The past 18 months have seen huge strides forward in the musical career of Newcastle’s Holy Moly and the Crackers. Starting with 2017’s album ‘Salem’, the Crackers have gone on to receive acclaimed reviews (R2 Magazine, No Depression), huge radio support (BBC Introducing and Radio X) and seen their music soundtrack a major Hollywood movie release (‘Cold Comfort Lane’ in Oceans 8).
Yet whilst these markers all demonstrate impressive steps forward, perhaps Holy Moly’s most consistent strength remains their intense and sweaty live shows, and its ability to balance the contradictory influences of the group; American roots, New Orleans Jazz, Dexy’s Midnight Runners ‘Too Rye Aye’-era and huge guitar sonic feedback a la The Jesus and Mary Chain. Known for their bad-ass, explosive, live shows perhaps the hardest current question for the Crackers is ‘how does a band known for an explosive live show maintain their standards night after night?’. This is a question that tonight, at their biggest show to date, is answered in the way that perhaps the very best live bands tend to provide an answer; through a well-rehearsed set and having pre-determined, identified, roles for each member of the band to play.
Front person Conrad Bird, the band’s energetic spark and focal point, plays his part as bravely as ever tonight. Intense, leading by example, and the heart and soul of the band, Bird provides an almost aggressive level of confidence in his moves as well as his trumpet playing. Delivering his vocals with a back of the throat, spit and sawdust feel, Bird’s vocals contrast perfectly with co-front person Ruth Patterson who’s pitch perfect style offer an alternative emotion, and support the band’s jazzier elements. Combined, it’s perhaps the juxtaposition between the two vocals which provides the foundation for the bands achievement in experimenting with a range of sounds and styles.
Tonight’s highlights, new tracks ‘You’re only happy when you’re upside down’ and ‘All I want is you’, as well as a cover of traditional standard ‘Cocaine blues’, combine to demonstrate the bands’ musicianship and comfort in a range of styles. Focused around a consistent folk message, the band move across a combination of sounds which occasionally build on from the chunky blues guitar hook of recent single ‘Gravel Rag’ and channel their punk/aggression through moments of superb sonic guitar feedback. Led on guitar by Nick Tyler, who’s long hair and bent over stance provides an intense vocal to the bands aggressive sound, it’s Tyler who provides a modern sound to the bands traditional feel. Tonight he plays the role of guitar orchestrator William Reid.
As well as tonight being a farewell to 2018 there’s also the promise of new material in 2019 offering interesting questions about where this band will be in a further 18 months’ time. This is a band clearly aware of their individual and combined roles and a band confident to take on the world.