This article was first published on Louder Than War on 16 November 2012.

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Hope and Social
The Victoria Inn, Derby
14 November 2012

Live review

With their fourth studio album riding high in the Bandcamp download chart just a couple of days after release, Hope and Social are at the start of a UK tour. We caught one of folkpop’s best kept live secrets on their Derby stop.

Hope and Social are a wonderful secret. They’ve just released their fourth studio album and are prolific giggers yet outside of a few dispersed but passionate pods of fans their name is usually met with a shrug. This album, this tour, could very well start to change that.

The band has a varying number of members but last night nine of them crammed onto the small, low-ceilinged stage in their matching blue blazers carrying the Hope and Social crest. This uniform sets them apart straight away but rather than making it an us-and-them divide it just highlights them, linking them together as the leaders of the fun which is about to be had. For this band don’t play to you, oh no, at Hope and Social gigs if you’re watching you’re going to get involved.

They’re short on space as they, each a multi-instrumentalist, swaps around during the set and they spill on and off the stage into the small space between it and the first line of the crowd. At one point the stage is abandoned by lead singer Simon Wainwright and he weaves between onlookers strumming an acoustic guitar before performing from the middle of the dark floorspace, circling slowly on the spot, surrounded by smiling faces.

This ‘in the round’ performance brims with the static of excitement, of something taking an unexpected turn, the air humming with the thrill of being ‘within’ the gig. With a skilful but nonchalant manner we’re encouraged to sing along with the backing line. There is no band and audience now – just loads of people in a dark back room, singing together and feeling better for it.

Back on the stage there is banter a-plenty between the band and with those of us still out front. There are deferential lines thrown out about not being as young as they once were and this is very much reflected in the subject of many of their songs; that time moves on, people grown up.

This is the most playful of performances, sheer joy and enthusiasm exuded in every note. The jams between songs break down into relaxed homages including call and response Can I Kick It from A Tribe Called Quest and the theme from the Pink Panther seamlessly flowing into Blue Pearl’s Naked In the Rain. This band are passionate not only for putting their own material out there but also indulging in the songs they love.

We get songs from the new album – title track All Our Dancing Days, Saints Alive and One Way Home – as well as older material including the shivers-up-the-spine Family Man and audience-requested encore of Eurospin.

Hope and Social make luscious, accomplished grown-up pop. It perfectly captures living in the musical moment and embracing the changes to body, mind and situation as time cracks on. As a band, they’re an anachronism – everyone who hears them or sees them play spills over with enthusiasm and yet they remain a best-kept-secret outside of the folkpop scene.

But spread the word as Hope and Social won’t spoil for being better known, the more the merrier at their magical, musical party.

You can pay what you like for Hope and Social’s latest release, All Our Dancing Days, on their website.

All words by Sarah Lay.

Images by Lawrence de Gruchy.