Sunday, November 18, 2012
VERONICA FALLS @ ISLINGTON MILL, SALFORD 17 November 2012
"I'm not very good at ending songs". Apostille aka Michael Kasparis manages the intense parts before those abrupt endings well though. In ripped silk shirt and over pre-programmed industrial beats and shrill stabs of noisy drones, he paces the stage and sings (rants) about reputations, appeasement and contempt. It is not Swans loud but is still shaking the denim of my jeans with its concentration of dark rage. The final song introduces some tuneful melody to proceedings – would have liked to see more of this light-and-dark rather than just the bleak, threatening blast.
La La Vasquez are a three-piece from the South of England (they seem a bit hazy as to exactly where) who’ve played Manchester (and Salford) six times, were featured on the June 2011 mix tape but this is my first time seeing them live. And boy are they good. Unassuming, head-down indie-pop which blends equal parts Vivian Girls, Sarah Records and The Chills but sounds distinct and fresh not derivative. My only complaint was it was an all too brief seven song set. Looking forward to their seventh visit already.
How to describe Verity Susman’s set? Well it was more audio-visual performance art than straight music set, reminding me of Laurie Anderson’s multi-media live shows that investigate and play with identity and gender. Against a backdrop of cut-up video and wearing a 70s drop ‘tache, the Electrelane singer alternated between eerie effects on a sax (breathing/talking/sucking into it), distorted vocal loops, washes of noisy keyboard and voice recognition software renditions of pulp fiction (“agitated groping, agitated groping”). She may have finished with a five minute song that could have come from “Rock It To The Moon” (maybe it was an Electrelane song?) but the proceeding thirty minute piece was of a very different and experimental bent. If found it compelling viewing even with a degree of repetition musically, visually and thematically.
Islington Mill can be unforgiving. Bands have to sound-check in full view and close-up proximity to the crowd. And Veronica Falls do not appear happy with the sound in their monitors – it is all way too quiet. An off-stage band discussion with the sound engineer ensues before the quartet take to the stage. Thank goodness they did, even if sound issues were not resolved to their liking – we would have been robbed of an excellent set including four new songs.
Roxanne joked about messing up early song ‘Found Love In A Graveyard’ and I’m not sure the band were ever fully happy with the sound – I also found the drums too low in the mix from the other side of the monitors – but the contrast between the airy almost carefree boy/girl vocals and the intense, tight thrum of guitars, bass and drums tonight was superb. The single from earlier this year ‘My Heart Beats’ plus other four songs from forthcoming album “Waiting For Something To Happen” sounded as essential as those on their debut. Plus in the encores we got their cover of Roky Erickson’s ’Starry Eyes’. Yes they’ve been together since 2009 but each time I see or hear them, Veronica Falls go from strength to strength.
The Set List:
Right Side Of My Brain
My Heart Beats
Found Love In A Graveyard
Come On Over
Tonight was part of the eighth birthday celebrations for promoters-publishers-label Comfortable On A Tightrope: a weekend of eight bands at Islington Mill with other gigs to come this month. What a way to celebrate. There was some stiff competition on the gig front this Saturday night but Islington Mill was sadly not full. With strong line-ups and headliners of the stature of The Pastels and then Veronica Falls, this should have been a packed sell-out. I’m sure Comfortable On A Tightrope are not going anywhere but make sure you support their future label and gig endeavours. We need their astute and artful musical selections.