Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, with its shabby chic décor and pensioner barmen, is the diamond in the rough of East London venues. Amongst its usual line up of camp cabaret and retro parties, lie a number of gigs aimed at reinforcing artists within London’s indie scene and Women’s Hour fall neatly into that category.
They are a band likely to outgrow venues of this size in the coming year and as such the school disco like venue boasted a motley crew audience of friends, family and a fan base set to multiply exponentially.
An intelligent choice of a warm up act was made in Bradford’s petite but mighty Laura Groves. An electro-fused outfit, the band specialise in low energy ballads laboured with keyboard-drenched melodies. Previously making music under the name Blue Roses, Groves has a distinctive sound and niftily switches seamlessly between keys and guitar on stage.
Showcasing material from her newest EP ‘Thinking About Thinking’, highlights included a weirdly hypnotic cover of TLC’s nineties favourite ‘Waterfalls’ and ‘Inky Sea’, a lamenting soundscape designed to draw you in entirely. Her sound is multi-layered with a clever combination of electronic sounds and actual instruments.
The headliners, Women’s Hour, are a four piece well adept at this formula, perfectly combining guitar, bass and vocals with hefty synthy-keyboards. What is interesting about the band is the way they manage to straddle genres, cleverly taking the best elements of indie, shoegaze and low-fi electronica and making it their own.
Lead singer Fiona Burgess adds a welcome ethereal quality to the mix with her breathless delivery and intriguing vocal gymnastics. Her singing alone gives away the band’s roots in Cumbria, with her softly rounded Kendal accent being apparent throughout. There are elements of Portishead and Chvrches entwined in their sound if comparison is needed.
Now signed to Luv Luv Luv Records, the band released EP ‘Darkest Place’ back in October to quiet success. B-side Thunder was used to kick off and set a high benchmark for the rest of their performance. Staccato keys set an intense pace to the track that was nicely offset by smooth vocals and an airy melody.
To The End showcased that the band have a good grasp of how build their numbers from a pulsing beat to an unexpected crescendo with the intricate beat inducing a wave of movement throughout the crowd.
Women’s Hour also brought some multi-disciplined aspects to the stage during latest single Darkest Place where they were unexpectedly joined onstage by two performance artists, who proceeded to grapple and grab each other rhythmically with the music. The move was all very art-school but at the same time effective in exploring the dark creative presented in the track’s music video.
As suddenly as they appeared the dancers melted away into the crowd leaving the band to perform a well-executed cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark, giving an old classic a new lease of life. Women’s Hour are fast becoming known for their accomplishment at covers, with a version of Leona Lewis’s Bleeding Love recently surfacing on the internet and reaching into the iTunes chart.
Things closed with Our Love Has No Rhythm, bringing to an end a tight performance and one shrouded in plenty of atmospherics. With a debut album on the horizon, it looks as if Women’s Hour will last much longer than just 60 minutes, and with a whole year of inevitable tours and releases ahead, you may want to tune in.
By Sarah Joy