Sunday night in sleepy Exeter should be just that – sleepy. No Mosaic posing, Phoenix raving, the societal ladness of Timepiece, the getting-fuckedness of Arena, or the why-are-we-here-ness of the Lemmy. Tradition dictates the only sensible plan is to head for the comforting warmth of the Old Firehouse for some lager and catching up with good friends, all whilst sitting on adorable barrels and salivating over your mate’s pizza. But Amber Run have other plans (that is, until they themselves headed to Firehouse after their gig at Cavern, but you get my point.) It was a sold-out show and I had the immense pleasure to catch up with the band before the gig, where I got an insight into the band’s work ethic, Joe’s wholesome, laissez-faire musical ethos, and their choice of murder weapon.
After a 30 minute discussion with Joe at Las Iguanas we return to Cavern to find a mile-long queue of infatuated girls anxious to hear Joe’s earnest, emotive prose – only Cavern security aren’t letting under 18s into a 16+ event. I leave the band at this point, to commendably try to sort this fiasco out directly, after hearing about some girl breaking down in tears because of it.
Half an hour later, the misunderstanding seemed to have been resolved and everyone, except the unlucky few that got turned away prematurely and left as a result, were let in. To my surprise and delight, the supporting band were Pixel Fix – a band I became obsessed with last spring, in one of those obscure finds that you proudly try to extend to everyone you know. Their audacious amalgamation of Balearic, electronic beats, mid-2000s indie guitar ingenuity, punk pop breakdowns, and R&B-infused singing, was jarringly refreshing, and the seemingly note-perfect singer added to the frankly comical fact that they were a relatively unknown supporting band. Compliments such as comparisons to the pioneering, dreamy indie rock of the likes of Foals, Bloc Party, or The Neighbourhood with British diction, would probably be shrugged off by the band, but one listen to set closer Rosa and you’ll know what I mean.
After a quick group huddle, Amber Run walked on-stage to the ecstasy of fans, which was quelled by the a cappella intro of I Found; its heavy beat and the incredible crowd participation was as clear a statement of intent as you could have asked for, segueing nicely into its musical twin, Just My Soul Responding. Felix then pounded into the drum intro of Pilot, and Joe galvanised us with a “Let’s get moving!” After having talked at length with the band, the song’s chorus seemed to invoke a greater meaning (“I don’t want to be the centre of anything / Just a part of something bigger.”) After Hurricane, the band had to fend off demands such as “I want your babies” (a sentiment Joe reciprocated) and the band proceeded to lay into a song about “bitchy ex-girlfriends” – Little Ghost, from their first EP. Joe took a moment to apologise for the earlier debacle of trouble getting in, garnishing his sincerity with some brilliantly sharp banter for good measure.
The set highlight was Kites – a beautiful, tender ballad about a friend of theirs who lost his way to drug addiction, for which the crowd hushed themselves to fully absorb. They told us how Exeter was their first ever encore – for which they didn’t even have enough songs – and how life is all about small beginnings and big comebacks, suitably leading into the life-affirming Spark. The crowd continued to chant “Let the light in!”, imploring them for the encore which came in the form of Heaven. Will was seen attempting to teach the crowd the lyrics, to no avail as the crowd already knew them all – his reaction understandably that of sweet disbelief, given the fact it’s still early days for them. By the time the last euphoric notes of set closer, Noah, were left ringing, Joe was swallowed by an overjoyed crowd, which they’ll undoubtedly look forward to seeing again and that will undoubtedly have them back with open arms and open hearts.
Read our interview with Amber Run here.