Words and Photos by Steve White
Like many tours LA Witch’s visit to the UK to promote 2020 album Play With Fire was delayed for two years but tonight we’re finally going to get to hear them play live songs that have been gracing our home speakers since August 2020.
But first we need to talk about Pit Pony who, having been lauded by 6Music’s Mary Anne Hobbs, a support slot with Idles, a recent record deal with Leeds label Clue Records and an album due in July are now gaining the recognition they deserve beyond “those in the know”. The fact that they’re from the North East and now all based in Newcastle also means there’s a sizeable number of people in the Cluny early to witness them deliver a superb set. Opening with Osaka we’re immediately plunged into a cacophony of raucous garage noise that doesn’t let up for even a second throughout the 40 minutes or so Pit Pony are on stage. But Pit Pony are not all about a sonic noise assault. There’s an ominous undercurrent to their sound.
A brilliant interplay between the guitars of Andrew – all pent up energy, stamping feet and jumps around the stage – and Garth – effortlessly cool, standing to one side and sharing just the occasional nod and smile with tonight’s last minute stand in bassist, James. One delivering a corrosive, cutting, jagged noise while the other lays down higher pitched, dangerously playful, catchy notes that intertwine with thumping drums and repetitive chugging bass riffs to tie everything together. Above it all the vocals of Jackie Purver, full of purpose and anger without ever screeching, cover topics such as the grip of anxiety (Black Tar), teenage errors that come back to haunt you (Dutch Courage) and the perils of idle gossip (Osaka). Tasters from soon to be released album World To Me – Tide Of Doubt, Underwater, See Me Be Me – show Pit Pony really do mean business, delivering songs with real relevance in today’s world all with a perfect blend of noise, melodies and dark, prowling beats.
I seriously recommend you head over to Pit Pony’s Bandcamp page and pre-order World To Me here.
Opening with those dark, dark words and a tale of murky obsession – “I’m going to hurt my baby tonight, If he don’t come home on time..” Kill My Baby Tonight, the opening song from self titled 2017 debut album, allows L.A.Witch to set their stall out for a set of songs dominated by reverb, icy bass lines and garage surf guitar. It’s menacing, dark and hypnotic. Perfect for dingy, smoke filled cellar bars where people sit and stare into emptiness, The Cluny’s grungy red/blue lights with the occasional shaft of brightness setting the tone well. Latest album, Play With Fire, sees L.A.Witch move right into some explosive, raucous rock n roll with Fire Starter, Motorcycle Boy, I Wanna Lose, Gen-Z and, in particular, True Believers and Sexorexia full of riot grrrl anger and venom as singer/guitarist Sade Sanchez sizzling vocals yell “You drag me around, you push me down. You must think I’m your clown”.
The turbulent, rowdy noise, rumbling bass and thumping drums that dominate Play With Fire are interspersed perfectly with older tracks and their slower, sleazier, occasionally blues tinged, occasionally hypnotic and trance-like moods. Baby In Blue Jeans, Brian and Get Lost show how easily L.A.Witch have the ability to lift you high before effortlessly dragging you back to reality. The additional guitar of touring member Lauren Andino from LA’s Tremours has added an extra dimension to the sound of LA Witch’s live set, complementing the signature sounds from Sanchez. Throughout the entire set there’s little movement from any member with Irita Pai barely straying from her position stage left, Sanchez occasionally stepping to either side of her mic stand, every now and then crouching to alter settings on her peddle board or fix the odd sound fault. For reasons only they know drummer Ellie English is tucked away right at the back in a corner.
So much so that anyone standing on the right side of the venue struggled to actually see her. Everything relies on the music. Thankfully L.A.Witch have dark, menacing, hypnotic, often dreamy and often frenzied songs nailed down flawlessly and leave the crowd in the Cluny tonight shouting for more once the main set comes to a close.
They return for an encore of just two songs. The slow, monotonous single drum beat underpinning the atmospheric guitars and mellow vocals throughout the almost carnivalesque sounds of Heart Of Darkness and finally the slicing guitars and whirring bass underpinning the sonic assault of Starred.
Two bands that, whilst different in so many ways, were a perfect match for a great night from start to finish.