We were in the middle of a heat wave but, judging by the large crowd that formed in Rough Trade East on a balmy July evening, Gengahr were going to get a warm reception whatever the weather.
I’m pleased to say that Gengahr’s teenage fans showed up en masse for this in store show, waving their wristbands and clutching their albums to be signed after the 30 minute set. Why was I pleased? Because the passion this band obviously ignites in fans young and old(er) reminds me that bands that don’t fit neatly into a genre or ‘scene’ can inspire.
I’m going to be honest and say I liked Gengahr’s debut album, A Dream Outside, when I first heard it on release day last month but I didn’t get hooked on it. This worried me as I knew I should love it and was quite prepared to. Plenty of people have been telling me this album is already one of the records of 2015.
This north London four-piece are purveyors of a sound that breaks with indie-rock conventions that a lot of other bands are currently clinging to. They have even included lyrical references to a few of my favourite scary things: vampires; sharks; witches; ghosts. It felt unique but it still didn’t stick in my head. I was honestly hopeful that this short gig would help me to work out what I was missing.
The band arrive onto the small stage and launch straight into album opener Dizzy Ghosts that teases with its delicate beginning, showcasing Felix Bushe’s trembling falsetto, before jumping into John Victor’s jolting guitars and it’s all got suddenly much heavier. Then it’s straight into the shimmering single Heroine, which shifts from psychedelic to rock and back again. By this point the audience are happily nodding along.
I’m impressed by how tight this band is. They are slightly heavier live than on the album but they don’t lose any of the intricacy of their song writing. There is no showmanship or banter but Gengahr don’t really need that. Their music creates the atmosphere.
Bathed In Light has an eeriness that bizarrely reminds me of the beginning of Ghost Town by The Specials until the chorus kicks in and we’re back to a summery indie groove again. Quirky really doesn’t do them justice. The weirdness is at its catchiest on Fill My Gums With Blood with Bushe singing “Wrong side of love, why don’t you let me in. So I can drink from you”. On first single Powder the vocals just melt into guitars until the song soars to a rocked out crescendo. The set ends with the appropriately summery She’s A Witch, where the lyrics skip along hand in hand with the dreamy guitar riff.
I trudge off to Liverpool Street station in the humid London air and realise I’m still not convinced. It’s not until I’m back home and walking into my kitchen that I realise I’m singing Heroine. When I wake up and head to the shower the next morning I’m humming Fill My Gums With Blood. It’s then that I realise that Gengahr’s live performance has made it click. I guess their music has finally crept up on me, a bit like a ghoulish character from one of their songs, and maybe I’m now bewitched.
Where I Lie
Bathed In Light
Fill My Gums With Blood
She’s A Witch
Visit the Gengahr website
Photos: © Rhiannon Ormerod