By Alex Payne
While Folk in the mainstream has seemed to have found itself in an awkward spot in the last couple of years, it seems to have missed Newcastle rockers Holy Moly and The Crackers completely. Their return to Cardiff was greeted by a crowd as eclectic as the band themselves, an odd assortment of die-hard fans and old friends, of all ages and backgrounds united by their love of both the genre and the band. As venues go, The Moon was both charming and intimate although the pokey bar area looked like it would struggle to meet the 150-person capacity advertised.
Supporting act ‘Isambard’s Wheel’ continued their quest to bring quintessential folk back to The Moon, having played there previously just this July. Frontman Alexander Isembard sported an eccentric scarlet overcoat that wouldn’t have been out of place on Dr Who and, with his band, navigated their brief set expertly, shifting between contemporary topics on tracks like “Turners Bones”, which rightfully got two plays, and then back several hundred years for tracks like “The Cliffs” with ease. The aforementioned banjo shredding bangers knocked the cold November out of the venue, and set the tone for Holy Moly and The Crackers well.
The stage was heaving, struggling to contain the seven band members, each with their own distinct character, from Rosie’s carnie vibes, to frontman Conrad’s raucous energy and lead singer Ruth’s crisp and sharp vocals. Truly a collaborative experience, each band member seemed to be juggling several instruments, switching on the fly between songs, which was both technically impressive, and made for a great performance that kept that crowd buzzing and attentive. As the set drew to a close with “Cold Comfort Lane”, off of the new Oceans 8 soundtrack, there wasn’t a single person not up on their feet. Music crackled through the air like audible Adderall, compelling everyone onto their feet, to dance, to let go and have a good time. the foot of the stage opened up and became a dance floor, with a gaggle of older fans looking half their age as they danced, switching partners.
All in all, both Holy Moly and their support brought music that showed homage and respect for the genre, while subtly introducing more contemporary elements that kept it sounding fresh. More than that though, they transformed the dive bar into a celebration of music where all are welcome. Holy Moly and the Crackers are just seven people who seem to love bringing the party; and they’re damn good at it.