Girl Band – Scala, London – 8th December 2016

One day I want to be able to create a historical map of London’s venues by documenting the cultural history of each building. The Scala in London is no anomaly to this – it once hosted the only UK show performed by Iggy & The Stooges back in 1972 but tonight Girl Band are to headline. Holding Hands With Jamie was released back in 2015 and for various personal issues, the band have struggled to tour it properly until now. It was featured in many publications’ album of the year lists this time last year and rightfully so. The perishing mix of The Fall, Metz and A Place to Bury Strangers gifted listeners with a deafening response to anxiety and ultimately proved to have no real comparison. It was a truly original album and one that would prove to be equally as exciting live.

Opening the night were the recent Rough Trade signings, Goat Girl – a group that have recently made the cut for DIY’s ‘Sounds of 2017’ list. Hailed as the return of the guitar band, the band tonight provide quick glimpses into why 2016 has been such a successful year for them. ‘Scum’ and ‘Country Sleaze’ – their only releases so far – prove why they are so hotly-tipped on record and their live performance shows just as much promise tonight. After previously seeing them at the rather large Kentish Town Forum, the rather small intimacies of Scala prove to work much better for them.

TRAAMS were next up, demonstrating their thunderous post-punk style. Frontman, Stuart Hopkins, detonates quick yelps throughout songs whilst the rhythmic duo of Leigh Padley and Adam Stock hold the sound tight and puncturing in its attack. Cuts of previous album, Modern Dancing were given in the forms of ‘Costner’ and ‘Succulent Thunder Anthem’ however it was their new track, ‘A House On Fire’ that really stole the show. A rattling eight-minutes of krautrock-style rhythms and shattering guitar segments.

Around 9:45 Girl Band wandered cautiously onto the stage doused in darkness. As the band broke into the raucous cover of Blawan’s ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?’, the tug of war between security and crowd surfers began, shattering an illusion that London crowds are ‘always tame’. The industrial beats of the song wreak havoc under frontman, Dara Kiely’s desperately questioning vocals whilst simultaneously exploding pockets of youths in the crowd. The song set a tempo that was never to cease during the utter intensity put forth by the Dublin-based quartet. ‘Pears For Lunch’ lead for a similar reaction as the crowd found their voice some more, yelling back: “I look crap with my top off”.

It is the tension that retorts in Dara’s voice that makes them such a compelling live band to watch, every word counts and bears relevance within the song. There is a cathartic bedlam shared by all in the crowd, nowhere more so than in the pit down the front. The ceaseless mayhem during ‘Fucking Butter’ continues into the likes of ‘Baloo’ where the scorning “you just shit in my neighbour’s garden” is sang out in unison by the crowd.

The wall of sound that erupts from the guitarist. Alan Duggan’s amp during ‘Umbongo’ does not bear any resemblances to a normal guitar sound. It is a crippling juggernaut of sound, one that tears the eyes from your skull as you look back through hollow holes. The bass performed by Daniel Fox emphasises this constant state of distress, ran through delay and reverb, it hits you with more force than should ever be witnessed from the instrument. Ricocheting drumming from Adam Faulkner cuts in through various time signatures, adding to the uneasiness that the sound enforces.

As the group hit the tail end of the set, Kiely (who seldom speaks throughout the set) announces that ‘Paul’ will be the last song of the hour-long performance. Sweat begins to come down the walls as circles open in the crowd before teenagers and grown adults alike collide into one another. Ears are left ringing by the end and following the tumultuous twelve months or so that the band have been through, here’s hoping they stick around for a while now. If you missed the band live on their current tour, for your sake catch them soon. It was just incredible, if not the best of 2016.
Tom Churchill