LIVE: Creeper / Hindsights / Ghost Cub @ Old Blue Last, London

By Rob Barbour

“This is our first show. Well – technically, it’s our second practice.”

Ghost Cub vocalist, guitarist and general creative force Neil Kennedy might be smiling as he addresses a sold-out Old Blue Last, but he’s not joking. An underground super-group of sorts, the Southampton quintet are tearing through a brief set of songs that most of them heard for the first time earlier this week. Opening Band Syndrome means the sound’s a little muted for their first two songs, unfortunately obscuring Kennedy’s vocals, but their triple-guitar attack means the band’s early-00s influenced rock cuts through regardless. Ending on recent Punktastic exclusive ‘American Hymn’, Ghost Cub are a harmonious hurricane of riffage.

Berkshire boys Hindsights fare somewhat better sound-wise. Creating an unholy noise which belies the tiny space in which it’s witnessed, there’s an undeniable intensity to the band’s performance. Bassist Miles in particular appears possessed by a low-end demon:  eyes rolled into the back of his head, seemingly only aware of his instrument and the drums. On record, Hindsights’ grunge-inflected loud-quiet-loud dynamics and deliberately discordant vocals can wear a little but live it sounds utterly vital, especially material from debut album ‘Cold Walls/Cloudy Eyes’. This is apparently one of the band’s last appearances before some ominous-sounding “changes”. We’ll be watching with interest.

Regardless of how those present might tell the story years down the line, the nascent stages of a subculture are only retrospectively obvious. It’s for this reason that at least ten bands and gigs can lay a convincing claim to facilitating the birth of punk, or emo, or heavy metal. Within those subcultures, though, there have always been specific events whose memories outlast the bands and movements of which they were part. The Sex Pistols at Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976, whose claimed attendees famously outnumber not just the actual crowd but the venue itself; Woodstock 99, at which the horrendous frat-boy mentality of nu-metal came to an abhorrent, violent head.

It’s somewhat easier, however, to identify the moment at which an individual band step ahead of their peers and announce their arrival as a force to be reckoned with. And it’s just such a moment we find ourselves witnessing this evening. It begins two hours before doors open, when a small but committed group of Creeper fans congregate in the downstairs bar. Decked out in a near-uniform of Callous Heart jackets and black eyeliner, the crowd are evidence that Creeper have an appeal which transcends the purely musical and instead offers a haven to the outsider. We’re reminded of the vintage military jackets at early Libertines shows, or the Black Parade uniform worn by My Chemical Romance aficionados. Something is happening.

Managing to create a sense of theatre in a space as confined as the Old Blue Last is impressive in itself, but Creeper are nothing tonight if not impressive. Frontman Will Gould holds court over the entire room, conducting singalongs and throwing rock star shapes that would run the risk of looking pretentious if they were being carried out by someone less assured. But Gould and his band aren’t long for rooms this size and are relishing being up close and personal – perhaps a little too close, in some cases – with the crowd as they jostle for space on the pub’s coaster-sized stage.

For the next half an hour, Creeper are everything we love about live music – a band on the cusp of great things playing out of their skins and obviously loving every minute. Songs like ‘VCR’ and ‘Lie Awake’ are purpose-made for fist-in-the-air singalongs, and for the duration of their set the whole crowd looks like a group of unusually cheerful Nazis. Apart from the dickheads doing their best to ruin it for everyone else, who might have been actual Nazis. I’m looking at you, dude puffing e-Cig vapour into everyone’s face while making “hilarious” jokes about AFI covers.

When the band return to the stage, sweaty and exhausted – “I’m literally dying”, Gould says; performing in black jackets will do that to you – for an encore of ‘Novena’, they barely have to sing a note. The crowd sings back the whole song, and as they do so the glee and gratitude on the band’s faces is genuine and a joy to behold. Those who were there will remember it for a while, and those who weren’t will probably be lying about it in years to come.