Wednesday 5 November 2014

White Lung at The Shacklewell Arms - 03 November 2014

White Lung

It’s a quiet evening in North London. The pub that houses the venue is largely empty. The pool table is dark.

I’m an idiot. I’ve been staking out the wrong door. The actual entrance is on the far side of the bar.

Entering the confined space in which the bands play, I swiftly discover two things. The first is that one of the acts that I had come to see, Tweens, are absent this evening and that their replacements on the bill are well into their set.

I therefore don’t get to see as much of The Wharves as I would have liked. That’s a pity, because they are very enjoyable.

The Wharves are an all-woman three piece who play simple songs and employ a lot of dual vocals. They are slightly halting and uncertain and I kind of like that. On this very brief acquaintance they come across as likeable rather than musically interesting, but ‘likeable’ goes a long way. Certainly, their harmonies are gorgeous.

This back room at The Shacklewell is odd to say the least. It feels like it has been through a number of incarnations before the owners just threw their hands up and turned it over to live performance. It looks like an Hawaiian tikki bar that has fallen into disrepair, been turned into a jazz club and that at some time or other they may have run a ghost train through here. Visually, it’s a mess.

The drum kit is set up in an alcove behind the stage. Bands go in and out of their dressing room through a small black cubby hole that looks as though it may once have been part of a fairy grotto.

When White Lung emerge they are not impressed. They don’t like the lighting or the sound. They do not profess themselves happy until drummer Anne-Marie Vassilou has been plunged into darkness and is out of sight and mind.

The band themselves have two settings – standing on the stage chatting to each other or screaming into your face from a few feet away in a full on assault. A White Lung gig is not one for the casual bystander.

Singer and chief instigator Mish Way is wearing a leopard print coat and has sprinkled her face with what looks like a light dusting of glitter. In the sweaty confines of this room everything starts to run together and get stuck in her hair.

The other focal point in the band is bassist Hether Fortune. She constantly joshes with Way and takes great pleasure in mocking her increasingly manic appearance.

White Lung thrive on interaction with their audience and as the set progresses Way decides that the crowd is not doing its bit. She demands more response from those down the front and dives down among them. This causes a wild melee with beer flying in all directions. Way emerges even more bedraggled than previously but pleased with the result of her intervention.

And so it continues. White Lung do not have any individual songs that particularly stand out, their great strength is the verve and energy with which this music is put across. This set is a thirty minute shot of pure adrenaline which ends with the band eventually disappearing through the door to their grotto.

That’s them done for the night.

A riotously fun evening which the crowd enjoyed more than the band. White Lung are a blistering live act, but you’ve got to bring your own ‘A’ game too.

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