Gengahr – Komedia – 6th October 2015

Gengahr kicked off their first headline tour here in Brighton, which was a bit of an honour. We’ve been big fans in the BrightonsFinest offices ever since their hook-laden earworm track ‘She’s A Witch’ came to our attention and they have yet to disappoint with a strong début album (A Dream Outside) and more recently a surprise three track EP which I also enjoyed (Tired Eyes EP). Brighton had been engulfed in a horrendous, post-work downpour earlier, soaking me to the bone. For any other band this might have made me stay home next to the fire but for Gengahr I dried myself off as quickly as I could and headed back out in time to catch the support set from Puma Rosa.
These guys played a mixed bag of 80s and early 90s influenced stuff. I was getting a lot of disparate elements from Siouxsie And The Banshees, with a bit of The Cure thrown in and some guitar work from The Edge’s school of delay pedals; to The Knife with a bit of ‘Madchester’ baggy beat stuff that almost strayed into the sort of dance territory The Orb had established way back when. Although it did feel like several different bands put together on a compilation I didn’t mind that so much, as the songs were well curated and it felt like they blended seamlessly: if it was a compilation it was a good one! Their final number was the baggiest of them all, sounding like ambient house with a few guitars and even some sax thrown in for good measure. Although I enjoyed their overall blend I have to say I was not too keen on the vocals, which always tend to be the make or break thing for me. She did some interesting stuff with delay effects and sampling loops of herself on one song, which was pretty cool to be honest, but on that last number I was not particularly inspired, especially by the lyrics: “you dance, you dance, you dance,” made up the chorus and I couldn’t help but think she could try a bit harder.
Next up were Cash + David playing a heavy, dance-oriented synth-pop and rock blend. There were lots of quite cheesy club sounds emanating from the backing tracks and some down right weird vocal effects, employed on one song in particular. I found it was hard to tell what was played live and what was pre-recorded. After three tracks singer Liz Lawrence declared the new set they were trying out might be a bit, “cock heavy!” and then proceeded to play a ballad that sounded like it contained the breathy synth bass from Berlin’s ‘Take My Breath Away’. I felt like the live mix for this band was wrong throughout: the backing tracks, synth and digital kit were too loud, drowning out the live vocals and making the guitars indiscernible. Sonically everything was dripping wet with effects, but I found their songs and performance were way too dry to be as much fun as the sounds they chose for them. This was the case for me anyway but I could certainly tell, glancing around the room, that they were making a good impression on some of the audience.
Gengahr started their set with ‘Loki’ from the newly released EP – a great choice as this track begins with an extended textural instrumental intro, giving them the chance to ease into what would turn out to be a pretty long set. ‘Heroine’ was a stand out early track in the set, I Iove how they pump up the guitars when the vocals cut out, this band have great dynamics. ‘Bathed In Light’ was also very strong, I just love John Victor’s guitar tone, it’s somehow so unique drenched in pitch and modulation effects it rises to the fore perfectly whenever the band want to turn things up a notch. ‘Powder’ rolls straight into ‘Tired Eyes’ which sounds fab, the lead track from their new EP earning it’s reputation as a live favourite. Another highlight of the set for me was ‘Dark Star’, already one of my favourite moments on A Dream Outside, it really came to life live as the vocals come to the fore instead of being relegated to a reverb-soaked distant effect on the album version. It’s probably my favourite Gengahr song now and the moment in the set when I find myself thinking what a privilege it is to be at the first date on the first UK tour of a young band whose music I really love. Felix Bushe is on great form, pointing out the Komedia glitter-ball and claiming it is probably the smallest glitter-ball in Europe, his falsetto vocals are distinct and clearly a linchpin of the bands sound, but it’s the moments where he cuts loose in his full tenor that really grab me tonight. It’s not all roses though, the backing vocals are a little low in the mix and songs like ‘Embers’ and their encore of big single ‘She’s A Witch’ sounded like they would benefit from a more relaxed band. The energetic drama of their performance, which is so strong on a song like ‘Fill My Gums With Blood’, slightly spoils the feel of songs that require a gentler touch – but who can blame them for being excited tonight as their tour kicks off… they can’t even wait for a murmur to develop into a roar before coming out for the encore! It’s a young crowd and the band are charming, this feels like the start of something really great.
Adam Kidd