Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Dorothy Strain @ Water Rats, London

10 March 2003

There’s a buzz at this gig tonight. The audience eager and excited, jittery and loud, and they greet The Dorothy Strain like over-excited children.

The set begins with Protest Song, intro all jagged guitar interspersed with powerful and unusual bursts of trombone and as this music locates my own hedonistic child, a voice enters. I’ve not heard a vocal noise quite like it before; it’s sharp, abrasive, emotive and the usual references to women performers like PJ Harvey and Patti Smith somehow inaccurate. This voice isn’t copied, she doesn’t imitate. In Laments, when McCambridge sings “My God, please just stay there,” her top end note surprises and nearly makes me cry. A wicked guitar solo follows: I look round at the audience, and they’re smiling, every single one of them.

In Misunderstood, this band really lets loose, a mayhem of inventive songwriting. With drummer Dammo’s searing driven beats propelling guitarist Warren to pulse about the stage like a demented thing, trombonist Shane shaking his head like it might fly off. The silent wait that precedes the line “you have misunderstood me” itches with anticipation for that glorious riff to re-enter and when it finally does, thank god for music like this. The wall of noise is huge and envelops as it whooshes me along. Only Toby, the bassist and co-writer seems nonplussed by this madness, nonchalant amongst the musical mayhem.

The gig lasts 25 minutes, and I can’t believe they’re finished so soon. Nor can the audience, braying for more. This is The Dorothy Strain’s sixth gig and the buzz deserves them. Their debut single is out soon. They will be heard, they will invent, they will exceed.

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The Dorothy Strain @ Glastonbury Festival
The Dorothy Strain @ Water Rats, London