The Orwells @ The Trinity Centre, Dalston

Image: Rory Cokburn
Image: Rory Cokburn

“There’s no bar inside, so feel free to go to the shop round the corner for booze.”

When was the last time you could honestly say you saw live music and there wasn’t  a bar nearby? I can honestly say this has never happened to me, unless watching Glastonbury on BBC3 counts (which it definitely doesn’t.) Days after playing a sold out NME awards show at the historic 100 Club and two months after being so badass on Letterman that David himself demanded an encore – tonight would see The Orwells play a low-key show in a church hall in Dalston. In the days of O2 sponsoring your nearest venue, it does not get any more punk rock than this.

The venue is exactly what you expect a church hall to look like. It provides a perfect contrast to what is about to happen. There’s a stage at the front, the speakers are surrounded by high-vis fences that look like they’ve been stolen from a set of road works. There’s no cloakroom, so everyone’s bags and coats are stacked up in piles at the side of the room. The windowsills are dusted with various alcoholic beverages and there are two wrinkly helium balloons in the shape of a star and the number six hugging the roof.

Stood in front of me is a teenager (the crowd is a variety of ages) holding a litre bottle of Smirnoff. I know it’s legit because I can smell it! The blue and red stage lighting is casting sinister shadows behind the stage and makes the room appear as if you’re looking through a cardboard pair of vintage 3D glasses. There’s a scattering of adults stood around looking concerned, and so they should be, because sh*t is about to kick off.

Slinking onto the stage with a bottle of wine in hand, frontman Mario Cuomo immediately throws the mic stand into the crowd and launches the band into a rousing, ‘Other Voices’. The madness starts and doesn’t cease until the end of the set. The crowd surfing is so relentless that a pair of vans just seem to hover all night in front of the stage. The sound system unsurprisingly doesn’t do the band justice but nobody cares. ‘Righteous One’ and ‘Halloween All Year’ sound awesome and are welcomed by the crowd. The latter ending with a spikey ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’ chorus rendition.

The set continues full pace and just as you think the tempo could not possibly be maintained, fan favourite ‘In My Bed’ drops and the night takes an even crazier turn! After a bout of over-excited crowd surfing, one teen finds himself getting dragged out by a bouncer. Cue Cuomo to jump off the stage mid-song, run after the bouncer shouting him to leave the kid alone. The band continues playing throughout, with the lead singer returning to the stage and the crowd surfer triumphantly returning to the mosh pit seconds later! Bravo! ‘Mallrats’ incites further frenzy filling the hall with an infectious ‘La La La’ chorus.

Image: Rory Cockburn
Image: Rory Cockburn

A fantastic encore sees a snarling ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, the band looking like sinister lords of the manor, as a mass of limbs and mosh unfold below them. A final song is rolled out before a manic stage invasion ensues; the lead singer hoisting crowd members up. The Black Lips would be proud! The gig ends and the band leave. The old bloke next to me who has been looking concerned all-night flashes me a cheeky grin.

It doesn’t take long for the crowd to remember that we are in fact in a church hall and that the band is probably smoking down the side alleyway. Cue a rush to the exit and some signed copies of Remember When. What a gig! What an experience. On behalf of everyone in attendance, thank you to whoever organised that spectacle. Grandparents will tell grandkids about that show.

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