Live music is like food. It can be one of three things: 1) totally unpalatable, 2) necessary stodge that fills you up but leaves you empty, or 3) joy-inducing combinations of flavours that leave you fulfilled, but wanting more later. Calva Louise fall into the third category. They are at once a familiar ride through punk, alternative and psychedelic tropes, whilst also being a wondrous, spry injection of energy and goodwill to any music scene lucky enough to get a hit. Their set at Manchester’s Band On The Wall, brief though it was, was a masterclass in instantaneous, infectious live performance.
From the moment Calva Louise began there was manic excitement in the venue. The energy in the room just shifted; they attacked the stage like a wild animal. Smiles abound, plastered on every face in a ten meter radius of their poppy, punky riot music. ‘Belicoso,’ with its fat kick drum hits and plinky high octave guitars, had the ferocity of The Prodigy blended with the relentlessness of Wolf Alice. The energy is intense, so it’s just as well that the band are a little bipolar in tone. ‘Getting Closer‘ flits between wild screaming and groovy laid back whistling, and ‘Tug Of War‘ sounds like it should; a battle, but with those soaring, blissful backing vocals adding a bit of glitter to the icing, it goes down very wild but very, very smooth.
The band strut across the stage, understated but confident, and not in a fake way either. There’s no posturing or pretension here, just lots of great ideas. The arrangements were reinforced with fat synth backing tracks, but rather than feeling like a crutch as they do with lesser bands, Calva Louise used them to elevate the experience, even if they likely wouldn’t need them, because they’re a tight, well rehearsed machine. Blasting through ‘I Heard A Cry,’ the band continue to win hearts and minds from minute 1 to minute 30. Almost every moment is a gleeful withdrawal, an exorcism from the everyday drudge.
Calva Louise’s expert blend of influences and upbeat demeanor made for fantastic entertainment and a phenomenally impressive show. Though Band On The Wall is still something of a clean-cut venue for bands of their kind, they made good use of the space and excellent sound tech, and their return to Manchester in December should be highly anticipated. Not a band to be taken lightly, but seen in heavy rotation until your head rattles and your spine twitches.
Calva Louise play YES in Manchester on December 1st, alongside further dates in Glasgow (02/12), Birmingham (03/12) and London (04/12). Tickets and more info can be found here.
Photo Credit: Conner Dixon