The Hotelier – Gorilla, Manchester – 23/01/2017

TMB last visited The Hotelier at Manchester’s Sound Control just over a year ago. Since then the release of ‘Goodness’ in 2016 revealed an avant-garde Christian Holden – singing of the depressive shades that shield him from the sun’s ultra-violet rays. His intentionally unfiltered lyrics result in a morbid yet, pure expression. Celebrated with equally despaired vocal harmonies and dedicated instrumentation. In other words – goodness! With material that’s so emotively concentrated, a sober tone would popularly be expected at a show where The Hotelier are headlining. This however, was not the case.

**BZZZ**THUD*/ *CLATTER* is the sound that signals from the Marshall amplifier as four of the Grotbags happen their way upon the stage. Feedback howls and reverberates through the entire anatomy of the room and then – “We’re actually just an ambient noise band” – the monotone voice of guitarist, Morgan Lane as he ensures the jack of his XLR cable is firmly inserted. The muttering of the audience continues. “Are we actually gonna be that band that ask the everyone to come forward?” he asks. Drummer, Nick Colman inserts “Actually, if you want to stand back?”. Laughter is the response as the once dispersed crowd make a confident approach forward. “So the cloakroom is £1”, says a straight-faced Ian Breen with beer can in hand. Finally, it’s clear that all these awkward pauses are satirical. And what a relief after pre-emptively spending an entire quid on Grotbags’ loudly decorated LP, ‘Hiya!’ from a very appreciative man who then turned out to be the drummer. “1. 2. 3. 4!” and music happens! Fun music! Not bad, at least! ‘Alarm Clock’ is a hardly poetic, riff-reliant pop-punk song that glamorises the act of skipping work to stay at home and play GTA so – relatable too. These guys have it sussed – placing shameless enjoyment at the forefront of their punk initiative and proving the importance of caring less. They will burp and they will swear and they may request strobes throughout the entirety of their final song to demonstrate the effects of a seizure. But as bassist, Ben Pitman rightfully accused – “You’re only as good as the crowd you play for so it’s your fault you shits!”.

Welcomed by a bigger room were The Hotelier’s main support, Crying. Teenage dirtbag meets polyphonic synths worthy for a game-boy. Though, the post 80s synths were all played on a backing track and so was the bass guitar. This leaves Elaiza Ryan’s playful and innocent vocal melodies, adept guitarist, Ryan Galloway – of whom is responsible for the keyboard-synth melodies and a gifted girl who must have been a stand-in for the performance as their Wikipedia page tells instead of drummer, Nick Corbo. An extremely talented trio performed, nonetheless. It’s contrarily impressive how they kept in-sync with the backing track – hitting all the off beats and smatterings of odd time signatures without a sweat. They elicit such an outgoing style of tone that is more than capable of pleasing masses upon more as the melodies appeal to indie, punk rock and pop – experimental and infectious. Touring with The Hotelier – Crying were able to visit the UK for the first time, hopefully inducing their alternative flavour to aspiring musicians.

Now all the light-hearted mumbo jumbo is out the way – time to get hit hard, straight in the feels! The Hotelier as usual by state of ritual – take no prisoners and open with ‘An Introduction To The Album’. “Oooopeeeen the curtains!” and the family of fans congregate to sing full-bodied at the feet of Christian Holden. Tracks such as ‘Settle the Scar’ and ‘End of Reel’ were delivered with an usual heaviness had the room entirely animated. Despite them being broadly defined as an emo band, a common presumption to any newbies is that it’s all gonna be mosh pits, widdly-riffs and eyeliner.

Anyone who is familiar with this currently very concentrated scene of alternative music understands that this an outdated misconception. Emo in its current state has started to be taken more seriously thanks to bands such as The Hotelier that tackle dark themes in music with choral tones of melancholy that would rather you gently wave and vigorously headbang when necessary. This is due to the sincerity of Holden’s writing that tells truly heartfelt stories that deserve respect and attention. The accompaniment of Chris Hoffman and Scott Ayotte’s partnered efforts with predominantly rhythm guitar and alternating lead roles – creating a wider tone without the constant necessity of distortion. To place a finger on what their music has to offer to a listener in one sentence is a challenge I have yet accomplished.

Christian Holden’s anecdote of his visit to the 235 casino in Manchester proves he can relate. A man Holden had made acquaintance with at the casino asked him “So are you guys like Blink 182?”, “Close Enough” he responded, defeatedly. The man was invited to the show after he lost a bet, though ‘Texas’ Holden determined him a no-show. ‘You In This Light’ saw the A-string of Holden’s bass guitar snap, he carried on playing defiantly but the issue had to be addressed after the song. The first solution was a spare string which he quickly tried to tune until *snap*. Ayotte informed that “seeing a bass string snap is like seeing a unicorn, it doesn’t happen but when it does it’s glorious and beautiful”. The next solution came in the shape of Grotbags’ model 4000 Rickenbacker bass guitar, which then had no output throughout ‘Goodness pt. 2’, though they played on defiantly. Because of this, they promised to play a few more songs to which an audience member called out “play the last one but with more bass!” and a huge “Whaayy!” followed as Holden’s Fender is passed back to him on stage. ‘Dendron’ sung the finale of the evening. It was captivating – the fulfilment of belonging to such a warm community of music.