ends the evening with a quick stint performing from atop the venue bar. Personable yet vulnerable, he’s an artist with a singular knack for connection, and a room full of people singing ‘The Words To Auld Lang Syne’ seems a fitting (albeit belated) way to ring in the new year.
To read more about Antony Szmierek - part of DIY's Class of 2024 - you grab a copy of our December 2023 / January 2024 print mag here.