A few months ago I stumbled upon this song, Archie, Marry Me , and I was instantly hooked. I didn’t do much research on the band, but I kept it in my Spotify playlist and played it every few days.
Fast forward to last month, I come to know that Alvvays are in Manchester. I don’t know any other songs, but I really feel I have to go.
Thursday night, 8:15pm, Manchester Academy 2. The mostly young crowd is getting larger, the support band is supposed to start playing right now but still no sign of it.
I grab a beer as I position myself closer to the stage, and 15 minutes later White Reaper show themselves. I don’t know them, never actually heard of them, so I’m pretty curious. A quick google search tells me they’re a “pop-punk” band. Cool, let’s see what they’ve got to give us.
There’s four of them: singer/guitarist, bass player, drummer and… this other guy who’s already headbanging before the music even started. I like this guy. But what does he play?
Nevermind, the frontman is saying hi to the crowd and they start playing: the style is very uptempo and energetic, and they remind me of Japandroids and The Strypes.
The crowd is not very receptive during the first 2-3 songs, and I wonder why. It’s at this moment that I realize what’s going on: everyone’s attention’s on the keyboard guy: yes, he’s still headbanging.
Now picture this: a tall, strong long-haired guy, with a black Marines t-shirt, that you’d expect to play hard-metal, creating melodies with this tiny, MIDI keyboard. The sound it makes it’s straight out of an 80’s Nintendo videogame, but in some way it’s perfect combined with the guitar.
I can’t deny the whole thing is damn funny, and now I see half of the crowd is laughing, and I’m laughing too, but the best thing it’s we’re not laughing at him. We’re laughing because he’s having the time of his life and so are we, his energy is contagious. He’s killing it, and everyone absolutely loves him, as he leaves his keyboard to dance through the stage, pointing at random people, at one point even taking the bass player on his shoulders.
THIS is what music is about!
I can’t even pay attention to the band anymore, he’s stealing the show and I want to have a beer with him, I want him to be my friend. I could watch him performing for hours, not even joking.
The set ends as I have a vague memory of the actual songs, my heart was stolen by the keyboard guy, and I’m lucky to shake hands with him during my cig break, so I can tell him he absolutely smashed it.
As I come back inside the intro music is already starting, so I rush it a little bit not to miss anything.
The band’s still not on the stage, but it’s only a matter of minutes before the Academy is invaded by the pink lights and Molly and the others introduce themselves.
For some reason she reminds me of the 2009’s Hailey Williams, blonde and short haired.
Her voice is equally amazing, and although not at her best (she also apologizes for it at one point), you can’t not fall in love with her. The crowd is buzzing and they seem to appreciate it, as after just the first two songs (the B-side Your Type and the album opening track Adult Diversion) Molly says she feels it’s going to be the best gig of the tour.
Alvvays’ surf-dream-pop is uplifting and relaxing, they sing of teenage years and summers in Toronto, and although at the beginning they might sound like many other surf-pop bands you find on Bandcamp, in fact there’s something more about them, something that makes you wanna listen again and again to their only self titled debut.
The set goes on and I can’t not notice how hipster the guitarist and the keyboardist look, especially the latter, long-time friend with Molly that kinda looks like The Shining’s Wendy with glasses. I feel I want to hug her.
They’re all very likeable, interact with the crowd, the frontman at one point even tells us a funny episode of them meeting Noel Gallagher a few days earlier.
Having just a 9 songs album out, they put a few b-sides in the setlist, and also a few new songs, that sound very promising.
With Party Police the whole place enlightens, but the climax is at the end of the set with the one that made them famous, Archie, Marry Me.
The encore starts with Red Planet performed by Molly herself, very intimate and full of soul.
The other band members reach her for the last song of the night, He’s on the Beach, a Kirsty MacColl cover.
As they say, Alvvays had my curiosity, now they have my full attention: I don’t know if it’s a (end of) summer crush or real love, in the meantime I’m just enjoying it as I haven’t listened to anything else in the past week.
Next of Kin
The Agency Group
Ones Who Love You
Atop a Cake
Archie, Marry Me
He’s on the Beach