Calva Louise – Live Review – Oporto, Leeds
By David Schuster, March 2019
The roar and screech of fuzz guitars driven to the very edge of feedback pummels the wildly pogoing audience like waves from an east coast storm. One bloke forgets just how small the gig space at Oporto is and hoists his girlfriend up onto his shoulders, immediately tangling her in the fairly lights strung across the room. Luckily, she collapses before the wiring does, and the last I see of her are legs flailing in the air as she disappears into the crowd. Calva Louise are a force of nature, the international three-piece sound like many more musicians are on stage, through a combination of skilled musicianship and sheer enthusiasm.
Oporto, on Call Lane in Leeds, is the ideal venue to see a band like Calva Louise; intimate enough for the group to be able to interact with the audience, and yet absorb the sheer volume of the performance without all the elements blending into chaotic noise. Whether this is because of the expertise of the engineer, who keeps popping into the throng to check the sound, clever acoustic panelling or the sheer numbers of people absorbing any unwanted reverberations, I don’t know. What I do know is that the music remains warm but clear, despite being very loud indeed.
The band released their fantastic debut album, Rhinocerous, in February 2019 and the majority of the well-considered set consists of tracks from it. Walking on to stage to a bass drone that makes the glasses on the bar rattle, they kick off with ‘I’m Gonna Do Well’ and ‘Outrageous’. It always strikes me as odd how sung vocals can sound so different to speech; on these numbers, lead vocalist Jess Allanic sounds like an early Siouxsie Sioux. When talking though, she has a melodious French accent, despite having been born and grown up in Venezuela.
This sums up the ethos of the band, who are true musical nomads. Since forming the band with bassist Alizon Taho in France and recruiting English drummer Ben Parker, they have continued to move around as chance and opportunity dictate. I asked them before the gig if they were still based in London, only to find that they have now re-located to Manchester, presumably to be close to Rough Trade, who released their record.
The group are clearly having a great time, and want the fans to have one too, encouraging the dancing which, by the time they play the epic ‘I Heard A Cry’, has spread all the way to the back of the room. This track nicely showcases the band’s unique sound; fast jangly guitars, with both Taho and Parker harmonising backing vocals. This is infectious indie-rock at its best.
“Fast and furious”
It’s always reassuring to see when, despite the pressures of recording and touring, groups still make time to write and practice new material, and Calva Louise drop a couple of new numbers into the set along the way. These are both well received: ‘Adelante’ has a sinister spoken introduction. “People who try to hang on to their individuality always come to a bad end,” intones a taped voice, before the music starts. Allanic provides an introduction to ‘Belicoso’ which in this instance translates as ‘Rowdy’ and which, she explains, has been written especially to encourage those moshing in front of the stage. Like the name suggests, it’s fast and furious, and certainly seems to do the job tonight!
All too soon they announce the final song; the bijou layout of Oporto preventing any unnecessary leaving of the stage and returning for an encore. They finish with the catchy ‘Getting Closer’ which cleverly contrasts fuzz guitar with sudden breaks for pop vocals. This is Calva Louise’s first hit single but, as the crowd joyfully erupts once more, I’m sure it won’t be their last.
images: Gail Schuster