LIVE: The Hotelier / Emperor X @ The Borderline, London

By Ben Tipple

Although it has always been clear that Massachusetts anti-pop (their words, not ours) four-piece The Hotelier have a dedicated cult following, never has it been more evident than the announcement of their first UK tour. As happens occasionally, the tour was leaked before the official word and the internet turned into an Hotelier loving hype machine that would continue in some form until this; the final date of their UK tour before heading to Dot To Dot Festival.

It’s somewhat surprising to be welcomed by only a handful of fans upon arrival, as Emperor X shuffles from a group of friends adjacent to the stage to take his place. Delivering compositions lead by Chad Matheny’s acoustic guitar, the folk inspired sounds make use of his dynamic microphone to add layers to an otherwise typical affair. Matheny’s voice, though far from faultless, is often enthralling, with the performance sliding between the subtlety of Death Cab For Cutie and the quirks of The Homeless Gospel Choir. As he welcomes The Hotelier on-stage for a full-band performance, or enters the crowd for a peculiar final one-two involving vocal percussion, Emperor X proves divisive. Socially astute yet awkward, the crowd are bewildered and enchanted in equal measures.

By the time The Hotelier take to the stage, the number of onlookers has increased exponentially with The Borderline turning into a veritable sauna. Launching into ‘Our Lives Would Make A Sad Boring Movie’, the audience are gripped from the opening notes. ‘Your Deep Rest’ encourages a spine-tingling crowd chorus, one of many that drown out vocalist Christian Holden over the course of the evening.

The fan’s excitement comes to a head as Holden suggests that crowd-surfing and stage-diving may be best substituted for enjoying the moment, and laughs at the irony of a fight breaking out during their track about perceived masculinity. Still, the atmosphere that commands The Borderline is nothing less than breath-taking, as The Hotelier return to the stage for the encore of ‘An Introduction To The Album’ and ‘The Scope Of All This Rebuilding’.

For many, The Hotelier’s trip to London marks a milestone in their fandom. Using the term “eagerly awaited” fails to do justice to the waves of euphoria that ripple around The Borderline, as The Hotelier prove their position as cult emo icons. Perhaps they could have easily sold out a bigger venue, but it wouldn’t have felt right for their inaugural trip to the capital. Yet if their momentum continues they’ll be treading increasingly bigger stages for the foreseeable future.