Live at Leeds’ Belgrave Hall 11th December 2022
For a band with a ferocious live reputation, this was a warm and quiet evening – a gathering of the gentle souls. Taking Emo through the mirror and out into hyperspace, Crawlers have their hearts hanging out and their feelings on show and tonight lets them show that even more so. Leeds’ Belgrave Hall hosted their record launch tour for their six-song ‘mixtape’ (it’s not really a mixtape – it’s an EP or mini-album collecting tracks, including previous singles). The twist is it is ‘Loud Without Noise’ and we have the band sat down and acoustic, allowing the anthemic choruses to get clearly heard.
It acts as a showcase for the band’s individual musical voices – the bass coming through tuneful and clear, the guitar nicely restrained and in the right place, the simple drumming on a wooden box. But the star is, of course, Holly’s voice. Strong, bluesy yet vulnerable, her voice is a remarkable thing. Over just shy of an hour, she emotes the songs and shares lengthy stories and inspirational phrases. Out and proud, she is preaching to the converted as she talks about struggle and pride, alongside the heartaches that come to any relationship, gay or straight.
But what about the music? Anthemic, meaningful, personal. Songs cover broken relationships, the difficulty in being honest, being uncomfortable in saying ‘no’, self-harm and flaky mental health. Choruses are clear and catchy, this is lighter-waving territory and the audience dutifully wave phone torches as the set ends. Ten songs pass smoothly and we hear great lyrics like “I couldn’t fix you, so I broke myself instead”, songs like ‘I Can’t Drive’ and a new one about 14 year-old love (‘Lucy’).
Holly talks about solidarity with people who’ve been gaslighted by a manipulative ex, while I wonder if the odds aren’t that everyone is as much a wrong-doer in a relationship as a victim. She talks about gay love at fourteen, about her depression and encourages the twenty-something audience to be strong. The feeling in the crowd is gentle, adoring and strong and ‘Come Over (Again)’ sees a batch of rainbow flags broken out and massed flag waving.
The band are having fun and watching them exchange looks and muck around is great. Even the tour manager has written a setlist that takes the piss (Come Over Again becomes ‘Come Dine With Me’, etc). During one of Holly’s quiet emotive songs, on just guitar and vocals, the drummer and bassist get up and dance behind her till she realises and cracks up laughing. That’s the kind of good-natured evening this was.
I’ve seen a few ‘issue’ based bands that were crap once the cause was removed but Crawlers have the hooks and attitude; it just happens they have personal liberation and kindness as their mission statement.