There aren’t many artists today who are considered to have genuinely bad relationships with their fans. In fact, aside from Bieber’s love/hate dichotomy moving from his music to his supporters, no others spring to mind. At the same time, though, how many acts show as much undying love for their fans from the very beginning as the followers do them? Safe to say one more name can be added to the list after seeing Black Honey boldly celebrate how far they’ve come and how far they’d see themselves and their fans going.
The upstairs room at Phoenix is small. Not club-venue-small, I mean probably a bit longer than your flat’s kitchen and not much wider small. The wide merch table at one end loaded with Black Honey re-named Coke cups and t-shirts makes things feel even more intimate, and as first support act Super Ego walk on stage, there’s already a restless group cloying for space at the barrier. Though they never mention themselves by name and come off as generally understated for most of their short set, Super Ego’s blend of Foals-esque garage rock and groove heavy guitar breakdowns make for an exciting watch; one down one to go. Main warm up Freak are anything but understated, bounding on and launching immediately into their first song. Demanding to see the room ‘going off’ certainly makes an impression if nothing else. The songs come thick and fast, and pretty soon the crowd are obliging and there’s a tangle of limbs and hair ricocheting around at the foot of the stage. The band play loud and fast exclusively, as if they wanted to sound like Nirvana but only ever got as far as hearing Territorial Pissings. Still, the moshing continues throughout and, after technical issues in a guitar-less last number and a questionable Britney cover, they do leave a sweaty and freshly energised room poised for Black Honey to do as they do.
Emerging from a side door to a now much more tightly packed room, frontwoman Izzy Baxter sips from one of the branded cups and regards the baying audience with an alluring stare. Her bandmates then launch into one of their breakthrough singles, Madonna. The crowd lap it all up, the majority singing every word, arms raised while beaming at the stage as the band beam back. Two older tracks follow, but it’s last year’s All My Pride that gets the first big reaction of the night; testament to the ever-growing fan base the band are building for themselves with every new release. The same goes for even newer singles Somebody Better and Hello Today that shortly follow, both of which sound stadium ready with soaring guitars and choruses that seem to fill the whole room. The rhythm section then departs for a song, leaving lead guitarist Chris and Izzy to perform B-side Cadillac acoustically at the request of a fan earlier in the night. With the crowd hushed and glowing with appreciation, it’s a special moment and more than enough to cement the band as beyond thankful for their fans; they know how to please their audience.
As things reach an inevitable climax, the Honeys ramp things up for long time live favourite Mothership, during which Izzy recalls a recent school reunion that ‘bored me f***ing blind’, while she really wanted to be ‘with all you guys’. She puts on a great performance on stage, from the death stares to the enticing ‘come ons’, but there’s no acting here, this is genuine. With any casual crowd members now totally suckered in, the frantic psychedelic thrash of Spinning Wheel and huge sing-along to single Corrine ensures a joyous, mate hugging end to a thrilling night. I called Black Honey a gang earlier on, and as they eagerly greeted fans at the back of the room after the show, with time for everyone, it becomes clear that it’s not just a gang: it’s a party too, and you’re invited.
Photo credit: DIY Mag.