Beach Baby and Willie J Healey


As I walked through the sign-less doorway I could already hear the deep rumble of drums and guitar blaring up from the basement below. Descending the stairs, the low, dulcet voice of Willie J Healey darted passed me before the stairwell opened and I was greeted by dark brick room filled with a small crowd of people. Every eye was locked the red headed frontman, his face smushed against the microphone, blaring out the lyrics “If you had a spaceship babe, would you beam your sweet loving my way?!”

The band was playing one of the last shows of their UK tour supporting Beach Baby. The vibe onstage was palpable; rich with that brand of near tangible chemistry that can only come from a group of hometown friends with enough talent to give ‘hitting it big’ a decent crack. Between songs, the audience was recounted tales of the band’s adventures in Manchester since they arrived that morning. Healey’s dry, nonchalant whit soaked the scene as he detailed the grass – nylon ratio of the pitch at Old Trafford with an only half feigned sense of interest. The comedy was only ever broken when it was time to dive right into another song, the slowest of which always seemed to break into a high energy exhibition of what they describe as of ‘Rock-n-Stroll’.

As they weaved through the tracks from their two EP’s, released last year, hints of what’s to come peppered the set-list. A couple of unheard gems crept into the performance becoming particular highlights. We can look forward to hearing “Friends of Friends”, “It’s Alright” and “Pipedreams” hopefully hitting the shelves over the next few months. Their supporting set wrapped up with a climactic delivery of “Greys” which moulded into “Dude Like Him”, holding intensity by not skipping a beat and delivering two crowd favourites with enough gusto to leave you spinning.

After a short break, Beach Baby took to the stage electrifying the growing audience with fresh riffs and heavy kicks. Melodic choruses and enticing lyrics got the crowd moving and smiles broadening. Willie & co joined the spectators to watch their tour mates absorb the stage in a manner that couldn’t leave you wanting; the platform low enough to the audience to give a level of intimacy that perfectly complimented the group of 20-something’s upbeat tempo.

Delivering a hazy mix of grunge and dream-pop, the group dropped the favourites with vigour; “Limousine”, “Sleeperhead” and “No Mind No Money” hit with particular zeal. The crowd was sufficiently small enough to give you the room you needed to get your money’s worth but packed enough to let you shuffle shoulders with the stranger next to you. This gave the place that thrill which only comes from an intimate gig with a band that could enchant a pub or dominate a festival tent.

The gig laid to a climactic rest to the sound of elated shouts and dancing feet as the band boogied their way to a close. After the show, I got a chance to catch up with the acts and even got some solo material from Willie J’s guitar player and backing vocalist Chris Barker whose tasty psyche-rock shows that the river certainly runs deep with these performers. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more of this.

A strong night from some strong acts; I hope to seem them on the road again sometime soon.