Star & Dagger/Heavy On The Ride - Cardiff, Bogiez - 20th April 2013 Print E-mail
Written by Gaz E   
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 03:00


It was always going to be cool, catching Star & Dagger live in one of the finest venues in the country, I just didn't realise how cool. I walked up the steps and back to reality after witnessing one of the sultriest, most badass shows I'd seen for some time and, for want of a more generic piece of review terminology, was blown away.


Before I could even devote my full attention to the headliners, however, I had my ears troubled by Heavy On The Ride, a Swansea-based three-piece for whom the word 'sweet' couldn't be further from the truth. This six-legged sludge beast are hardly the type of support band that you can turn your back on whilst chatting to your friends....unless you can do so with the teeth rattling out of your head. A noisier brute I have not encountered in a long time. There's a hint of evil alternate reality Rush when the band are at their most adventurous, but for the most part they throw out riffs heavier than John Candy's coffin coupled with bass that is more fugly than fuzzy. A good reference point would be the heavier-than-thou bands released by French label Solar Flare; think Pigs and Sofy Major. Notice how many times I've mentioned the word 'heavy' in this single paragraph on this wholly impressive young band? There's a clue right there. Ones to watch out for.....but bring ear plugs.


Star & Dagger list New Orleans as the band's home yet by barely picking at the scab it becomes obvious that this is a band with members spread out over the United States that, when called, come together and, effortlessly it seems, lay down seductive, brooding slabs of desert rock that are so good, so keen to worm their way under your skin (and stay there), that you find it hard to believe just how good it is. I did, anyway.


A supergroup of sorts - super to all clued-in rock fans at least - Star & Dagger are promoted around the fact that the band was formed by White Zombie bass player Sean Yseult, but her Fonz-cool colleagues hold not-too-shabby rock 'n' roll CVs themselves as they stand shoulder to shoulder with the platinum-selling four string uber-vixen: guitarist Donna (Dava) She Wolf (who formed the band with Yseult) was once a member of the Cycle Sluts From Hell, fellow guitarist Dave Catching has played with Queens Of The Stone Age, Eagles Of Death Metal and Mondo Generator, while drummer Gene Trautmann was also with stardaggervon500QOTSA - if anything, gigs by Star & Dagger should provide ample opportunity for music nerds in attendance to get all manner of memorabilia signed by this most impressive of line-ups, but the music that the band produces is of such a fine vintage that you'd almost forget that collection of CD booklets in your back packet. Almost.


The coolest thing for me about this coolest of bands comes in the shape (and man, what a shape) of vocalist Von Hesseling: the one band member without the real 'name' project in her history, this temptress pretty much owns the stage which, given the company she keeps on it, is the greatest compliment anyone could give, I guess. In possession of a honey trap of a voice, and thus the attention of every warm-blooded mammal in the room, Von Hesseling moves and shakes and seduces with every lyric, every glance around the venue.


If you've experienced the Russ Meyer homage that is the video to the band's lead track so far, 'Your Mama Was A Drifter', then you'd be excused for thinking that the Star & Dagger live show would pretty much consist of similar psychotronic sonic'd be wrong. The band's eleven song, all-too-short set was dark and moody, yet barbed with spikes of acute melody: you're hooked in, like it or not.

'In My Blood', the opening cut of the band's four-track EP which acts as a teaser to the forthcoming album (due this summer), introduces the band to the Bogiez stage and I don't think I'm the only person in the crowd to be taken aback by its powers of attraction, a fat riff and sonic seducer of a vocal raising more than eyebrows, the song pouring straight into 'Used To Me'. Von Hesseling speaks for the first time, telling the committed crowd that many Americans think that they're facing the 'End Of Days', before tearing into the song of the same name.


'Tomorrowland Blues', the title track of the band's album, follows and teases as to how good the long player will actually be when released - a high charter in many an Album of the Year list come December guaranteed. 'Freaktrain', 'Selling My Things', 'Sidewinding' and 'Before It's A Crime' ooze out of the venue's PA and into the heads of the assembled now-devotees: they may have been curious onlookers to begin with, now they're obsessives. If the band were selling grape Flavor Aid at the merch table we'd all drink it.


'Out Of Focus', the band's cover of the Blue Cheer tune that also features on the EP, is made their own, with ease, before fellow EP cut, 'Stories', rocks its way, like a '60s version of QOTSA, through to set closer, 'Your Mama Was A Grifter', Yseult's husband Chris Lee, himself frontman of the band Supagroup, sharing vocals with Von Hesseling.


I'd get to see Sean Yseult, maybe meet a Cycle Slut - those were the kinda thoughts going through my head as I made my way down the stairs into the dark shadows of Bogiez. I never thought that, a couple of hours later, I would have witnessed a live performance so infectious that I found it hard to stop thinking about it even as I watched other bands. It must have been a gamble for Star & Dagger to undertake a UK tour with a fraction, if that, of the publicity of the members' other bands behind them...but it was a gamble that paid off. I heard not one negative comment about the band, an outfit who seem destined to become one of those cult bands who are truly taken to UK hearts.


One of my favourite shows in a long while, and from a band that has quickly become a firm favourite too: the album can't come quickly enough.


Like I said, I knew it was gonna be cool, I just didn't realise it would be that cool.....




[Photos by Robin 'Graves' Watkins]


To pick up your copy of 'Tomorrowland Blues' - CLICK HERE