Ecca Vandal + New War @ The Attic at RCC, Adelaide 16/2/2019
The sophomore show at the RCC venue the Attic following the previous night’s well-attended Floating Points set was the co-headlining show of Ecca Vandal & New War. To a sparsely gathered audience, New War commenced, their opening song evoking the late-era Joy Division/New Order axis with hypnotic rhythmic tribal drums and minimal synths (think Atmosphere or Cermony), their second song bringing to mind a funky Suicide with the influence further consolidated on their third song. Although an obvious influence detected early on is Suicide with singer Chris Pugmire emulating the snarl of Alan Vega and Jesse Shepherd on synth playing the counterpart Martin Rev, this style is soon discarded as the band continued to explore other musical avenues throughout their set giving the audience a history lesson by sampling styles from the late seventies to early eighties with a measure of post rock for balance.
Chris P changed his vocal style accordingly, channelling the Fall’s Mark E Smith-esque rants and progressing into actual singing as the set progressed. All the while the rhythm section of drummer Steve Masterson and Melissa Lock on bass maintained the core of the songs with the synth producing the appropriate distortion and high-pitched feedback squeals, deputising for the guitar absent from a traditional band line-up. The band displayed a certain anonymity that was reinforced by the material and reverb on the microphone that obscured the limited between song banter but this seemed appropriate in the context of the songs performed. Their set came to a close again referencing a Joy Division influence with a longer final song starting off sounding like a reggae version of that band’s Twenty Four Hours, having intrigued those present hopefully enough for further investigation of New War’s interesting oeuvre.
Upon joining her band on stage to commence her set, Ecca Vandal was immediately in total control of the room. She commanded the expectant audience both on stage and at times within, joining the audience to incite the enthusiastic dancers down front and later encouraging audience participation with the formation of a large circle around her that crouched down and then jumped up as one at her command.
The seeming diversity in style and material of New War’s preceding set was almost dismissed and eclipsed within the first few genre contrasting songs, Ecca Vandal just as accomplished singing R&B influenced soul grooves and diversions into rap and hip hop, the former including the anthemic Future Heroine (“for the girls in the audience”) and the latter by covering Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money. Otherwise she howled over the top of a punk rock musical backing during songs such as the punk rock Price of Living dedicated to refugees.
The three piece live band brought a measure of life and in-the-moment to material that sometimes is left solely to the front person in the case of hip hop based material, and apart from Ecca Vandal being the usual centre of attention, bass player was certainly (although unconsciously) competitive with his groove-moves.
While she was able to voice her socio-political opinions and beliefs (racism, the plight of refugees) either between or within songs via her uncomplicated but not preachy lyrics on the mic, the other band members also had taken opportunity to project their own messages although not vocally with the guitarist in a Sea Shepherd shirt and the drummer in a shirt espousing veganism.
The less than expected limited audience turnout was a slight disappointment for a performer as talented as Ecca Vandal and her band but this is a trickle down effect of everything else that is competing for numbers in Adelaide right now and did not effect the energy projected from the stage and in the audience. Down let the hype turn you away as it was spot on this time. Seeing as you may not have been there this time, don’t miss out because if you’re not there next time to see Ecca Vandal, you will be missing out.
Fringe Review By Jason Leigh