Warpaint at Roundhouse / Gig Review


Warpaint are a disciplined, dynamic and dream four-piece all female band originating from Los Angeles, California who headlined the Roundhouse for the sold out show on Thursday evening. Forming on Valentine’s Day 2004, the quartet have been together for twelve years and have come a long way from their first EP Exquisite Corpse. It’s their live shows, however, that convey that they are still an exciting and promising act. Each band member is a multi-instrumentalist with each member easily switching between guitar, singing, bass and playing drums as demonstrated throughout the gig.

The five-piece band, Shock Machine from London, is a side project for James Righton formally one-third of Klaxons. Shock Machine opened the gig with their electronic synth sound, combined with a live set-up. They were a good choice as the opening act and played a few promising numbers, on included ‘Shock Machine’, but the performance did dip after the first three songs and the audience lost the connection. The lead singer danced around the stage and tried to get the crowd to interact, but despite his attempts the performance overall did fall flat. After Shock Machine had finished their set, the Roundhouse started to become more crowded and an exciting buzz filled the air. The stage began to take form, as the roadies brought out dozens of potted plants covered in fairy lights which illuminated the stage in a warm and alluring glow.

When Warpaint took to the stage they were welcomed with loud cheers and applause, as they kicked off the set with the grungy ‘Bees’, the best track by far taken from their debut album The Fool. This track set an energetic and powerful start to the show. Afterwards, the band played the catchy ‘Keep It Healthy’. Emily Kokal, lead singer and guitarist, introduced the first track off the new album Heads Up by saying, “Right, let’s play some new shit!,” this then led into the title track of the third album ‘Heads Up’. During ‘Heads Up’, Jenny Lee Linberg highlighted why she has been recognised as one of the best bass players in the world right now, with her deep, funky bass line that carries throughout this song and makes it a standout track.

The set had a great mix of old and new tracks intertwined throughout which gave a cohesive flow. Over the last decade, Warpaint have released three LP’s and two EP’s, this gives them the opportunity to choose from a generous amount of material. The set included classing crowd pleasers and some of the biggest singles for the band, such as ‘Undertow’, ‘Elephants’, and ‘Love is to Die' which was warmly welcome and had the whole crowd singing along. Placing these three tracks in the middle of the set, was a confident move for the band, as many other bands would save their biggest singles for the end, but not Warpaint. This portrays their confidence in their music and their fans. This was a brave move, as it was nice as a fan to know that the encore would not consist of the main singles.

Another highlight of the night were the tracks taken from the new album, ‘The Stall’ and ‘White Out’. What I believe would have been a better choice and would have added to the gig would have been if more new material was played, as only five out of sixteen tracks were new. Tracks on the new album 'Dre’ and ‘Don’t Wanna’ are some of the best songs Warpaint have written, but as each of their songs range from four to seven minutes long, they have to be wary of time, whilst making sure the set consists of variety. The track ‘The Stall’ is a personal favourite song of mine as it features uplifting lyrics such as “letting go is not giving in / love is a place for it” and includes a dreamy melody threaded throughout with Kokal’s soft vocals. Furthermore, the opening track on the new album ‘White Out‘ featured a melody of strong drumming from Stella Mozgawa, locked in with Linberg’s earthy bass, setting a gritty underbelly for the song. This mixed with Kokal’s lead vocals while she danced and climbed on amps, and Therese integrating her key guitar riff, this uplifted the crowd and everyone was dancing.

After ‘White Out’ came the band’s heaviest track ‘Beetles’, taken from their first EP Exquisite Corpse released in 2008, which consists of an opposing feel to the new, lighthearted material the band have released in recent years. ‘Beetles’ is a long song formatted of many different layered parts, coming together in a seven minute indie rock masterpiece. It was great to see the band delve into their archives and pull out some of their best material for this set at the legendary venue.

When the band returned for their encore, they opened with ‘Biggy’ from the second self-title LP Warpaint. The track was originally performed with Kokal singing and playing the bass line on the keyboard, but in this show the arrangement had changed, and they took a different formation when constructing the song live. Lindberg took the bass line back and did what she does best by making the bass line groovier than on record. This allowed Kokal to divert her sole focus on the vocals, which where some of the best I have witnessed her perform live. ‘Biggy’ was truly the best part of the set, it was so good they could have opened with it. From previous times I have been lucky enough to see Warpaint perform live, it’s clear they have decided to take a new, uplifting and groovy direction, this is reflected throughout their latest album. Warpaint ended on the detailed and slowly layered track ‘Krimson’ which was followed by a lengthy improvised jam. This was the perfect choice giving the gig and punters a joyous send off.

The girls are extremely tight knit and this was conveyed throughout the gig with them laughing and enjoying each others company, this added to the opening and welcoming ambience they projected. After the show I was lucky enough to meet Emily Kokal at the back of the Roundhouse. She was one of the most coolest and down to earth people I have ever met and it was a pleasure to meet her. They say don’t meet your idols as they may turn out to be the opposite of everything you hope and expect, but this was not the case.

Warpaint have proven once again that they really are one of the best bands on the planet and I would like to say, probably the best female band of our generation. Any other female bands coming through in the next ten years will be certainly playing for second best. This was my 4th time seeing the girls, and I would recommend anyone to catch them when you can. Their set offers a diverse range of songs from heavy guitar based to dreamy psychedelic numbers. I would see them again in a heartbeat.

Written by Eryn Coupe