Following a string of highly prestigious support slots with Pixies and Bombay Bicycle Club in the last twelve months, London-based four-piece The Big Moon took to the left-field creative space of Nottingham Contemporary in celebration of their high-spirited sophomore record.
When Juliette Jackson finally succumbed to the necessity of sonic expansion in 2014 and sought out talented and charming instrumentalists, the British indie-rock landscape gained a new female tour de force. Having enlisted Soph Nathan (guitar), Celia Archer (bass) and Fern Ford (drums), The Big Moon released their plucky debut record Love in the 4th Dimension in 2017, which subsequently gained critical recognition by being shortlisted for the Mercury Prize. Their sophomore record, Walking Like We Do, entered the charts at #19 at the beginning of 2020, attempting to make sense of the modern world by combating politics, class, the environment and maturity, with distinctly millennial sensibilities of four women flourishing in their late twenties.
A bold departure from the band’s debut record – seen emphatically in their commitment to pairing muted guitars with a bed of bubbling synths, brass instrumentation and crisper production – Walking Like We Do pitches the quartet at a thematic crossroad. By swapping straightforward love-trodden soliloquies for thornier topics, the quartet tap into the possibility of total annihilation through a variety of flippant, tongue-in-cheek allusions to doom. The band’s ability to match frank humour and gentle nihilism evokes incandescent joy onstage, protecting the quaint atmosphere inside the futuristic art gallery from the troubling realities of normal life.
Addressing the condensed crowd of mixed generations with wide-eyes and broadened smiles, Jackson and co. launched into the drawling yet sprightly Sucker, a fitting opening to the set given that the 2015 single was the quartet’s first release as a band. The irrepressibly positive Don’t Think – a bass-driven ode to mindless impulses – sparked fervour amongst the masses, whilst Take a Piece injected the first full-singalong across the venue. A homage to the quintessential 90s pop band boom, the track’s vintage melodies epitomized the spirit of Walking Like We Do, a record emblazoned with ambitious arrangements and cinematic in scope.
'By swapping straightforward love-trodden soliloquies for thornier topics, the quartet tap into the possibility of total annihilation through a variety of flippant, tongue-in-cheek allusions to doom'.
For The Big Moon, music is evidently the purest escape from the ever-developing crises, and introducing It’s Easy Then – the first single to be released from the second record – Jackson highlighted the importance of finding strength in strange times. Onstage, the quartet refreshingly retain the chatty and tactile personalities they convey behind the curtains and in interviews; they embrace each other at every given opportunity throughout their set, much to the pleasure of the band’s youthful wide-eyed fans who huddle around the barrier. For whilst the latest tour is a celebration of the second record, the venue houses an eclectic mix of individuals, many of whom are indebted to The Big Moon for soundtracking their musical awakening.
The skill of the band’s buoyant live show lies in their ability to match the thoroughbred snarl of early offerings such as Pull the Other One and Silent Movie Suzie from the debut record with the spacious pop production of the sophomore LP, the likes of the self-deprecative Holy Roller emitting an assured yet glowing maturity woven throughout. On the anthemic Waves and close-knit Barcelona, the ambitions of Walking Like We Do are visibly transformed onto the live platform as sweeping keyboard arrangements, dual-pronged flute interludes and interchanging percussion and horn segments from Fern Ford combine to create a catastrophe-tinted record marinated in cautious optimism.
'The skill of the band’s buoyant live show lies in their ability to match the thoroughbred snarl of early offerings [...] from the debut record with the spacious pop production of the sophomore LP'.
Throughout the sixteen-track set, the individual personalities of Jackson, Nathan, Archer and Ford shine, and in Jackson, the contemporary laureate voicing the fragility and defiance of twenty-first century femininity, The Big Moon have a commander-in-chief who bounds relentlessly between the crowd and her bandmates. Vocal howls fill the air during Formidable, the band’s anthem of solidarity to those struggling around them. Messages of camaraderie are inherently rooted within the quartet, whether writhing throughout certain singles or subtly hidden in the gestures and grins bouncing between Nathan and Archer.
Never afraid to shy away from the opportunity to stride around the spacious staging, the four-piece launched into a cover of Fatboy Slim’s Praise You, which became an instant favourite and surprise highlight of the night, before the cataclysmic snarl of Bonfire sparked infectious energy into the now-flourishing crowd. The posturing smirk of 2016 breakthrough single Cupid - itself wrought with wry lyrics – beautifully contrasted with the larger-than-life, cinematic pop of set closer Your Light, and as a whole the show oozed confidence, attitude and class, with the quartet combining to produce an equally devastating and delightful performance.
As the 2020 Official Record Store Day ambassadors, the four-piece have always occupied a unique place in the current industry, avoiding the indie landfill of the early 2010’s and navigating the pitfalls and hurdles that come from being four women in a genre riddled with men. Across the space of two records, Jackson and co. have produced a clutch of hook-driven, guitar-laden singles on their Mercury Prize nominated debut album, and expanded sonically to new dimensions on the follow-up. The Big Moon are more than just a female rock band. They epitomise what it means to make music in the current global climate. The dawning of a new moon has arisen from one of Britain’s best guitar bands, shining brighter than ever amidst the global darkness.