The Holloways: Karma Lounge, Austin; Thursday, March 15

The Holloways: Karma Lounge, Austin; Thursday, March 15

North London fiddle-rock bounces over to mid-Texas in a culture clash to end them all

It’s a glum Holloways that greet NME in a dark bar, mid-afternoon in Austin. Their support show for The Pogues in New York was cancelled last night due to Shane MacGowan being broken-legged, wheelchair-bound and drugged up on painkillers. They’ve been flying all day and enduring US customs, and now their soundcheck’s been canned.

Ten minutes later however, and it’s a different story. The UK’s boldest chancers bound down 6th Street bouncing off each other and strangers alike. As they fawn over the Coyote Ugly bar and run through the crowd they can’t contain their excitement, and they’re soon at a rib joint getting sticky-fingered and daring each other to eat evil chillis as a hopeful singer belts out LeAnn Rimes covers.

The Holloways are in the US for the first time to show the South a little piece of Great Britain, and so far Texas is loving them. Our meal is interrupted by foaming fans several times, as Rob squirts chilli juice all over the table in agony.

Five hours later, in the gloomy confines of the city’s worst-dressed venue, and it looks like their luck is running out again. Not only is the Karma Lounge an ugly place, but it doesn’t have any working equipment. Mic stands, monitors and amps all conspire against the boys as they step out into the rabid mob. But it will take more than this to stop the chirpy north London foursome, who begin eeking out a distressed national anthem from some equally distressed speakers.

Welcome to Britain folks, buckle up and enjoy your trip. On the left we have thunderous drums, on the right Pogo Street: residence of hyper-harmonies and broken fiddle. Your guides today – the grot-bag, inner-city Stooges. And the Yanks froth over dingy Blighty – whooping, hollering and thumping the tacky faux-metal columns in appreciation. In trademark red hat and string vest Alfie cuts an unusual figure in a town full of beefy tattooed beings. Down the front, someone in an hilarious ‘Cheney’s Got A Gun’ T-shirt hollers, “Hollo Hollo Hollo Ways,” as Rob steps out with the fiddle for ‘Two Left Feet’, breaking half the strings by the second swipe.

This palace of bad taste fails to contain the band’s ebullient mood – equipment’s breaking left, right and centre (“it’s not my girlfriend’s job to hold up the fucking mic stand”), but despite the traditional tussles with the soundman it sounds immense. ‘Re-invent Myself?’ is funkier than normal and comes complete with Jacko “heh-heehs” from some punters just in from the street, and by the time ‘Generator’ kicks in the traditional stage invasion begins. Fans onstage and band in crowd, it’s a melange of mutual appreciation. Album closer ‘Fuck Ups’ sees Alfie all over the place, and while breakdancing starts in the pit, our friendly soundman does his best to, well, fuck up.

Broken legs, chillis and a ton of faulty equipment can all go squat – tonight The Holloways are unstoppable. Their debut ‘So This Is Great Britain?’ will hit the US in May as part of their assault on the States, but for now, phase one is complete.

Tim Chester