We’re gathered in The Locomotive for the latest in a series of original music gigs curated by Songs of Praise. It’s a small and neat pub with a stage that covers a good half the available interior space, but when the 70’s disco lighting starts up, I realise that we’re actually looking at a huge dance floor…
The young guy standing next to me is, not putting it too finely, hammered. “What’s this band’s name, mate?” he asks. I tell him and he says “They any good?” I tell him that I think we’re about to find out, one way or another – and we certainly do.
The amount of people who have told me that I should be watching tonight’s headliners, White Lilac has reached such a level that I turn to Bristol music luminary Mustafa Mirreh of The Flux for his opinion and when he gives a resounding thumbs up, I’m there.
I do a few minutes’ YouTube research to familiarise myself with the style, but nothing, absolutely nothing, prepares you for the power of this band. And I don’t mean they’re loud – aided by an excellent sound tech, they’re only using sufficient volume to rise above the hubbub – they’re just forceful, the music simply hits you in a wave. Imagine the most coruscating parts of Abjects colliding head on with the most blissful parts of Light Falls Forward and you might be getting close.
The band is a four-piece, but the pretty constant swapping of instruments to produce different configurations and soundscapes is an impressive feature of the performance. The one fixed point though is drummer Tom Counihan, who unobtrusively lays down a wide variety of different beats through the night with great craft and subtlety – an essential anchor when a band plays a good chunk of its set without a bass player.
Much of the coverage the band has received centres around singer Faye Rogers glorious, soaring voice, which is much in evidence as they jump straight in with their latest single, the mesmerising “The Girl Who Stole The Eiffel Tower”. Clearly not a band to keep their powder dry. Rogers also plays very smooth sax and can more than handle her lush teardrop Vox.
It’s clear after about one and a half tracks that this band has got something very special going for it, and a further recent effort, the breathtaking ‘Night Visions’, long and elegant, firmly reinforces this.
Much of this band’s elegance is produced by Emma Thornton’s cello, which has the dual role of providing a deeply melodic backdrop to some tracks while acting as a substitute bass on the tracks where two guitars are being used. She also switches over to bass for the more rocking tracks, of which there are several of differing degrees of violence, topped by the brutal ‘Dog Meat’, a three(ish) chord post-Punk thrash of immense power, with an instrument-free Rogers showing that not only does she do the Siren call but she can also growl one out as well – it’s my favourite of the night – it could strip paint at a hundred paces and produces a tremendous crowd reaction.
Guitarist Curtis Warner also comes right to the fore in this one, crashing out the chords to add to the bell-like clarity of his fine soloing during the evening, he also adds very fluent bass to a couple of tracks.
They do just under an hour, which goes very, very fast. I turn to the bloke next to me, who’s still, miraculously, standing and ask him what he thought. “They’re [expletive deleted] brilliant, mate – what are they called again?”
The band is called White Lilac and you’re going to be hearing a lot about them.