4th November | Rough Trade
Photos: Michael Brumby
Depending on who you ask, Sunday night’s Emma Ruth Rundle show at Rough Trade may have been one of the year’s best. Certainly demand for tickets was high, and those lucky to be in attendance were treated to an enticing line-up of acts.
First up, Patrick Walker of 40 Watt Sun – an exclusive joined on for Rundle’s London and Bristol shows – delved into a sombre acoustic set that Rundle would later comment on as “heartbreaking”, celebrating its profound lyricism. The joint harmonies between Walker’s guitar and accompanying violin worked in breathtaking tandem, but were perhaps an odd fit for the bill. If it wasn’t for Bristol’s own Big Jeff swaying gently at the front, the energy may have left the room prematurely. Tough for a Sunday night, but nonetheless Walker showed his talents as a capable and sophisticated songwriter, able to strike an emotional chord.
After Walker, Louisville-based Jaye Jayle took to the stage for a truly mesmerising set. The band was fronted by Evan Patterson, whose wry charm dripped through every verse. They took selections from their latest LP No Trail and Other Unholy Paths, amped them up and blew the audience away, their sound defying definition in the best possible way. The thundering, rhythmic bass of ‘As Soon As Night’, the turbulent, Krautrock-inspired ‘Cemetary Rain’, and the wonderfully off-kilter ‘Accepting’ made for highlights, but really the whole set was fabulous. It felt like the Rough Trade Live Room could barely contain it. Definitely worth keeping an eye out for, should they return to the UK.
Finally, the star of the evening, Rundle took to the stage with Jaye Jayle as her backing band. Kicking things off with ‘Dead Set Eyes’, a steady beat set the ground for the claustrophobic intensity of Rundle’s lyrics – “in a city so loud, we will never be free” – before breaking through with massive cymbal crashes and guitar wails in the chorus. “What doesn’t kill you will just keep you alive,” is certainly the self-sustaining narrative of the music, feeling it could do both in this environment, heavy both in subject and sound.
These heavy tumults carried through the crushing peaks of ‘Fever Dreams’, underscored by shimmering guitar patterns that threaded into a transfixing performance of ‘Apathy on the Indiana Border’. The great thing about the songs from On Dark Horses is how each and every song feels as vital as the last, and as such, appear to mesh seamlessly in any chosen order Rundle configures them live. Even choice selections from her previous record, Marked For Death – its self-titled track and ‘Protection’ – now appear like waymarkers for what ethereal dissonance On Dark Horses had to offer, neatly combed into the entirety of the set. Certainly Rundle is one of the most talented musicians of her ilk, if not the industry as a whole, and an unrivalled live performer.
See ‘Heaven’ played live in session here: