I know what you’re thinking. Live music? During a pandemic? In this economy? Indeed. That was my reaction to the announcement, after thinking holyshitlivemusicitsBlackHoneyWHAT. Miraculously, DIY magazine managed to figure out a way to bring back live music while adhering to social distancing rules and put on three nights of gigs to celebrate their 100th issue. Night two, and the clear subject of this review, was, of course, the return of Black Honey, for a night of new tunes and barely restrained in-your-seat moshing.
Let’s be perfectly honest from the off – this was not as good as a ‘real’ gig. Having to remain seated at a table throughout sucked, with the inability to rub shoulders with your fellow gig-goer sapping an amount of the crowd atmosphere. In some ways it was reminiscent in feel of the acoustic set the band played at the House of St Barnabas towards the end of 2018; the crowd seemed more like a theatre audience, taking a step back and soaking it in rather than being a more active participant in creating the atmosphere.
Fortunately enough, it was Black Honey playing. Never ones to fail to create an atmosphere at a normal gig, they carried enough energy and swagger into their performance to make up for what the crowd legally couldn’t provide. Opening with ‘All My Pride’ set the tone for the whole show: incredible energy. Immediately followed by the second outing of recent single ‘Beaches’, it was clear that trivialities like a global pandemic can’t slow a band like Black Honey down.
A few other tracks from the upcoming second album, Written and Directed, also made appearances. ‘Fire’ is set to join the pantheon of definitive feminist bangers released in recent years, building through its rallying verses into a proper crescendo of a chorus, complete with outrageous brass section. Haters will say the lyrics are too obvious, but sometimes you have to tackle a problem head-on, and the reception seemed phenomenal from the crowd and commentary online. Most importantly, it means a lot to singer Izzy B and the women she’s played the track to, whose opinions on it are the ones that matter most.
Another new track, ‘Back of the Bar’ seems set to become a personal favourite. It has the strong vibe of an Americana-style TV show but targeted towards the morose, rather than to glamour and excess. Chorus “All I do/Is Dream of you/I’m dancing on my own tonight/Dancing on my own” is very much the sad part of every high school movie where the protagonist gets shown up by their date to the prom but in a nice way
Another new track is the newly-released single ‘Run for Cover’. Described by guitarist Chris Ostler as ‘the heaviest track Black Honey have done’, and by new drummer Alex Woodward as ‘painful’… it is an absolute banger. The chorus mentions something about being as loud as thunder, certainly fittingly for how colossal it sounds, while still maintaining a very Black Honey, near-spaghetti-Western edge.
The rest of the set was a collation of their more popular songs, helping to keep the vibe as much in keeping with a regular gig as possible. Every track was perfectly delivered with the raw energy typical of Black Honey, and an extra sense of joy to be finally playing live again after the better part of eight months.
Whether I’d be happy to go to a large number of gigs of this format over the coming months is a hard but inevitable question. Seeing a band play live again in person was an absolute rush and a massive privilege, but I don’t know how many bands could deliver the quality of performance Black Honey did in such unusual circumstances. It’s also unclear as to how feasible it would be for many smaller bands to get work in that scenario. I just can’t wait until I can next throw myself into a mosh pit or for the release of Black Honey’s second album early next year.
In the meantime, why not check out ‘Beaches’ here:
(All photos are credited to Gavin Woollard)