Exeter, Devon UK • Feb 20, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Music Live Review: No Hot Ashes @ The Louisiana

Live Review: No Hot Ashes @ The Louisiana

Online Editor Ellie Cook reviews No Hot Ashes live at The Louisiana
5 mins read
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Online Editor, Ellie Cook, reviews No Hot Ashes live at The Louisiana

I don’t know what I expected Bristol’s The Louisiana to be, but when I walked into a brightly lit pub, I nearly walked straight back outside to check the sign hanging above the door. I was lucky to catch No Hot Ashes’ support band, swaying to the upbeat tunes of Sad Boys Club (shout out to you guys, you got style). By way of sharp elbows and a small crowd, I found my way to the very front of the stage.

No Hot Ashes have been around for a little while now – hovering around on all our favourite music streaming sites with an established presence since 2014. I’ve always been a fan of their earlier tracks, and their very distinctively Mancunian sound. Isaac Taylor’s idiosyncratic vocals do not attempt to temper his accent in the slightest, which brings the Stockport identity sported by the band through to their music.

Image: Ellie Cook

The four-piece unit bounce off each other with comfortable familiarity. Isaac Taylor, lead vocalist and guitar player, tied the group dynamic together; this left me with the clear impression that although they love their music, and indeed the process of creating it, they also do not take themselves too seriously. Seeing a close camaraderie in the band somehow added reality and authenticity – or maybe just a level of relatability – to the band; it was easy to see them as a group of friends (albeit a decidedly talented one) attaching a beat and bass-line to their complaints on life, love, and politics.

Their setlist could have focused exclusively on their debut album Hardship Starship, released less than a month ago. It didn’t; they threw in a sprinkling of their oldest tracks and a couple of off-piste and off-set list choices with a spontaneity that suited the venue and the mood. Of course, the new tracks fresh from their sparkling new debut album were both a big feature and a big hit with the Bristol crowd. As soon as the first few bars of ‘Bellyaches’ were strummed into being, there was an uproar that no other song managed to raise. The new album is a culmination of NHA’s musical development up to this point and was justly appreciated by the crowd, but the earlier sound of ‘Goose’ was a real crowd pleaser as older tracks so often seem to be. Matthew Buckley on the drums was faultless in driving the post-pop disco-funk beats, and Luigi Di Vuono’s backing vocals and guitar worked in tandem with Jack Walsh on bass. Isaac Taylor’s strong, gravelly vocals can overpower the musical intricacy rumbling under the lyrics, but for the most part he ties the quartet together with forceful flair.

Image: Ellie Cook

I managed to grab a word with the band for a quick round of questions post-gig, as they milled around the downstairs of The Louisiana. In answer to my curious probing about where the band see themselves and their music going, I received a delightfully vague response: “no fucking idea”. A surprisingly candid reply, there is something refreshing about a band intent on doing what they love, whatever that turned out to be and wherever it may eventually lead them. This lack of concreteness to their future sound also extends to the labelling of their musical genre; it is almost comedic how little certainty there is to do with precisely which genre No Hot Ashes identify with. If you scour the internet, you’re most likely to stumble across the aforementioned ‘post-pop-disco funk’ designation, but when I asked Isaac, Luigi, Matt and Jack their thoughts on how how they classify themselves musically, the immediate reaction was a rather sardonic parroting of this ‘post-pop-disco funk’ label. They stressed that they found labels restrictive, and lead singer Isaac in particular emphasised the band’s disdain for constraining categorisation.

They threw in a sprinkling of off-piste and off-set list choices with a spontaneity that suited the venue and the mood

That being said, even tracing the threads of their music all the way back to its incipient stages, their sound is distinctively their own. Even without the musical technicalities and close analysis, their sound is intangibly similar to any ear. Sure, you can see where they branch out and diversify, yet there is always an undercurrent of what I would designate as their core sound – what they consistently return to. Even though they insist that they only really accept genre classification when it is their fan base that decides it, and their music has matured since the beginning, there is a ring of truth to the ‘post-pop-disco funk’ tag. Convoluted as it may be, they bridge genres and pull component parts from numerous musical sources, which only adds to the interesting sound they consistently create.

Image: Ellie Cook

It was, in simple terms, a fantastically done gig. It was how I believe small, intimate gigs should be: a conversation with an audience who love the artists’ musical output just as much as the artists do. Critics have raved about their invigorating blend of relationship agonising, not-so-subtle political activism, and interjections about getting wasted that they package into each track, and rightly so. Still a relative newcomer, No Hot Ashes are sure to have many doors opening for them in the future. After this gig, I can happily say that I have been there, heard that, and absolutely bought the T-shirt that I am wearing even as I write this last sentence.

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