Happyness – The Hope & Ruin – 18th April 2017

Happyness come onstage to a room packed full of excitement and anticipation at The Hope & Ruin in Brighton. Their recent album Write In has done all the rounds and received lots of praise from the indie world. Tonight’s show is sold out to a mixed audience of all ages, all of whom are fired up with a sense of anticipation. The room slowly condenses throughout the night and the supports from Good Guy Clarence and Her, set the tone for a fun and slightly less than sober Tuesday night.

The band come on to ‘Anna, Lisa Calls’ off the new album. The song sounds like a slightly 90s guitar chord progression with Smiths-esque undertones. The live sound is much bigger than on the record, they sound heavier and dirtier, more loose. The album has a sense of holding back, giving the songs tension. However, live, all that tension slips out and they sound exciting and ferocious. Their vocals are on point, there’s not a missed note or a single wobble on any of the harmonies, which is incredibly impressive seeing as they feature so heavily throughout the set, often involving three members of the band.

The set is taken largely from their new album, which is brilliant. All the songs sound different though: their live set up makes them sound much bigger and much grittier. They still retain that sound that made them Happyness; it’s just Happyness plus so much more! It’s the sound that people picture in their head when they see the band before listening to them. They look and carry themselves like a band in the vein of Weezer in their heyday but surprise the listener with a much more mellow sound on recording.

There are a lot of moments which are perfect through the night. It’s the combination of a heavier sound and the vocals being spot on which makes it so exciting to listen to. Their latest single ‘Through Windows’ is a highlight, it’s a piano-led song and doesn’t instantly strike you as a single but live they capture all their moody harmonies and the romanticism that makes the room sway. They have an intimacy about their songs and it’s almost like the front of the room is pairing off, couples and friends are being caught up in it cherishing this moment together.

There’s an awkward exchange when they ask the audience if they had bought their EP from last year, Tunnel Vision on Your Part, which gets them an almost entirely vacant response from the crowd. I get a little excited as I was hoping they would come out and play ‘SB’s Truck’, a personal favourite of mine from this EP and the single that got me listening to the band in the first place. They don’t disappoint and play the song, again to little or no recognition from the audience; but the song is perfect, the lead guitar provided by Benji Compston is so much more present than on the recording allowing all his riffs to come to the forefront and giving the song a new light.

They close their set with a birthday tribute to their tour manager Robert and play a track which is a live rarity ‘Baby Jesus (Jelly Boy)’ which is met with huge applause. They give a full hour set and then leave. No encores or showboating, they savour the moment and then walk off. Tonight has been a certain victory for Happyness. They have a live personality and a recorded one. Live they have a certain boldness tinged with their brooding moody vocals and flavours of romanticism. It’s very easy to get swept up in their live show, even easier to get caught in hyperbole, but if you were at this show you’d understand. I really hope that this isn’t the last time I get to see them live. I seriously doubt it will be.

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