The Holloways: The Scala, London; Monday, September 18

They were labelled post-Libs coat-tail jumpers, but popularity proves that they were the stylish kids in the riot

Some people already have the knives out for London rabble-pop quartet The Holloways. Yes, the naysayers are claiming that the band’s blend of itchy rock and cheeky-chappy showmanship is only popular in a post-Libs world; they are chancers who have spent the year or so since they formed riding the coat-tails of bigger, better bands. In this case, they’ve travelled all the way to a sold-out show at the 1,000-capacity Scala on them. Now is the time for them to prove that their infectious songs, fuelled by tales of depravity, frivolity and schoolboy wit, are worthy of this headline slot.

The main difference between them and Doherty’s old band is their distaste for his vision of an idealised Arcadian Britain. Instead, guitar-wielding singer Alfie Jackson and the feral bunch of scamps in his band like to use their songs to hold a mirror up to the reality of life in the UK in 2006 – a place that’s a “sinking ship that’s full of shit”.

Hordes of fans belt out the words to each and every song tonight. It’s easy to see why The Scala is packed to the rafters – these aren’t anthems for just the skinny-jeaned dandys, they’re for the beer-swigging Ben Sherman-shirted louts in the crowd too. There’s an inclusiveness to The Holloways’ shameless pop that will serve them well.

There are few bands that have the knack of keeping a crowd of both the chic and the shifty-looking sweaty kids elevated to such dizzy heights, but with the Jam-meets-Madness swagger of ‘Happiness And Penniless’, the infectious ‘Two Left Feet’ and the woozy ‘Malcontented One’ The Holloways do it with ease.

As Alfie and fellow guitarist and singer Rob Skipper dance up to the front row in a charming mix of cocksure certainty and mild-mannered confusion at the roars of approval, a terrace-style “Holloways” chant rumbles among the audience, while crowdsurfers ebb and flow closer to the stage. Screams of adulation are rewarded with the feisty ‘Generator’, causing bodies to surge forward, in clouds of sweaty mist.

Then, friends of the band storm onstage armed with cans of lager and weird robot dance moves. Beers are lobbed and mics repossessed. Emerging from the mayhem, Rob climbs up a 10ft speaker, grabs a can of lager from a punter on the balcony and batters his guitar to shreds, and a fire extinguisher is released on the crowd as all hell breaks loose.If this is the sign of future success, The Holloways can comfortably expect to be the biggest band in the world by the end of the year. Take that, naysayers!

Ash Dosanjh

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