Happyness, Her’s & New Luna – Gullivers, Manchester – 26/04/17

Dressed in Crushed Beaks t-shirt, New Luna’s lead singer Tommy Deedigan has the sort of raw, emotive voice that immediately demands the attention of everyone in the room. Dreamy alternative tracks from the quartet’s 2016 debut EP go down a treat, with the sporadic time-signatures and jazzy drums of ‘Omission’ channelling Radiohead’s In Rainbows era. Toby Duncan’s severely underrated groovy bass riffs completely make ‘Who’ – but its ‘Noise’ that’s undeniably their best tune to date, a lulling ballad that erupts into a beautiful, guitar-frenzied explosion. I can’t get enough of them, and judging by their firm Manchester fan base that surrounds me, neither can anyone else.

Treating us to a “pre-show interlude” are Her’s – that Liverpool two-piece that you can’t stop hearing about. “Are we gonna play the rock show?” Norwegian bassist Audun Laading enquires, before punching the drum machine into action and kicking off with cheery debut single ‘Dorothy’. Stephen Fitzpatrick’s deadpan vocals contrast his 80’s-style twangy guitar in ‘What Once Was’; latest single ‘I’ll Try’ sees Laading break out in rap, living up to his reputation of being the most energetic bassist you can catch live this year. They’re tight onstage, albeit slightly quiet on the guitar front – but with ‘Speed Racer’ and ‘Marcel’ succinctly capturing that summery sound, it’s mad to think that a band making this much noise are only a duo. With so many fans attracted in such a short career, it’s gonna be an interesting ride to see where Her’s take it from here.

If Her’s are happy slacker-rock, then Happyness are certainly their melancholy counterpart. The room crams up as the four walk onstage, all decked out in baggy t-shirts and bashed up trainers. ‘Anna, Lisa Calls’ is the chosen set opener, its soothing chorus of “oohs” still catchy seven months on from the Tunnel Vision On Your Part EP. ‘It’s On You’ similarly channels those typical Pavement vibes that Happyness have credited, it’s huge chorus already earning intense crowd movement.

“There’s something so funny about a sick body” vocalist/bassist Jonny Allan whispers in ‘Naked Patients’, whilst singer/guitarist Benji Compston uses a can of beer to slide around his twelve-string guitar. There’s perfect balance in the set between fast and slow – the fuzzy Hawaiian guitar of ‘SB’s Truck’ and ‘Bigger Glass Less Full’ contrast greatly with the chilled ‘The C Is A B A G’ and the acoustic ‘Baby, Jesus (Jelly Boy)’.

“Paul hasn’t been to Manchester before” acknowledges Compston, introducing their additional fourth member that makes Happyness sound even richer live.  Their onstage chemistry is particularly endearing to see, even inviting up Her’s’ Laading to play bass for them at times.

“We put out album two and we need to sell more” frontman Jonny Allan admits, referencing their sophomore release Write In that’s only been around for a couple of weeks. As a more piano-based release than Weird Little Birthday, I was hesitant to see if it’s jazzier numbers would smoothly fit into the set. But with Compston’s surf-guitar backing, there’s no need to worry. ‘The Reel Starts Again [Man As Ostrich]’ is infinitely faster than on Write In; ‘Through Windows’ proves to be one of the biggest hits of the night, home to the best chorus key change Happyness have ever written. A simple keyboard with a sustain pedal effortlessly incorporates the piano live – and allows Compston to demonstrate his talented multi-tasking skills by playing both keys and guitar.

“I can’t think of a better day of the week for this song than Tuesday night” smiles Allan, before breaking into fan-favourite ‘Montreal Rock Band Somewhere’. The room instantly gets intimate, a touching throwback for those diehard fans that were there way back in 2014 for Happyness’ debut EP. The quartet have the knack of writing the most beautiful choruses that captivate all. Hearing them live is, truly, an honour.

It begs the question – “why aren’t Happyness bigger?” They’re the most humble, deserving band – and the sort that would cringe at this gushing review. They’re unaware of their talent, and in an age of arrogant frontmen and cocky band members, it’s a change I welcome with open arms. What are you waiting for? Go and see them live.

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