Date: April 6th 2018
Venue: O2 Academy Islington, London
Support: Emily Isherwood / Bloody Knees
It’s a Friday night in North London, and the pubs are bursting at the seams with people fresh out of work, and ready to see the weekend in with a cocktail or two on what is a surprisingly pleasant April evening. If that’s not your bag, however, you can head down to the O2 Academy Islington, known for having hosted many an up-and-coming act before they’re ready to take on bigger stages.
Tonight, it’s Exeter trio Black Foxxes, who’ve just released their sophomore album ‘Reiði’ to rave reviews, and are ready to finally take the new tracks out on the road.
It’s a sparse crowd for opening act Emily Isherwood  and her band, which is a shame as their buttery smooth, alt-pop vibes are understated and charming. The interesting addition of a double bass sets them apart from bands of a similar style, and the delicate, twinkly guitars sound positively magical. Isherwood‘s light, airy vocals and poetic lyrics lend a haunting quality to their sound, and new song ‘Calibrate’ sounds like Banks meets London Grammar, all dark and moody with minimalist instrumentation. Expect to hear Isherwood‘s dulcet tones coming out of a radio near you soon.
As Bloody Knees  take the stage, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped back in a time machine to 1991. From the haircuts and wife beater vests, to their grungy, fuzzy guitar riffs, these guys make you want to pull on your Doc Martens and scream the words to ‘Heart-Shaped Box’. Frontman Bradley Griffiths is brash and laddy, but likeable with it. Their tunes are quite bass heavy, and Sam Conway puts in a confident performance. ‘Maybe It’s Easy’ ebbs and flows effortlessly between mellow verses and a gritty chorus, while ‘Not Done’ has a pounding riff that’ll get stuck in your head, whether you like it or not. Echoes of “one more song” can be heard echoing around the room as the last chords fade out – the crowd love Bloody Knees, and they’re not wrong to feel that way.
From the moment Black Foxxes  step on stage, they bring with them an atmosphere that’s so heavy you can practically feel it weighing down on the room. The moody chords of opener ‘Breathe’ drip with drama, and frontman Mark Holley‘s vocals switch from breathy falsetto to shiver-inducing wails. Leading into older track and crowd pleaser ‘Maple Summer’, this is clearly a set crafted for the fans, who seem intent on shouting every word back at Holley with fervour.
The set provides a good variety of songs from both their latest effort and debut album, ‘I’m Not Well’, with the title-track of the latter inspiring a monstrous, euphoric singalong. They do a good job of mixing things up – changing up the tempo with slow-burner ‘River’, which is equal parts anthemic and emotive, and the enigmatic ‘Joy’ sees a trumpet player come on stage for the brass section, and the addition of this new sounds breathes even more life into what was already a vivacious performance.
But, it’s recent single ‘Manic In Me’ that really stands out, feeling utterly massive with its sweeping chorus and infectious rhythm courtesy of drummer, Ant Thornton. Holley‘s vocal range is at time awe-inspiring, and it’s truly impressive how a trio can make something that sounds this huge.
Finishing on an encore consisting of two tracks taken from their debut, the explosive ‘Husk’, and the stirring ‘Pines’, which sees the trumpet player return one more time, and the show feels over far too quickly. It’s clear to see why Black Foxxes are generating so much hype – with a performance as polished and innovative as this one, it’s entirely deserved.
Written by Lottie Cook (@pixelottie)