There’s something quite exciting about being in on the ground floor of something big. Last time I got this feeling, it was photographing The Hunna in front of a rabid sell-out crowd at Boston Music Room (capacity 250). Within nine months, I was photographing them in front of a rabid sell-out crowd at the Shepherds Bush Empire (capacity 2000).
Tonight, I’m at Dingwalls in the company of Reading four-piece The Amazons and I’ve got the feeling again. It’s a sell-out, and I’m expecting the crowd to be rabid. Of course, I’m no musical Svengali; everyone is talking about this band – they currently occupy the playlists of both Absolute Radio and Radio X, and have not escaped the interests of the BBC, the NME and MTV. I’m not on the ground floor; there’s already a decent view out of the window and I’m in a lift with an upward trajectory the performance of which would embarrass Willy Wonka’s Great Glass Elevator.
I arrived nice and early. The Regents Canal and Camden Lock are right outside the venue and there aren’t many better places in London to enjoy some evening spring sunshine interspersed with a little people watching. From deep within Dingwalls, The Amazons were blasting out the strains of current release Black Magic as their sound check came to a close. Whoever mixes the band might not have planned on it sounding absolutely excellent from twenty metres outside the venue, but they’ll be pleased to know that it did.
There were two supports tonight. First up; Guildford indie-punk band Blackwaters delivered thirty minutes of angsty teenage leaping about with titles that can’t be written down such as F*ck Yeah! to some ardent Amazons fans in the front row and a yawning chasm of empty space behind. I wish them well. Estrons are a band that have been making a lot of noise in all senses in their native Cardiff and well beyond – they headlined the BBC Music Introducing stage at SXSW in 2016. Front person Tali Källström might be diminutive in size but my god, she packs a punch. Belting out tunes such as 2015 breakthrough Make A Man, the four piece engaged a swelling audience with their flavour of power grunge pop. Definitely a band to watch.
Flame haired Matt Thompson led The Amazons out at around half-nine. When he worked at Waitrose, he used to drop copies of the band’s EP into the shopping bags with all the Essential Smoked Salmon and Asparagus. The mental image of the well-heeled ladies of Reading dancing round their kitchens to Junk Food Forever whilst prepping vol au vents is as delicious as it is unrealistic. The band opened with Black Magic and the sound guy will be pleased to know it sounded just as good on the inside. As the familiar notes rang out, the crowd went berserk – a condition they maintained for the vast majority of the next ninety minutes.
Joe Emmet behind the kit drives the band hard and fast. An ex-bass player, they recruited him because he hit the skins harder than anybody else they knew. This is certainly a band that moves some air. The floor was rammed and with moving around the venue not really an option, I found myself up close and personal with bass player Elliot Briggs for the majority of the night.
On the other side of the stage, enveloped for the most part in smoke, Chris Alderton played some mean guitar. The tempo was intense and within a couple of songs some of the younger members of the audience who were a little overcome were being dragged out of the melee by security. Another time.
A solitary breather on offer tonight was Raindrops; I suspect only because it’s a forthcoming album track and comparatively unheard at this point. It was a well-planned rest bite for the crowd. The anthemic Little Something followed and the audience went absolutely bonkers. A particularly tall bloke to my left in an Amazons shirt got whacked around the head a few times by Thompson’s Les Paul. At the end of the song, he was rewarded with a kiss on the forehead: “I’m really sorry man, I’ll buy you a new tee-shirt”. The Amazons closed the set with Junk Food Forever. The congregation were still singing the melody when the band returned for the encore.
The tour closes with one final sell out performance on home turf in Reading and The Amazons are back with some festival appearances through the summer. It was certainly a privilege to catch them in an environment as intimate as Dingwalls. I’ve a strong suspicion it’s not something I’m likely to get a chance to repeat.
Review & Photography by Simon Reed. The Amazons at Dingwalls Camden on 12th April 2017.
Simon has his own music photography site here: http://www.musicalpictures.co.uk