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My Vitriol + Dave McPherson

Sunday 19th November 2023

Scala, London

My Vitriol are a band whose history is intriguing as much as their pioneering role in the development of the genre Nu-Gaze. Having formed in 1999, they enjoyed great success in their formative years with a single 'Always Your Way' making it to the Top 40 together with a performance on Top of the Pops and at a billing at the Reading festival.

They released the album 'Finelines' to great acclaim in 2001, but then they seemingly disappeared playing the occasional one-off gig, and finally releasing their second album in 2016, 'The Secret Sessions' after what felt like a 15-year hiatus and a revolving line-up of bassists. The pleasant surprise tonight came in the form of the return of bassist Tatia Starkey who joined the band in 2016.

This all added to the band's mystique who managed to retain a cult following, despite some would argue their sparse output and this is reflected in the extraordinary diversity and uncommon devotion of the crowd: Som Wardner (lead singer) asking fans from the front row how long it had been since they had last seen the band live, with one fan replying 23 years.

Indeed, fans came from all manner of countries as far-flung as Japan (a couple responding to Som’s enquiry in the front row), to another from Costa Rica in the queue for the merchandise. I spoke to one German guy before the gig in the queue outside the venue, who mentioned he was in an Industrial Rock band and had flown in from Frankfurt especially. He later admitted he had cried three times during the set.
And what a set it was, they opened with 'Falling Off the Floor' and straightaway the band’s sonic pyrotechnics are perfectly coordinated and orchestrated with the lighting and Ravi Kesavaram’s propulsive drumming. The strobe activity giving off a powerful effect together with the chiming guitars of Som and Seth Taylor proved chaotic for the photographer’s pit, but hypnotic for the gathering.

Next came the 'The Gentle Art of Choking', and If I was trying to put my finger on it, when I would say Radiohead 'The Bends' era, Sonic Youth, 90s Grunge and, of course, late 80s Shoegaze acts like My Bloody Valentine, seem to be a strong influence on their sound. You tend to not notice the individual numbers as you get caught up in the immersive wall of sound and light display which leaves a sonic imprint the day after with half-recalled flashing images. I always felt Ravi’s drumming reminded me of Dave Grohl’s and along with Starkey they have a similar chemistry to Grohl/Krist Novoselic in Nirvana. Som Wardner’s vocals do not overpower, but serve as a fifth instrument to add another texture to the songs and are sufficiently incoherent to beguile.

With crowd suitably entranced, the chords of 'Always Your Way' indicated the last song of the set and predictably, but joyously, every member of the audience belted out the words, which gave way to a generous two song encore. A special mention should go to Dave McPherson, who along with some exquisite guitar playing, warmed-up everyone with an acoustic set and some kind words and clear admiration for the headline act. The meet-and-greet session at the end probably pushed the patience of the administrators as iy ran into overtime, but plenty of strangers eventually left the venue into the night as friends who had just attended a long overdue reunion.

Ivan De Mello

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