Mono is heaving for the hotly anticipated launch of Sacred Paws’ debut long-player, Strike A Match.
Sold out on the door, this humble reviewer had to smuggle in the very editor of Rave Child himself with a presciently purchased plus one.
A crowd this size would flatter most, but Sacred Paws’ ticket-shifting feat seems even more remarkable once you consider the band’s unusual history.
Formed out of the ashes of Slumberland alumni Golden Grrrls, core members Rachel Aggs (guitar, vocals) and Eilidh Rogers (drums) have lived in separate cities – London and Glasgow – since Sacred Paws’ inception.
United by passion, politics and cheap Megabus tickets, the duo have steadily cultivated a dedicated fanbase on both sides of the border.
Perhaps recognising that they’re on the cusp of bigger things, tonight they debut a new and improved lineup, throwing a live bassist, synth player and second guitarist into the pot.
Rather than foist this new incarnation too eagerly on fans accustomed to a more minimalist sound, Sacred Paws sensibly switch their new members in and out throughout the set, allowing the reworking to win the crowd over gradually.
On ‘Everyday’ from Strike A Match – a monster hit in an alternate, more righteous universe – this new maximalism works perfectly.
The band fall into place perfectly behind its highlife backbeat, allowing Aggs’ carefree, Graceland-esque vocal to soar above.
‘Rest’, too, is irrepressibly joyful – as much as it misses the brass section from the recorded version, the calliope-style synths (played by Lewis Cook of Glasgow’s own The Cosmic Dead) make for a fine replacement.
Possibly by virtue of having an uncharacteristically large behind her, Aggs inhabits the role of frontwoman more naturally tonight than she has perhaps ever done.
And by the way – if you haven’t heard of Aggs by now, then get off Buzzfeed and get ye to the nearest set of reasonably priced speakers, because you have some catching up to do.
Her output across three era-defining acts of the UK DIY punk underground – Sacred Paws, Shopping and Trash Kit – is remarkable for its balance of consistency and variety.
Performatively, her busy, breezy guitar work – equal parts Oliver de Coque and Viv Albertine – is unmistakably her own, as is her lilting vocal; yet somehow, each of the acts she lends her talents to seem completely distinct from one another.
Drummer Eilidh Rogers smashes it too, in perfect complement with the melody at all times: busy but not too busy, her buzzy snare rolls fill out the dead space between Aggs’ staccato notes nicely.
Decades from now, we’ll look back at Sacred Paws every bit as fondly as we do post-punk luminaries like The Slits and The Raincoats today.
But, posterity aside, having a bloody good time is all that matters this evening – and Sacred Paws are sure to give you a better time than most.
Words: Graham Gillespie
Photos: Allan Lewis