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Saturday, 4 May 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Vodun & Blackwater Holylight (Live Review By Paul H)

Vodun and Blackwater Holylight, The Lanes, Bristol

It’s worth starting this review with an apology. I’m sorry we were unable to include the headline act Electric Citizen in the review due to an early departure and a very late start. The whole set up was unimpressive. Running 50 minutes late from the advertised set times is a real shit show. Having spunked up the cash for on-line tickets the least the promoters/venue could have done was have someone on the door to check them. I don’t begrudge you the cash but at least try. Hell, challenge the guys in Vodun and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard tees. We weren’t there for the indifferent bar service or for a game of ten pin.

I suppose it was a sign when we entered the bizarre venue at advertised doors to see Vodun still completing their sound check. If you haven’t been to the Lanes before, it’s a strange set up. Bowling alleys flank one side of the building, accessed through a doorway with no door (a gap in the wall I suppose), the bar runs the length of the venue and the stage is directly next to the front door meaning punters entering there for three fingered action have to run the gauntlet of the band and crowd before reaching their target destination. Add an upper level seating area at the rear of the venue and external seating area also accessed from the same room and you’ve got one weird venue. Add in a sprinkling of the hippest hipsters to top it all off.

Kicking off the evening eventually, Portland’s Blackwater Holylight (7), a five-piece heavy psych outfit whose heavy riffs and delicate vocals recalled a heavier version of The Breeders. They may have started late, but these girls wasted little time in kicking out the jams, with a six-song blast that drew appreciative applause from the healthy sized audience. The band are label mates with headline act Electric Citizen and you can see why. Fuzzy, downtuned riffs, deep bass lines and swirling keys contribute to a heavy psych sound. With five of them crammed on the stage, there wasn’t much movement, but the band hit hard with tunes from their self-titled debut album from last year. They are appearing at Desertfest on the Bank Holiday weekend and are certainly worth a watch.

Thankfully, the only reason we were there lived up to all our previous expectations. London based Vodun (9) have wowed us before, most recently at their headline show at Le Pub in Newport last September. With drummer Ogoun having departed to vegan shores, new drummer Daphne cut her debut teeth with such aplomb that it would have been impossible to have known it wasn’t her 100th gig. Battering the kit with the ferocity of her predecessor, this was a sheer tour de force. Alongside her, guitarist and human whirlwind The Marassa, all effortless shapes, shining sounds and twisting maelstrom conjuration from his finger tips. And then frontwoman Oya. The most impressive frontwoman in rock today, her soulful yet full force vocals have often been compared to the late great Aretha Franklin but there is much more here.

Captivating in her flowing robes and tribal paint, she screams, roars and sings with such power that the microphone stand began to buckle. Percussion features highly and although there was no opportunity for the audience to get involved on the old maracas and tambourines (as happens at their headline gigs) it was still a spiritually intense show. Tracks from the two Vodun albums Ascend and Possession continue to impress with their African tribal and psych combinations. There are few bands on the circuit like Vodun and they deserve much larger audiences. If these guys come to town, buy a ticket immediately. A fabulous band, highly energised and just incredible.

Unfortunately, by the time Electric Citizen headed for the stage, it was well past 10pm and with early starts the following day, a sacrifice was made. Disappointing but the reason for our journey had been so worth it. A nightmare journey home with multiple motorway closures proved our decision to be correct. Get your timings a bit closer please!

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