The first show of twenty seventeen finds an audience placed back in Birmingham’s nod to old New Orleans: Mama Roux’s. It also finds an audience stood in front of a Springsteen-esqe group opening a hotly anticipated evening of aural delights. 

Wood and Nails are a frustrating live entity. As individuals they have everything a live band should have but somewhere within the song writing process this falls short of creating a cohesive sound. Vocals are strong, as is musicianship, which sees guitar and bass lines combine with complexity, but ultimately there is just something that doesn’t quite capture the audience. Maybe it’s the wrong room/line up or maybe it’s a bad day at the office but this show hasn’t got going so far.

Crying hit the stage and immediately change the mood of the room, energy increases as do numbers and this New York three piece burst into life. This is exactly what a cold room needs, saccharin sweet culturally aware pop. As this set develops Crying seem to create more and more energy with some seriously impressive stage presence, of course the music is the most important thing and without this being on point the set would not last long in the memory.

There is a combination of angular guitars with nods towards post punk and indie, samples and creative guitar effects that create a sound with such sweetness and warmth the room is packed full of smiles. Vocally, strength and beauty take the focus and lyrically hooks and choruses have toes tapping and heads nodding. This is a seriously accomplished set and to everyone’s disappointment it has to come to an end.

As disappointment fades anticipation for headliners The Hotelier and the room fills, the stage is taken and within seconds the audience take up the role of backing singers. In these moments shows start to lift the hairs on a neck and this is no exception, the room is filled with nostalgia and as the band fulfil a birthday request of a couple of classics. There is a reference point for how far they have come as a band.

The developments are most clear within cuts from recent release ‘Goodness’ which shows a maturing emo sound creeping ever closer to post hardcore. If there is something missing from the performance of this Massachusetts mainstay its stage presence, where Crying had a crowd entranced The Hotelier had them restless. Between songs conversation is limited to a few words and intros to what is coming next. Whilst playing they are seriously tight and in tune like a well-oiled unit but once more there is nothing flash to catch the eye or get the audience going.

On reflection The Hotelier are clearly important and write clever, mature emo; what they don’t do is deliver a live show that offers the inspiration these songs deserve. Once more maybe this is just a bad day at the office or maybe this is a band who have perfectly captured their live sound on recordings or vice-versa.