Leeds Music Scene

Gig review of Waking the Witch + Gallo

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Reviewed on 11th September 2004.


Waking the Witch

Live at New Roscoe on Sunday, 5th September 2004

No it's not the Onion Cellar, though you'd be excused for referencing that particular venue. However, the grass is, indeed, green(ish), unlike The New Roscoe's shiny brass which is busy reflecting the populating of here, and the faces of solitary guys, with an honest lustre, (that match-making call was a good one). There's a little more room tonight as the P.A. is a one shot, due to the deployment of its regular speakers at the Chapel Allerton Festival (- damn fine Green Thai curry). Slowly filling. The woman sat next to me confides (far too loudly) to her female companion that her new date will no doubt be less keen once they have met. Welcome to autumn. This is indeed a Sunday of immense proportion, to some.

Facing the challenge, Gallo take to the stage with a few intimate moments of tuning. And why not. They are, tonight, stripped down to a two-piece; singer/saxophonist Natacha and guitarist Bonnie ease into the evening with open chords proclaiming "I'm still waiting for angels to drop rocks on my head". Of course the angels don't. This is a good thing and we are pleased. Ten Hail Mary's all round. We remain un-blitzed by the heavens as we are led through dark chord changes and Natacha's intimate, oh-so-youthful and positive lyrics; Marilynesquely breathy one minute and hollering a blues the next, whilst barbed with a present, yet reserved, angst. Lots of references to flying, by the way. And yes, they rock like bitches.

If music was a comic art, (discuss at leisure over bambus) Bonnie would be Esperanza Leticia Glass, and you should know this. You probably already do. (Ok, la Glass was the bass player, but do read on). Sonically, between the two of them, the dynamics, the precise passages, the slow country riffs, the total avoidance of 11ths, 12ths or 13ths (unless absolutely essential) and the wry grins, subtle chord changes and well crafted arrangements are a welcome break from strutting, power chords and atonal shouting. Sure, as the room fills, the guy with glasses at the door talks too pretty loud and receives (obliviously) stares that probably went out with 1970's education (from folks who probably taught that stuff back then) but when Natasha screeches her last breath, Coltrane style, into her sax solo, the whole venue catches that particular smile.

The final song, Portishead's Glory Box, eases us back into the familiar. And the familiar has eased. That woman's date hasn't turned up but she's talking to her girlfriend (who's did). Give me a reason? Well punctuality would be a plus. The solitary guy has dropped his shoulders and smiles as her makes for the bar, small-talking with strangers. It's all going on in the right places. We await the debut EP (Sleepin Peeping Laying Playing, due for release on Performing Chimp Records), with much, um, awaitingness.

The New Roscoe is now officially busy. No guilt for blagging then. Waking the Witch launch into their first four-part harmony of the night, they don their guitars, shake their egg and we're away again.

A four-piece, promoting their album 'Like Everybody' with gigs over northern England and Scotland, Patsy Matheson, Jools Parker, Becky Mills and Rachel Goodwin share lead vocals and guitar and bouzouki work between them, (with NOT enough of the latter). The Witches are an unusual ensemble to say the least. Although their blurb notes that they have been described as a "modern day, female Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young", I found this a little harsh, as the Witches have neither drums, nor bass, nor harmonica: let alone dodgy moustaches or baseball caps. Maybe in a few years time. Cyclic songs orbit around strong riffs worthy of the UK folk circuit; it's very lovely but that doesn't matter. There's a lot of sexual happiness, a little bit of guilt, a little self awareness ("I am built for attention, I am suitably dressed") and even some Led Zeppelin (that 'babe I'm gonna leave you' riff - saving an almost over diaristic account of an abusive motorbiking boyfriend's failure to pick guitar). The Witches are, curiously, free of politics, although they do, fitting with their 1980's styled arrangements, refer to eco-friendly washing powders over Persil. They don't talk, they walk.

I would suggest that it's all a positive (unchallenged) love that, when lost, only enforces the loser, who miraculously recovers after a few drinks and folk songs in the village of Maudlin's local public house (called 'The Green Man', but without that Swedish woman braying on the walls all night). If you take your eyes from the stage, and bounce them around the room, so many people are singing along, or nodding, or showing that 'Yeah, I know' face that I must admit, it's a beautiful thing. Ignore the sound of the 'O' finger. It'll never happen to us. However...

True, it's very middle-class (1980's again) and it's pretty in a scarf-around-the-waist, Joni kinda way. And the references to famous/rich people need dropping, because it undersells and, frankly, who cares? But the overall effect is warm, warm, warm. Maybe a little more smug than snug, but the heart's in it. The much hyped harmonies, whilst not Beach Boys, are wide and precise.

Two sets is a lot, the Witches have a few tricks and make the most of them, but, yeah, maybe it's best to remind the world of silence, so the intermission is excusable. A distinct lack of ice cream though. Rejoining communication, there's a hint of Kirsty McColl, and Irish undertones (!) rise to the fore (- that little switch in the throat thing, where it goes CLICK. Love it). The arrangements rarely evolve beyond the open and capo-ed riff, as with much folk influenced material, but I for one enjoyed the Hazel O'Connor cover. No I didn't cry into my half pint of Pride of Pendle. But I could've done if I was alone. Maybe later, over tea or coffee. Will you?

Tonight, I wonder, are they promoting the profound effect of a friendly smile as a tonic for Sunday blues? Well, no. Sunday blues are no worse than Friday blues. (Besides, it's those mean reds you gotta watch for ...) If you don't wanna go to work in the morning then don't. Work nights. Stay in bed. Read a book. Buy a bouzouki. Try to avoid badgers. So no real lessons learnt. No hearts broken. No lines crossed. Just a lot of grown-ups getting by. Sometimes that's more than enough. The trance-like effect of mid tempo repetition, the easy tones and soft vocals stir the dopamine, and raise serotonin levels just enough. Real people matter, and gigs like tonight matter for that same reason. It's a music thing. And it's bigger than you, or, oddly, even I.

I promise myself I will continue to bang my little tin drum. Onwards! To the other side and the green, green grass of home!



All replies to this article. Log in to post a reply.

On 14th September 2004 at 19:20 Anonymous 1493 wrote...

i am never sure whether i find these reviews bizarre or entertainingly bizarre. Annalee feel free to review at the Primrose 15/9/04 there'll be no jazz but 4 blues bands.


On 14th September 2004 at 22:01 Anonymous 13 wrote...

Annalee Call's reviews are top ... entertaining, intelligent, interesting and instructive. More please!


On 15th September 2004 at 18:19 Anonymous 1493 wrote...



On 15th September 2004 at 18:28 Dave LMS wrote...

Yes, I read that on the UJG site at the time - but it didn't explain its point (very well) so I didn't "get it". One day I might revisit and see if I understand it on a second read.


On 15th September 2004 at 20:09 Anonymous 83 wrote...

Sorry Dave - don't often look here: can't review tonight as busy busy busy. I do like the Hot Pots though - one of the longest established Leeds bands going I think, members have played with Knofler and the legendary Steve Philips. I could just make something up... but i won't.


On 15th September 2004 at 22:09 Anonymous 1200 wrote...

I've met analee several times, and can confirm that she is very beatiful, for her age.



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