- Arlo Day
Under the shadows of the Arts Club loft, a woman with a red beehive, leather jacket and a distinctive voice is intoning how excited she is to be seeing tonight’s headliners. “It’s my favourite song! ‘No no, drama, drama baby’…I love it!”. It’s perhaps a mark of how far Stina Tweeddale has come, that now, five years on from her debut album and touring her third, she has a song on rotation on BBC Radio 6 Music and more than several acolytes down the front in Liverpool. And the set does the trick: the beehive can later be spotted, bopping around, as part of a mini-mosh pit as HONEYBLOOD’s set comes to a close.
It’s a million miles from where the night starts. ARLO DAY’s combination of mournful indie-folk with strummed electric guitar is somewhere between Angel Olsen and Tracey Thorn covering mid-period Radiohead. The big plus here, though, is her spellbinding narrative voice, its sombre tones echoing throughout the loft’s vaulted ceiling. Just right for a rainy Tuesday night in June. Arlo – real name Alice Barlow – even manages to raise the mood with her minor key cover of the Spice Girls’ Spice Up Your Life, turning it into a bitter, Leonard Cohen-style warning against experimentation. It brings a wry smile to the crowd, some of whom probably weren’t even born when the Spice Girls were still a five-piece.
Honeyblood keep up the 90s feel. They come on to the strains of Splendora’s You’re Standing On My Neck – the theme from MTV’s Daria – before launching into Sea Hearts, one of the barnstormer singles from 2016’s second album Babes Never Die. If it’s a strange choice of opener for a band who are, ostensibly, touring their recently released third LP, then perhaps that’s because it’s their first tour as a trio, with Tweeddale taking lead guitar/vocals, and bassist Anna Donigan and drummer Deborah Knox-Hewson neatly filling in the rhythm section of the standard garage trio. What unfolds is basically a singles and anthems set, going right the way back to 2014’s Honeyblood, interspersed around the three singles and more prominent album tracks from new record In Plain Sight. If there’s something slightly lost in the cramped surroundings of the loft, then the likes of Walking At Midnight, Biro and (I’d Rather Be) Anywhere But Here (an ode to Glasgow, apparently) offer a reminder of Tweeddale’s ability to write a great chorus. There’s plenty of time for rockist posturing, too: Take The Wheel has a bass break that lets Knox-Hewson stand, blonde hair hanging over her face while, late in the set, fan favourites Babes Never Die and Killer Bangs bring the audience to pogoing and Donigan to just the slightest bit of crowd surfing. Crowd leaning, perhaps. Radio play prompts plenty of recognition for The Third Degree and it’s arguably the standout of the set; its girl group meets guitar styling, a kind of rockin’ Ronettes, a neat middle ground between the nasal angst punk of Gibberish and the pop rock of Fall Forever and set closer Ready For The Magic.
It may be churlish to feel short-changed after an hour of hook-laden garage pop, but when the three-piece leave the stage, it seems to take an age for the crowd to drift away, the venue’s playlist to come on and for the house lights to go back up. It’s long enough for a particularly enthusiastic member of the audience to vault the barrier, run backstage and come back out to confirm that there won’t be an encore. It’s one of the strangest endings to a fairly routine show and there seems to be a general huffiness as a result. That’s Honeyblood then – sweet and sour.