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Deap Vally + Drenge @ Dingwalls, London - 26/02/2013

by AlanAshtonSmith
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on 27 February 2013 in Live
Rating 8/10

‘Two two-pieces touring together’ could be the alliterative précis of tonight’s show, and it’s a truly tumultuous occasion. Deap Vally and Drenge have enough in common – their basic guitar/drums setups and their penchants for noisy bluesy rock – but also enough to set them apart – their genders and their hometowns, and the attitudes that stem from these details – to make for a compelling pairing.

Derbyshire brothers Drenge are first on stage, and deliver a set that, while firmly rooted in garage and blues rock, includes a few nods to grunge and a sense of northern England that seems to go further than their accents. They’re young enough to pull off plenty of throwaway lines contemptuous of love, friendship, and pretty much anything else they turn their attention to. In fact their lyrics are almost nihilistic at times – you get a taste of this simply from song titles like ‘I Wanna Break You In Half’ and ‘People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck’.

It seems churlish to accuse Eoin Loveless of not being a great singer – nobody wants to see a Brit School graduate X Factor finalist warbler handling vocals in this kind of rock ’n’ roll band. But he could at times be accused of not making the effort, delivering his lines in so lackadaisical a way that they come across more haphazardly slurred than charmingly insouciant.

Still, he and his brother Rory have the confidence and the musical chops to make for a strong set. Rory has the last word into the mike with as basic but rousing a statement as anything they’ve played: ‘Buy our seven inch so we can get some fookin’ gear’.

Deap Vally, from California’s San Fernando valley, are no less rousing. Julie Edwards’ drums are a powerhouse from the off, and Lindsey Troy’s guitar a rich fuzzy chug with the drive and bite of an alligator in a monster truck – and then comes her voice, starting with the soulful opening ‘Woah’s of ‘Baby I Call Hell’, and then charging up into something between a yelp and a snarl.

The fact that Troy is barefoot might seem an affectation – but that Edwards pounds her drums shoeless looks almost like masochism. Their hair flies all over the place throughout, and when Edwards mutes her cymbals she almost does so with her head, leaning over her kit as if to embrace it. Their choice of attire can’t go unremarked on either: more than a little flesh is on display.

But while their mannerisms and bare feet might be about creating a performance, this doesn’t look like as exhibitionism. There may be an element of feminism involved, or an affinity with slutwalking, but it comes across as largely a practical consideration: this is how one dresses when one is working up a sweat a rock ‘n’ roll band. More than anything else, it’s comparable with all the male musicians who throw off their shirts on stage.

The atmosphere in the crowd is highly charged – possibly overcharged. Admittedly, I’m writing from the standpoint of someone who attends regular gigs from the sober standpoint of reviewer, and could probably allow a little more leeway to the people who go to maybe three or four shows a year and treat it as a big night out. But I quickly lose patience with attendees who are pissed, obnoxious and forcing their way to the front.

After all, Deap Vally might be about letting your hair down having a good time, but they’re also very much about respect and tolerance, as demonstrated by new songs whose themes are walks of shame and the abiding necessity of using protection. Still, you can’t blame the crowd for acting in an apocalyptic fashion as the duo conclude their set with ‘End Of The World’. The distractions of flailing limbs and liquids mean that it’s hard to verify that this song was as thrillingly as the rest of the set, but I’m nonetheless confident enough in Deap Vally’s abilities to say that it was.

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