Sunday, 26 July 2015

956 WHITE LILAC, Andy Oliveri, Swindon The Locomotive, Saturday 25th July 2015

Summer 2015 is quite a fallow period in my gig itinerary, which given we’re so busy with other events (birthday celebrations, swimming weekends and suchlike) is actually no bad thing, really... I did actually make it up The Vic last Friday for the one bit of the Swindon Shuffle I could fit into my otherwise chock-full weekend, only to find the excellent Familiars had pulled out through illness. D’oh! However, I was always up for squeezing this one into another crowded weekend; Faye Rogers’ reinvigorated musical vision White Lilac, who impressed in a nascent 5 song “vignette” performance at The Vic in February. Five months on, I was intrigued to see how they’d evolved for this headlining show at the new Locomotive venue. Let’s see…

A splendid afternoon at Dave and Ceri’s, celebrating Dave’s 50th birthday, saw me joining the troops early evening up the Old Town for a drink, before parting ways so I could head down the hill to this new venue at the bottom of town for about 9.30. A dodgy bar-packed area of town, full of weekend pissheads and short-skirted slappers, but a brave attempt to add another dimension to Swindon’s “live” music scene. Met up with another birthday boy Rich May and his mates, and also had a chat with “Songs Of Praise” promoter and all round local scenester good egg Dave Franklin, enjoying his “jigsaw” theory about the small but well-appointed Locomotive’s potential contribution to Swindon’s entertainment. The chat continued through acoustic opener Andy Oliveri, and we couldn’t really make out much of his stark acoustic shenanigans through the hubbub (which I have to admit we were contributing to), therein highlighting a potential flaw in putting on quieter acoustic material in a Saturday night pub part-populated with lairy baghead beer monsters. Never mind, it’s early days for this venue and hopefully the clientele will improve. You’d hope so…

Anyway, after a musical interlude of stuff selected by Rich and myself to celebrate his birthday, and organised by his mate Paul “Paj”, White Lilac took the stage at 11. Their opener suffered from appalling feedback through the monitors, requiring a pause to correct, but once under way it developed into a baroque dark torch song tango, mean and deliciously moody, almost evoking a soundtrack to a chase scene through darkened Venetian canals…. “Change Of Face”, next up, was a Lush-ious guitar-led stop-start thrill-ride, before their epic “Night Visions”, next up, which again came in like a lamb, quiet and demure, traversing through a sax-embellished mid-section, before the denouement roared like a lion with noisy staccato guitar riffery.

“Night Visions” almost feels like 3 songs in one, and therein lies the crux of Faye’s musical approach. I’d been asked earlier to describe White Lilac’s music in a nutshell, and on the spur of the moment could only come up with “shoegaze Chamber music”. There’s a whole melting pot of influences going on here now, from moody dark post-punk, stripped back singer-songwriter material, through shimmering shoegaze to an almost classical cello-fuelled sensibility, funnelled through a widescreen vision which attempts to reflect all influences equally, often in the same song! So “Furs” starts off as a growling behemoth, but then twinkles with delicate interludes before the stomping riffery takes hold once again; “He’s Not Himself”, the one holdover from Faye’s rootsier solo days, is now a heart-cracking cello-led funereal march to a wild, off-kilter discordant crescendo, again reflecting the gravity of the subject matter; and “Gone In A Day” an exercise in pastoral introspection, with Faye’s delicate Harriet Sunday-like vocal floating over the proceedings like a butterfly over a lavender patch. Lovely stuff.

A couple of more upbeat numbers in the almost Garage rocky “Dog Meat” and the all-too-soon final number “Swallow”, the one number which actually recalled Throwing Muses in musical style as well as maverick spirit, closed out a delicious set, with Faye, with an ebullience at odds with the mood of her music, thanking the crowd profusely. A quick chat with the star and her proud mum (old friend and BT colleague Stella), before driving a “well-refreshed” Rich and friend Stuart home, wherein I joked that Stella must have locked Faye in a box during her childhood, judging by the bleakness of her music! I also expressed concern that the sheer breadth of range of White Lilac’s music, making them difficult if not impossible to pigeonhole, might ultimately prove a hindrance in gaining the wider recognition it deserves, and was gratified by her response that she wanted to bring in all the band’s influences and ideas and reflect them in the music, and if that was a problem, so be it. Make your music on your own terms, Faye, and damn the consequences. Good for you!