Live Review: Scarlet, Manchester

Scarlet with Oranje and Dollie Demi, YES Basement, 15 March 2019

Words and Photos: Gary Lambert

We all love new experiences. Well new experiences within reason, and Scarlet’s gig at Manchester’s YES Basement was absolutely filled with them. Firstly, it was the first time I had ever gone to see Scarlet performing outside of Liverpool; it was the first time I had been to YES and thus the first time I’d been to see someone perform in the basement there (I’ve still got to wait for someone in The Pink Room); it was the first time I had been to one of the Zena Presents events focussing on women in music; it was the first of the Zena nights to be focused on rock bands; it was the first time I’d ever seen Oranje; and it was the first time I’d seen the new line up of one of Popped Music’s Tips for 2019, Dollie Demi in action. So before the gig had started I had a feeling of confidence that I was going to have a good night.

Opening up the gig was Dollie Demi. For the initiated, Dollie Demi are the wildest, most pleasurable band that you could wish to see, a mixture of Girls Aloud’s sexy-pop and The Clash’s ability to mix the rawness of punk with other more composed genres if you will. They are not for the feint at heart either. The gyrations of the eponymous singer Demi can make you blush or move to the back of the room in wonderfully British awkwardness, bassist Mia will get in your face literally as she pushes through the audience dropping funky basslines, and Ella will stand there playing guitar coolly like a Mean Girl. In true drummer fashion, Gab just sits there and gets on with business making sure the whole world can hear her beating those skins.

Oranje were performing their first ever gig as a three-piece, previously they had another member to them. If there were any nerves, discomfort, or displacement, they were not on show. Indeed, the band seemed to be very natural as a trio and I couldn’t imagine where a fourth person would fit on the stage considering the movement of Dez and Elle seemed to take up all of the room available to them. I enjoyed Oranje so much that I forgot at first that I was also my own photographer and I was happily getting sucked into their music before having to squeeze to the front. There is Definitely Maybe a hint of a young Mancunian band to the bass and swirls of their sound, but with a woman’s folk-rock vocal and a lot more fuzz. They’ve been quickly added to a few of my playlists after this set.

The last time I watched Scarlet the gig was held in a music-centric pub where the traditional vibe and sound suits taking an aggressive approach to your instruments and audience. I was slightly disappointed by the sound in the basement being a bit too gentle for my tastes (I like to be hit by the power of the music as well as hear it), but this quickly became a bonus because I was able to stand back and take in how much the sound of Scarlet as a band has grown over the years I have known them. They have not reached the trademark quiet-LOUD-quiet of Pixies, but there is far greater definition in their approach to tracks which allows for the “where the fuck did that come from” reaction when vocalist Jessie unleashes elongated undulating syllables like a pocket-sized rocket launcher.

I was right, I did love my night of firsts.

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