Ordinarily, Valentine's Day is a celebration of a special someone that you already love, however, this year it transpired that it was a day for finding a new love.Step forward Joanna Gruesome. As legend would have it, the band's members met while attending anger management classes and I had to work hard to quell my own anger at previously dismissing them as hipster nonsense, based solely on their flippant name.
Their uncompromising sound falls somewhere between the jangly twee of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and the propulsive proto-punk of Canada's White Lung, which combined to dizzying effect in the perfect confines of the Brudenell to leave me clutching my heart like Lloyd Christmas when he first meets Mary Swanson in Dumb and Dumber.Frontwoman Alanna McArdle's magnetic presence at the heart of the stage acts as the perfect focal point as her band mates furiously stab away at their instruments around her creating a scuzzy majesty that simply engulfs the lovebirds, and loners, in the audience. The effortless melody of 'Secret Surprise' provides the set's finest moment, but it's an unnamed new song that really makes its mark with female and male vocals intertwining in a fashion entirely befitting of the date.
I'd feel sorry for any band taking to the stage after that spellbinding set and there is a feeling of 'after the Lord Mayor's Show' about Speedy Ortiz’s effort, as their lo-fi grunge fails to resonate as potently as it might have done if they had been on 45 minutes earlier. The four tracks from this year's Real Hair EP all get an airing and sound every bit as jagged and eccentric as they do on record, but the lack of sonic variation in their set doesn't encourage you to want to quit your job and start following the band on tour, which is a temptation that regularly popped into my head during Joanna Gruesome’s set. If nothing else, Speedy Ortiz’s set is a timely reminder to all bands that in putting Joanna Gruesome on before you, you are playing with fire.
Words - Guy Atkinson