”With influences such as Fleet Foxes and The Coral seeping through, High Hazels captured sentimentality in a net made of exquisite jingly hooks that left the audience all loved up and ready for various family capers at Christmas”
With Christmas fast approaching, its cheer and merriment shoved in your face at every corner, I couldn’t quite bring myself to don the tacky Christmas jumper and engage in a frenzy of consumerism just yet, so instead Electone Records Christmas party at the Baltic Social provided me with a perfect welcome to the seasonal period, minus the cheesy adverts involving penguins. The Baltic Social, located at the heart of the Baltic Triangle was fully kitted out in tinsel and fairy lights, hosting a night of festive jollity with the likes of The Levons, Mama Roux and High Hazels. An intimate venue, The Baltic Social was decked out with rustic table and chairs, old school videogame machine and sofas, adding a sense of cosiness for an up-close encounter with the bands.
With free mulled wine and mince pies aplenty, the celebrations kicked off with The Levons, local lads incarnate of the rock and roll sensibilities that Liverpool’s musical history has well-established. Unsurprisingly their key influence of The Beatles shined through the acoustic and folk laden tracks which certainly garnered a strong Mersey Beat feel. Unfortunately the stripped-back set was cut short after a mere 3 songs due to ongoing technical difficulties and a broken guitar. Nevertheless, ‘TheTrouble’ conjured up a joyful play of vocal harmonies and folksy melodies and ‘The Other Guy’, a more psych enthused track with catchy hooks galore, made for a pleasant start to the evening.
Mama Roux, a band that has literally just entered the scene, having only played one gig previously, provided a set of 70’s funk, as saxophone, drum, guitar and keyboard combined to create long instrumentals that Starsky and Hutch would most certainly adorn. With very little lyrical content, Mama Roux had the audience getting into the groove as we adopted beatnik personas, the dark jazz and tribal reverberations in line with that of Dr John and Captain Beefheart. With pulsing beats channelling the best of RnB, Mama Roux brought a truly unique sound to the Baltic, and had me adding flares and rollers to my Christmas list. The most recent signings to Liverpool’s own Electone Records, the band are set to release material in the New Year.
Finally, the crowd gathered – well sat stuffed with mince pies – for the much anticipated High Hazels. Playing their first ever gig in Liverpool, the Yorkshiremen kicked off with material from their debut album High Hazels, a record steeped in dreamy guitar and dry romanticism. Frontman James Leesley’s soft croons were complimented by melodic riffs steeped in nostalgia, notably in ‘Hanging Moon’ – a beautifully crafted track that takes you on a faraway adventure. ‘Misbehave’ had everyone on their feet dancing as the upbeat, rhythm and blues beat can’t help but allude to antiquated parties of decadence and debauchery. ‘Shy Tide’ offered a solo performance by Leesley who modestly pronounced “we are kind on him” and revealed a fragile and reflective acoustic track that was truly endearing. With influences such as Fleet Foxes and The Coral seeping through, High Hazels captured sentimentality in a net made of exquisite jingly hooks that left the audience all loved up and ready for various family capers at Christmas. Probably the only band to offer “loose leaf tea with Twinings and shit in it” as part of their repertoire of merchandise, High Hazels’ honest and direct approach eminent in their music was refreshing and resulted in even the most cynical of hearts to melt. The Baltic Social provided a picturesque backdrop for an equally noble band who has mastered their craft, offering sweet melodies and enabling to soften even this Grinch’s temperament before Christmas. We can only hope that High Hazels appearance in Liverpool is not just for Christmas, and that they return for future shows as a band you should definitely keep an eye on.