PIAF has been going for just under a month now and has hosted a stellar line-up. Last week we saw folk group WARPAINT take the stage.
Gabriella Cohen gave a mixed bag of the performance, although it was more like one of those party mix lolly bags; you’re pretty much always satisfied no matter what comes out of it. Beginning the night with a solo serenade, Cohen was entrancing as her voice blended in with her smooth country guitar stylings. Joined by a lone bandmate on violin, the pair got the audience in the mood to sway. After a few tracks of this cruisy pace, Cohen was joined by a company of bandmates, the bass player sporting what was perhaps one of the most majestic beards I’ve ever seen.
From here on out, things got much more lively, the country tones meshing with rock to create a bluesy mood that got the crowd bopping. Cohen’s endearingly dull, almost bemusedly-bored, voice adapted a playful, carefree lilt to supplement her cheeky guitar licks, kicking things up a notch in what was a drastic, and entirely welcome, change from the first part of her set. She was a solid crowd-pleaser when it came to interaction, professing her excitement at being there, joy and being able to play with her band. Her positivity at the opportunity led to the audience responding in kind. Laid back vibes sweltered amongst relaxed vocal sojourns and sleek drumming to make for an appropriately cool start to the mild evening.
Warpaint successfully pushed out the jive and brought in the love with its alluring display of audacity. Its psychedelic, dense soundscape of ethereal tripwires left me feeling ecstatic, wanting to grab those around me and throttle them with my newfound musical enlightenment. Like its song of the same name, the women pulled the audience into an Undertow of their own creation.
As much as I loved their heavy-hitting, balls-to-the-wall punk rock tracks, this was a standout, providing a calming moment of respite. The group’s endeavour was often dark, dreary and grungy without ever becoming overbearing, the occasional sneaky tempo change keeping things fresh. The use of loop pedals added depth, while haunting backing vocals complemented lead singer Emily Kokal well. Stage lighting aided in setting the mood, with cuts to black at the end of songs evoking a feeling of sudden loss, flashes of red and blue painting a Pollock-esque picture of the intensity. A mix of electric and physical drums created a sense of duality that scored well against the driving bass and winding guitar. At one point, and for one song only, guitarist Theresa Wayman and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg swapped instruments, the two proving themselves to be highly efficient multi-instrumentalists.
Kokal’s vocals lathered the audience like icing on a cake, her cool and calm demeanour cutting an aural swathe through the audience. Making the most of its name, Warpaint fired on all cylinders, delivering an energetic, bombastic display of artistry in which its members proved themselves to be masters of their craft.
All photographs by Linda Dunjey