The warm light of dusk hung in the sky as punters entered the Chevron Festival Gardens at 8pm on Sunday the 19th of February, where LA-based all-girl quartet Warpaint were to play their first headline show in Perth, one of which would draw one the biggest crowds to PIAF’s music season.
Up first in support was Melbourne-based Gabriella Cohen, whose low-fi, garage pop had the crowd swaying from side-to-side and smiling ear-to-ear. Her 4-piece band consisted of herself and a second female guitarist, with whom she engaged in private banter and cheeky smiles on stage throughout the set, as well as a 7-foot-tall (?) bass player, whose sharp cheekbones and brooding physical presence reminded me of one of the members of The Adams Family. He, as well as the man dressed in a pirate shirt on drums were merely supporting characters to the two girls on stage. The performance was light-hearted and left the audience nicely warmed up.
Mid-way through the set, Gabriella gave some sage advice with regards to being yourself, using an analogy of plums and bananas. This made me hungry, so post-set my date and I decided to get some food and sit on the grass near the bar outside where we listened to the female DJ, spinning tracks by great female artists such as Patti Smith, Angel Olsen and Boat Show. It was a fitting selection as we were about to witness one of the best all-girl rock groups of this generation take to the stage. We waited in the crowd, silent in anticipation for the show.
The opening instrumental track, featuring deep, rolling bass notes, tumbling tom tom’s and high pitched, dissonant guitar tones; was the perfect introduction for the set to come. If you have only heard a couple of Warpaint songs and don’t like them, then you probably won’t like any. Their songs all come from the same dreamy world, with twangy, dissonant reverb, heavy bass, and echoed harmonies. They played a selection of favourites from their three records, although songs from their 2016 album Heads Up took up most spots in the set list.
The three girls on guitars and bass took turns on frontwoman duty and even on each other’s instruments. The drummer, Sydney-born Stella Mozgawa, moved the songs forward in constantly pounding the bass drum, a sound reminiscent of constant thunder during a storm. The strange and chaotic, yet beautiful mood was momentarily killed by the drunk punters standing next to me on the right. “1…2…3… 4 … there are 4 of them. See, I told you so,” announced one of them about an hour into the set. A heated debate ensued regarding the number of band members on stage. Thankfully, the two men reached an agreement and their argument was drowned out by the bands climatic ending which included fan-favourites ‘Elephants’, ‘Love is to Die’ and ‘New Song’. The band rounded out their set with the hypnotic dance track ‘Disco//Very’, leaving the crowd feeling upbeat and grateful to have witnessed such a spell-binding performance.