It’s rare to have a support act as good as the headline, but Heyrocco, a three-piece indie rock band from South Carolina, definitely managed it. With their fuzzy guitars, catchy hooks, and listless vocals they effortlessly evoke the best of 90s indie rock. Imagine Pavement playing Nirvana songs and you’re not far off. Their song Virgin, perhaps their best, sounds so similar to Nirvana in the chorus that it must be pastiche, down to the despondent lyrics and the massive fuzzy bass sound. They’re probably bored of this comparison though, as frontman Nathan introduced the song by saying, “this is our grungey one”, with an unmistakable slab of sarcasm. Songs like Mom Jeans with the cleaner guitar sounds and breathy vocals broke up the heavier ones with their poppier edge. Heyrocco are certainly a band to look out for, especially given their upcoming debut album Teenage Movie Soundtrack. They’re not particularly original in their sound, but that’s beside the point. Their set was straight-up unfiltered pop rock fun, catchy and good to dance to, and that’s not something to sniffed at. They’ve played Exeter’s Cavern before, and they’ve promised to play it again. When they do, they’re definitely worth checking out.
If there was one disappointing thing about the evening, it was the average crowd size: hardly empty, but not as full as it should have been for the quality of music. But that didn’t seem to faze or even cross the minds of The Xcerts, a Brighton based, Aberdeen born, three-piece alt-rock band. They took to the stage with Live Like This, the first track from their latest album, There Is Only You. Like Like This is a song which boasts all the best trademarks of an Xcerts song: energy, conviction, emotion, and infectiously catchiness.
The best thing about The Xcerts is how easily they incorporate catchy pop-rock song writing skills, into a heavier alt-rock, evoking the best of bands like Brand New, and even Weezer. After the first few songs, frontman Murray apologised for some tech problems (I think his in-ear monitors weren’t working), but whatever the problems were they had no effect on the band’s sound: the guitar and bass sounded fat and powerful, while the drummer played with impressive energy given that they played for over an hour. One of the best things about the gig was that, although they played a lot from There Is Only You, their set spanned their entire discography, not leaving out any crowd favourites: Home Versus Home, In The Cold Wind We Smile, Slackerpop, and their most successful single to date, Shaking In The Water.
The most special moment of the night came when Murray performed Aberdeen 1987, an Xcerts classic from their first album, completely unplugged, without even a mic. It’s one of those songs which, even if you’ve never heard it before, you’ll be singing along by the last chorus, which is indeed what everyone was doing. The moment reminded me of when, during Andrew Jackson Jihad’s set at Cavern last year, frontman Sean Bonnette climbed into the crowd, encouraging everyone to sit on the floor, and joining them sang their song Big Bird, one of the most emotionally powerful songs of the century so far. When pulled off, it’s these kind of unique, intimate moments, when artists make themselves vulnerable to their fans, which make live music so life affirming.
After they’d played, both bands were keen to hang out with and chat to those from the crowd who stuck around, ending up in Exeter’s Firehouse for post-show drinks. Xcert’s bassist Jordan was accommodating and friendly even when I slopped a beer on their merch table. Obviously, I’d encourage you to go and see The Xcerts and Heyrocco if you can, but what this night reaffirmed for me was how memorable and straight-up fun nights of live music can be, so I’d encourage you also just to go see whoever you can.