by Jack Pickles
Prior to him taking the stage, I pass Peter Dreimanus multiple times. That is perhaps the most exciting thing about any gig at King Tut’s, how personal it all feels: there are no stage barriers; the band members walk through the bar before their set; the performers and their audience are in unity, rather than separated by layers of security.
Peter – as it just so happens – looks just as intense off stage, enough so that I neglected approaching him. While he doesn’t look like the kind of person to physically lash out at somebody, I can imagine waking up in the middle of the night to see him standing at the end of my bed, clutching a knife and grinning maniacally. More Jeffrey Dahmer than Danny Dyer’s hardest men.
Having only released their sophomore album ‘Touch’ four days prior, Toronto outfit July Talk are in Glasgow for the first of three UK tour dates, supported by local rock band, Reality TV, and Derbyshire punk outfit, BlackWaters.
Reality TV play with a confident swagger, although they are clearly a band in the discovery stages as they jump quite jarringly between classic rock and disco, with the highlight of their set being a surprisingly bombastic cover of Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’. My lasting impression is soured however, as their vocalist conducts himself with unbearable arrogance, mistaking ‘cool guy posturing’ as genuine showmanship.
BlackWaters follow them up, injecting some energy into the now growing crowd. A fairly straightforward punk band, yes, but they play with furious energy and a sincerity that is so essential to the genre. Their lead singer barks with conviction in his typically thick accent, over razorblade guitar riffs, thumping bass lines and catchy choruses. They manage to captivate a crowd mostly unaware of their band, and by the time they leave the stage there is no doubt they have secured several new fans, myself included.
By the time July Talk hit the stage, anticipation levels are high. After briefly goading the crowd, Peter lets out a recognizable howl and the band launch into ‘Summer Dress’, the first song in a sexy and surreal set that covers the vast majority of their debut, and a considerable chunk of ‘Touch’.
From the outset, July Talk has the audience captivated. Peter’s intense gaze and frequent howls leave us with a ‘deer in the headlight’ kind of feel, helpless to do anything but fully embracing that fact. It is Leah however – generally the more restrained of the two – that turns out to be the real live wire, her frequent offstage ventures leading some of the nights more surreal moments.
When the band asks us to sit down for ‘I’ve Rationed Well’ we do, Leah taking this opportunity to crawl through the crowd and have a conversation with a Danish woman. Prior to the encore she gets a bottle of Jameson whiskey out and pours it down willing audience members’ throats, eventually balancing the empty bottle on her head. As the band closes their set with ‘The Garden’ she leaps off stage one final time, creating a brief void near the front that she personally drags me and my friends in to fill.
Such audience interaction is unprecedented, even in venues as intimate as King Tut’s. Even the best of bands generally limit themselves to brief moments of banter every three songs or so, which July Talk of course do as well. Glasgow is far too used to being told they are one of the best cities in the world to play in, although it comes off as more sincere when July Talk tell us it, perhaps due to the energy they pour into their set.
All the major beats are covered; it’s hard to think of a song that could have improved the set through its presence. The majority of tracks off of Touch make an appearance, highlights being ‘Picturing Love’, ‘Push + Pull’, ‘Lola + Joseph’ and the title track. Despite being less than a week old, all these songs get equally animated reactions to the band’s established tracks.
The musicianship is on point, with barely a note out of place. Peter’s unique growl sounds just as, if not more formidable live, and the interactions between himself and Leah are just as erotically charged as we’ve come to expect, as they grope, lick, and twist around each other over the course of the set. The dynamic between the two actually strikes me as quite similar to that of the Joker and Harley Quinn, what with Peter’s psychotic appearance and Leah’s manic, elated energy, just without the uncomfortable undertones of Stockholm syndrome.
The only significant issue I can point out is that Peter’s guitar is far too quiet, being drowned out whenever another band member joins the fray and leaving some songs with an empty space where you know a guitar should be.
I actually find myself completely forgetting about these sound issues towards the end of the set, however. July Talk work the audience like no band I have seen before, making us feel like we are part of something more than just a live performance. There is a real sense of reverence for us as an audience, and that is returned as the band leaves the stage to the loudest applause a small room can muster. It’s quite sad actually, because for how much July Talk deserve to play bigger venues, it’s hard to see them holding on to the intimacy that made them so gripping tonight.
July Talk were sexy, unhinged, unique, and are easily one of the most exciting live bands touring right now. You will be doing yourself a disservice if you miss them next time they come to Scotland.