The Darts, A Grand Slam At Hackney Empire

First off, let’s not spread confusion. We’re going to talk about The Darts, the crazy girl quartet from Phoenix, Arizona. We’re not going to talk about Darts, the nine-piece British ’70s doo-wop band. Or the sport. Especially not the sport.

The Darts are well established in the garage punk scene, with their latest album I Like U, But Not Like That recently released on Alternative Tentacles. They regularly visit us in the UK and Europe, blasting their sound on the biggest stages and in the coolest venues. This 10-day tour was no exception and took them mostly around France, with a short stop last Saturday in London and, more precisely, in the heart of East London: the Hackney Empire Bar.

The Darts at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)

The Empire is definitely a very good choice for a gig. Located only five minutes up the road from Hackney Central Station, and in one of the hippest boroughs of London, the venue is superb. It has everything you need: local craft beers, a big open space to watch the band, and a balcony area for those who don’t want to stand in the crowd. Regrettably, the sound was a little weak, especially on the vocals. But this was all forgotten at the end of the night, I promise you.

The Darts at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)

I can personally guarantee there is no groovier or nicer band than The Darts. Before the gig, we’re able to have a little chat backstage about their new album, their life as touring women musicians, and their feature on Peaky Blinders. You’ve not seen the last Peaky Blinders series? Here’s your homework before our interview is released: you will get to hear their new track Love U to Death. Taken from their newest record, it’s a raw, mind-blowing masterpiece we get to hear live at the Empire.

The Darts at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)

After a laborious soundcheck, the venue opens its doors to the public and quickly fills up. On first are the fabulous David Ryder Prangley and his sparkly backing musicians. Reminiscent of the ’70s psychedelic rock era, they warm us up with ease for the second band, Das Clamps.

Das Clamps at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)

Das Clamps at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)

Now, if, like me, you’ve never seen The Cramps and you bitterly regret it, these girls will give you a run for your money. Tina and Clementine are a very special duo, covering The Cramps tunes plus songs The Cramps taught us, and adding a lot of saucy energy to the mix. Clementine, with the long ginger hair and the eye patch, plays guitar with the perfect amount of attitude (a LOT of attitude), while Tina bangs the drums and sings, wearing a general hat and shiny sunglasses. We don’t know it yet, but it’s just what we need on this rainy Saturday night.

Das Clamps at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)Das Clamps at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)Das Clamps at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)

By now you’re probably wondering how The Darts were. You guessed right: they properly rocked the house, opening with their new tune Break Up Make Up, an angry song we can all relate to. The Darts give out a raw energy that is palpable in the audience. Going from new to older numbers, Nicole (organ/vocals), who stands in the crowd because the stage is just too small, jumps up and down, keeping the audience on their toes.

The Darts at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)The Darts at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)

A few songs into the set, she introduces us to the rest of the band. We know the bassist Christina and her famous pointy fringe. However, the guitarist Dusty and the drummer Yannel are new. It’s true, The Darts have had a few line-up changes recently, and even if Dusty and Yannel haven’t been around long, they’re smashing it and giving it all they have. How they managed to learn a new setlist in just a few weeks, we’ll never know, but they certainly are incredible on stage and that’s all we need.

The Darts at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)The Darts at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)

“We gave away our setlists and we didn’t have any left, so we’ll just play what we want,” Nicole says at one point, as the band go from classics like Strange Days and Get Messy With Me to new numbers like Love U 2 Death, which sound fantastic live. (Nicole also jokingly admits having to watch Peaky Blinders with subtitles on, because of the Birmingham accent.)

The Darts at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)The Darts at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)

The show continues with My Way, quick and assertive, and we end the night with a Trashwomen cover, Batteries, because “you don’t need boys when you’ve got batteries…”

The Darts at the Empire Bar, Hackney. (PAULINE DI SILVESTRO)

All in all, it’s an outstanding performance from an amazing bunch of ladies. Keep your eyes peeled for the interview coming soon…

Photography & Live Review of The Darts at Hackney Empire on 9th November 2019 by Pauline Di Silvestro.

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