A band like The Ilfords is a rare thing to come by these daysSkandha Murali with permission for Varsity

When I stepped into The Six Six Bar last Thursday, I had no idea what to expect from the Ilfords. Although the gig was part of the ongoing Cambridge Jazz Festival, the band describe themselves as a combination of Foals, Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age. Just as I was wondering how they had managed to sneak themselves into the festival, the group started playing and it immediately became clear. While hardly fitting the theme of the event, the Ilfords were a fantastic live act – and I shouldn’t have been surprised. The group have received Radio X playtime and had a song recognised as “Track of the Week” by the BBC.

“A band like the Ilfords is a rare thing to come by these days”

A band like the Ilfords is a rare thing to come by these days: a group of lads, who met when they were teens, playing the music they love with raw passion, ferocious energy and no filter. The chemistry between its four members was palpable and it was clear that they had years of experience behind them. This was evident from their control of the audience, which enlivened what could have been a sterile crowd, and their tight musicianship, which enabled them to power through the occasional slip-up since each member always knew what the others were doing.

As someone who wasn’t around for the era of the early Arctic Monkeys, I can only imagine that this was what one of their concerts was like: raw and distorted riffs blaring out the speakers, fast-paced technical drumming blowing the audience away and groovy bass lines giving the whole show a bounce. However, it would be remiss not to mention the presence of the frontman. He took what could have been a challenging environment for a rock band – a jazz festival – and truly made it his own. Screaming the lyrics with passion and ending the show with a dramatic stage dive followed by a comedic walk to the bar, it was his stage presence that made the performance so memorable.

For rock music lovers like myself, it is always exciting to discover an act with as much promise as the Ilfords. The band shine in the studio. However, they are best experienced live. This is a rare phenomenon in an era when songs are polished down to their last detail and overproduced to oblivion. Their music lends itself to live shows and the members know it, clearly enjoying playing their instruments and smiling throughout.


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The peak of the performance was something I can’t imagine is typical of their shows. In honour of the Jazz Festival, they brought a saxophonist on stage. While this caught the audience by surprise, the band easily adapted to the change of style. This flexibility is another reason to expect a promising future for the band.

Would I recommend seeing the Ilfords? Absolutely. It’s not easy to find a rock band with this much energy and passion in 2023. In an age when most popular bands are clean-cut, polished and overproduced, the Ilfords are a breath of fresh air. Their recognition by the BBC and Radio X suggests that the future can only bring big things for the band. Catch them in an intimate venue while you can because their breakthrough is on the horizon.