This gig feels like a break-through event — the moment The Orielles connect with a wider audience in the capital. The Orielles make music to get people dancing, so the crowd kicking off from the start of a sold-out show is just what they want. The loud taped intro to the night’s set is 1978’s disco classic by Alicia Bridges: “I love the nightlife, I’ve got to boogie”. It’s a statement of intent.
From the first song, the front of the crowd at The Garage in Highbury is excitable and bopping. The tinkling cymbals, tight bass and sassy riffing of ‘Old Stuff, New Glass’ spark a disco breakout. One punter is up on their mate’s shoulders. “This is definitely the biggest gig we’ve ever played, so we’re shitting ourselves,” guitarist Henry Carlyle admits, after bouncing around the stage with a big smile on his face throughout the opening track.
As they snap into ‘Snaps’, Esme Dee Hand-Halford’s huge bass sets trousers wobbling, backed up by sister Sidonie ‘Sid’ Hand-Halford’s drums, while Henry’s guitar alternates between funk and psyche. All three of them harmonise on ‘Mango’ while the crowd dances on. “Hurray” someone shouts when ‘Henry’s Pocket’ is announced, and the guitarist justifies the praise with a superb break towards the song’s gentle ending.
Crowd-surfing breaks out to the descending bass patterns, sparkling drums and deadpan surrealist lyrics of ‘I Only Bought It For The Bottle’, Henry switching temporarily from his six-string to a cowbell and Esme blasting on a whistle. The Garage is hot and sweaty by now, and trippy oval bubbles of light illuminate the back of the stage during a languid visit to the summer-drenched ‘Borrachero Tree’. There’s more crowd surfers as soon as Sid’s intricate cowbell percussion heralds the catchy ‘48 Percent’ with its unlikely singalong hook (“I see the sun in the sky and it hurts my eyes, it hurts my eyes…”), three-piece vocal harmonies and superb bass bridge.
“It looks fucking sick from up here so keep it up,” Henry tells the moshers, although the next song is the dreamy, slower-tempo, country and western waltz of ‘Liminal Spaces’ — showcasing Esme’s beautiful voice and woozy bass, Sid’s tinkling cymbals and heavenly drum rolls, the sisters’ faultless “ooh ooh oohs”, and a sublime-inal guitar solo from Henry. ‘The Sound of Liminal Spaces’ proves it’s no album filler (it’s the half-way point on debut LP ‘Silver Dollar Moment’), but an integral part of the band’s eclectic soundscape — justifiably, the bongo-jazz instrumental gets greeted by more crowd-surfing in the moshpit.
The Orielles delight in genre jumping and changes in tempo, and now seem to be playing the album in reverse order — wild pogoing in the first dozen rows welcoming the contagious punk-pop shredding of single ‘Dogtooth’ and the up-tempo parts of ‘Sunflower Seeds’, erupting each time a slow, giddy trip-pop verse turns to a pacy indie-garage chorus, Sid smashing her cymbal hard to bring the track to its skipping climax.
The security team at the front look worried as the main set ends with yet more crowd-surfing by punters revelling in the pace-changing intricacies of dance-punk set-closer ‘Blue Suitcase’, the juicy bass (melodically bouncing) and chiming guitar (part Prince, part Beck) in constant dialogue. For once the chant of “one more song” is appropriate, as there can be just one track for an encore by The Orielles — the blistering and mesmerising virtuosity of ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’. It’s a twisting nine-minute epic that never fails to deliver. The Garage is bouncing; The Orielles have got the place jumping. You’ve got to boogie.
The Orielles setlist at The Garage:
Old Stuff, New Glass
I Only Bought It for the Bottle
The Sound of Liminal Spaces
Let Your Dogtooth Grow
Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)
Sugar Tastes Like Salt
All photos: Ian Bourne