LoneLady: Caught by the River Calder Festival, Hebden Bridge Trades Club: 23/1/16
Night-time in the West Yorkshire ex-mill town of Hebden Bridge. With shells of industrial buildings and the quiet, strange magic of its seclusion, it is the perfect setting to be sucked into LoneLady’s imagination. Hailing from Manchester, the decaying urban fringes of her home city fuels her creative vision, in which she transfigures the sadness and loss of her surrounding landscape into seriously spunky pop music with a post-punk-funk angling— a nod to her hometown’s heritage. The gig took place as part of a three-day festival of music, talks and poetry, a tributary of ‘Caught By The River’, a collective established in 2007 by a group of dreamers and ‘hilltop philosophers’ to celebrate the simpler, natural pleasures in life: birdsong, landscape, adventure.
In tragic irony, the festival was caught out by the Calder. Whilst most of the events had to be postponed because of the terrible flooding the town suffered in late December, the evening shows went ahead. Thankfully so: ever since first hearing LoneLady’s fantastic, groove-driven second album Hinterland last year, I had been desperate to see her live. Expectations were high as I’d heard great things about her live shows: in 2015 she played at Berghain, the legendary Berlin techno nightclub located in a disused power plant. With her fascination with psychogeography, brutalism and grainy old photographs of ‘70s Manchester bands playing in abandoned warehouses, this must have been the dream setting for a live performance of hers. Still, the visual backdrop of shaky footage of fencing, overgrown paths and wastelands overlaid with bright colours, shapes and slogans pronouncing ‘GROOVE’ and ‘BEAT’ was reflective of the spirit of her music, ensuring that LoneLady’s show perfectly realised an appropriately evocative atmosphere and immersive live experience.
In support was kooky Welsh musician Gwenno who (incidentally also brought out an excellent debut album last year, Y Dydd Olaf) makes delicate, fairy-esque yet danceable synth pop sung completely in Welsh. A refreshing and bold decision for a pop album, but also an apt one for a musician politically concerned with the loss of culture in the face of capitalism. Tonight, Gwenno’s performance beguiles and bewitches, and in the intervals between songs, she charms with the audience her quirky wit. ‘Chwyldro’ and ‘Patriarchaeth’ are highlights. In contrast, LoneLady makes minimal audience interaction, but launches full-spiritedly into a stunning set.
The show is mostly attended by an older crowd, who at first seemed a little reluctant to get moving. However, LoneLady’s undeniably catchy and uplifting funk rhythms can’t help but wiggle their way your spirit and get those shoulders shaking. In her early days, she would play alone with a telecaster and drum machine, but now, with a full band on the scene, the whole set fizzes with vitality, packing one groovy punch which captures throughout its entirety, a testament to Hinterland’s mastery. The set highlights were probably the euphoric rendition of ‘Groove it Out’ and the rapid, scratchy bass jams of ‘Into the Cave’. LoneLady truly leaves an impact: forging magic from dust and breathing fresh, original air. Captivated as she is by neglected margins, she won’t be left there.