The Oporto was rammed, rammed with many people wearing Halloween themed make-up and costumes. Some of these costumes were to say the least fantastic, although somewhat impractical for prolonged partying – props to the guy wearing the TV on his head for one. Some of these people were there to see VENUS launch their brilliant new release – ‘Freaky Friday’ (read our review, natch). The venue bit of The Oporto (if you’ve been there you’ll know what I mean) gradually filled up. And when I say filled up I mean filled up, it was packed.
I always seem to find one act I’ve either never heard of, or heard, that is fantastic on support bills – it’s one reason I always try and turn up on time. La Rissa were that act that night.
La Rissa are two people – one who sings and plays keyboards (or triggers programmed sounds) and one who plays the drums. This sounds simple what what they do isn’t, as I discovered when they started. They start in a spooky way – it’s all atmosphere gothic synth sounds. Their sound is atmospheric, it majors on that. The drums, and I think some sort of programmed beats, provide a completely compelling drive. Sometimes during their set I am reminded briefly of Joy Division, almost Joy Division if you see what I mean, it has that feel.
But it’s that voice. Her voice is amazing. It’s a deep and striking voice that has me in mind in a strange way of Nico and Siouxsie Sioux at her most gothic.
Some of what they do is kinda Goth, some I guess I’d call dark synth pop, and some is almost retro industrial, but it’s all good, in fact it’s all great. The fact that they go about making this fantastic music is a quiet unflashy way just adds to it.
If you’re into this type of thing I’d recommend catching La Rissa. I, for one, will be trying to see them again soon.
Next up were Dollie Demi. Yet another band I’d never heard of, this is always happening to me, I must spend some time trawling through Facebook to find these bands I’ve not heard of. Or possibly just make sure I listen to some music from bands I’m going to see. Although having said that I rather like the random nature of seeing a band when I don’t know what they do.
At first I wasn’t that sure about Dollie Demi – although maybe I should have taken more notice of a note I scribbled – ‘Any band where the bass player swigs from a bottle of wine has to be good, doesn’t it?’. So unsure that I wrote long notes about the somewhat ribald nature of their songs. But somewhere during their set, not that far in to be honest, I changed my mind.
Musically they mix it up – some of it is all punky garage-y, some of it is poppy, some – although this may just be me – is rather metall-y. Their performance is, to say the very least, high energy and chaotic – they throw themselves around the stage. The songs, and indeed the performance, might be described as sassy. It’s obvious they enjoy doing what they do, and that is infectious.
But amid all of that, and I had to do that ‘stand back and be an objective music reviewer thing’, is some great playing. If you think I’m expressing surprise at that, you’d be wrong, given how they mix it up musically you’d expect that. And Demi’s voice is fantastic.
They played one song that kinda stopped me in my tracks, a song called ‘Bottle Blonde’. This is in contrast to their other material was almost a slow bluesy rock thing. It was at this point that Dollie Demi completely clicked for me.
The band’s set left me with a smile on my face. And who needs anything more than that.
And now to VENUS. One of the other reasons I arrived extra early that night was to find a spot as close to the stage as possible. At the Oporto this means being crammed in next to the bass speaker kinda crouching and then standing on the bench seat, but what the hey I thought, I needed to be close to the band for this gig.
And my choice of being that close wasn’t a mistake that night for VENUS seemed to be really on one that night. Sporting Halloween make-up the band tore into their set.
Look if you haven’t seen the band you need to know what the ‘VENUS live experience’ that night was like. Grace (Kelly) may be the visual focus – she’s the band’s singer after all, and that night she was crazy, twisting and turning – but it’s that voice of hers that is completely mesmerising, It’s sometimes pure and sending shivers up your spine, it’s sometimes raw and hugely powerful. Jess rips out (if you’ll forgive me for that expression) the most wonderful guitar. Hannah bounces around the stage, her bass providing that great foundation to their music (and that night she was at the back of the stage only visible to me occasionally). Gabby’s drums are great – she’s a really inventive drummer I noticed that night. And Grace (Stubbings) quietly plays those wonderful synth lines.
Their set rushed by all too quickly, as it was for the first time I saw them, I’d very happily have listened to the whole set again, so addicted to what they do as I am. But there were highlights.
Their last single ‘Sour’ – I love that song as a recorded material experience but live it has an extra power. A punked up cover of ‘Call Me’ and a raucous cover of ‘Sound Of The Underground’ something you had to be there to really appreciate.
That cover followed a song about mental health issues – a song I describe as beautiful in my rather sparse notes on their set that night. This song had a rather strange effect on me. I have PTSD and since I developed that (do you develop or get PTSD, that’s one I’m not sure about?) certain notes and types of sounds do things to me, that night during this song there was a point where both a certain note and a type of sound hit at the same time, and it provoked a very short PTSD surge – this is my own term for it, there’s probably a clinical term for it.. Rather than being disturbing this felt strangely right at the time. Thank you VENUS for highlighting mental health issues in a song.
I’d been waiting for ‘Freaky Friday’ to be played that night with the kind of anticipation I’ve not had for a long time. The single left me feeling emotional, and I expected it live to sweep me away and leave me in an emotional heap. And it did (albeit a mental emotional heap, being physically an emotional heap would have been impossible in the place I was crammed into). It really is the most powerful song I’ve heard in a long time.
VENUS are one, as you may have realised, of those bands I find it very hard (or impossible to be honest) to be objective about.
Seeing VENUS live is an experience, an experience everyone should have at least once. Although once you’ve seen them you’ll want to see them again, they do that to you. I love what they do. If you haven’t seen VENUS yet, do that as soon as possible.
All photos on this page © Frank Roper Photography – see more on his Facebook Page