Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff – 17 October 2016
Support: The Picture Books
Also present: MrsRobster, Our Mate Colin
Gig #7 of the year was going to be this year's We Shall Overcome anti-austerity bash at Le Pub in Newport, featuring Thee Faction, Helen Love and The School. However, that very day, MrsRobster and I both went down with the dreaded lurgy and felt too shit to venture out. The only gig I've ever bought tickets for and didn't go to. We had to wait a whole NINE DAYS for the next one to come around...
This one was a hunch. Walter featured Le Butcherettes a little while back. It was my introduction to a band I’d never heard before. I checked them out some more and, suitably impressed, when I saw they were playing Cardiff, I dived in and bought tickets. What a good decision that was. The Mexican trio's three full-length albums offer an impressive array of sounds, moods and tunes. But they are nothing compared to the live experience. When you have a singer calling herself Teri Gender-Bender, I suppose you expect a degree of exuberance in a performance. But damn, exuberance doesn't even begin to describe what I saw at Clwb Ifor Bach.
From the off she's bounding around like a Tasmanian devil, snarling and sneering her vocals as if possessed. She has three mics, one at the front and two at the keyboard, flitting between all three with and without guitar in tow. There's no between-song chatter, save for the occasional "gracias", everything hurtles along at a frightening pace.
The songs veer from full-throttle punk to quirky electro-fuelled psyche-pop to weird experimental drones and performance pieces. It's difficult to pin a description of Le Butcherettes' sound, but it might be somewhere between PJ Harvey, Anna Calvi, early White Stripes, the Stooges and Amanda Palmer. On the other hand, they don't really sound much like any of those at all. The one thing I do know is that from beginning to end, all eyes were on Teri. She gives her all, that's for sure, and she damn well means it. In fact, as she screamed “Honey honey take my pretty dress off” I wondered for a moment if she was going to tear it off herself! I was a bit concerned at one point, as Teri crawled on the floor amongst the audience, stroking the legs of random strangers. She edged closer and closer towards us and I could feel MrsRobster getting tense. "If she strokes your leg I'm going to punch her fucking lights out!" she told me in no uncertain terms. She wouldn't have, of course, though she might have stormed backstage afterwards for a few harsh words. Or most likely of all just not talk to me for a fortnight. She needn't have worried. Teri dragged herself up and, at little more than arm's length, sang in Spanish to us.
The weirdest moment happened about two-thirds through when, at the climax of one song, there was silence. Total and utter silence (save for the venue's air-con). No audience cheer, no chatter, no nothing. The lights went out on stage, the band stood stock still. Silence, for a rather nervy, tense 30 seconds. Then Teri could be heard calling "Papa? Papa?" She wandered off stage and through the audience repeating "Papa? Papa?", pausing to look at the open door at the back of the venue, then turning and grabbing more random strangers, still uttering "Papa? Papa?" She made her way back to the front of the crowd babbling away in Spanish, sounding most upset. She got back on stage, still pining for Papa, strapped on a guitar and cranked into the next song! I, like most of my fellow audience members, was bemused. I'd never seen anything like this before and it was just getting better and better.
Song-wise, there were many highlights - Shave The Pride, Witchless C Spot, Burn The Scab to name but three - but if I'm being totally honest, the music was almost secondary. This was all-but a one-woman show. The band finished and took a bow with huge grins on their faces. There was no one in Clwb Ifor Bach that night who left without a grin of their own.
(Oh, in case you're wondering, there was a support band. A blues duo called The Picture Books. They sounded like Left Lane Cruiser and the singer looked like Jack Black in School Of Rock (as observed by Our Mate Colin). They did what all blues duos who sound like Left Lane Cruiser do and not much more. I'd almost forgotten about them by the time Le Butcherettes came on. It took all of three seconds of Teri Gender-Bender's shenanigans to forget them altogether...)
MrsRobster's verdict - On the support act of whom she seemed rather fond of the drummer's technique: "If I had a drum kit, I'd want to play it like that." On Le Butcherettes: It was weird, but in a good way. I'd go and see them again. Our Mate Colin added: I'll go back and listen to the albums again, but I don't think they could be anywhere as good as that. They are definitely a live band. Thumbs up all round then!
- Dress Off - Le Butcherettes (from 'Sin Sin Sin')
- Burn The Scab - Le Butcherettes (from 'Cry Is For The Flies')
And here's the video for the new single from last year's brilliant 'A Raw Youth' album: