Live review by Jenny Bunn – The Velveteers and The Pearl Harts – The Lexington, 9 June 2022
I’ve never been to the Lexington before, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to make the pilgrimage down to London from the Midlands for Colorado natives The Velveteers. As a fan of minimalistic or more unusual band setups, I’m hyped to bear witness to a band with two drummers and one guitarist, and even more hyped to find out that one of my other current favourite bands – rock’n’roll duo The Pearl Harts – will be opening.
The Lexington is nicely busy as The Pearl Harts open their set with Pulling My Brains Out, taking to the stage in matching oil slick leggings. There’s a visible energy between both band members (guitarist Kirsty and drummer Sara) as they craft their riff-driven sound, expertly building and layering guitar loops over back and forth vocals and driving drumbeats.
The band put on an excellent show, intermittently blowing kisses at one another onstage and proving that high energy gigs don’t always have to mean jumping all over the stage. “Sorry about the feedback,” guitarist Kirsty says offhandedly to the audience, but it needs no apology and nobody here is complaining. The set closes too soon with the angular Black Blood; a series of aggressive riffs juxtaposed against sweeter vocals that descend in this live offering into a slower riff build up of foot stomping, standing up drums and crunchy gritty guitars, and ending – ever so adorably – with a hug. A perfect opening act that I would 100 percent take the opportunity to see again.
There is no fucking around as The Velveteers take to the stage. I’ve seen plenty of bands take their time to get in the zone once they set themselves up behind their instrument, but not today. Drummer Baby’s first cymbal hit nearly knocks out the crowd. They are joined by fellow drummer Jonny behind what is possibly the most interesting stage setup I have ever seen: the two sit side by side behind two bass drums, two floor toms, two snares and a single shared hi hat and cymbal between them. They start to play together in the type of completely perfect synchronisation that would make many gymnastics teams jealous, and a distinct sense of anticipation has built by the time that guitarist Demi nonchalantly takes to the stage in a fringed zebra print two piece.
From the get go, there’s no doubt that this is a band that is very much aware of what they each bring to the table, and damn does each one of them bring it well. Demi’s seductively hypnotic vocals take centre stage, and her guitar – an Eastwood baritone – expertly bridges the gap between bass and lead guitar, its signature chunky but versatile sound the product of two octave pedals and a Digitech Whammy. Complimented perfectly by the two drummers – and Jonny’s intermittent but very well executed synth and guitar playing – the band’s catchy dark psychedelia is mesmerising to witness. ‘Maybe I need to buy a baritone’ I think to myself as the set goes on.
By far one of the highlights of the set is when drummer Baby brings their snare out into the audience, offering it up to a member of the crowd to hold and then – if you’ll excuse the expression – proceeding to beat the ever-loving shit out of it. I readjust the earplug in my right ear. A splinter of drumstick narrowly misses my head. I’m starting to wonder if the snare is okay, or if maybe it’s done something to seriously upset its owner, and this is their revenge. It’s a beautiful moment.
The snare survives. Baby returns to their kit and multi-instrumentalist Jonny moves to the front of the stage with guitar in hand for audience favourite and swirling psychedelic soundscape Charmer and The Snake. It’s a perfect blend of slinky slithering vocal melodies, mounting tension and delightfully relatable lyrics, not to mention being one of the best advertisements for running a pedalboard with multiple octave pedals that I’ve ever heard.
We’re back to two drummers again for Dark Horse, the band’s final song of the evening, as Demi debuts a white Gretsch guitar to mark the occasion. I can feel the drums through the floor as Baby and Jonny play once more in synchronisation while Demi switches instruments and it feels like I’m witnessing a competition between the two behind the kit as to who can break one of their drum skins first. Equal parts droning, anthemic and nostalgic, Dark Horse is a delicious treat for the ears. As the song comes to a close, Demi holds her guitar out like an offering to the crowd, and as they gladly take it off her, she proceeds to caress it gently with a slide, closing the set on a feedbacking high.
There are good shows and then there are good shows that leave me with a huge creative buzz, and this is certainly the latter as I spend my journey back to the tube station feeling hugely inspired to pick up a guitar and get back to writing. Would I recommend seeing them again? Absolutely. Now back to that baritone guitar…