So much of life appears to be about being in the right place at the right time. As luck would have it, the right place last Friday evening appeared to be Cogs Bar, where an impromptu post-work pint led to the discovery of four-piece band Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles, fronted by Catfish and the Bottlemen founder Billy Bibby.


Positioned around the small, multi-level stage area, the band launched into the first song with an instant impact, insisting that the listener sit up and take notice. This is a group of artists who truly understand how to create and manipulate an anthemic depth of sound – teasing and tantalising with intriguing changes of tempo, timbre, tone and texture. Each song held this sense of evolution within, yet simultaneously treated the listener to enough recognisable riffs and sing-along-able snippets to cement themselves into the brain and secure a place under “favourites”.
Reverberating instrumentals bounced off the leaded glass windows and exposed brick of the room, complementing complex, clever lyrics and drawing the audience onto the dancefloor. As a brief change of pace from original compositions, an energetically unique cover of Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” had smiles sneaking across faces and those who had so far resisted the siren-song of the impressively intricate musicality found themselves called to the floor, with moves to be busted. 


The set delivered a diverse range of fresh, original tracks with huge potential to become classics. With the lighter days ahead and the sun seemingly trying to punch a way through the very British greyness we’ve become accustomed to of late, these are songs that scream of the summer and demand an empty road, top down, volume up, sing-your-heart-out scenario.

Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles are the secret you’d almost like to keep to yourself. It feels inevitable that, very soon, seeing this accomplished and flourishing band in an intimate setting such as Cogs Bar will become impossible as the crowds catch on and can’t be accommodated. But these are songs which are screaming out to be shared, sung and savoured. So, first performance in Birmingham behind them, we wish Billy and the band the best of luck with the rest of their current tour, and urge you to see them for yourselves at Camden Assembly on 31st March. Smiles – with a complete absence of wryness – are guaranteed.


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Gig Review – Written by Beccy Clark

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