As great as always
Lucy Harbron
13:04 9th August 2022

In a field in South London, it’s a far cry from my first experiences of Bombay Bicycle Club. From being huddled around a desktop computer at a friend's house to queuing outside a venue in Newcastle, the band were my first experience of indie, first proper gig, first true love in the world of ‘real’ music. Now years down the line, they remain up there with the greats, and clearly not just in my eyes as the crowd erupts again and again.

But before they even reach the stage, South Facing Festival is seeing a perfect day. Spending a sunny Friday evening lounging in a park as the sound of Jordan Rakai’s smooth crooning jazz, pop and  reggae fusions seemed to merge with the sunlight - the energy was high yet chill.  

In the calm of it all, it was definitely one of those moments where you consider how bands grow with you. 7 years ago, as the band toured their incredible 2014 album ‘So Long See You Tomorrow’, I was 17 and sipping secret vodka from Maccies cups while the band hit a whole new height in their career. Now at 24, I'm suddenly nostalgic for a time that isn’t even that long ago but feels like a lifetime, drawn out by the band’s hiatus and a brutal couple of years. As the first band I loved and then the last band I saw before lockdown - it’s weird and beautiful how they’ve stuck with me, peaking my excitement every show with a guaranteed good time. 

And they delivered. Bounding onto stage and immediately diving into their comeback single ‘Eat Sleep Wake (Nothing But You)’, the song of 2019’s summer sounds just as good now. Bringing the same energy I've seen them bring to shows for years, they play tight, loud and hard in a way that only a group that has been together for almost two decades can. As they moved into the iconic single ‘Shuffle’, I could take a moment to moan about how I wish the crowd in Crystal Palace Bowl were louder and gave the band the fully-body-dancing hype they deserved, but I did my best to deliver it on my own.

Playing a cross era setlist, Bombay Bicycle Club have always been evolving. As their brass section steps on and off the stage, joining in for huge tracks like ‘Overdone’ and ‘Feel’, there’s also moments for the original 00s fans. After celebrating the 10th anniversary of their iconic debut album I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose with a gig and live album back in 2020, it earned its place as one of the most enduring British indie albums. With tracks like ‘Evening/Morning’ and ‘Dust On The Ground’ being met with some of the biggest reactions of the night, Bombay Bicycle Club deserve all the celebration and success that acts like Foals get, deserving to be honours as originators of new british indie while still climbing festival lineups and bringing in fresh attention for their ever-evolving work. As the bass riff of ‘Evening/Morning’ booms out, I decided this is a hill i’ll die on.

Merging albums old and new, this was a nice mix of band signatures and fresh moments. Right off the back of their oldest tracks comes a preview of an unreleased track. ‘I Want To Be Your Only Pet’, a sexy, repetitive, building indie tune receives just as high a reaction, filling the crowd with the promise that more is to come. We all waited years for them to return for the hiatus, waiting for this new track will be nothing. 

But for fans that joined around the time that ‘Luna’ dominated the radio, they’re not disappointed. With confetti cannons, a dancing crowd and a mass sing along, the track goes down just as well now as it did in 2014 with their classic female vocalist feature and mass brass section solos. Between the radio-friendly fun of ‘Luna’ and the guitar chaos of ‘Carry Me’ - the finale two tunes of the main set summarise the magic of the band, displaying the multifaceted, bold and evolving face of Bombay Bicycle Club perfectly.

Sending the crowd off on the obvious encore of ‘Always Like This’, I’m back to being a teenager obsessively watching the youtube video and ripping the MP3 onto my iPod. I’ve been dancing along to this song for years, and I doubt I'll ever be sick of it. Long live the band.

See photos below by Lina Molloholli:

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Photo: Lina Molloholli