LIVE: Muncie Girls / Happy Accidents – The Underworld, London

By Rob Barbour

Happy Accidents look just delighted this evening. Frontman Rich Mandell has the ecstatic grin of someone who’s recently undergone a full sad-ectomy and his visible enthusiasm radiates from the Underworld’s stage, infecting the growing crowd. The London trio are apparently certified experts in having, and facilitating, fun. While we find Mandell’s affected-sounding, overtly Landahn singing voice grating on record, the whole package is infinitely better live.

There’s a bounce to their performance which matches Mandell’s violently amenable stage presence, and his harmonies with drummer Phoebe Cross are genuinely lush. Their cover of Grimes’ ‘California’ might be a misstep, but we can forgive a lot for a band who so proudly show off their own branded, monogrammed towels. And good songs, obviously.

Muncie Girls are cool as fuck. Bassist/Vocalist Lande Hekt emanates understated charisma, and while the trio’s monochrome appearance – dressed head to toe in black and sporting choir gown-clean white Fenders – might be their token acquiescence to theatrics, it’s an effective one. Bounding straight into a triumphant ‘Learn In School’, their punk songs dressed as indie rock were designed to be consumed in claustrophic venues like this.

There’s an honesty to Muncie Girls that invites you to root for them. It’s in Hekt’s note-perfect yet unpolished vocals, almost identical to her speaking voice; in the childlike energy of guitarist Dean McMullen; in the way drummer Luke Ellis beats his kit like it’s just said something horrible about his mum. They’re also very good musicians – Hekt and Ellis in particular are a formidable rhythm section, something that’s occasionally masked by the deliberately muted production on debut album ‘From Caplan to Belsize’, but which explodes into clarity on stage tonight.

It’s remarkable how far they’ve come even since this year’s festival season. They’re more comfortable on stage, they’re tighter, and their best songs, like the haunting ‘Social Side’ and the loathing-yet-celebratory ‘Respect’ demand your attention. While this isn’t one of those triumphant coming-of-age shows for which The Underworld is renowned – it’s undersold, resulting in the contrarian but inevitable lack of movement that occurs when the crowd has just a little too much space – Muncie Girls are received tonight with the kind of warmth reserved for well-kept secrets, and deservedly so.