The Happy Hollows
Saturday 6th June 2015 – The Castle Hotel, Manchester
As far as venues go, it doesn’t get more intimate than The Castle Hotel on Oldham Street, Manchester. You know that when you turn up here for a gig you’re not going to be up on tip-toes, staring past the back of a thousand heads, trying to get a glimpse of the band. It’s about as close as you’ll get to having a live show in your living room. If your living room had a beautiful wooden arched ceiling and a chandelier, that is.
Manchester was suitably busy for a Saturday night, and The Castle was no exception. After squeezing through the crowd of drinkers stacked up at the bar, I arrived at the venue to find local band Gorj launching into a gritty version of Arctic Monkeys’ Do I Wanna Know? Gorj are an alternative/electronic two piece who got things kicked off with a spirited set, a mixture of original songs and a couple of covers.
Next up were post-punk band Reykjavik Kids, who are joining The Happy Hollows on tour for their UK dates. Their set was an absolute treat. Bags of confident attitude together with potent low-fi guitar riffs leave you in no doubt that this band belong on the stage. The camaraderie within the band seemed to extend to the crowd, too, and it was good to see the members of The Happy Hollows watching and enjoying their support as much they would in turn be enjoyed as headliners.
When Happy Hollows took their place on the stage you could almost feel the waves of excitement emanating from front-woman Sarah Negahdari. Grinning from ear to ear, she looked as though she couldn’t believe her luck. The venue had filled up by this point, and Negahdari’s infectious enthusiasm had a clear effect on the crowd, who were cheering and shouting for more from the word go.
The set opened with Endless, with a military-precise beat building up to lush, soaring vocals. The band’s energy doesn’t dissipate as they work through the set and they keep up a tight performance, however the star of the show is definitely Neghadari. Not only is she an exceptional singer – her striking vocals bordering on trance-like – but she’s a talented guitarist as well. In between bursts of energy that see her bounding across the stage and flinging the mic stand around, we’re treated to her impressive tapping skills. Only for one song does Neghadari’s guitar end up back on its stand, and free from this obstruction she uses the opportunity to dance her way off stage and into the delighted crowd.
Single Astrid was a highlight of the performance, people were soon singing along whether they’d heard the track before or not. The interaction between Neghadari and the crowd no doubt helped to cement the love of existing fans, and attract some new ones, too. At one point she tells us all that she’d ‘just eaten a big meat pie’ – sparking a debate in the crowd over where said pie might have come from (The Pieminister? Pie & Ale? Pie & Ale.) It was also endearing to hear how excited they were to be there: ‘We’re so happy to be in Manchester. Who ever thought we’d be here? Holy crap!’
If I had any criticism for the show it would be that it was over all too soon, with the set lasting just 35 minutes. I’d also have liked to have seen more focus on the other band members, as it felt more like I was seeing ‘Sarah Negahdari and the Happy Hollows’, rather than The Happy Hollows as a band. Still, it’s hard to deny such an enjoyable and enthusiastic performance.
As I was leaving I overheard a bloke talking to his friend; “FOUR QUID!” he said “FOUR QUID, for that! And there were two bands on before them! Amazing.” I think that pretty much sums up the feeling of the crowd overall. It was clear that there was mixture of two groups – people who knew what they were coming to see, and people who’d taken a chance on a random band. For both groups, it paid off.
On The Wave
Stop the World
Tonight is the penultimate gig at 13th Note in Glasgow, so if you want to catch Happy Hollows on their UK tour then you’ve got one more chance…
June 9th – The Finsbury – London