For a band with only two EPs and no debut album to their name, Bear’s Den sure are kicking up a buzz around town as they tour Without/Within, the most recent of their releases. This is especially true at their sold out show at Village Underground, only a stone’s throw from Shoreditch High Street, where fans are talking about their hopes for the setlist and what they heard “was played last night”. Not to mention the five fans who have arrived dressed in matching bear onesies. The venue itself is a beautiful, high-ceiling, bare-bricked cave-esque room which proves to amplify and accentuate the music played from the small stage tucked perfectly into the corner.
It is easy to see why support band The Mariner’s Children were plucked for this tour, being in the same folky vein as Bear’s Den and with Joey Haynes from the headline band even standing side stage enjoying the act for a few songs. The sextet includes violin, cello, accordion, minimal drums and banjo wholeheartedly in their music, with songs such as ‘Drunken Heart’, a personal high point of the openers set with a heady, pacing sound and frontman Ben Rubinstein screaming out loudly and catching everyones attention. It’s a shame the set was cut short due to timing, but The Mariner’s Children truly seem to be one to keep your eye on in the coming year.
The crowded venue is full of chattering, even when the lights cut out and Bear’s Den clamber onto the stage, with the spacious venue echoing that same chatter tenfold. But when ‘The Waters’ starts with it’s haunting opening chord, everything goes silent. When the song hits its encapsulating climax, you realise how incredibly impressive it is that such a grandiose and satisfying sound can be created by just a trio of men.
The band quickly go through fan favourites and make jokes about the fans dressed as bears (saying “at least it’s more than one person this time, that’s impressive!”) before transitioning into ‘Sophie’ for a softer point from the latest EP. Frontman Andrew Davie manages to convey the required emotion in his raw vocals, and is able to channel that throughout the show, allowing for many emotional moments through his honesty. It is also at this point in the show where the music being played is mostly from their newer release, bringing in the odd track from their very first self-titled EP, with both part one and two of ‘Sahara’ being played back to back before suddenly announcing ‘Hard Life’ as their last song of the evening before an encore. The dichotomy is a nice way of seeing both the progress of the band and the continual progress they will definitely be having.
The show seems to end far too quickly, but we are treated to a completely acoustic rendition of ‘Bad Blood’ for the encore, with all three members standing proud at the front of the stage with acoustic guitars in hand and microphones discarded. The venue aesthetics are perfect for this and each and every voice can be heard loud and clear in every corner of the room, and everywhere you look, fans are enraptured. And with a show like this, it’s easy to see why they keep selling out shows.