September Girls @ Arts Club, Liverpool – May 15th 2016

september girls arts club review

New Album Age of Indignation  Out Now Via Fortuna POP!

Liverpool on a hot Sunday evening always has the air of a bank holiday, whether it is one or not. Blokes in Liverpool and Everton shirts tumble out of pubs looking like their heads are about to burst with sweat and Stella, the remnants of weekend stag and hen dos are desperate to remind us they’re still here, and there’s always the odd pockets of people who look like they’re on their way to one of the city’s many belting small music venues.

The upper floor of Arts Club is our venue for tonight’s proceedings, as Dubliners September Girls call in for the second stop of their UK tour on the back of new album Age of Indignation. I’ve been watching gigs in Liverpool since my teens and I still call this place The Masque. It changed its name a few years back to East Village Arts Club and now seems to have dropped the ‘East Village’, which makes it less of a mouthful but maintains the pretentiousness.

Local male/female band Scarlet get things going on the night with a powerful set of murky pop laced with wholehearted vocals. It’s pretty decent stuff from the first band on the billing, even if like most support bands they struggle to elicit more than polite applause from most of the audience. I say ‘most’ because there is a long-haired bloke dressed entirely in white who’s having a right old Sunday night boogie, as he proceeds to do for the rest of the evening. A break to tend to a damaged drum leads to a nice exchange between the singer and the intimate crowd of 50 or so, and there’s a good chemistry to a band who seem like a bunch of mates having an honest, enjoyable rock-out together.

Next up is a burst of krautrocky indie from Telegram, whose frontman Matt Saunders seems either a very nonchalant chap or a bit wrecked. His meandering about on the stage causes his bassist to take a step back a couple of times to dodge a collision, and I’m half expecting him to trip over his guitar lead at any moment. Musically though, he was pretty focused, the performance was controlled and the sound was both big and clever, with the slightly erratic Saunders giving it a welcome dash of edge and unpredictability.

September Girls’ entrance to the stage was heralded by one of those blasts of dry ice that isn’t particularly pleasant in a small, stuffy venue, but the visual mist complements the swirling guitars and pounding drums of ‘Wolves’ as the girls unusually open the set with the closing track of the new album. Once Sarah Grimes takes her place behind the drums, the four other members stand in a Kraftwerk-esque straight line in front of her. ‘These are the fittest band I’ve ever seen’, my mate effuses, and there is certainly a lot of glamour and stage presence to what they do, but they’re no gimmick, with one of the new album’s highlights ‘Quicksand’ continuing a storming start.

It’s hard to tell who if anyone is the frontwoman in September Girls, with lead and backing vocals traded between the four at the front. Bassist Paula Cullen and guitarist Caoimhe Derwin take the centre positions and do most of the talking, but keyboardist Lauren Kerchner often chips in with the vocals. The spoken/shouted word lyrics for the brilliant ‘Black Oil’ are definitely Cullen’s forte though.

The aforementioned man in white must be a dream audience member for a band at a small gig like this, and he doesn’t go unnoticed by the girls as he throws further shapes to the band’s more danceable offerings like ‘Heartbeats’ and ‘Blue Eyes’, and the siren-like riffs of new single ‘Jaw On The Floor’ go down well too.

Having kicked off with the last track from the album, the topsy-turvy setlist is concluded with opener ‘Ghost’. It works well as a closer though, with its slow buildup, anguished vocals and gradual development into a droning wall of reverb hitting the spot in this dark and smoky venue.

A turnout well short of three figures is a bit of a party-pooper and could’ve led to an awkward, stand-offish night, but it’s credit to September Girls that it never felt like that and I thoroughly recommend seeing them if they’re on your doorstep in the next week or so.

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