The Castle & Falcon
Review by SdM
Parking around the venue was even more of a nightmare than usual. I guessed, correctly as it turned out, that this was all to do with a certain band playing this particular night. After finally squeezing my car into an ad hoc space, I took part in what resembled a mini exodus from the scarily dark ‘car park’ toward the venue. The Castle & Falcon was packed. Never have I seen that particular venue so crowded. The bar was busy and the courtyard buzzing with excitement and chatter. It is a rare thing to be around an up and coming band with such high expectation as The Blinders. The fever-pitch atmosphere garnered by a growing reputation for incendiary performances, thumping tunes, acerbic lyrics and electric showmanship has whipped up a veritable storm. And I missed it! Taking a short (so I thought) breather in the courtyard from the steadily increasing hubbub and rising temperature I was then unable to get back into the room. The reviews of the gig rubbed salt into the wound: essentially, ‘you missed a good one ‘ere, mate!’. No doubt in their astronomic ascendency The Blinders will soon be playing enormo-domes. I will be able to recount this sorry tale to my grandchildren of how I very nearly saw them before they went stratospheric. Great.
However, all was not lost,dear reader…. Before the wild and eager crowd engaged in a game of mass sardines, and thereby locked me out, I had the good fortune to make my way near to the stage to watch the second support act of the evening, the very wonderful, Calva Louise.
Calva Louise returned to Brum just to two weeks since their last support slot in the city. Eager once more to take to the stage and belt out an almost non-stop incendiary 30 minute set of their own. In an atmosphere rich with anticipation, spirits oiled by various beers and conversations rising above the amplification, it is due to the sheer quality of their performance that Calva Louise made themselves heard and enjoyed by the assembled crowd.
The attention grabbing opener blasted like a shot from a starting pistol full of portentous guitar arpeggios, driving bass and ominous drums. ‘Outrageous’ continued the aural assault – Jess’ angered dynamic vocal is joined by Alizon’s equally furious thumping bass. A playful yet eerily disconcerting waltz-time musical break spins you around before plunging you back into the ire like a twisted fairground ride.
Applause between songs that had started as mere politeness for showing-up quickly grew into genuine appreciation. More telling was the ending of conversations and increased attention given during songs. Calva Louise were no mere filler act. They have the talent, the drive and the energy; they have a modern guitar heroine with a dynamic and expressive voice; backing vocals, drums and bass are all done with a fervoured relish; most importantly they have the songs to do this.
The fairground ride continued with the seductive and explosive ‘Getting Closer’ and the anthemic ‘I Heard A Cry’, all delivered with Jess’ screams, jumps and high-kicks. Drummer Ben, like Alizon, provides backing vocals extending the sonic palette. Sounds and influences from the 50’s vocal harmony groups, 60’s American garage rock, and a hint of Phil Spector-ish ‘wall of sound’ are seamlessly added to a splash of 90’s grunge and a pinch of Riot Grrrl rock. That Calva Louise are able to blend all these many disparate and seemingly contradictory styles and mould them into something that sounds fresh, modern and exhilarating is testament to their ability and scale of ambition.
The applause and cheers rang out loud at the end of the set. Calva Louise had once again revelled in an opportunity to play a support slot to a partisan crowd. There is no question on tonight’s performance that the audience were thoroughly entertained, almost unanimously won-over, and were primed and ready for more entertainment to come. And there’s a philosophy and challenge for any support act – always leave the place a little better than you found it. And with that – a job well done guys.