HOLLY STEVENSON: Nice band; shame about the audience.

ambient art rock cambridge junction female group Feminism Heath Ledger Holly Stevenson Music Mystery Jets The Junction warpaint

The Junction, Wednesday 11th May, £12

[rating: 3.5/5]

I was not cool enough to be at this gig. I was there to see Warpaint – an all-female ambient rock group so hip that Heath Ledger was a fan- wearing a dodgy cardigan, sweating from the bike ride to the Junction, and surrounded by people who may or may not have been on crystal meth. Oh dear.

The band promise an ‘underwater mood’ in their music, and their album does sound like they are performing surrounded by softly flowing streams, possibly whilst dressed in floaty chiffon. Yet, on stage, whilst hardly jumping around like jackrabbits, there was definitely a harder edge to the songs, especially on their latest single Undertow, their only straightforward ‘verse, chorus, verse’ song. They may have even broken into a sweat.

Despite this edge, the mood was very chilled out, the band flowing effortlessly from one song to another, and so tracks such as the beautiful Shadows and the painfully introspective Lissie’s Heart Murmur swelled into a sound of epic proportions. Strobe lights lazily swept over the audience; it was very much a ‘headspace’ gig – a time to just go into your head and be swept up into the music. It was also incredibly refreshing to see four women on stage casually dressed, and really absorbed in their craft, oblivious to the many wolf-whistles and cat-calls emanating from the audience. The feminist in me recoiled in horror, as I was hoping that an audience who would come to see an experimental art-rock group would be an enlightened bunch. I mean, I didn’t go to see the Mystery Jets in order to stare at their crotches for two hours; and not just because the Mystery Jets are not exactly dreamboats.


Warpaint – Undertow

However, the encore highlighted the girls’ weaknesses. First up was a solo performance of Baby by guitarist Emily Kokal, a sugary love song which included the cringy line “You live your life like a page ripped from the book of my fantasy”; though which was an exquisite, ethereal performance aside from the lyrics. This was followed by a 25-minute (I timed it) improvised jam – which would have been fabulous for the first 10 minutes, but as it was lacked focus and failed to inspire the audience.

So, it was great, mind-expanding music; though perhaps the world isn’t ready to accept a female group not clad in miniskirts and shaking their booty. Time the world caught up.