I'm leaning against the wall near the exit of The Scala, non-nonchalantly, looking at a coat hanger dangling three metres above the cloakroom window. It's hanging off a steel conduit run that traces the room, I can't help wondering how it got there. Lost in wonder I slowly start to realize that almost everyone in the foyer after party is staring at me, are they also pondering the coat hanger? Turns out they're curious for a different reason, the lights are going on and off. I've been leaning against the light switch triggering the chandelier house lights for a couple of minutes now, so much for blending in. I move away and watch someone else hole up in the now vacant (too good to be true) spot, I give them no warning and continue to float away pondering the coat hanger and The Orielles (@TheOrielles) performance I've just caught at The Scala's 20th Anniversary Party.
Coming off my bike at speed down Caledonian Road I realize, too late, that the rear mudguard has come loose and locked up the back spokes of my bike. Fortunately it's garbage pick up for the local residents that evening and I land softly in a pile of discarded trash bags, you cannot make this up. Miraculously unscathed I pick myself up out of the trash and remove the remnants of the mud guard, turned mud offense, and kick my back tyre and rim into place, and we're off. I make it in time for doors open and clear security who after a pat down ask me what the ear plugs were for in my pocket, obviously you're not a golfer I think to myself. Clearing this minor obstacle I head to the bar where drinks are half price, I double-up and make my way to the stage. First up on the docket are Crewel Intentions (@CrewelIntent).
The members of this quintet have a motif that can only be described as a mashup of styles, predominantly Western Wear meets up-and-coming Mobster Foot Soldier, their duds move along nicely paired with their classic looking instruments and music with assured confidence to match. Only frontman Chilli Jesson (sounds like a name that has outstanding debts with bookies in Vegas) stands out in his leisure suit and white scuffed up brogans, most likely from kicking the shit out of the air and stage all night long, the man has bundles of energy throughout their performance. The band is in good spirits and Chilli's got energy with the moves to back up someone auditioning for Chippendales; running back and forth around the stage, jumping to and from the stage to barriers and making intense eye contact with those of us at the front when he's not jumping into their arms. Intense isn't the word I'd use for the contrast in riffs and twangs coming off the small slide guitar, keys during the set, they're great and wash over you like a Coen Brothers soundtrack. Their set finishes and I pick up my book (The Elephant Vanishes – Murakami) and crack open a chilly frothie between sets.
Juggling the book and the beer I'm enjoying at '90s prices along with the '80s hip-hop pumping out the speakers (JJ Fad – 'Ya Goin' Down') the crew setup for the main event. I see Henry's (lead guitar/backup vocals) head peak through the stage door. I catch his eye and give him the horns, he smiles and reciprocates in kind and the door closes. The crowd is elbow to elbow in chill anticipation but unlike the audience the stage is set with personal space in mind. I can't remember the stage setup at The Scala ever being so sparse but much like their last performance I caught in the Butlin's at Rockaway Beach the setup is spread out giving each member a comfortable space to play in but it's not alienating either. The Halifax natives putting the old H back on the map make their way onto the stage metaphorical Silver Dollars chiming loosely in their footsteps. They're all rockin' mid-'90s Smashing Pumpkins-era threads (trust me on this, I lived through it). Esmé's (Bass/Whistle/Vocals) look is Liv Tyler straight off the Tower Records poster and I'm wondering if it's rude to interrupt the set to ask Alex (Keys/Vocals) what model OG Reebok's he's wearing because they are legit as all get out (if you're reading this Alex I must know!). Not a minute lost and the gang is straight into it with 'Old Stuff, New Glass'. The stage throughout their set is a, jumping, nodding, dancing, and head tossing from side to side akimbo marathon, they sing and play with a joyful and carefree effervescence. All members (aside from Sid anchored on percussion) take turns visiting each other and spend their set chatting and smiling about inside jokes I'm so close to but not privy to hearing, frustrating I must take up lipreading! Henry, as per usual busts out the banter and a couple of guitar strings along the way, one on each guitar, but soldiers on. Alex not to be shown up destroys an instrument I can only assume is a cousin to the cowbell? Esmé and Sid retain intact their civility and instruments, good work ladies. The Orielles knock out a 13 track set in just over an hour. True to their word (see last interview) they've been writing during their downtime between tours (liminal space?) and lay a new single on the audience called, 'Sound Of' and end their set with 'Sugar Tastes Like Salt' no encore but a great track to finish off a solid set with.
Back in the foyer of The Scala which is packed with fans and members of both Crewel Intentions and The Orielles, I lean against a wall without a light switch for a change still having the coat hanger, and mystery there of, both literally hanging over me. It's been a great evening and the party looks far from being over with the bands mingling, smiling and chatting with friends and fans alike. I make a quiet exit and get a message on my way out from an acquaintance to check out instagram which is blowing up with news about The Social in central London. There's been a fundraising gig put on this very night by Wrangler with Yak/Shame and Talk Show on the bill that's saved the tiny venue with a massive history by raising the £95,000 necessary to keep the doors open. As The Orielles and myself are huge fans of the joint I thought it a fitting ending to the article and renewed lease on life for The Social.