By Alex Platt
It is fucking freezing. God-awful, piercing freezing. I’m stood outside The Dome in Tufnell Park, trying desperately to get out of the cold and into the venue so I can get myself a well-deserved drink and a good standing spot for one when tonight’s headliners, emo rock band The Hotelier, come on. Currently they’re support band, Crying, have just taken to the stage, and I’m itchy. This isn’t the first time this has happened tonight. When I arrive, I’m jostled into a small queue of other journos all waiting to get inside, although it seems that none of us are on the guest-list. I catch a quick glance at it and see that there’s only about 5 names on it, and there’s at least 4 of us here, so something doesn’t quite add up. After much tedious back and forth my editor comes through with a confirmation email, which I flash to the attendant on the door. She acts as if she’s never seen me despite the fact I’ve been standing in front of her for about 10 bollock numbing minutes in the freezing cold and trying to explain to her that I should be there on the list. She briefly glances at my phone and gestures me through. I can’t help but think, from her couldn’t-really-give-a-fuck-we’ve-all-got-to-stand-in-the-cold-mate-just-go-inside-quietly-I’m-bored-arguing-with-you attitude that actually I could’ve just started walking up the stairs while another lost reviewer tried to reason his way inside. No matter, I’m here now, in I go.
Immediately upon entering I remember why I like The Dome so much. It’s a perfect size for a mid-level band (big enough to accommodate many, small enough so that if it doesn’t sell out it doesn’t feel empty and it sounds great from wherever you’re standing. They also have a staunch anti-vaping policy and thank the lord for that (it’s not big, and it’s not clever). I battle my way through the mass emo audience and get to the bar. Luckily, I’ve managed to secure a +1 so I’m not alone in this sea of angst and dad fringes. I order drinks and move to the middle of the venue, securing a good place front and centre. Crying are still playing and they seem to be riling up a good vibe from the crowd. Not from me though. They are 100% not my cup of tea. They sound like a mix between Grimes, Hellogoodbye (remember them?!) and an original Gameboy. Now, while I’ll agree this sounds (sort of) impressive on paper, in practicality it’s not so great. The music is too bubble-gum sweat, with the guitarists shredding creating the classic mono beeping sound effects from the old console. The vocalist seems shy, staying rooted in the same spot but occasionally performing some wild jumps as the songs build up. Everyone else seems to be loving them, so who am I to complain? They end their set with a song that sounds like a weird electro version of The Rap Song by Blondie. Again, I do not understand it at all but everyone in the crowd goes completely nuts and I’m not here to take away anyone’s enjoyment.
It’s packed in here now, I hadn’t realised the show was sold out until I saw it written across the promotional poster downstairs. I decide to get another round of drinks in before then and starts and I lose everyone in the crowd.
Finally, liquored up, I return to my spot and wait for The Hotelier to take to the stage. The energy is the room is palpable and there’s people all different ages and from all walks of life here. The house music fades down and the lights dim as the band take to the stage. They’re a bookish, shy looking bunch which I’m aware is a solid part of the appeal. Everyone starts screaming as the first guitar strings are plucked and vocalist Christian Holden begins his crooning, opening with ‘An Introduction to The Album’. There appears to be some trouble though, the guitarist on the left (it MIGHT be Chris Hoffman I’m really sorry I’m just not sure) appears to be having some difficulties. At first, it’s fine as it’s just Holden’s voice and some slow strumming from the other guitarist, but you can almost feel the panic running through them as the slowly hurtle towards needing that other guitar. A stage hand darts nimbly around them, bringing over spare wires and cables and fiddling with the amp. Eventually it becomes clear that a teeny tiny little pause in the music needs to occur to properly sort it out, but everyone takes this in their stride and massive cheer erupts from the audience, causing all members of the band to smile happily, secure in the knowledge that tonight everyone is here for them, tonight they can do no wrong.
Now, I have a slight confession. I don’t know The Hotelier that well. That’s not to say I dislike them, no in fact far from it. Everything I’ve heard I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, I’ve just never had the chance to sit down and enjoy one of their albums the whole way through. So, because of this, my song naming skills might be a little ropey, but stick with it, because the rest is absolute solid gold. Trust me.
As soon as the guitar issues are fixed, the band throw themselves into it and the crowd go wild. There’s head banging, there’s that weird pointing at the band people do when singing their lyrics back to them (I’m not judging I do this ALL the time OK I’m part of the problem but at least I can accept it jerk) there’s huge singalongs and, towards the end, even a small (very misplaced) “mosh pit” (it’s in inverted commas because I think we can all imagine the kind of mosh pit you’d get at a Hotelier show). You know what? I’m thoroughly enjoying myself, to the extent that I’m listening out for catchy choruses that I can quickly sing along to so that I feel like I’m one with the crowd. At one point my buddy tells me a joke and I laugh so hard I throw my head back and accidentally head butt someone standing, perhaps just a tad too closely, behind me, but he doesn’t give a shit! Literally not one shit, the level of fun he’s having seeing what is obviously his favourite band in the world, if his facial expression after just getting accidentally headbutted is anything to go on. I apologise profusely and he just gives me a hug and carries on singing his heart out. It’s completely infectious, this level of ecstasy, and I’m loving it.
I nip away to use the loo briefly, not wanting the Miss much of the set and this is where the story takes a weird turn I’m afraid friends. Now, a little background on me I’m sure you’re all just dying to know, but I have a serious case of public piss syndrome. I cannot go if I think someone can see me. It’s a real issue, as it severely limits my use of toilets, but it’s a real thing. It’s not that I feel uncomfortable at the urinal (I sort of do) but that the wee physically will not come out of my body if someone is there. It’s like my brain knows someone might be peeking; it’s a ludicrous thought, there’s nothing worth seeing down there anyway so HAHA JOKES ON YOU SUCKER. Ahem. So anyway, due to this I always try to use a cubical. Now, I’m 26 years old. I’ve been alive and roaming this earth for 26 whole years. I can safely say that for the majority of those years, I’ve been toilet trained, and as a result of this I know the social etiquette of using the toilets, especially in a gig venue. As I walk into the men’s I notice there are three cubicles, two with the doors closed and the lock showing red, one with the door slightly ajar and the lock showing green. I head towards that one, pushing the door open to find myself face to face with some having a quiet, contemplative poo. Now, this chap looks older than me, I’d say around 28, so he’s been aware of the social etiquette for longer than I have. And yet, here he is, sat on the toilet, trousers and pants completely down on the floor (come on dude we both know people definitely piss on the floor) and on his phone. He looks up and gives and little help before throwing the door closed in my face as I utter a disbelieving “shiiiiit” and turn away. IT IS 2017 YOU ARE AT A SOLD-OUT SHOW SIR WHY WOULD YOU THINK NOW WOULD BE A GOOD TIME TO HAVE A LEISURELY POO SIR AND CHECK YOUR INSTAGRAM AND WHY IN GODS NAME WOULD YOU A) NOT LOCK THE DOOR OR B) AT LEAST KEEP A HAND ON THE DOOR TO ENSURE AWKWARD ENCOUNTERS LIKE THIS DON’T HAPPEN SIR. I was so taken aback I momentarily forgot about my PPS and managed to have a quick, nervous wee in the urinal. OK that’s the end of any more toilet stories, I promise. Back to the show.
As I return there seems to be a bit more trouble on stage but this time from the drummer. My buddy tells me he bass drum has snapped, but it seems that can’t keep the band down, and a healthy dose of gaff tape later and they’re straight back into it, the crowd all the happier because of it. There’s a little bit of an anti-Trump serious speech (right on brother) which gets a few cheers but after that the band launch into anthemic ‘Your Deep Rest’ and every single person (including myself – I KNOW THIS ONE!!) in the room is bellowing the words back at them, and you can see the happiness on their faces. They exit the stage to bows and waves but it’s obvious they’re coming back and sure enough they’re back on stage before you can blink, the opening lines to ‘Goodness, Pt.2’ causing everyone to go absolutely crazy. The bands final song opens the only (thankfully) mosh pit of the night with the usual pushing and shoving, but everyone is in high spirits and there’s certainly no crowd killing. We grab our stuff and head to exit, before the temptation to show them how it’s really done becomes too great and head out into the night, the heat and excitement from the show battling the freezing cold and keeping me warm the entire way home.