Horsegirl at The Dome, 23 June 2022 – review by Tony Rounce and Julie D Riley. Photos by Julie.

Young and highly rated Chicago trio Horsegirl played their first headline show last week in Tufnell Park’s Dome (former home of LOUD WOMEN Fest). They’re a name on everyone’s lips at the moment, so off we went to check them out.

In case you have yet to check them out, the three who make up Horsegirl came together in 2019 after bonding over a mutual appreciation of Sonic Youth, whose influence on their music is not difficult to spot. Their sound falls somewhere between shoegaze and Seattle grunge and is an appealing mixture of both on record, where the darker elements of both genres blend with and compliment the beguiling drone of their vocals. Their recent single ‘Billy’ and current one ‘Anti-Glory’ offer a handy cross section of what they are about musically, and both sounded good in the context of their 45 minutes (plus encores) set.

My fellow Loud Woman and companion for the evening (and formidable musician herself) I am HER’s Julie Riley noted audio similarities between Horsegirl and early Lush which didn’t immediately occur to me, but with the benefit of hindsight I make her spot on. “They have a lovely naivety about them…the appeal of their sound is the dissonant drive of guitar and bass with dourness of the vocals and the performance was true to this” was Julie’s post gig comment to me. I couldn’t put that any better myself.

Unfortunately Horsegirl’s whole set was blighted by a spectacularly murky, bass-heavy sound mix that rendered their vocals almost unintelligible to anyone who was not standing directly in front of the band (or, as I found out when I took a quick bathroom break towards the end of the set, in the gents – where it all sounded both loud AND clear…) The excellent supporting band Francis Of Delirium were also hampered by the same audio sludge, and the finger of blame can only be pointed at the sound engineer, as anyone who ever attended part of a LOUD WOMEN Fest in the same room will know that the acoustics are really rather good, on the whole.

Any audio discrepancies did not overly bother the capacity crowd – which seemed to be largely made up of 20-to-30-something men, although Julie spotted a cluster of younger women down the front when she ventured into the heart of the crowd to take a few pictures. Ecstatic cheers greeted a number of the songs from the trio’s recently-released “Versions Of Modern Performance” album, so it’s safe to assume that a lot of those in attendance already had a copy and had played it frequently in the couple of weeks since its UK release at the beginning of June.

The slightly shoegaze-y element of many of its selections was magnified by the aforementioned muddy mix that at times submerged the vocals of Phoebe Lowenstein and Nora Cheng to the point of indiscernibility, behind the vast wall of percussive noise that was emanating from dominant drummer Gigi Reece and their kit. Song introductions were kept to a minimum, and there wasn’t a huge amount of between-song communication with the audience generally – but the album pretty much was Horsegirl’s set, and in a similar if not quite identical running order. Judging from the rapturous response at the end of said set, the genuine, unforced demand for an encore and the fact that nobody walked out while the performance was in progress, they were genuinely loved by everyone in the room.  Niggles about the sound notwithstanding, it was a confident, comfortable calling card that promised much for return visits in – almost certainly – bigger venues.

Even with a major label album to their name it’s fair to say that Horsegirl are still a work in progress, and as good as they are already, they will only get better in time to come. They are already blessed with a huge degree of capability and seemingly have the beginnings of a formidable fan base, both of which play well for a limitless future. On the evidence provided by their big London debut, I’d say that’s a very good place to find themselves in at this stage of their career. You would be daft to bet against eventual world domination, that’s for sure…

Horsegirl’s debut album is out now on Matador Records. Find them on Instagram | Twitter | Bandcamp