This Speedy Ortiz article was written by Joe Turner, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Gavin Wells
Fans of independent Rock music were in for a treat on Wednesday night at The Dome in Tufnell Park. Members of headliners Speedy Ortiz are conspicuously present during sets by the two support acts, Yuck Bassist Mariko Doi’s side-project Parakeet, and Bristol natives Trust Fund.
Parakeet emphasise the more shoegaze-y elements of Doi‘s other band, and those dedicated fans who turn up early for tonight’s show are rewarded by a set crammed with hazy, psych-tinged Guitar work and earworm melodies. In between songs the band seem slightly awkward, but when they start playing they take instant control of the stage and the room.
Trust Fund, meanwhile, have all of the shambolic charm of a band like Indie Rock legends The Replacements, and the pure joy with which they perform their set proves to be contagious. During the first song the lead Guitarist’s strap falls off, and at one point the drummer loses a cymbal, but these mishaps, cheerfully received by band and audience, come off as authentic rather than amateurish. There is a childlike simplicity to the band’s music, and this is enhanced by the singer’s helium-voiced falsetto. In one striking moment, the band falls away to leave four un-mic’d voices in unison accompanied by a few simple Guitar strums; a hush descends on the crowd, beautifully demonstrating the emotional engagement between the band and their audience.
Like their Indie Rock ancestors – particularly in the riot grrrl and D.C. punk scenes – Speedy Ortiz promote an atmosphere of inclusivity at their gigs. Signs are displayed demanding respect between audience members and advertising the band’s phone and email hotlines to report harassment. Speedy Ortiz are building a reputation for not only speaking up about injustice but, in true punk spirit, proposing practical solutions.
Of course, none of this would mean anything if they didn’t have the songs to back it up. While some current Indie Rock acts trade on 90’s nostalgia, Speedy Ortiz remind you of your favourite bands while sounding totally contemporary and original. The hour-long set is mostly drawn from their latest album ‘Foil Deer’. I had wondered how the quieter, weirder songs, such as ‘Mister Difficult’, would go down alongside their noisier material, but this attention to dynamic contrast succeeds in highlighting the band’s intricate-yet-accessible songwriting. This is best demonstrated on ‘Dvrk Wvrld’, a personal favourite from ‘Foil Deer’; the discomfitingly low-key verse erupts into the song’s crushingly heavy closing section, sending a shiver down my spine.
There are a handful of songs taken from previous album ‘Major Arcana’, as well as selected tracks from non-album releases, including a crowd-pleasing rendition of early single ‘Taylor Swift’ and a particularly strong performance of ‘Silver Spring’ from the band’s 2012 ‘Sports EP’. Fans are also treated to a new song, ‘Screen Gem’, which Singer/Guitarist Sadie Dupuis explains is about a porn actor with “inappropriate feelings” towards their co-star (“Did you say ‘corn actor’?” asks Drummer Mike Falcone).
Dupuis is a very likable frontwoman. She seems slightly shy, although endearingly so, between songs, but when she starts singing she is in complete command of the room, at times toying with the audience’s expectations by altering her delivery of certain lines from the recorded versions. Stage banter ranges from Crispin Glover‘s half-birthday to Bojack Horseman, with Dupuis and the gregarious Falcone addressing the crowd.
Speedy Ortiz close the set with a passionate version of ‘Pioneer Spine’. As they leave the stage, some in the crowd start a chant for more. However, there is no encore; instead the band walk through the crowd to the merch table at the back, where they are mobbed by fans, some of whom are after t-shirts and records, while some just want the chance to chat to their favourite band. The band are happy to oblige, staying long after the end of their set to sign records and talk music. (I take the opportunity to geek out with Guitarist Devin McKnight about his side-project Philadelphia Collins).
With their consistently challenging songwriting, compelling live performances and support for progressive attitudes, Speedy Ortiz are cementing their place as one of the most musically and culturally relevant rock bands around.