‘Wheeeeeeeeeh!” The screams that greet the Hunna as they run on – all big smiles and blowing kisses – are like the sound of a giant kettle boiling. Moments later, energetic opener Summer sees hordes of fans hollering along or holding up their phones, forming a twinkling mass of light-emitting bodies.
Straight from the mean streets of Hertfordshire, this fresh-faced foursome are one of the more successful guitar-based examples of the “Facebook band”, who have largely shunned the traditional smelly Transits and the inky rock press to build a fanbase via social media. The Hunna’s 2016 debut album, 100, crashed into the charts at No13, and while it crashed out again just as quickly, they’ve since racked up 300,000 Facebook fans and millions of Spotify streams.
This first of two nights at the cavernous Apollo suggests their appeal is hardly waning. But while their big, brash, energetic tracks might pack in enough singable choruses to win the hearts of enthusiastic teens, wider crossover may require more than a lab-created, boyband-type amalgam of indie rock’s big hitters (notably Kings of Leon, the 1975 and Foals).
For the moment, the Faustian pact of compromises required to get the Hunna on the radio has seen them eschew any personality. Trousers are worn tight, with legs apart. The undeniably catchy Bonfire is inevitably accompanied by fireworks. When the four musicians stand, backs to the crowd, their jackets spelling “D-A-R-E”, it’s not a shock call to insurrection, but a cheesy plug for their next album.
At least they seem to be enjoying the moment, and peroxide-barnetted frontman Ryan Potter’s overawed enthusiasm might be one of the few genuine things about them. He tells the crowd that “this is the most insane gig we’ve ever played” and thanks them for “helping us live our dream”.
In fact, the gig’s real stars are those fans, who don’t just tolerate the Hunna’s militarily-drilled, landfill-ready cliches for 70 minutes but never once stop swaying. They even provide some unexpected transcendence, when an impromptu audience choir of Mancunian female voices joins in for Never Enough and She’s Casual and bring some much-needed dynamism and femininity to the Hunna’s otherwise clodhopping bloke-rock. If the band can pack a thousand or so of those voices into a studio, they’ll surely have a winner.