What do you get when you cross an intense love of 90s US indie music, fuzzed up guitars and enough beer to fuel a frat party for about a month? You guessed it… all these elements seem to combine in any number of ways at a Speedy Ortiz gig, and tonight’s show at London’s Electrowerkz was no exception. But before the Massachusetts based four piece took to the stage, support act Empty Pools were in full swing. Empty Pools deal in a quintessentially nostalgic sound that calls to mind bands like Hospitality, who have an unapologetic knack for distilling the sound of underground 90s American guitar based music infused with a firm shoegaze flavour, and they served this up with no shortage of energy tonight. Singer Leah had an intensity in her delivery that was clearly appreciated and a few of the front row jostled and head bobbed as the band made their way through their set, landing a slew of highlights including some very well received songs taken from their recent Holding Pattern EP.
Before long the crowd had gathered in ernest stretching to the back of the narrow room and Speedy Ortiz claimed the stage as their own. Waisting no time, they shredded through a run of tracks from their self-titled debut album which immediately whipped up all kinds of sweaty shenanigans in the audience. Singer Sadie Dupuis seemed to take the chaos in her stride (hardly surprising as Speedy Ortiz gigs are know for being pretty rowdy affairs), as she gave a nod to the band’s affection for London and introduced guitarist Devin McKnight, a new addition to the band who is stepping in for Matt Robidoux while he continues an indefinite hiatus.
Safe to say that the adjustments to the line up did nothing to lessen the inherent ‘tightness’ of the show. Speedy Ortiz undoubtedly take their cues from mid-90s indie, calling to mind the likes of Pavement and Helium, but this nostalgia is never too overpowering and certainly doesn’t entirely inform their musical output. Speedy Ortiz have their own take on power rock choruses sprinkled with a dusting of neuroticism, breaking them down only to build the songs back up with complex, off-kilter time signatures whilst retaining the melodic hooks that put them there in the first place. This musicality shone through in the tracks they showcased from their recent Real Hair EP that came blasting from the stage like brood spawned by Stephen Malkmus and Battles. By the time the band delivered a breakneck version of album stand-out and all round crowd pleaser ‘Tiger Tank’, the crowd was erupting and the opening chords set off a chain reaction resulting in flying beer and flaying arms giving the venue the atmosphere of a frat party on amphetamines. As the show closed off with ‘Plough’, it was clear that, although Speedy Ortiz were done, the party spirit was going to stick around for a while yet.