Bombay Bicycle Club is not a household name. Not here, at least. They’re not winning Grammys. They don’t have breakout hits on radio charts. Yet this British band is delivering sold-out shows all across the country. You might be wondering, so what's the secret to their success? I can say that I was, too. I had been casually listening to their engaging debut I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose for a year or so after a lucky find, but they weren’t exactly the buzz-band that indie circles fawned over. So what keeps people coming (and fans staying)? The answer lies in their explosively killer live act.
I was lucky enough to catch them play at the Rickshaw Stop last month in SF. A quaint venue located a safe distance from downtown, the Rickshaw was the perfect temporary housing for this humble group’s first visit to the Bay Area after a long absence. It was definitely a tight fit — a sold-out crowd packed in a small ballroom —but it gave us the opportunity for somewhat of a dance party. The venue employs resident DJs to spin not the mainstream dance hits of the moment, but catchy indie tunes and classic 90s dance beats and even stays open for a few hours after shows as a nightclub. This change from the norm was very refreshing, as was the opening act Lucy Rose. Despite her shy demeanor, the British songstress delivered quirky acoustic ballads with a backbone.
She was the perfect complement to Bombay Bicycle Club, who came on enthusiastically after a longer-than-usual set change. The first thing I noticed was the infectious smile frontman Jack Steadman had as they started their set. It remained constant as they performed song after song of their angular brand of inde rock, drawing from the their three albums equally. From crowd favorites like “Evening/Morning” and “Always Like This” off their debut and folksy ballads off their sophomore album Flaws, to more funky bass-driven tunes like “Lights Out, Words Gone” and “Shuffle” from their most recent album A Different Kind of Fix (featuring the lovely Lucy Rose).
The entire band delivered high energy performances with a certain charm usually found in a fresh new band, which is truly striking coming from a band with three albums and tours under their belt. Many times during the show, Steadman and guitarist Jamie MacColl gushed to the audience about how it was truly a joy to be there performing. “I know you probably think we say this in every city, so you probably won’t believe me,” Steadman said, “but you are seriously the best audience. Thank you.” Seeing how mesmerized they were by their craft night after night of playing the same songs was a joyful, humbling experience. Each member got his time in the spotlight: bassist Ed Nash got a solo in quite a few songs, and drummer Suren de Saram got one epic solo that left everyone, him and the band included, smiling profusely. That was one of the things that outlasted everything. After an hour-long set of energetic and atmospheric performances, a two-song encore, and even audience participation (he turned the mic stand out to us), his smile remained. And I think that says everything.
Hailey Simpson is currently a reporter for BARE Blog. A first year Media Studies major from SoCal. When not scrawling in her notebook or getting used to the widespread use of 'hella', she enjoys concerts, British and comedy TV, drinking tea, and exploring the Bay.