There are always good gigs to be had in East London, but tonight the Hackney area is a veritable hive of activity as The Great Escape take over eight venues to launch their First Fifty - a slew of excellent emerging artists set to play the Brighton festival next May. Punters are spoiled for choice: some opt to settle into one place for the evening and soak up that particular three-act bill in its entirety, while others venture out on a full-blown gig crawl, determined to catch as many bands as they possibly can.
One thing is for sure though: unless they’re lucky enough to have nabbed a ticket for The Victoria’s sold-out stage - presented by DIY - then there’s little chance of squeezing in, as the bookcase-concealed back room is packed almost from the off. First up is Trout, the project of Liverpool-based songwriter and producer Cesca, who intersperses cuts from ‘Colourpicker’ - their recent debut EP - with unreleased material and reverb-heavy interludes. A new signee to Chess Club Records, their enveloping and intricate sound recalls the ‘90s shoegaze of Cocteau Twins and the electro-tinged grunge of Sorry in equal measure, along with an undeniable sprinkling of something entirely Trout’s own.
To have found a fan in Fontaines DC’s Grian Chatten is something of a coup in anyone’s book, even more so with only a trio of singles out in the world. But as they walk on stage to a rapturous reception, Cork’s Cardinals appear to be taking it all in their stride. Merging ‘80s goth-rock, Irish trad folk and indie-pop sensibilities, the young six-piece are captivating, both in their confidence and in the surprising warmth imbued in their arrangements by resident accordion player Finn Manning (who one crowd member initially pegs as “a sat down Bez”). Though closer ‘Roseland’ is strikingly tight - no mean feat, across two guitars, two basses, that accordion and a drum kit - it's the unknown tracks which spark even more intrigue.
By the time the clock strikes 10pm, anticipation for tonight’s headliners is palpable. Picture Parlour have had something of a whirlwind year, and as such this - their final gig of 2023 - has an air of celebration about it. Quite rightly, too: steadfast set-opener ‘Moon Tonic’ is a triumphant example of how much the quartet excel in writing stirring, cinematic anthems, while ‘Sawmill Sinkhole’ captures a heavier side they’ve not yet committed to record. And the best part? That all four are exuding barely-concealed joy. Whether it’s Katherine Parlour ringleading the crowd to cheer for guitarist Ella Risi (whose grandad is in attendance), or bassist Sian Lynch playing back to back with her bandmates, Picture Parlour deliver a show that’s about as close as you can get to a cork-popping aural “Cheers!”. Roll on TGE 2024, huh?