Westenra – Fulford Arms, York – Monday 1st May 2023
This was promoted as a bit of a Goth night bringing together four acts that might bring punters on their way home from Whitby’s Goth Festival that weekend. While we didn’t get one of the headliners of the Goth Weekend such as Christian Death, we got four great bands thanks to promoter Velvet Sheep and the fabulous Fully Arms! First, it was a duo with a brilliant and very goth name, the Hagley Wood Vampires. They gave us acoustic goth folk full of incredible hooks and melodies. Lots of songs about vampires. “Vampires Kiss” would be perfect as a soundtrack tune if ‘The Hunger’ was ever remade. My favorite song was probably “Portrait Of Youth” based on Oscar Wilde’s novel ‘The Picture Of Dorian Gray’. (Incidentally, did you know that the story was considered particularly scandalous when first published in 1890? Largely because it had a theme of homosexual desire. Sadly, even in the 21st Century, some people are still angry and upset by such things!). The band’s choice of covers was truly inspired by Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and Eurhythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”. I believe this duo is also in a band called VampiricA, which I will be checking out very soon!
The second act to take the stage was Hanging Freud. This lot gave us Deep obsidian-hued, brooding, sometimes fishing, industrial cinematic synth tunes. This was all underpinned by a dark heartbeat of rhythm. This was overlaid with some rather spiffing vocals which were ethereal, funereal (at times), and truly epic. If you are in that kind of mood where only those dark tunes will help then listen to Hanging Freud as the perfect accompaniment, I love them! Following that was the turn of Feather Trade, who while they may not have ticked all the goth boxes are a brilliant band and one of the most original that I have seen recently. If post-punk had begun in the 21st Century Feather Trade it would have been its vanguard. There were angular Keith Levene-inspired guitar sounds and bass playing worthy of Jah Wobble in his Public Image Limited days. On top of that, there were elements of grunge with an occasional nod to Kurt Cobain’s vocals and drumming that Dave Grohl would be proud of. I felt elements of both Iggy Pop and Ren vocally, particularly on “Dead Boy”. After that the main highlight song for me was “Just Like Film” and Big Nobody”. But I need to make a special mention of the bass player, she is one of the finest that I have ever witnessed and I have seen many, like Tina Weymouth on speed, bloody awesome!
Finally, it was the turn of Whitby’s own, Westenra. On their website the band describes themselves as having “emerged out of the shadows of Whitby Abbey in autumn 2019, three lost souls each drawn to the dark mysteries and legends of that most magical place: Luciferia (vocals), Karl (guitars), and Dominique (bass)“. That kind of sums up the Westenra vibe perfectly it was like watching and hearing Siouxse Sioux fronting a classic British heavy rock band from the 1970s. Great songs and a very tight band. “The Last Beat Of Our Hearts” is a beautiful tune with some incredible lyrics. Luciferia was briefly overcome with emotion while singing it, but bass player Dominique stepped in to comfort her and the show went on. The Westenra cover of Iron Maiden’s “Number Of The Beast” was a brilliant take on a British metal classic. Finally, all those years ago no one expected the Spanish Inquisition, right? Well at least according to Monty Python, anyway I digress. With a similar logic to that regarding the Spanish Inquisition, no one would expect a Cliff Richard song at a goth gig, would they? But we got one, the band covered Cliff’s UK and US top ten hit from 1976, “Devil Woman”. But this was never going to be a bland facsimile cover, Westenra took the song, dissected it, rearranged all its internal organs, and turned it into a very heavy, very dark tune and they really owned it! I must confess that before tonight I had not heard of Westenra, but now I am most definitely a fan!
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