Gigging on a bleary February night requires a bit of motivation, but last night's show was promoted by the lovely people at Upset the Rhythm, which means you’re guaranteed three bands that will inspire and deafen at the same time.
Starting proceedings are Think About Life. Hailing from Montreal via Studio 54 they brandish an energetic form of disco, infused with hip-hop samples and choreographed dancing. Lead singer Martin Cesar is a star in the making, jumping into the crowd to sing 'Set You on Fire' whilst managing to make wearing sunglasses inside look cool. Next up are Trash Kit arriving adorned with face paint and una-brows. They play a brand of DIY post-punk that is indebted to The Slits yet there is something fun and original about them. Their songs are never more than three minutes long, made up of sharp, frenetic riffs, discordant harmonies and yelping vocals. Sometimes lead singer and guitarist Rachel Aggs forgets to tune up, but it’s all part of their charm.
Star of the show, however, is Merrill Garbus, aka tUnE-yArDs - a one-woman musical tour de force. Having released an album last year, her unique songs and unconventional live shows have earned her a loyal fan base, enough to sell out tonight’s show. What captivates the audience is the creation of live vocal and drum loops which are recorded at the start of each song. As the song progresses the loops seem to multiply as more and more vocals lines and drums beats are recorded, resulting in a swirl of organised musical chaos. Songs range from 'Jamaican', a sonic force of layer upon layer of fierce drumming and dissonant vocals, to the lullaby 'Fiya' with delicate finger picking of a ukulele while crowd favourites like 'Hatari' sound like hip-hop mixed with gospel. Lesser songs would suffer under the weight of so many ideas, but you get a sense that she has only scratched the surface of her imagination. The adoring crowd is mesmerised throughout and those new to her music converted instantly. It’s obvious really; with artists like Tune-yards in the world you know everything is going to be ok.
Words by Kate Franklin, photo by Anika.