30th October | Thekla
Photos: Jessica Bartolini
There is a foreboding sense of ghoulishness that strangles the atmosphere in Thekla as Goat Girl take to the stage. Suspiciously enough, it’s not deriving from their stage props, a particularly macabre set of masks that suit the night before Halloween, drenched in a dark, blood-red stage light. It’s seemingly stemming from the unwitting half-term frolics of private-school parents, doing shots and garishly stumbling from one side of the boat to the other as if it out of nowhere it had suddenly become unmoored after thirty-five years.
Goat Girl certainly aren’t the go-to band for saving middle-class marriages of half-cut, swaying daytime 6 Music listeners. They provide a set that shows how much more cynical and clinical the group are becoming. Opening with a salvo of album highlights in ‘Burn The Stake’ and ‘Creep’, two of their strongest and most potent songs, they immediately show how their live set has developed. They sound more focused, but impressively don’t lose any of their ramshackle bitterness as the group conduct a rich and unconstrained performance.
Lottie Pendlebury performs with piercing incisiveness, more like a dishevelled poet of gothic noir than rock n roll, acute and blunt as she sings of smashing in heads with a lingering drawl. Having cut back on most of the theatrical stage props that featured upon the release of their self-titled debut, the group have crafted a fuller and more fluid sound. They seem equally emboldened by their elevated position in the music climate and liberatingly indifferent to the recognition that is being afforded to them. ‘Viper Fish’ is the first taste of something more melodically traditional, yet it is no less brash. Their constantly off-kilter and intrinsic approach to rhythm instils anxiety in your veins.
The band have this subtle melodic quality that lingers cleverly, veering through spaghetti-western rhythms and rock n roll brashness without losing a sense of focus. ‘Cracker Drool’, with its cheeky wink of English wit, arrives stoically. Its bassline is as jovial, lustful and rampant. The harrowing nature of its lyrics ensure the crowd are still on edge, even if it’s melodically pleasing.
The band don’t revel in small talk with the crowd, which is pleasant. They smash through their songs with no sense of respite either, the latter half of their set filled with heavier, more bombastic and venomous numbers. ‘The Man’ brushes in and whips up some dust, a blur of wiggling guitar and low-hung harmonies, while early single, ‘Crow Cries’ lingers like a vulture before exploding into heavy-hitting noise. ‘Throw Me A Bone’ is perhaps their only example of melancholic vulnerability, Lottie’s burl cracking as she enunciates, “take me home”, which has just as much impact as their more musically-abrasive moments.
Closing out with the low-slung ‘Country Sleaze’, the authoritative connection that runs through their music is only more concentrated live, proving them to be a supremely understated and ambitious group.
See Goat Girl perform ‘Viperfish’ in 6 Music’s Live Room here: