Swindon’s going to serve me well for gigs this month, it seems… The return of The Swindon Shuffle to my itinerary, plus a precursor to said event, both loom large in my forward view; but first an intriguing one up the Vic tonight from Los Angeles band The Vim Dicta. Effusively recommended by recent Facebook friend and local gig-goer extraordinaire Geoffrey Head, a gent with an unparalleled ear to the ground regarding up and coming acts, and a band currently based out of Ilfracombe in the UK and apparently on an endless UK tour, their mission being to win over the smoky rock bars and pub back rooms of the UK, punter by punter if necessary. These 2 elements conspired to prompt local promotion duo Ed and Dave to book them for one of their excellent “Songs Of Praise” nights at the Vic, so I girded my loins in anticipation of an intriguing night being assailed by The Vim Dicta’s patented “psychogroove”…
Rach had a Governor’s training session until 9, so it was a late and slightly weary departure for me, parking up in my usual spot and trudging up the hill for 9.30, running into old friend Doug for a chat outside the Vic, then hitting a disappointingly sparse Vic back room just as openers Socket were packing up. A brief chat with promoter Dave passed the time before the usual quick turnaround saw 2nd band, Well Dressed Thief, onstage just before 10 to 10. One well dressed, be-jacketed vocalist and three scruffbags, in fact, who played a nice line in sneaky understated verses building to towering, terrace chant chorus monoliths, largely underpinned by “whoa-oh” harmonies from the guitar and bass players. The vocalist’s impassioned, yearning vocals often gave their slower material a more emo feel, although their best number, the penultimate “Kitkat” (apparently about a girl the vocalist saw, who was, “fucked up at Reading Festival”) was a more straightahead indie rock number recalling Annie Christian. Overall a pretty decent starter.
The place then emptied again, much to Dave’s chagrin, and it seemed at one point, just as The Vim Dicta were setting up for their set, that they might end up playing to the promoters plus 3 punters… luckily the place suddenly filled to a respectable couple of dozen as Ed introduced the 3-piece band at 10.30, promising, “they’ll shred your brains…” He wasn’t far wrong, as the towering, thunderous opening to first number “My Illusion” led into a sludgy, primordial swamp groove, building to an impressive drum-dominated crescendo from hard-hitting, strong-armed drummer Chris. This set the tone for the set; a full-on sonic assault, showcasing their riff-heavy, wah-wah-tastic material, full of tension and menace; all dark, dramatic and dangerous, with undulating rhythms and tempo changes aplenty, played with passion, kinetic dynamism and no little amount of musical talent and virtuosity.
“We’ve got merch over there; our CD has a naked lady on it, if that’s what matters to you!” announced mop-headed guitarist Matt before taking lead vocals on a tempo-swapping “Wear My Love”. Some subsequent guitar tech issues saw drummer Chris display his talents and petite blonde bassist/ vocalist Cori proclaim how nice us Brits are (!), before the low-key, smoky torch singer opening of the splendid “Wreck Me” again led into some ball-crushing riffery and a thrillingly squalling crescendo. A cover of Chris Isaak’s haunting country staple “Wicked Game” was initially stripped to a naked hush, before bursting into jet-propelled life midway through, and the set finale double of “Von Tango” and “Teaspoon” was an epic dark musical ride through sleazy stomping glam, via frantic, almost Tex-Mex Mariachi rhythm, and into thudding, primitive Blues rock territory for good measure throughout its lengthy, sinuous distance. This concluded a shuddering, powerful set of full-on rock, relentless and intense, like swimming through a tsunami tide of gravel…!
A double encore featured “Point Blank”, for me their best number, the spooky, Doors-ish opening morphing into a tortured torch song, like the bar band in a Coen Brothers’ movie, playing loud to cover the noise of a particularly grisly murder occurring out back. A fitting end to an intriguing, challenging set from a dark, dynamic, unique and difficult to pigeonhole band, my only criticism being their sheer relentless onstage power giving little chance for some “light and shade” respite in the set. A small thing, as I remarked to Cori afterwards while loading up with merch, as nonetheless they certainly won this punter over!