To paraphrase Mugatu: ‘Black Honey. So hot right now.’
Think Debbie Harry fronting Jet playing Ennio Morricone and you’ll be in the right ballpark. They’re darlings of the new guitar-band scene, best mates with groups like Wolf Alice, Slaves and Superfood, splashed across Instagram by scenester photographers like Charlotte Patmore and Poppy Marriott and championed by tastemakers like Flying Vinyl and DIY Magazine.
Live, they’re bloody good fun. The audience tonight is mostly sweaty teenagers WHO ARE HERE TO MOSH, and regardless of tempo, we fly around like free radicals, caroming into each other as the Honeys bash out their upbeat pop-rock. I’m quite a large person, and probably got off quite lightly. If you’re a small person and I landed on you, I’m sorry. It could be worse – I heard one guy telling his mates that he’d only just come out of plaster for a broken ankle. I presume he was on a mission to see how quickly he could break it again.
Black Honey’s musical formula is simple but enjoyable – twanging guitars, catchy choruses and lots of opportunities to shout along to the words. They’re gleefully boisterous, and in stark contrast to their own support acts Freak and K.I.D. (Kids In Despair), look and sound like they’re enjoying themselves immensely. It’s music to go wild to, the sort of gig you’ll wistfully tell your children about when they complain about how boring you are. ‘I was there when Black Honey were still a club band,’ you’ll say. ‘Them were the days.’
The Blondie comparisons aren’t for nothing, either – just like no-one can remember who the chaps in suits behind Debbie Harry were, it’s frontwoman Izzy Phillips that we’re really here to see. She’s got an iconic look about her – she’d make a good t-shirt. Like a 1960s version of Lana Del Rey’s elegantly wasted urbanite, you could picture her arriving on stage in a Chevy Impala, all neon yellow banana splits and glitter. She gets a rapturous response to her stage chatter, and when she launches herself off the crush barriers at the climax of the show there’s a sea of hands waiting to carry her in triumph. Her vocals are brilliantly powerful, if sometimes a little slapdash – but hey, this is rock’n’roll!
Part of the fun this evening is in the venue. The Village Underground is a repurposed warehouse in the middle of Shoreditch, and it’s just the right size for intimate gigs, with a high vaulted ceiling and a bar tucked off to one side underneath the arch of an old railway bridge. The red bricks and post-industrial vibe give it a pleasingly old-world feel, like you’re tucked away in suburban Detroit. It also sports two reclaimed tube trains on its roof, in which artists can rent desk space. A handy hint if you’re a penniless dreamer.
Whether Black Honey have the songwriting chops to stay the course and build a long career remains to be seen. At this early stage, though, before the release of their first full-length album, things look very promising. Go and see them when they next come through – they’re an absolute riot.
Black Honey are performing at festivals throughout the summer – check their Bandcamp for details.
(N.B. This blog was published a month after the gig, as we backdate some entries)