Into the Pit: 106: Blindness – Live at the Barfly – 03-August 2011

I can’t recall the last time that I headed to a small venue on the “toilet circuit” to check out a barely-known, under-the-radar band. Especially when they are not the headliners. But the marvellous single/EP Confessions – released late last year, and in my top ten tracks of 2010 – had me hooked from the start, and it has taken nine months for me finally to have a night spare when they were playing…so it was off to Camden with me.

Live @ Barfly, London NW1
03 August 2011

It was notable that I was by far not the only one there to see the band, who were only a support to Pilots, and judging on the way the crowd seemed to rather evaporate post-Blindness, I did wonder just who remained.

Anyway. Back to the band in question. Lets get a couple of things out of the way, shall we? First off, yes, attention has been brought to this band by virtue of the fact that their guitarist is Debbie Smith (yes, ex-Curve). And we might as well also note that there is certainly a Curve influence here, not to mention also the influence of Garbage. I’ll come back to these in a bit, I’m sure.

You have to sometimes remember, though, that small gigs like this, that there isn’t a grand intro. Bands sort their own kit out on stage, and there is no big walk-on, just a nod, and an assumption of their positions. Still, I’d love to know what that sample that introduces the first song was. Introduced with a bass riff and a simple beat, Glamourama quickly builds into an impressive track that sounded somewhat different to the tracks that I’d heard up to this point, and my companions and my first thought? Sounds a bit like Garbage. And looked a bit like Garbage, too. In a recent interview, singer Beth did note that her biggest influence was Shirley Manson, and certainly it shows onstage: both in similar look, and her movements. But then, it was also one of the most painfully shy performances I have seen in a while. But it is quite endearing, really, how she seems to try and avoid eye contact with the crowd, and only really comes “alive”, as it were, when lost in vocal delivery – and during a quite extraordinary Broken, it was all-too-clear that the despair in the lyrics is from very personal experience as she slumped on the floor, barely audible as Debbie’s shredding guitar fought with the swirling samples and brooding beats.

Blindness Setlist:
Last One Dies
Not Something
Serves Me Right

Interestingly the two tracks aired from the EP (Broken and the masterful single Confessions) are not totally representative of the rest of their output. They suggested a very, er, shoegaze direction, but with what could be deemed updated electronics, and a more contemporary feel generally. So it was a little bit of a surprise to see the overriding style was a little more sleek, electronic-tinged rock, shown best by the spite of Last One Dies, and the defiance of Not Something. The rhythm section of bassist Kendra and drummer Alex (and sampler) underpin the sound and keep the tracks driving forward, while Debbie paints all kinds of sonic imagery with her shredding guitar work.

Confessions, though, remains a star of the show, along with Beth’s performance during it. It is one of those songs where all the elements just work, a thumping, urgent beat and layers of guitar cascading around Beth’s wounded vocal – before the snarling chorus spikes the atmosphere. It encapsulates the band well – apparently not in a happy place, but defiant and fighting their way through. The sheer force of their music makes you want to will them to succeed.

Next show? Nambucca on 09-Sep. You might well find me there, or at at least another gig of theirs this year. I want to enjoy hearing more of this band before they gain too much more of an audience – as they surely will. There is always a good feeling when you see a band early on that clearly deserve so much more – this is one of those times.

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