Despite having only a handful of recorded songs to date, London-based indie rockers Eliza and the Bear have gained a loyal following, and their crowded gig at Bristol’s sweatiest venue The Fleece was a showcase of their exuberant, joyful sound.
Arriving halfway through the first support act, Viola Beach, I was slightly too mesmerised by the lead singer’s psychedelic trousers to pay much attention to their songs, although their sound was very much in the same vein as Eliza and the Bear. The second act, The LaFontaines, hailed from Glasgow. Although their unusual combination of heavy guitars and hip-hop style vocals wasn’t really to my taste, the charismatic frontman Kerr Okan definitely got the crowd going, encouraging everyone to crouch down to the floor and then leap up and dance during the chorus. Sometimes these kind of antics from a little-known support band can be cringey, especially if the crowd aren’t into it, but this wasn’t the case here, as everyone joined in and jumped around enthusiastically.
With the crowd nicely warmed-up, Eliza and the Bear were met with loud cheers as they walked out. With their slightly hipster, bearded vibe, you could be forgiven for thinking they work part-time in a cereal café or niche brewery. And, confusingly, no one in the band is actually called Eliza (they’re all male) – this ironic statement featured on some of their merch. The five-piece started their set with two of their catchiest songs, ‘Lion’s Heart’ and ‘Light It Up’. Their upbeat and jaunty blend of pop-rock is definitely a crowd-pleaser, as everyone seemed to be having a great time. While the rest of the band then re-tuned their guitars, we were treated to a very reluctant, brief solo from keyboardist Callie Noakes – a feature of their set which seems to be a bit of a running in-joke among the band. They went on to play a few new songs from their self-titled debut album, which is due to be released in February next year, followed by crowd favourites ‘Make It On My Own’ and ‘Talk’, and another new song, ‘Cruel’.
The Frontman explained that the band don’t normally like to do encores, as they think it’s a bit pretentious
Frontman James Kellegher then explained that the band don’t normally like to do encores, as they think it’s a bit pretentious. However, what they were going to do was walk off stage as if they were finished, wait for us all to cheer a bit, and then come back on and play a couple more songs. So, basically an encore. They closed the set with ‘Friends’ (also known as the song from the Bulmer’s advert) and ‘It Gets Cold’, both of these inciting a massive singalong from the crowd. Their music can be summed up as cheerful, old-fashioned, clap-along indie rock. They’re not reinventing the wheel, but they’re good musicians and played a tight, well-rehearsed set. Although there is possibly such a thing as too much cheeriness – my only criticism would be that there wasn’t a great deal of variety between the different songs.
It was nice to see how friendly and chatty the band were with the audience, regaling anecdotes about life on tour and coming out around the side of the stage immediately after the set was finished, happily signing posters and taking selfies with us. They genuinely seemed to want everyone to have an amazing time, and the atmosphere was great – what more can you ask for?