Date: 28th & 30th March 2017.
Venue: Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, London.
Genre: Dark Pop/Electro-pop.
Words & Photography: Victoria Ling.
The last week of March was dubbed as MUNA week, as the American trio came to London on a highly anticipated whistle stop trip to play the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen in East London. After having sold out the first date in less than 5 minutes, a second date was added which also quickly sold out – not to anyone’s surprise. It was definitely a hot ticket and I was lucky enough to be at BOTH dates.
Admittedly I am a bit late to the MUNA party, only having discovered them three weeks before the release of their debut album ‘About U’. As soon as I heard ‘I Know A Place’ I found myself playing the album non-stopped and was hooked, thinking to myself, ‘am I getting too hyped too quickly?’ and ‘what if it is an anti-climax and I’ve got two shows to go to!’ Thankfully, I was not disappointed.
Tuesday 28th of March was the first night. It was a calm London day. I had stepped off a coach after an 8-hour journey and I could not contain the excitement in my bones. We approached the venue and Hoxton Square was plastered with A2 posters of the debut album. We passed the members of the band in the bar. It was a case of do we/don’t we talk to them. As we plucked up the courage they parted. No worries we will catch them after the show. The queue escalated quickly. My friend who was gigged at HSB&K many times (this was my second and soon to be third) said this rarely happens. Doors delayed opening but we ran in as soon as they did. It was that kind of gig.
There has been a lot of talk about the support act of the opening night. I think a lot of the audience got word of this as it was pretty much packed as Lo Moon took the stage. We were crammed in tightly for their indie-electro sounds and unfortunately for me there were a few talk-active people near to allow me to not enjoy it properly when Lo Moon were definitely giving it their all. For those that took and were allowed to take note, I can see why their live shows have been hyped and there was definitely something endearing about keys/guitarist Crisanta Baker.
With not that much more room, people still squeezed in. Even the tall people were reluctant letting their smaller counterparts in front of them. If it wasn’t hot enough already, we were ready to become a sweatbox. With a slight movement of the side curtain in the darkened room you could hear and feel hearts pounding then a tinkle of the synths and Katie Gavin’s opening lines of I Know A Place, the whole place is electrified and the band is jumping with every person in the place singing out every word, even the new lyrics, “I throw my arms open wide in resistance. He’s not my leader even if he’s my president,” a testament to Trump’s presidency.
A little place swap between Gavin and Naomi McPherson as McPherson takes lead on Promise. The intensity of this is enormous especially when Josette Maskin’s solo kicks in. Even the backing band of Scott Heiner (drums) and Brian Robert Jones (bass) are just as involved that they really are not a backing band, with Gaskin, McPherson and Maskin every single soul on that stage oozed charisma.
Turning the tempo back up End Of Desire has the crowd jumping again and with the mention of new songs (Loser and In My Way) we get excited. In fact there is not one moment that MUNA or the crowd slows down. Well, until they have to wipe the sweat from themselves. It was actually a nice little moment between Gaskin and Maskin and the banter between the whole band is very inclusive of every soul inside of the venue. Speaking of inclusivity, the band requested that the toilets were ‘gender inclusive,’ and inclusive they were. If you are unaware of MUNA, they are a political group. It is in their lyrics and it is apparent in a lot of their visual work. Their shows are inclusive of everybody. You could see it every which way you turned. A beautiful feeling.
Maskin then tells us it’s ‘covers’ time. She is very excited by this. The other band members question this but as Gaskin leads Paramore’s Bring Me To Life the crowd go crazy. Yes, Josette! Thank You! Then they ‘go all LA,’ as Gaskin tells the crowd that we have been amazing singing along to every single word but if there was a time to really make our voices heard that time was now, as Loudspeaker literally booms into an explosive performance that at the end make all those at the front, reach and grab the stage décor of roses.
Thursday 30th March was the second night of this whistle stop trip. The crowd gathered early again and the queue seemed to have grown quicker than Tuesday and with the heat wave outside, it seems no one was taking chances inside as the aircon was full blast as we entered.
Electro dance rockers, Otzeki opened with a promising set but then technical hitches came and cousins Mike and Joel laughed it off between them and the show went on…with more technical hitches and dancing in the middle of the crowd, which was very entertaining. In parts it seemed a bit long but in all it was a fine performance to most of the crowd.
It seemed to be a more relaxed crowd, in that people were not pushing against each other but as lights went down and the music started the jumping started within the first second. Noticeably Gavin even dressed ready to sweat and gone was her oversized T-shirt and in place was a bikini top.
All members took notice again of the sell out crowd and asked if they were any returners – only a few hands went up – everybody in the know wanted to be there and some wanted to be there again and it seemed like Gavin, McPherson and Maskin could not quite believe it. The energy that was there on the first night was here but with just that bit more intensity and that little bit more loudly but both were just as energetic. There did seem to be less banter on stage though but by watching each member you could still feel the chemistry between them, even with McPherson hidden from me behind the synths this time. The new songs went down just as well as the first night and the crowd and the vocals to Bring Me To Life seemed to go up a notch. All words for every song from the album were sung back with passion. What was not noticeable though was that every member on that stage was sick. Many knew this was the case for Gavin but even with this and all the smiles back and forth it seemed they were on top form, even when they all come to the front of the stage for the second verse of Loudspeaker. How anyone was left standing after that performance with all the energy given is beyond me and with two shows in such a sweaty environment – let’s just say, and I quote, “something massive happened here” and all those posters that were plastered over Hoxton Square were gone BOTH nights.