Searu Live at Satan’s Hollow, Manchester

There’s nowhere else quite like Manchester’s Satan’s Hollow. A proper old-school rock pub graced by the presence of a 12ft tall effigy of the dark lord himself, it’s a special part of the Manchester music scene with a special place in the affections of the “alternative” crowd.

An afternoon spent sampling the delights of Afflecks Palace (and absolutely NOT Primark, erm, honest) set us up for Searu’s first home-town headline show. Over the year and a bit since the band first appeared it’s been interesting to watch them start the long and winding road up through the hierarchy of the local scene, with this gig representing another significant milestone in their fledgeling career.

I arrived in the Hollow in time to catch local outfit A Show of Crows, and it was great to see that the place was already pretty full. A new name on us, A Show of Crows certainly got the place rocking with their guitar driven, 80s influenced punkabilly-ified rock’n’roll. Things did get off to a bit of a nightmare start though, a problem with frontman Simon’s cool 50s style microphone meant that the opening track was completely vocals-free…

Still sounded pretty good though.

After that false start, and with the dodgy mic replaced, the band got straight back to work and they more than deserved the great reaction they got from the attentive crowd. It’s always kinda cool to see a band who know exactly what they’re about, and with his rockabilly hair and low slung Gretsch guitar Simon certainly looked the part, while the band ticked all the requisite timeless rock’n’roll boxes.

Searu Live at Satans Hollow 16Next up was the main event. Now as regular readers will both know I’m not the biggest fan of all things “tech”. With any musical style there’s always a balance to be struck and a lot of the stuff around these days singularly fails to achieve that balance. There are a few who manage to get it right though, who find the sweet spot between technical and listenable. Monuments do it, Tesseract do it and, for me, Searu do it too.

Before the band start their set, there’s a bit of audience participation to get everyone in the mood. It’s guitarist Martin Beaver’s birthday and frontman Jordan leads the crowd in a singalong of Happy Birthday…

It’s been a few months since I last saw Searu live, and in the time since then they’ve expanded to a 5 piece, worked on their debut EP and gigged pretty much anywhere that would have them.

Searu Live at Satans Hollow 5The hard work is certainly starting to pay off and the Searu tonight were a different proposition to the one I saw last time out. Benefiting from the bigger stage and better sound system that Satan’s Hollow offers (better, and loud… My ears are still ringing, I must be more careful where I stand to take photos !!) the band showcased exactly why they deserve to be taken seriously. The addition of Martin has given their sound an extra depth, and the twin guitar balance that he has struck with “super-Dave-who’s-not-actually-called-Dave-but-is-by-everyone-anyway” Dave belies the fact they’ve only been playing together for a few months.

Perhaps the most noticeable change in Searu since the last time I saw them is how much vocalist Jordan has grown into the role. He’s always had an impressive voice, but whereas before there wasn’t a lot in the way of interaction here he poured intensity into the crowd, doing the angry metal thing as well as anyone while still knowing when to temper the intense, brutal edge with a veneer of melody.

I do like evenings like this. A great venue, great bands and the sort of friendly atmosphere that you only seem to get in clubs where people check their bullshit at the door. A Show of Crows and Searu may be very different in style but what they do have in common is a no-nonsense aura and the undoubted ability to step up to the next level if, and hopefully when, the opportunity presents itself.