There is a certain electricity in the air as I step into The Garage on a rather cold March evening. Bodies arriving in droves all have the same words on their lips: Demob Happy. The band’s name is plastered across every other t-shirt. The pints begin to flow as the whispers and laughs grow. The Newcastle band have grown a dedicated fan-base since the release of debut album Dream Soda in 2015, a fan-base that will later sing along to every word and every riff that blasts out of the gut-rustling Garage PA. In a musical world that grows ever more reliant on crisp production and polished sheen, the return to the fundamental charm of a three-piece rock band is what attracts the people here this evening. I hear the term ‘real music’ being bandied around a lot as I pass the punters in the build up to Demob Happy’s set. The grooving ‘Less is More’, released on the back of the critically well-received Holy Doom, is a clear statement of intent. It bounces out at you and encourages an inevitable head-bob. When the glorious riff kicks off later, the track elicits some of the crowds biggest cheers. Demob Happy seem to be filling a space in music that is unfortunately neglected – straight to the bone rock and roll that seeps grit and determination.
Before the main meal comes the starter and the crowd’s pallet is graciously tickled by the soaring Nirvana-lite of Sick Joy who describe themselves as ‘pop’s ugly sister.’ The set they play is tight and well structured, with their drummer Martyn a particular focal point. The relentless rhythms he provides behind frontman Mykl’s raw vocals truly kept Sick Joy’s set alive. A couple of songs in, Sick Joy’s single ‘Stumbler’ allows the band to truly come into their own. It’s a pulsating sound that catches the crowd’s attention and sends a couple of beers flying up into the air. With only twenty or so minutes to play, the band whizz through their numbers and there is a slight sense of frustration at the end as the guitars fall to the floor. The crowd seem unfazed by this and the collective head-nods from those observing suggest that Sick Joy will leave with a few more fans than they came in with.
As the changeover begins, I venture outside to take in the sights and sounds of the arse end of the Holloway Road. Visions of nights spent traipsing these paving slabs are spattered with the sound of the smokers reeling off the tracks they couldn’t wait to hear. ‘Succubus’, ‘Loosen It’, ‘Junk DNA’. Talks of big nights out ending with fevered headbanging at home in the kitchen to the sound of ‘Maker of Mine’. It was clear that when we venture back in and Demob Happy come to the stage the crowd is primed and ready to receive them with open arms.
As the music dims and the three take to the stage, a fierce eruption of noise washes over the walls of the Garage. What follows over the next hour is a journey through the collective favourites that these Demob Happy fans had been waiting to hear loud and proud in one of London’s most revered music venues. Bassist and lead vocalist Matthew Marcantonio is clearly well versed in how to command a crowd. He seems perfectly bred for the stage. His careering swagger is infectious, every inch of him exuding that quintessential rock-and-roll magnetism that some people just have. Not a note wrong the whole evening, the set carries the crowd, with every number coaxing out large cheers and screams. Guitarist Adam Godfrey’s riffs must be commended – they have that singable touch that all great riffs have. The crowd knew them so well they could have performed them on stage themselves. Midset track ‘Liar in Your Head’ was an obvious stand out. The stop-start rhythms punch beer-filled guts across the venue and with arms aloft the crowd do their part, singing back the machine-gun words with a captivating energy.
As we move towards the set’s conclusion, and the encore of ‘Maker of Mine’, one thing becomes very clear. This is a band going from strength to strength. Recent single ‘Less is More’ has only been out for a couple weeks at this point and yet the crowd know every word and every bar, as though it had been a staple of the jukebox for a decade and not a mere splatter of days. When a band has a loyal fanbase such as Demob Happy they cannot really go wrong. The smiles on the faces of the punters as they exited The Garage told the story you need to know: Demob Happy are a band of great talent bringing joy back into the world of rock-and-roll.