Live Review: Seán McGowan / Happy Accidents / Scarecrow Boat @ The Loft, Southampton - 16/09/17

Written by Daniel Rourke

This time last year Southampton's Seán McGowan was downtrodden, with his mind set on calling it quits on his career as a musician. Yearning for a break, it took McGowan months to decide what to do. Eventually, he decided he would get his head down and try to achieve the impossible.

A year on, McGowan is preparing to take to the stage for his biggest - sold out - headline show to date, in his hometown of Southampton, and he's brought some friends along for the ride.

Shortly after doors, local band Scarecrow Boat take to the stage with the intention of livening the crowd up for the evening ahead. Despite their liveliness, the openers are not really needed, with the room already packed to the rafters as chants of: "Deano" echo throughout the set. To their credit, Scarecrow Boat take on the responsibility of opening the show impressively well, as their set flows perfectly and even encourages pockets of the room to move their feet.

Almost as soon as Scarecrow Boat finish, Happy Accidents bundle onto the stage. Similar to McGowan, the London trio have been enjoying a rather successful year themselves, as the buzz around the indie-punk band continues to grow. The band impressively manoeuvre through tracks from their debut album, 'You Might Be Right,' occasionally breaking them up with unreleased material - including a track which sees drummer Phoebe Cross take on the responsibility of lead vocals for the first time.

Despite the anticipation in the room growing, as McGowan's stage time edges closer and closer, there's an appreciation in the crowd that doesn't go amiss. There's dancing and singing throughout the set, and closer Leaving Parties Early draws the biggest singalong of Happy Accidents' set. It's clear to see why this charismatic trio are gaining such a buzz, and on the basis of this performance, it's only going to increase.

The clock strikes 9:45 and McGowan and his band wander onto the stage to a reception that shook the room. The cheers and chants of: "Deano" soon settle, as McGowan opens with spoken word piece Gag, Pt. 1. However the silence doesn't last long, as Clean Conscience, £5.25 and Applecore all evoke mass singalongs, jumping and beer spilling, before Never Let Us In sees the room erupt into a noise so loud that it's sure to be heard from McGowan's old stomping ground, The Joiners.

As McGowan attacks the microphone with tales of working-class struggles, the messiness of a night out gone wrong, and coming together in unity, there's something special happening in the room. The unity that McGowan clambers for is there, there's working and middle-class people from various backgrounds embracing each other, sharing both the fun and wisdom that's being passed through the PA system.

Following McGowan's first full band tour last year, there were some doubts about how well it worked. While the unreleased tracks that were recorded with a band in mind hit hard, the older tracks seemed forced. That isn't the case here though, with tracks such as Neverland working a lot better than they previously did.

With the clock winding down, the band exit the stage and McGowan takes a breather with several acoustic tracks. While the acoustic tracks produce some nice moments, it isn't until the band return and the opening chords of This Old Town hit that the full force of a Seán McGowan crowd is seen. The Loft explodes into a hurricane of flailing bodies and beer, that only stops to belt out the chorus of the track. The moment is then made even more special as all of the bands on the bill, as well as singer-songwriter Patrick Craig, pile onto the stage to provide backing vocals for the huge chorus.

Visibly in awe, McGowan brings the set to a close with a beautifully haunting rendition of Millbrook Road, before closing on No Show, the lead single on new EP, 'Graft & Grief'.

While Seán McGowan and his band are a force to be reckoned with live, it's his crowd that make things extra special tonight. Between the passionate chants and the relentless energy, it's clear Southampton isn't hanging onto the coat tales of a famous friend - let's face it, McGowan isn't quite St. Joe Strummer, yet. Instead, it shows the strength of the scene in Southampton, as well as the unity and love they have for an emphatic songwriter and performer.