After being compelled by DIY Magazine’s hype over 18-year old Declan McKenna, I found myself stepping into a crowd of bright-eyed, glitter-clad indie kids and feeling as if I was crashing a GCSE results day afterparty. At the ripe old age of 19, I was probably the oldest person in the room – except for everyone’s parents at the bar.
The room erupted with cheer as McKenna skipped onto stage, springing immediately into the peppy arpeggio synths of ‘Isombard’ that got the whole crowd bouncing. This high-energy swelled throughout the set, with kids experiencing their first moshpits left right and centre. McKenna takes the pep of pop and roughs it up with his Jamie T-meets-Jake Bugg vocals and fidgety beats, all the while infusing his songs with strong political messages. While ‘Isombard’ slates right-wing media in the U.S, the soft and poignant lyrics of ‘Paracetamol’ emphasises the media’s misrepresentation of and insensitivity towards the transgender community. It’s ‘Paracetamol’ that sedates the audience, with its magnetic synth resonating through the room and McKenna’s emotive vocals punching through with tender maturity.
Yet, this calmness didn’t last long as the band (lead guitar from Isabel Torres, Gabi King on drums, Sofia Heustice on bass and Nathan Cox on keys) bounced into the upbeat riffs of unreleased tracks that hint at promises of an impressive debut album. Falling into the crowd for a cheeky crowdsurf, McKenna was completely in his element and loving life like any eighteen-year-old on their headline tour would be. He finished off the gig with his most popular track ‘Brazil’, jumping in amongst the sweaty crowd to bask in their euphoric delight.
McKenna is wise far beyond his years, proving that the younger generation have a capacity for intelligence greater than their patronising elders realise. With his woke perspective and aptitude for quality song-writing, Declan McKenna is overflowing with potential and promise for the future.
Words & Images by Meg Firth