Last time I photographed The Hunna was in front of a couple of hundred people at a sold-out Boston Music Room in London’s Tufnell Park. Nine months later, they’re back promoting their debut album 100 at a sold-out Shepherds Bush Empire. This time around, the venue capacity has multiplied ten-fold, ticket resale sites are asking stupid money, and touts are out in force patrolling Shepherds Bush Green. It was obvious from the outset that this band were going places and the evidence displayed in and around this splendid West London venue seems to speak for itself.
The Hertfordshire four-piece took to the Empire stage at nine-thirty; by which time the front row had been squashed against the barrier for hours and a few unfortunate members of the audience had already been plucked by security from the melee. The Hunna are fronted by the charismatic Ryan Potter, whose blonde mane flowed and whose black leather trousers probably helped contribute to his falsetto vocal stylings. He also goes by the pseudonym of ‘Valentino’ (a nod to the fact that his due birth date was 14th February, though he in fact arrived one day later). Had he actually become ‘Valentino Potter’ he’d probably have had a hard time at school. Stood in front of several hundred doting teenage girls it now seemed entirely appropriate.
The Hunna, with their Catfish/Kings Of Leon inspired anthemic pop-rock sound, are extremely populist if a little derivative. Save for the occasional ballad such as Sycamore Tree, which saw guitarist Dan Dorney and bassist Jermaine Angin sitting atop the drum riser surveying a sea of mobile phone torches waving in the air (well, everybody vapes these days), there wasn’t a lot of light and shade on offer tonight.
The majority of the set blended into one wall of noise with the three out front thrashing guitars and Jack Metcalfe behind the kit battering skins. Metcalfe’s kick drum bore the same ‘100’ emoji that adorns the album cover – perhaps the cleverest piece of omnipresent image marketing since Hard Fi appropriated the surveillance camera logo on Stars Of CCTV.
After three songs in front of the crush taking pictures, I retired to the relative calm of the level one balcony and surveyed the scene. The crowd on the floor was on the rabid side of over-exited and contained more moving parts than a Swiss wrist watch. It took a while for the balconies (and there are so many of them at the Empire) to warm up to the same degree, but by the time crowd pleasers such as We Could Be and Bonfire came along everyone in the place was jumping. The balcony briefly adopted the dynamics of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, though fortunately without the fateful final outcome. Any misgivings I held were clearly not being shared by anybody else.
There were three encores: World Is Ours, Brother and Bad For You. The audience expressed disappointment when Potter announced the final song. He pointed out that they had just played the entire album and announced that as soon as the tour was done they were set to record the sophomore. Everyone was happy again. It will be interesting to see just how far The Hunna go from here. For me, they’re a little one-dimensional but the fan base is deep and undeniably fervent. If the band retain the current trajectory, they’re surely set for a very bright future indeed.
Review & Photography by Simon Reed. The Hunna at O2 Shepherds Bush Empire 26th January 2017.
Simon has his own music photography site here: http://www.musicalpictures.co.uk