By Tony Inglis
The Hug and Pint, Glasgow, 17 September 2017
“This is insane!” exalts Eva Hendricks, one song into Charly Bliss’ triumphant first-time set at The Hug and Pint, tucked away in the basement of the Great Western Road venue.
That song, ‘Percolator’, the opener from the New York pop punk quartet’s debut full-length album Guppy, is the perfect introduction to anyone in the crowd unaware of the effortless ease with which they are able to pour out deliriously catchy tunes.
However, it seems that the majority of the audience needs no such introduction. From the opening chords, everyone in the room explodes with excitement. Hendricks declares her joy, and surprise, a few songs in: “It’s amazing anyone has even heard of us over here, never mind enough to sell out a fucking venue.” At another point of respite between the relentless riffs, Hendricks expresses her gratitude to one attendee who had previously ordered a record from the Charly Bliss website in 2014.
This goes to show that, even if Charly Bliss are unaware of their popularity in Glasgow and wider Scotland, and even if they are a relatively unknown quantity outside fans of the thriving power pop renaissance that is bringing new life to sounds heard widespread between the late 90s and mid-2000s, they are anything but anonymous.
And it’s no wonder, in Glasgow they bring their unmatched enthusiasm, smashing out soaring hooks left, right and centre.
The night kicked off with LP Records signees Codist, whose inventive, Pavement-esque jams are always popular at this venue. One crowd member was even in the habit of asking for a lesser known, experimental Codist side-project, Horselife.
But even the guys in Codist could not hold back their anticipation for the headline act, declaring Guppy one of the albums of the year.
After a searing opening, leaning on tracks like ‘Westermarck’ and ‘Ruby’ from the aforementioned record, Hendricks and her band – made up of her brother Sam on drums, guitarist Spencer Fox and bassist Dan Shure – then settled into some older cuts which continued to go down a treat.
They even cracked out some gleaming and uproarious new songs, with Hendricks asking the crowd to “dance along to make us feel more comfortable” playing them and adding that of all the audiences they had ever played to, this one was the most well-equipped to do that.
Of course, not only was no such request necessary – the new songs sound like the perfect follow on from Guppy, filled with searing solos and Hendricks’ whip-smart lyrics – but there was certainly nothing uncomfortable. They seemed to be playing with utter confidence, revelling in a pretty remarkable response from the sold out crowd.
With renditions of ‘Black Hole’ and ‘Scare U’ representing the very closely contested high points of the night, Charly Bliss left the stage only to return later in squalls of noise and feedback for one last song.
If Glasgow is anything to go by, Charly Bliss are tearing up stages on this UK tour. And while the sound they capture is in no small part to the three players behind and either side of Hendricks, for me it is the vocalist and guitarist at the centre that really makes Charly Bliss such an enthralling live act.
Her voice is uncanny and unmatched in its uniqueness. It seems elastic, stretching into notes and shapes that defy belief, conveying the angst and humour in every syllable in new and interesting ways. As a stage presence, she is captivating and endearing. As the set closed out, and the music reached the heaviest peak it had climbed to all night, she moshed and flailed around as if no one was watching. It was clear how much she was enjoying herself, and everyone in front of her was too. I walked back upstairs with a bigger grin than I can remember having at any gig recently. Charly Bliss bring the fun.
Featured photo credit: Shervin Lainez