Tonight, Warpaint were a revelation. Like being woken from the best kind of dream, a hazy prickly sensation that you’ll want to repeat more often than you’d care to admit. You don’t usually get these moments on a Wednesday in May.
The support act had already started when we arrived, but we were hooked within minutes. Harry’s Gym, a Nordic goth-tinged quartet, were like a predatory Zola Jesus backed by a sometimes angry, but mainly blissed out Yo La Tengo, and actually they’re a hell of a lot better than that might suggest. With pounding drums and bubbling synths underplaying bluesy ghostly vocals, they’ll be headlining shows here soon enough.
Admitting to a case of “First European gig nerves”, main act Warpaint took to the stage and instantly the air was electric. For once the media hype had been justified; Rough Trade may just have signed their most promising act in 20 years. These LA girls have model looks, are fashionably dishevelled, quietly talented and suitably charismatic, but their music too seems perfectly formed already, despite their having just one EP behind them.
Eager to hear material from the forthcoming full length album, the audience seemed to applaud the newer tracks with more reverence than the already beloved Exquisite Corpse numbers. Just a few bars in and they were mesmerized. There was less of a West Coast vibe and more a bleached out desert mood throughout. The songs are motorik heavy and wistfully brutal, with gurning drummer Stella Mozgawa, resplendent in bright red boiler suit, getting an ovation very early on. Crowd favourite Beetles showcases what makes this band so promising; alternating doo-wop vocal harmonies and jerky tempos, the girls have perfected the achingly hip witchy vibe so prevalent just now and added old favourites like shoegaze, stadium rock and – really – trip hop to the mix.
With guitarist/vocalist Teresa Wayman playing the scratchy foil to bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg’s swaying lull, the impression’s given that the band members get as much enjoyment from playing these hypnotic songs as those who had paid entry. The pace was unrelenting until, saving the best for last, they played standout track Billie Holiday to a suddenly hushed house.
Despite a request for a singalong, we were all unable to move or speak as they whispered the Mary Wells referencing number, casting spells over London. After silent tears were wiped away and exhalations were made, up came a punishingly intense version of Elephants that reminded why female harmonies and spaced out electric guitars are always a winning combination.
Tonight felt like an event, one of those gigs to remember for years to come. Warpaint will leave dust in your lungs, fire under your skin and magnets in your heart.