Words & Photography by Paul Boyling
Continuing with Independent Venue Week, I went to the much beloved Windmill Brixton, well removed from Brixton high street, on the outskirts of town near the local landmark of the same name. Inside the kaleidoscopically colourful venue is another sold-out show, with another South London band – Goat Girl – as well as two other, relatively obscure London acts, Tiña and Great Dad.
Firstly, Great Dad is a weird band. On one hand, I couldn’t take my eyes off of them as the lead singer was convulsing and jittering throughout the set like a man possessed, whilst the other two members look on indifferently; but on the other hand, his vocal style was barely comprehensive nor understandable between the yelling, screaming and quiet mutterings of the lyrics. Great Dad’s sound live can be best described as “Progressive Jazz Fusion” with elements of techno, dubstep and electronica; mostly running pre-composed loops from a laptop, with a live drummer to reinforce the stylised drum-and-bass rhythm. Although, the saxophonist’s clear and graceful sax and flute interludes break up and contrast to the overwhelming noisescape. Watching them live, Great Dad have an air of childish simplicity regarding the way they write and perform, but with an underlying menace; like being the audible representation of one losing their mind. Moreover, I was informed by two onlookers that normally the vocals and lyrics come across clearer on other nights, and that the material and subject matter covered ranges from dark and morose to the downright nihilistic; you can hear their EP here, and judge for yourself. Mind you, could explain why there weren’t that many people watching them at this point in the evening.
Secondly, Tiña, a more “accessible” singer-songwriter with an accompanying backing band, had a drastically more upbeat sound, with its indie/dream pop rhythms, light vocals and twanging reverb echoes, in addition to the added novelty of the exceptionally tall and skinny lead singer in a bright pastel-pink cycling jersey and a magenta felt cowboy hat, reading his hastily scribed setlist off a torn off pizza-box lid. The performance was adequate, nowhere as bizarre as the previous act, but also nowhere near as memorable (even with Goat Girl lead singer Clottie Cream assisting on backing vocals), but it was quite blasé and without any charisma, and apart from Tiña’s underplayed flamboyance, his set was quite forgettable. You can watch brief fan-footage from the night, as well as listen to his only released single, ‘I Like The Colour’.
Thirdly and finally, Goat Girl. Unlike the other two acts of the night, they can blur the fine line between being a calm and subtle band, without necessarily lacking or overdoing it in regards to stage presence. At first, you’d think the band are quite unassuming; being easy going and relaxed while performing, gently swaying as they go with the rhythm, all the while discreetly disarming you with their profoundly disturbing lyricism and their gloomier Western / Country sound. Immediately it becomes more unsettling and less romanticised, especially through Clottie’s deadpan drawl, making everything spoken and played is to the point; adroit and encased in sad ennui, offbeat wit with a dark sense of humour. Case in point, starting their set with ‘Burn the Stake’, the band make their feelings about Britain’s current state of politics very clear: “Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put the Tories on the top / Put the DUP in the middle and we’ll burn the fucking lot,” and on ‘Creep’, about a gold-chain-wearing pervert on public transport who gets off trying to film girls on his phone: “I wanna smash your head in / Right in,” Clottie repeats. Ending on ‘Country Sleaze’, she concludes: “I’m a shame to this so-called human race.”
Though it was less high-octane than my other gigs this week, Goat Girl showed that not only does their nuanced pessimism easily draw a crowd, but they far surpass the support acts both musically and intellectually.