I’m used to seeing Allo Darlin’ on the outdoor stage at the Indietracks festival in Derbyshire, where they’re firm favourites, so it was great to witness their indie-pop prowess in a sweaty room at the back of a Nottingham pub, where they’ve previously played at the city’s Pop All-Dayer. A proper late-night, rock ‘n’ roll gig from a band not exactly renowned for their rock.
Date: November 19, 2014
Venue: The Maze, Nottingham
Allo Darlin’ are one of the best bands to be filed under the indie moniker, yet it’s highly likely that only the most discerning of indie music fans will have heard of them or their music.
They continue to make stunning, observant, ukulele-led folk-tinged pop music bereft of the minutia of modern indie music, sounding a lot like Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura, but happy to warmly snuggle under the corporate blanket rather than emerge from it.
Their latest album, We Come From The Same Place, is their third, containing the same erudite and sincere pop music as their previous two. On record, Allo Darlin’ are characteristically very much like the afore-mentioned seminal Scottish indie-pop bands, but on the live platform, they are both aesthetically and sonically more hardy, brash and jagged around the edges, which makes them one of the most entertaining live acts on the circuit.
Australian-born Elizabeth Morris shares lead duties with bassist Bill Botting, a man whose curly locks and impressive moustache pitch him somewhere between German porn star and a Fast Show character. He’s an instantly likeable bloke, playing his bass with an imperishable smile, while the slim, neatly coiffured Liz leans towards the crowd to deliver her sweet antipodean-twanged vocals whilst swapping between her guitar and ukulele.
If all this sounds a little twee, let’s get something straight: Allo Darlin’ can rock out, as proven so vivaciously on Half Heart Necklace. It’s so feral, it’s almost punk!
Liz enjoys engaging with her audience, even if it’s simply to talk about the heat. And despite near sub-zero temperatures outside, the Maze is a stifling, sweaty mash of people whom not even an industrial-sized fan perched upon the bar can cool down.
“The last time we were here I nearly threw up”, she fondly recalls, warning the front row to remain cautious and agile should the heat get to her this time.
Talking of heat, recent single Capricornia sees Liz dreaming of her native Australia via studied and invitingly innovative jangly guitar pop, with Botting adding deft vocals making it a harmonious indie-folk anthem.
As Liz tunes her guitar for the next song, Botting tries his luck with a consciously cheeky geographical quip: “So you guys have the Notting Hill carnival here right? Where you attack policemen and stuff…”. It gets a few laughs, and his smile, and ours, remain intact.
With guitar tuned, they deliver Dreaming, which prompts the first real audience bounce of the evening. It’s taken from their first record, a record every self-styled indie obsessive should own.
It’s followed by Europe, a driving tune with that all-important motorik beat. “This is life, this is living”, sings Liz, with a strident belief and a pure sense of adventure.
We Come from the Same Place chimes and trundles along like a lost C86 song, all the while slowly building into a seething indie classic. It’s feisty yet playful. A true work of art.
“All I wanna know is where do we go when this bar closes”, sings Liz, and everyone else, on Silver Dollars. It was about to be the highlight of the night but then the frothy Kiss Your Lips drops and it’s pandemonium, with now almost everyone bouncing with unabashed glee.
“Play Darren!”, projects an eager punter as the band return for the encore after chants of “We want more”, to which guitarist Paul Rains utters “Good choice” as they lash into the song; its mantra of “I could stay for ever hanging out” providing the perfect ending, even if the crowd demand more still, once again chanting in unison for the band’s return. Alas, they do not, and at 11.45, the show is over.
When they need to crunch that guitar, they do. When they need to be witty, they are. When they continue to be the best band that not many people know about, they do so with a proud sense of underachievement; a steely “whatever”, and a determined desire to please the people that love them so dearly. Allo Darlin’. Darlings of the indie underworld.