First Love: Remembering The Maccabees

14 years down the road and the London boys have called it a day. Here's why I'll always love them better....
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There was a moment during a Maccabees gig at Leeds Academy in 2010 where I reckon I achieved enlightenment. It wasn’t while I was moving my crossed arms - in the shape of an ‘X’, no less - to the chorus of ‘X-Ray’. It also wasn’t while I was whistling the final verse of ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ and swaying with the rest of the sweaty, student-filled crowd. It certainly wasn’t the bit when I fell over during ’No Kind Words’. No sir. It took place while I was in the front row, screaming ‘I would love you better’ ad infinitum with my hands in the shape of a heart, pointing right at singer Orlando Weeks.

Singer Orlando Weeks looked back - and, smiling, placed his one hand in the shape of half a heart on his cheek.

That one moment of validation, of agreement, of solidarity - during a song that the band must have played well over 100 times to a similar pumped-up crowd - cemented in my mind that they were enjoying themselves as much as we were watching them. And what more do you need as a 20-year-old in a moshpit?

The Maccabees rode the indie wave of the late noughties as well as - if not better than - some of their UK counterparts. When some one hit wonders (The Hoosiers, The Holloways, The Rumble Strips) either faded into obscurity or became synonymous for ‘being on The Inbetweeners’, other bands capitulated in a drug or drink-fuelled haze ( yeah, Keane, I’m looking at you). With only one drummer change in their 12 years, The Maccabees stood strong alongside Bombay Bicycle Club (RIP) and Foals as one of the last great indie guitar bands - and then some. And now we’ve reached the end via a touching goodbye letter released today, sending every indie Cindy from here to Inverness into a state of mourning.

From debut Colour It In to 2009’s Wall of Arms, through to Given To The Wild in 2012 and last year’s Marks to Prove It, their sound has evolved from that of raw pop-rock to soaring, ethereal, stadium sound. And though they didn’t quite make it to stadium headline status, Ally Pally was good enough a couple of years later - a gig I wouldn’t have made it to if it wasn’t for a chance encounter with Felix on the tube (…thanks for the guestlist, Felix).

And that notion of evolution is what made the band so prolific in a sea of indifference (indie-fference?). When I managed to wangle some tickets to see their album showcase gigs for Given To The Wild, I remember being stunned to silence that a band were now building their sound out with echo pedals and extra microphones, brass instruments floating on top of standard guitars, layers on layers of noise, filling this meagre 500-person venue. That said, three tracks in, they still put ‘Lego' and 'First Love’ - an incredible one-two - to bed convincingly.

At their mini-residency alongside Kasabian - that came across almost as a double-headline act rather than a tour support - the melancholic lament of ‘WWI Portraits’, and the introduction of mildly terrifying keys in the eponymous track from fourth album Marks to Prove It - showed a maturity that was further qualified by just how comfortable they were on stage.

But all good things must come to an end, and this summer's Latitude headline set felt like a landmark moment in their life as a band.  I'm trying to think of it less as a split and more of a natural progression. Not goodbye but au revoir, or something. Will they achieve stadium status on their farewell tour? One can only hope. All I know is that I’ll be popping heart signs at the front again, forever part of the final wall of arms.

Onwards and upwards, Messrs Weeks, White, Jarvis and Doyle.