Photo by Talia Andrea
The Finsbury is an interesting little venue just off Manor House tube station, better-lit on the outside than the inside. Its performance area is dim, the stage surrounded by thick, red, theatre-style drapery that somehow makes the room feel smaller than it already is. A black-and-white mural of a three-eyed woman stares unblinkingly at everyone from the corner.
Somehow, this works out for opening band Intimate Friends. Living up to their name, they turn the cramped room into a more intimate space, kicking off the show with their own brand of romantic neo-soul. If lead singer Ije Amaechi hadn’t mentioned that it was their first gig together as a band, there’s no way I would be able to tell—their set has all the polish that you might expect from a long-established group. They cycle through heartfelt hits ‘Tell Me’, ‘My Heart Keeps Breaking’, and ‘Rewind’, at times edging on dream-pop and funk, warming the crowd’s hearts and bodies in preparation for the next act, Marlow. All the couples dancing together in the crowd make March 10th feel like February 14th all over again.
When Marlow gets up to the stage, the night starts to change in tone. Singer and model Freddie Marlow clutches the microphone with the sleeves of his oversized sweater, which go past his hands; this display has me expecting them to grace the stage with something in the vein of soft-boy indie-pop. When they kick off into blisteringly-loud alt-rock, I remember not to judge a book by its cover. I’m impressed by Freddie’s commitment to connecting with the audience—when he jumps off the stage and into the crowd, people flock to him like moths to a blond-haired, blue-eyed flame. During their song ‘Someone, Anyone’, a group of ladies both young and old start to provide their own entertainment in the form of (slightly tipsy) interpretative dance, paving the way for the whole crowd to get moving to the next songs, ‘Ghosts’ and ‘California’, which are slated to be released later this year. “The chorus for this one is really easy, so join in if you can,” Freddie says during one of their set’s last songs, ‘Fade In’. Not many people actually end up joining in—they’re too busy dancing. I’m sure the band saw this as a win-win, though.
“Bee-Sides always put on a great show,” event organisers Gotobeat tell me when I first ask about them. When they finally turn up to round off the night, I’m not disappointed: their unique blend of funk, jazz, and bedroom-pop keeps the energy high. Jack’s silk-smooth vocals are complemented by the glittering saxophones, and also by his red silk shirt—at least, by what I can see of it through the thick of the audience and the fog from the smoke machines. Say what you like about Bee-Sides, but they seem to know how to keep things fresh and entertain a crowd, whether it’s by injecting their more upbeat songs with spoken-word rap, or embellishing the mellower ones with glimmering falsetto. Their sound vibrates through your chest, and gets right to your heart. All three bands had a sound much bigger than the small venue they played in, and it wasn’t all down to the sound engineering and the room’s acoustics (even if they did play a small part in it).
Check out Gotobeat’s website for more gigs near you. They put on over fifteen live shows a month, all of which you can attend for just £15.99 (paid monthly).
To keep up with Intimate Friends, be sure to check out their Instagram.
Edited by Josh Aberman, Music Editor