Hazel English (photo: Kaiya Gordon)
When Hazel English took the stage at The Chapel on Sunday night, it was clear that she was a Bay Area favorite. The Oakland-based singer and her band drew whooping, dancing, and sing-alongs from the crowd, and though the time and day of the show prevented a large crowd from showing, the joy that crowd apparently felt made them appear to fill the room.
Hazel English released her debut EP, Never Going Home, on October 7: A dizzy indie-pop record describing, among other things, her transition from Australia to California. While sounds on the album shift and waver — lighting up like dust hit with sunlight — English’s voice stays constant. It’s English’s strong vocal performance that anchors the emotional instability present in her lyrics, making the experiences she describes hit home harder.
Though English wrote the entirety of Never Going Home herself, her backing band works as a tight unit onstage. Their set was fast and clean — and what the band lacked in onstage banter, they made up for in talent. Every song felt like a concise narrative punch, hitting the crowd musically and lyrically with incredible precision.
Though English is a relatively recent Bay Area resident, and though her career is still in its beginning stages, it’s clear that the singer is poised to accelerate to her career. I felt lucky to see her and her band play together so comfortably and precisely: It was a reminder that the Bay Area music scene is far from dead, and is, in fact, in a position to incubate both local and transplant talents.
Unlike Hazel English, headlining band Honeyblood was more than happy to banter with the crowd. The Scottish duo recently released their second album, Babes Never Die, which they played the entirety of on Sunday night, supported by some older favorites. While I personally found the ongoing heckles from the crowd uncomfortable and distracting, I was blown away by Cat Myer’s performance on drums. Particularly interesting was the way that Myers incorporated bass into the live performance, adapting deep drops on the new album for a live show — Honeyblood uses a bass pad on Myers’ kit, which Myers incorporates into her drum sequences with incredible speed.
Also endearing were the constant giggles from Myers and lead vocalist Claire Tweeddale. The pair shared jokes and stories from their drives across the United States, and their experiences touring on the new album. It was the perfect mix of both intimacy and rock and roll for a Sunday night.