Squid start their set with a long introduction. It’s the clicking of tongues, fiddling with pedals and the hitting of claves all humming above some introductory guitar riffs and the quivering of cymbals. Then, suddenly explosive, the quintet burst into their first song Cleaner, which is impressive off the bat. Squid are known for their animated shows and from the moment they made their way to stage, this held be unquestionably true.
This gig comes as a part of The Great Escape’s First Fifty – an introduction to the first artists who have committed to playing the festival next year and it is Squid’s “biggest show yet.” The band has five members: Ollie Judge, Louise Borlase, Anton Pearson, Arthur Leadbetter and Laurie Nankivell whose joy of playing this show is undeniable. Occasionally, the members make eye contact throughout songs, smiling at each other. At one point, I catch the bassist with his eyes closed, taking a moment to smile to himself, clearly lost in the music he’s making.
The band is unreserved and give themselves fully to the performance. This is a gig characterised by movement; the band members swap instruments, pick up a cowbell, a tambourine, a trombone. They dance, almost buoyant, around the stage; there is barely a moment of stillness. To top all of that off the singing is shared; different members of the band contribute their voices at different points – for Rodeo, Judge gets up and shuffles his way out from behind the drum kit and instead stands in front of it, belting the song while still smashing one of the cymbals. There is a distinct intensity to their performance, so much so that at one point a guitarist breaks one of his strings. The band carry this hiccup well, playing some playing some instrumental funk as we watch him weave it back onto the fretboard.
They are a band of few words, saying very little between songs or nothing at all as they make their way through their seven-song set list. However, what they lack in speech they make up for in spark. Their music is undeniably complex but they hold it together keeping every song taut.
Terrestrial Changeover Blues (2007-2012), one of their biggest hits, proves itself to be the highlight of the show. This song seems to rise out of its own ashes. It starts with a melody that carries itself from a keyboard. It feels unrecognisable to the rest of the band’s content but then, just as you think the song may be ending, they break out into a funk singing “punch yourself in the head/ punch punch yourself in the head/in the head” musing on a kind of oblique existentialism.
Their show ends with The Dial. The almost hypnotic tune is repetitive and monotonous on record; “the dial doesn’t change/ the dial stays the same” is sung repeatedly with a droning tone. However, when translated to the stage, it becomes just another part of their lively and ebullient set.
Squid have a floating life force behind them, whether that be passion, conviction or talent as they provide us with forceful punk-rock which has strands of both psychedelia and funk running through it. It’s the kind of music you can really throw your body into if you choose to. For me, the verdict is still out for the recordings of their songs. Nevertheless, this gig was proof that when Squid are playing live, they really do pack a chaotic but electrifying punch.
Photo credit: squiduk.bandcamp.com