When the lights go down in the Wulfrun and I’m clutching a pint of cider, I’m 16 again. It’s the mid 90s: there’s plaid shirts and ripped jeans, a sense of anticipation, the air smells like the unknown, and shadowed faces entice with half grins and shaggy hair.
But it’s 2013. I’m 32, and acutely aware that I’m nearing the upper age range of the audience tonight – with the exception of a grey haired old man who looks the same as he did in 96, and the roving parents escorting their DM wearing darlings to what I can only imagine is their first ever gig.
MY first gig, sans parents, was Gun at the Wulfrun. I loved their cover of Word Up, and my best friend and I mimed a routine knowing all the words. We wore tie dyed cheesecloth dresses we bought from Rowfers, and we had no idea what a mosh pit was until an old fat man in a comedy ginger Scottish wig/hat combo threw my delicate friend into the fray.
This is very different. There’s not even a hint of a pit, nobody pushing or jostling to get to the front, just rows and rows of polite young people waiting expectantly, faces turned to the stage, or posing for selfies. The support, Indians, is a lone dude and a keyboard. Not unpleasant, but not at all exciting. His melodies ebb and swell around mostly unintelligible lyrics, and the young crowd stand staring, occasionally swaying, and clapping where appropriate.
Daughter are late to the stage. It gets to the point where the foppish patrons, entirely out of character, begin stamping and cheering for the show to start. Elena, Igor and Remi eventually shuffle on stage, to massive applause, and go straight into “Still” – one of my favourite tracks from their debut album “If You Leave”. I’m a sucker for slow melodic lyrics, with obsessive repetition over broken love and unhealthy desire, so “two feet standing on a principle, two hands longing for each others warmth” almost always hits the spot, but tonight, the vocals are muffled, and there’s a static buzz threaded through their sound.
This is resolved by the second track, Amsterdam, which Elena initially performs alone. I’m reminded of how many of their tracks were hers alone until they formed Daughter. Is this an Elena shaped vehicle, where her shy demeanour is masked somewhat by Igor and his guitar antics (bowing the strings to create what can only be described as the sound of whales shouting at each other) and Remi’s rousing marching percussion stirring Elena to make it through the set without running off stage to hide. I’m being extreme, I know. I wonder how much of her shy coy persona is projected, as part of their indie/art vibe, and how much of it is how she really is?
‘Landfill’ was one of the show highlights for me, taken from their self-released EP “His Young Heart”. By this point, the sound was sorted, and Elena’s plaintive ennui rang out clear over the heads of the entranced audience. Lyrics such as, “this is dangerous, ‘cause I want you so much, but I hate your guts”, commandeers my attention back from staring out across the crowd, and snares the mournful teenager in me.
I find it jarring when, during ‘Winter’, I can hear gaggles of young girls cooing over Elena (“she’s so cute!”) and completely ignoring any context of the performance, the mood of the music and lyrics. It reminds me that I might well be in the minority, obsessing over lyrics and musical performance, rather than basking in the hopeful kudos of being at an early show of a group signed to 4AD, with all the cool cachet that might bring. Similarly, the dark undertones of “Smother” (“In the darkness I will meet my creators, and they will all agree, that I’m a suffocator”) floats high above the heads of the crowd, too busy locking lips with boyfriends and girlfriends and girlfriends, swaying foot to foot to the sound of Igor and Elena’s melodies. Fortunately ‘Youth’ succeeds in regaining the crowd’s undivided attention as well as mine, and doesn’t disappoint with beautiful warm twinkling lights swelling through lyrics such as “setting fire to our insides for fun, to distract our hearts from ever missing them – but I’m forever missing him”.
There’s minimal between-song banter, except a story about Elena having cousins from the Midlands who she thought were cool, and coerced her into being a Wolves supporter. It makes a great story, and the crowd love it, but the cynic in me wonders if it’s actually interchangeable for any regional team? Their final remark before the final song of the evening: “As you may have gathered, we’re pretty awkward.. so thanks for putting up with us!” leaves me wondering. Is this awkwardness real? I want to believe. I grew up hiding behind my mothers legs when she tried to introduce me to strangers. I blanche at the thought of networking. I struggle with confidence unless inebriated. I know awkwardness, and embrace it in my bones. I’d like to think Daughter, or Elena, is cut from that cloth. Lacking confidence in her own ability to enchant and engage, despite filling venues across the country, and writing words that resonate with all of us who choose shadow over light. I hope I’m not wrong.
Click here for Lee’s full photo set on Flickr.