Thursday 12 January 2012

Vuvuvultures, Severin & The Caulfield Beats at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen - 11 January 2012

Vuvuvultures pic by Neil Anderson

The photographers are in. At this stage of the evening there are more people packing large and expensive-looking cameras than there are members of those bands that have arrived to set up.

Stage left is Lawrence Northall, who performs under the moniker of The Caulfield Beats. He stands behind a bench of electronic equipment. Stage right is Molly, a young VJ (do we still call them that?) manipulating assorted images projected on a screen behind the pair.

The photographers mill around the foot of the stage, snapping away. Although I am sure that they are assembling a balanced portfolio of record, one suspects that the ratio of pictures of Lawrence to those of Molly is approximately 1:20.

I’m not normally much of a fan of one-man, largely instrumental rhythm merchants, The Caulfied Beats are toe-tappingly uplifting.

Northall lays down a series of crushing beats, punctuated by the odd yelp or cry of “Caulfield!” down one of his two microphones. Meanwhile, behind him flashes a montage featuring amongst other things, vintage shots of Twiggy dancing and a Japanese callisthenic class. I don’t know what it means, but it’s all very pretty.

A good opener to the evening, and I also enjoy the next act, Severin.

With a name like that, this dup were never going to be all sunshine and daisies and indeed they are not.

Instead, Elizabeth plays keys and sings inexpressively while Dan smashes at a bass guitar and plays with a variety of electronic boxes to produce a sound that we used to call ‘Goth’ but which is now more likely to be referred to a ‘witch house’ or some such.

Severin are aware that downbeat music does not have to be drab or lacking in showmanship. The pair quickly generate quite a bit of head nodding and shuffling amongst those sections of the audience that aren’t staring at them through a lens.

I’m as happy as anyone, and am particularly taken with a bit of kit that Dan plays like a games console, but which appears to have something to do with percussion.

Let’s not beat about the bush. The snappers are here for Vuvuvultures, a band that are complex to say the least.

Singer Harmony Boucher is as lean and spare and taut as the skin stretched across a drum. She has the finely delineated androgynous facial structure of the fashion model that she is. She is beautiful in the way that classical statues are beautiful.

And she performs bare from the waist up.

Sex and sexuality play a large part in Vuvuvultures’ show and it is fascinating how it works over the course of their set.

At the start, the watcher is very aware of a sleek and handsome semi-naked woman. The instinct is to look at everything except her body. Boucher eyes the crowd and stretches herself in mocking, flirting fashion, the awkwardness that arises a deliberate part of the performance.

And yet, because the music is entirely serious and because the stage presence is so powerful, the ‘nudity’ disappears. The watcher becomes engrossed in the performance and not the mere physical appearance. This dawning realisation is also very much part of the band’s plan.

The songs themselves are grandly emotive and melodramatic, but never stray into camp or kitsch. There is not a hint of bawdiness in the actual music. The greatest trick that Vuvuvulture’s pull off is that for all their acts of provocation, if they were playing behind a thick curtain you would still know that you were listening to a very fine band.

Despite all these various subtexts, this is also a good natured and fun performance. At one point a member of the crowd presents Boucher with a bondage harness, which she has no initial inkling of how to wear.

During the final number, Boucher and the bassist, the splendidly named Nicole Marie Bettencourt Coelho leap into the crowd, becoming entangled and screaming and writhing on the floor. The photographers close over them like onlookers bunched around a body in the street.

This has been great, but timings mean that I have to forgo Manflu (a real pity) and I head off home. It’s been an eye opening evening and a credit to all concerned.


Keith Knight said...

Better than No Bra, eh?

Stolenfaces said...
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