Phil Greenhalgh catches She Drew The Gun at Liverpool Central Library as part of the Get It Loud In Libraries and is blown away by the latest rising star to come from Merseyside.
Get it Loud in Libraries, is an initiative created to take advantage of and promote lofty seats of learning into accessible, multi-faceted hubs of creativity by hosting gigs in these often underused public spaces. Following other recent successes at Liverpool Central Library ‘Get it Loud’ chalked up another massive proof of concept, by hosting She Drew The Gun at the same venue.
Support was provided by Skeleton Key label-mate singer songwriter Marvin Powell. Performing on the day that sunshine made its first 2017 appearance, Powell caught the mood, delivering wistful intelligent acoustic folk reminiscent of the likes Nick Drake and John Martyn. Achieving the paradox of being both melancholic yet uplifting, his debut ep ‘Salt’ is an ideal soundtrack to kick back in the sunshine and watch the Mersey flow by.
She Drew the Gun, frontwoman Louisa Roach is without question proving to be one of the most potent contemporary lyricists right now. The performance opened with spoken verse which is interspersed throughout the set, proclaiming a vitriolic polemic that you could more likely find in politically charged Rap. Her staccato poetry gives voice to striking images of oppression and injustice, sometimes crashing into, sometimes fusing effortlessly with dreamscape melody. The powerful lyrical content comes wrapped in vocal ability so genuine and enchanting you could almost be forgiven for listening but not hearing, It seems incongruous at times there is such a ‘stand and fight’ anarchy floating on such gossamer refrains. A case of winning their ears, their hearts, their minds.
The opening spoken wordplay blends into ‘Where I End And You Begin’, the first track from the debut album ‘Memories of Another future’, from that moment this is a caged bird audience, captivated and enthralled in equal measure. Without a massive back catalogue to call on, the set-list drew heavily on the album
With such a charismatic frontwoman, and as suggested in previous press, there is a temptation to view She Drew the Gun as a Louisa Roach-with-band project. Whilst clearly the driving presence, there is stronger than ever showing of a band as a total unit. Still buzzing on adrenaline and jet lag from a triumphant performance at Austin’s SXSW festival, there is a symbiotic harmony and sense of perfect musical balance of keyboards, bass and percussion that effortlessly complements the tone of the songs, sometimes wistful without being overbearing, other times full on throaty rock; a palpable sense of mutual understanding.
It would be a misnomer to describe Sian Monaghan as a ‘drummer’, from a rolling tremor to a thumping crescendo this is intense, measured percussion that at once sets and responds to the tone of Louisa’s vocal.
An absolute gem in the set can be found when bassist Jack Turner takes up the lead guitar for ‘Or So I Thought’. Wrenching such a beautiful and mesmerising lament from a Stratocaster shouldn’t be this possible, not the first time this has stopped me in my tracks, and won’t be the last.
The penultimate song, ‘Thank You’ provides a simple tribute to truly inspiring women; listed, pictured and thanked from the bottom of the heart. Every name listed you can glean a nuance of influence on the music we’re hearing tonight. Maybe the time will soon be nigh for Louisa Roach to take her place amongst them.
The set closes with the recent cover of Malvina Reynolds ‘No Hole In My Head’. It was a treat to go and search for the original upon hearing of the cover a few weeks back when it was released in conjunction with International Women’s Day (also discovering her powerful diatribe ‘I Don’t Mind Failing’). A protest folk song cleverly reimagined with a contemporary rock twist – certainly when coupled with a pair of rhinestone platforms – in a way that should surely list Suzi Quatro among the list of female influences! She Drew the Gun know when to turn up the heat and add a little backbone into their performance and when to float the audience on intimate delicacy and deftness of phrase.
She Drew the Gun Play Liverpool Sound City in May, it will be interesting to compare and contrast the difference between the bigger stages and this perfectly intimate setting, you’d have to expect that with recent experiences this is a band who can dial up the sound to suit the surroundings. Come the end of May, the banks of the Mersey will be a richer place, those heading to the docks should mark this down as a not to be missed.
But here and now, In this temple of words, the audience breathed in every syllable and every note.
This was certainly a triumph in marrying artist and venue, part of the remit of Get it Loud in Libraries is to open up music and library spaces to younger audiences and with most venues being 16 or 18+, it’s a great opportunity to get kids out to gigs. As Louisa said in her thank you’s ‘it’s a long time to go without a beer’… but it was truly worth it.