7th February | Exchange
Photos: Rowan Allen
Something isn’t right with Rachel Aggs’ guitar. Having just rejuvenated the crowd with their opening salvo, the guitarist of Shopping senses something isn’t quite right, but together they can’t quite work out what: “Maybe you’re just having one of those nightmares,” laughs Billy Easter. In an unfortunate circumstance, it sums up the early goings of the whole evening, whether it being the heat of The Exchange being too much to handle on this occasion, or sound issues affecting the acts playing. While this might literally sound like a band’s worst fears come to fruition, Shopping handle it with consummate ease, going on to reward the audience in attendance with their indefatigable live show that is especially potent tonight. It’s testament to the trio, a truly great band of musicians and down-to-earth, grounded people.
wych elm‘s sound has a particularly scrappy and raw edge tonight in comparison to their show a couple weeks previously at The Crofters Rights. It suits them, the course discordance in particular of Caitlin Elliman’s guitar is primitive and ringing, as they hurtle through bleak themes of lobotomy and the story of Susan Smith, who committed the murder of her two children in the 1990s. It’s uncompromising and unsparing, yet it’s the quality of their songs that resonate most, the clarity of the show tonight presenting the group at their frankest yet.
The same sadly cannot be said for Colleen Green‘s set, which suffers from a sense of blandness throughout. Playing as a duo, with a drum machine being powered by a tablet, Green introduces new songs and plays through familiar tracks, yet due to the lethargic pace of the set it sadly doesn’t excite. The set feels unrehearsed, the drum machine playing longer than it should on most of the tracks, and it’s so quiet that it truly feels like it’s lacking any sense of vigour. To be fair to them, the heat really takes an impact on them both, and it’s uncomfortable viewing at points as they struggle on. It’s a sadly unvaried set nonetheless, the embracing melody that you can hear within their records lost in this environment.
So to Shopping, who provide one of the most fun-filled shows of the year so far. It’s utterly encompassing, the trio bouncing off the stage while still managing to keep things technically sound and rhythmically succinct. A lot of the set is understandably dedicated to their recently-released album, The Official Body, and it is these songs that particularly stand out, their seamless development into more lucid pop songwriting while retaining that sense of individualism shines live. ‘Wild Child’ has Aggs jumping from foot to foot with wild abandon, a natural sense of angst protruding from the atmosphere.
It’s utterly reciprocated by the crowd, who had been relatively mellow through the earlier evening, Big Jeff taking on tambourine duties from the front as Aggs and Easter shredded guitar and bass respectively from each side of the stage. In complete synchronisation, the relationship here tonight between band and crowd is lovely to watch, and the dancing is appreciated by the evidently excited and happy trio, who from the off are humbled by the turnout that has thoroughly packed The Exchange. It’s perhaps a sign of the future possibilities for one of the UK’s most under-rated bands.