Circa Waves are the kind of new band it’s possible you could have totally missed, but it’s highly probable you’ve heard at least one of their summery, catchy songs being belted out on heavy rotation on Radio 1. Having been together only a couple of years and just releasing their debut album this April, it’s amazing to see that they’re not just a band with a lot of hype (sponsored Facebook posts riding high, the aforementioned R1 A-listing), but have actually converted that hype into genuine fandom. Their gig at Sheffield’s Leadmill was already showing as sold out a short time after tickets went on sale and from their tour posters, it’s not just a regional phenomenon, most of their dates are full. The Leadmill is the kind of venue it can appear that you’ve sold out as it has a smaller secondary room which Prides and Childhood recently filled on their tours, but for Circa Waves, it’s the larger room which is full, and by full I mean rammed. It’s sweaty, it’s hot and all ideas of personal space are out of the window.
Support act Rat Boy does a fine job of setting the mood with sharp social-commentary style lyrics played over decent indie guitar songs but what sets the act apart are the newsreel audio clips, distorted vocals and bursts of clever samples. Described as a cheeky Essex boy version of Kes by the Guardian, he certainly looks and acts the part and as a mixture of Jamie T and the Libertines, could have easily fallen into that category of style over substance. Thankfully he doesn’t, converting this appeal into genuine interest via an energetic set. I’ll definitely be looking up more of his music. The next support act couldn’t have been more different. Gengahr are a Google-friendly named four piece from London who match cascading high vocal ranges like Keane and Mansun with some soaring guitars which brought to mind classic-era Manic Street Preachers. Their set is more subtle, not quite reaching the highs and lows of Rat Boy’s set, but is lapped up by the crowd.
As Circa Waves take to the stage, I feel as if I’m somehow back at the birth of Beatlemania. I was already expecting a certain degree of hysteria, having seen the long queues of young girls and well-heeled teenage lads clamouring to get in, but I am unprepared for the rapturous reception the band are given. Girls shriek and swoon as though a boyband are in attendance, boys cheer like it’s the final minute of their home team’s cup final. The band themselves are young, attractive and charismatic and each time bassist Sam or guitarist Joe stands on an amp for a solo, the crowd whoop and holler like it’s the second coming.
Through a 14 song set list, the band cover almost all of their recently released debut album “Young Chasers” and the crowd go wild for each and every track, being challenged to “go mental” or “get dancing” by lead singer Kieran Shudall. At one point, Kieran nostalgically introduces “100 Strangers” as one of their early tracks and I can’t help but smile that in the weeks after their debut and on their first big sold out UK tour, they still have “old material”. Big radio-friendly singles like “T-Shirt Weather” and “Fossils” somehow bring the atmosphere of getting drunk in a festival field to the sweaty darkness of the Leadmill and the band have an uncanny way of sounding like some mad scientist’s attempts at distilling the perfect Liverpudlian band – one minute they’re the Beatles or Gerry and the Pacemakers, the next minute the La’s or Cast. It’s all good fun, if slightly all too one-pace with only the one track introduced as a slower number, but that’s clearly their appeal.
Overall, it’s an energetic performance, with many of their tracks clocking in at under the 3 minute mark, so an hour passes before you even know it and they’re done. After a quick encore, the now absolutely wired-looking Kieran leaves us with a final summer indie anthem “Get Away” and I do, before the knackered band and equally-knackered crowd can grab a breath.