LIVE: Charly Bliss / Whenyoung @ The Old Blue Last, London

By Leo Troy

Any observant music fan would predict Charly Bliss’ fizzy pop rock to pull in a herd of pastel grunge kids with candy floss hair and eternal smiles. But as Vice-owned hot spot The Old Blue Last fills to bursting point for the band’s live London debut, that prediction couldn’t be more wrong. Its the Shoreditch faithful which flood the venue’s decaying walls. An A to Z of beautiful hipsters that all look like they’ve come straight from pre-drinking at an extortionate craft beer pop up. Most seem aloof and elegantly wasted, perhaps the antithesis of the band’s chirpy charm, but thanks to a congregation of wide-eyed die-hards at the front, there is some semblance of anticipation before the music starts.

First up are Whenyoung, an Irish-born London-based three piece, who breeze onstage and slide into their wistful indie gems like total professionals. While the blue and red boiler suits of guitarist Niall Burns and drummer Andrew Flood are visually memorable, its the cooed hooks of bassist/singer Aoife Power that are the band’s strength, particularly ‘Given Up’ and ‘Actor,’ both danceable alt-rock anthems that wouldn’t sound out of place on Radio 1’s ‘A List’. Everyone enjoys it, not so much dancing as bobbing their heads in recognition, but when the band ends and starts to pack up the atmosphere settles down a little too quickly.

Then Charly Bliss bound onstage. The moment whiskey swigging frontwoman Eva Hendricks shoots a giant grin towards the crowd it’s reciprocated by just about everyone in attendance. Opener ‘Percolator’ follows, rumbling into existence as the band springs to life like four living, breathing cartoon characters. Spencer Fox and Dan Shure weave their respective guitar and bass parts together with an inbuilt sense of Brooklyn cool, while the Hendricks siblings hold down the fort, drummer Sam pounding the skins like a man possessed, Eva delivering every bubblegum hook with her trademark helium pipes. Cuts from this year’s debut album ‘Guppy’ are all highlights, especially ‘Black Hole’, which becomes a thousand times more anthemic in a live context, and ‘Ruby,’ a diamond that echoes early Weezer with its pure pop vocal melodies and earworm guitar solo. A couple of new songs are thrown in for good measure, both which elicit rapturous applause, while older tracks ‘Urge To Purge’ and ‘Love Me’ whip the die hards at the front into a friendly riot.

And then there’s the rest of the crowd. Those who entered the room aloof have thrown away their metaphorical vintage hats and are beaming from ear to ear, some even headbanging and pogoing like 90s kids in their bedrooms. It’s like Charly Bliss’ little displays of internal connection (foreheads pressed together, back-to-back showboating) have disarmed the crowd, and everyone suddenly realises it’s okay to let their hair down. This peaks during joyous encore ’Steal My Sunshine’ – a cover of one hit wonder Len that a large chunk of the crowd has no problem belting every word to before ambling down the venue’s rickety staircase and back into the Shoreditch cold.

But the effect of the show lingers. It takes a special band to cut through ego. At only their second ever non-US show, Charly Bliss transformed a hoard of self-conscious London hipsters into a bunch of carefree children. No doubt next time they roll into town, there’ll be even more.