Eliza and the Bear
Islington Town Hall, London
7th April 2016
Eliza and the Bear have just released their debut album. We visit their most recent London headline show and reminisce about old times.
Glance back in time three or four years and not many people would have been bold enough to have said out loud that they’d predict The Sleaford Mods would be headlining the 3000 capacity Camden Roundhouse before 2016 came to an end.
Predicting great things one can expect from a band is not what some of us are about.
We get the Emails from various people telling us that certain bands are about to take over the world but they’re never right. Ever.
Around the same time at least one of us laughed at the idea that Eliza And The Bear were playing their well-crafted anthemic jubilant tunes in front of so few people.
Great things weren’t predicted.
We try not to do things like that because we end up looking silly and it encourages conversations about MGMT.
The message that one of us wanted to put across back in 2012 was (and still is) that here’s a band that we felt we’d like to see succeed in getting a ten thousand strong crowd sing along to the choruses of these songs because that’s how we felt they should be performed.
Elbow we’re playing at the big arenas that week and we thought seeing this band bottom of the bill in a small pub in central London would be just as satisfying.
We realised that to achieve this would probably mean them continuing to struggle with whatever their domestic lives would throw in the way, keep their hair nice, not get involved in any of that swearing nonsense and persevering with the songs they had written and performed that evening.
Liverpool’s Mello Mello venue (now closed but had a capacity of a hundred or so) during Sound City, the tiny Kings Cross St Pancras Church in the centre of the capital (capacity 80) and The Old Queens Head, just around the corner from tonight’s location are all venues that hosted this band three years ago.
This is why these venues need continuous support.
As nice as it is to be able to wander to the bar mid song to get a refill and still return to your discarded bag still lying on the middle of the “dance floor” on a Tuesday night one has to be aware that as soon as someone starts a successful darts team or it’s decided to replace these buildings with unaffordable accommodation, fast food restaurants or pubs that sell chips on shovels , it’s the likes of us that are minus another music venue. Promoters and bands have to go somewhere else and people like you and I start thinking twice about going somewhere we’ve never been before that’ll always be further away than we feel comfortable with.
There are venues across the land that currently host similar events for similar bands (as well as not at all similar bands) but regardless of this, people are still happy to fork out bucket loads of cash to stand in huge sheds that one needs a good pair of binoculars in order to see the whites of the eyes of the artists these people have been dancing around their living rooms to.
Eliza and the bear are still on target to achieve being one of those bands that attract these people.
We said it in jest if we’re honest back in 2012 but that journey isn’t as far away now from getting to this position as we look down from the balcony at the young teens (“Over 14’s” tonight) with their mobile phones, best clothes and soft drinks, happy to sing along to the DJ playing Wheatus before the headliners arrive in front of their massive backdrop. It’s no surprise that this 800 capacity venue is full of young (it is half term) pop music loving teenagers. Tour supports with Paramore (https://louderthanwar.com/eliza-and-the-bear-supporting-paramore-wembley-arena-live-review/) and Imagine Dragons would have sucked these people into visiting smaller venues than Wembley arena and tonight, about three hours before their debut album arrives Eliza And The Bear have yet again carved another notch into their guitar necks, filled a decent size venue and managed to get a huge percentage of them to spend the evening clapping their hands above their heads, screaming like their grandparents did to the Osmond’s and belt out the choruses that they’ve been singing along to in their bedrooms instead of doing their homework.
There’s also a lot of people recording everything on their mobile phones, photographing each other and at one stage providing the light show for a cover version of Ariana Grande’s ‘Dangerous Woman’ (I’ll be straight up with you here, I’ve no idea who this is or what this is).
We get a couple of new tunes this evening. ”Kids In Love” is a tune they’ve recorded for a forthcoming film that’ll sit nicely on their CV with their regular appearances on Match Of The Day or on the occasional advert showing well-dressed people going out at night to drink cider and not get into fights.
“Friends” is left until last as an encore but “Upon The North” “It Gets Cold” “Lion’s Heart” “Brothers Boat” ” Southern Wild” are all aired leading up to this and they’ll all be available on the debut album that should, by all accounts sell a few lorry loads.
Once this debut is out of the way, and a couple more written, (sounds easy eh?) these buildings we sit in at the moment will get bigger and bigger as their audience increases. This is because Eliza and the Bear seem to know how to write pop music and perform joyous pop music and it’s noticeable how young their enthusiastic crowd are this evening. Individually, they’re the same type of people we see week in and week out treading the boards, sitting in vans, selling T-shirts posing for selfies and struggling through their lives whilst they simultaneously push themselves harder and harder as each day, week, month and year passes by. People are enjoying this stuff – some of us have always recognised this right from the beginning that they’d be hoards of people around that would enjoy this and every few months it’s good to pay a visit, say hello, wave good bye, watch from a distance and be shown that if the tunes are catchy and the band aren’t fed up playing them for five years then the audience won’t tire of listening to them for the same amount of time.
This band aren’t expected to change the world but they’ll distract a young generation enough to introduce them to venues such as this or even tempt these people into the pubs down the road currently hosting other bands of equal standard who will grind away year after year in the hope that an audience will eventually find them in the same way that these people here have fallen for Eliza and the Bear.
This band haven’t got any better or worse since that night down The Lexington. They’ve always maintained a high standard of performance. It’s just that they’ve worked hard, been patient whilst grinding away at their art, getting the recognition from the right people and we imagine they look at themselves every now and again and say “This is all going pretty well isn’t it?”
The journey continues with Eliza and the Bear, the choruses are getting longer and louder and the crowds are getting bigger.
We’ll be back for the next chapter one day.
Their official website is: www.elizaandthebear.com.
All words and photo by Keith Goldhanger. More writing by Keith on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Keith on Facebook and Twitter (@HIDEOUSWHEELINV).You may subscribe to the Goldhanger Shorts Facebook page too if you so wish.