It’s not often that a band takes the stage for a crowd with not only no expectations, but no idea who they are, and leaves to said crowd singing their songs back to them and crying for an encore. It doesn’t happen often, but happen it did with whooping gusto on the 8th March after 5 piece London band HAUS’ set at Plymouth’s The Underground.
Playing as part of their nationwide tour as main support for the also brilliant Youth Club, the crowd wasn’t exactly warm as they were setting up. After a somewhat visually and mentally exhausting glam-rock-indie performance, most had drifted to the sanctuary of the shady seats at the back with the sad but true support-act mentality of “I’ll sit through them, Youth Club’ll be on soon”. The intrigue snuck up as they set up though with sideways glances soon fired everywhere. An Octopad in a hybrid drum kit? A synth at the front of the stage? Why so many guitars? Were these just Jack Garratt wannabes or some rich kids with money to burn? With Portishead blaring and so many conflicting stage elements, no one had a clue what was coming.
It soon became clear though that their style was literally (in the literal, non-hyperbolic sense) just being cool. Not in the try-hard manner of many acts, but in the actual “oh-gahd I just want to be friends with all of you forever” kind of way. Sounding like Peace, Swim Deep, Foals, the sweat of Californian skaters and concentrated sunbeams (go with this), they couldn’t have been a much more welcome sound or a better support selection for Youth Club.
Opener ‘Chrome’ wove its deliciously enticing bars through the crowd so that by just the end of that song, the whole audience was renewed and ready for the event that is ‘Blinded’. Their most recent single, it’s something of a wonderful conundrum. Melancholic as it laments that ‘I’ve been blinded, where did she go? She’s been blinded, little did she know…’, you’re actually just having a bit too good a time on the first listen to fully notice, even as you’re wailing along with them. Between the anthemic guitars and drums, the incredible hook of a chorus and the über snappy ‘send me down slow’ breakdown, it’s one hell of a track and one hell of a way to start a show.
So, audience already won over, singing along and prancing around like idiots, the band can relax right? Not according to HAUS, because it turns out that like all of the great bands ever, they feed off the energy given to them, a fact no more apparent than in the bounding antics of front-man Ashley Mulimba who, according to the crowd, was one of the best front-men they’d seen. Darting around like he’d just seen an inspirational “dance like nobody’s watching!” quote both on stage and through the crowd, and with some of the most effortless on stage patter around, he couldn’t have made the whole thing feel more like one of their apparently infamous ‘HAUS Party’s.
It was this charm, loveableness and effortless audience interaction which won over even the most reticent. Through the succulent sandwich filling of the show the cool continued through problems with the drum kit (handled like pros) as the energy rose and rose through tracks like ‘Fire’ and ‘Happiness’ before reaching a crescendo with show closer ‘HAZE’. Those concentrated sunbeams mentioned earlier? This is where they really hit home. One of the most effortlessly catchy and quite frankly astounding songs anyone present seemed to have heard, it’s just an exceptionally constructed track. Between the growling synths in the background, the snapping drums, the cheeky ‘ooh ooh ooh’s’ from the backing vocals and just again, the catchy brilliance and integral simplicity of the main vocals, it’s a song to be reckoned with. And you know what? Given the gaping mouths, hollers for an encore and quite frankly insane shapes being thrown, it seems that HAUS are a band to be reckoned with just the same.