Tucked away in the Northern Quarter of Manchester is a venue known as the Soup Kitchen. From the outside it looks like a regular bar, but, a meander down the stairs to the basement reveals an intimate music venue, and it's here, on a rather chilly Friday night, where Holloway Road, together with support acts Jess & The Bandits and Darcy, are to play for their fans.
Darcy gets things started as a number of people make their way down the stairs to join the small crowd. Inviting a fellow guitarist named Luke on stage to join him, the country-rock singer from the West Midlands proceeds to entertain his growing audience, grinning and strumming his instrument like he's been at it for years.
His original material is good, but the highlight of his set, other than the many harmonies he and Luke create, comes via a cover of "Tennessee Whiskey" by Chris Stapleton and quite rightly earns him a rapturous round of applause - by the time he leaves the small stage, there's no denying he's earned himself some new fans.
It's not long before the music strikes up again and this time, kicking things off with "Ready Set", Jess & The Bandits, led by Jessica Clemmons, soon have their audience in the palm of their hand - by the chorus they're swaying and dancing in the small space available to them. "Love Like That" is a slower number which shows off Jess' amazing vocal range together with the groups' versatility, It also offers the crowd the first opportunity to sing along and they seize with both hands (metaphorically) resulting in, as the song ends, Jess declaring:
If I'm ever sick and can't sing, I think we've got plenty of replacements here! That was awesome you guys!
For the next forty minutes or so, the band fire their way through songs from their album Here We Go Again, and throw in some spectacular covers, most notably "Piece Of My Heart" by Janis Joplin, which sees the room almost shake from the volume and force of the cheers and applause it receives as the final note plays out.
Taking into consideration the recent passing of TV and radio icon Terry Wogan, the performance of "Wichita Lineman", which the band covered on his Radio 2 show, is poignant and emotive - tears prick at Jess' eyes as she sings and the whole room is soon lost in the music and the memories.
Soon though the pace and the tempo, together with the smiles, are back in full force and, drawing their set to a close with "Wanted Man" along a reminder that the group are returning to UK shores for a headline tour in April and May (yay!), the group can only stand and grin as a wave of admiration and applause is voiced and aimed in their direction.
If JATB struggled for room on the stage, it's quite surprising to see Holloway Road, Jack & Robert, together with their live band, squeeze themselves and their instruments onto it. Nevertheless, having used up every inch of space available to them, with a simple nod of their heads, they get their set under-way and deliver a seemingly relentless barrage of catchy tunes, assisted, rather unusually, by the playing of a banjo and a violin.
Their sound and style might not be for everyone but largely due to "Not My First", there's no denying or escaping the energy they exude from the first note to the last, and by the time they're done, it's hard to tell who is more exhausted - the band or the few die-hard fans down the front. Either way, the night's been a win for both.
For such a small venue, the Soup Kitchen and the bands which took to its small stage tonight delivered in every sense of the word, and bigger and better things should be on the horizon for all of them.