This Holy Esque article was written by Tal Imagor, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.
The trendy record store Rough Trade is located in the more trendy Brick Lane and as such, attracts a very trendy crowd. On the first of March, some are browsing through the 60’s vinyl collection, while others are sipping on artisan coffee and way at the back of the store, quietly, a stage is being set up. At 7.15pm, suddenly all of the lights go off, and a Scottish foursome takes the stage. Most of the shoppers didn’t expect to see a live show that night, but they move towards the stage, nonetheless.
The 20-something, Glaswegian members of Holy Esque take the stage of the Rough Trade, as a part of a UK tour to promote their debut album, ‘At Hope’s Ravin’. While the band was formed in early 2011 and had already preformed at large venues like Glastonbury Festival and Austin’s SXSW Festival, they are not discouraged about the small setting. Front-man Pat Hynes even encourages the audience to step a little closer. They put their album cover on display, right before they dive into the first song.
For someone who’s never heard of Holy Esque, the first listening can come as quite a shock. The opening guitar licks of ‘Prism’ sound like a promising and inviting emotional indie-rock, but then Hynes’s vocals chime in. Pat Hynes has a very distinctive voice. So much so, that it’s really hard to define. It is moving or overly emotional? Is it ironic or super serious? Has this young man been smoking since he was eight years old? Or is it simply annoying? It’s hard to tell. Hynes himself has been quoted before, saying that initially he didn’t think he could sing, but over time got used to it. Not sure if the listeners will feel the same.
But if you move past the vocals, there lays the sound. By the time ‘Hexx‘ rolls around, everyone is a little more into it. The song’s keyboard hook stands out and Hynes does his best to work the space and the crowd. One by one, the band goes through every song of their album, in that exact order, as well. The playing is solid and some guitar solo’s are really commendable. The quiet ‘Doll House‘ is almost touching and the oddly titled ‘St.‘ is very catchy.
But still, something is missing. Other than Hynes, the rest of the guys (Keir Reid on keyboards, Hugo McGinley on guitar and Ralph McClure on drums) don’t seem too excited to be there. Hynes himself also looks embarrassed at times. Maybe it’s a part of the hipster persona that they seem to posses (and the crowd seems to matches), along with the unusual vocals, but it mostly feels uncomfortable. To some degree, having the Esque in their title, embodies their essence: gripping indie-rock (esque) with a charismatic lead singer (esque) who has a unique voice (esque).
When the final strokes of the last song ring out, the crowd is almost unsure if it’s over or not. But as the lights flip on and the band quickly leaves the stage, it’s more than obvious. The only thing left to wonder is how to settle the paradox that is Holy Esque – emotional and almost haunting music, apposed to weird and almost alienating vocals. Which side of the brain do you shut out?