I might’ve discovered the work of KatieJane Garside 25 years too late, but I was just in time to witness a rare, incredible live performance one evening in Hoxton.
If you’re already aware of the wonders of Daisy Chainsaw, QueenAdreena and Ruby Throat, and don’t need to hear me beefing on about them, skip straight to the gig write-up.
The first time I heard Daisy Chainsaw was thanks to a 1993 episode of Beavis and Butthead. I enjoyed the song and the video, and concurred with Beavis on the subject of singer KatieJane Garside, but didn’t think much more about it.
A quarter of a century later, I came to the realisation that I’d made a mistake. “Love Your Money” – Daisy Chainsaw’s biggest hit – was catchy, sarcastic and acerbic, but didn’t even begin to showcase the band’s unique qualities. In 2018 I found myself listening to their first album, Eleventeen pretty much daily.
Starting out with the chilling I Feel Insane, it continues apace through You Be My Friend, before slowing to a haunting crawl for Hope Your Dreams Come True. In my opinion, the album peaks with Pink Flower – a song that begins with vocals spat with a passion, Crispin Gray’s vicious guitars, and a rhythm section in full-on audio assault mode, and ends with a heavenly refrain.
Please, please,Daisy Chainsaw – Pink Flower
I’ve not yet grown tired,
Of this earthly life…
Daisy Chainsaw released a second album in ’94 – For They Know Not What They Do – but by that time Garside had left the band and been replaced, seemingly taking a lot of the magic with her. It’s not a bad album, but it doesn’t stir the same emotion as Eleventeen. Re-recording The Future Free with a new singer, and without the choking/vomiting is the Alt-Rock equivalent of George Lucas’s unforgivable ‘improvements’ to the Star Wars Trilogy!
QueenAdreena came about in 1999 after a period of exile, when Gray and Garside reunited. They released four excellent studio albums, some of the best of which are showcased in their “Live at the ICA” release. Razorblade Sky, Cold Fish and Pull Me Under are simply sublime. They sadly split in 2009. You’d be forgiven for stopping here for an hour and watching this video of the ICA gig:
Following the KJG path onward, I learned of Ruby Throat – a collaboration with guitarist Chris Whittingham who she’d apparently met busking on the Tube. Acoustic guitars and folk music are not usually my thing, but I found myself listening to their four albums repeatedly. Garside’s vocals and Whittingham’s guitar work so well together that their partnership feels somehow inevitable, like it was meant to be.
Live at Folklore
Around a month after I started my journey of discovery, this popped up in my news feed:
Nestled among Hackney Road’s myriad pizza restaurants and convenience stores, Folklore’s foreboding wooden door looks somewhat out of place.
Behind it lies a typical Hoxton bar with a selection of craft beers, wines and spirits, a melange of the bearded and the beautiful (I was the former), and a resident bar cat who likes to sleep on the Jägermeister mini-fridge.
Out back, past the urinals in a cupboard and behind double doors, I found a tiny venue with space for a mere 160 souls. The stage at the far end was festooned with leaves and flowers, and an impressive selection of effects pedals.
I waited. We waited. Our breath was bated. At a certain point, a section of towards the front-left of the growing audience decided to sit down. That’s how I found myself sitting cross-legged at a folk gig, wearing a scarf.
Before too long, Chris and KatieJane emerged from the back of the room and tiptoed their way through the crowd to the stage. KJG was resplendent in an ankle-length off-white dress, oversized vintage sunglasses and a pair of handmade cardboard bunny ears with torch attached to one side. She clutched a radio to her ear and sang along to something that nobody else could hear.
KatieJane’s voice is every bit as strong as I expected from recordings, but hearing it live, coming from mere metres away was an incredible experience. They played a selection of songs, mainly from their new compilation album, Stone Dress. One blended seamlessly into the next with a background of guitar noise and whispered vocal melody.
“What are you gonna do now, KatieJane?”
The room seemed to feel it would be rude to interrupt this spectacle with applause, so stayed hushed until about half-way through the set. At this point a ripple started on the right hand side and quickly spread throughout the room. The bottle was uncorked, and the audience seemed relieved to be able to show their appreciation at last. Later in the set, Mel Garside (aka Maple Bee) joined her sister on stage. Her extra layers of guitar and harmonies – somehow reminiscent of Tanya Donnelly – helped to create an even more lush sound for the later tracks.
Most gigs are entertaining in one way or another. Some get you jumping around in a blur of physical violence. Others illicit nothing more than gentle applause and a raised eyebrow. Few truly transport you to another place in the way that Ruby Throat did for me, and I imagine everyone else at Folklore. By the time KatieJane, Chris and Mel walked back through a hastily-formed channel in the audience, the hairs on the back of my neck were exhausted. The room wasn’t the same as it had been a couple of hours earlier.
A brief walk, a train, a tube, another train and a drive later, and I was home. Drained, but still buzzing, and totally unable to sleep.