Manchester and Brighton beatniks whip up a storm at Alma de Cuba, Dan Kay is more than impressed.
Some bands, no matter how good, bad or indifferent they are, just seem to find that extra special something when performing live. The Whip most definitely fall into that category.
Make no mistake, their latest album X Marks Destination is a fine offering, taking you on a journey that takes in many of the sonic textures between electro, rock and almost edging into pop without ever falling into the trap of becoming too formulaic.
But give them a stage, their portable technological wizardry and an audience expectantly feeding off every raucous pulse, beat and riff thrown their way and the Manchester quartet shift through the gears, leaving even the more restrained attendees in one of the more sedate Liverpool venues roaring adulation and begging for more.
The first time they crossed my radar was on a Chibuku bill alongside Digitalism and DJ Yoda and any concerns I may have held over how the different acoustics afforded them by the high roof in Alma de Cuba compared to the cozy bar in Barfly were quickly allayed even before The Whip got on stage.
Brighton’s South Central, perpetrators of one of the year’s finest remixes with their re-working of The Whip’s ebullient single Trash, took over from the scene-setting Agents of Evol DJ‘s with a look and a sound reminiscent of early 80’s post-punks Nitzer Ebb and damn near stole the show.
Growling and jacking vibrant malevolence from beneath their black leathers and hoods, they launched into a set of such ferocity it left you wondering how this kind of music’s bleep and blips, meaty guitar riffs, all-consuming synths and epic crescendos could be done better.
The Bravery-esque Aeon and Nothing Can Go Wrong in particular whipped (see what I did there?) the rapidly-engaged crowd into something approaching a frenzy and when the drum kit and bass guitar heralded an astonishing version of Josh Wink‘s Higher State of Consciousness as their encore, you almost feared for The Whip and how they might go about following that.
They managed it though – from the first ethereal chords of Sister Siam, to the third-time-lucky version of Divebomb thanks to equipment difficulties, right through to Trash‘s dancefloor-bouncing, stage-invading climax, they exuded a presence and pedigree that marks them out as a live act truly to be reckoned with – a fact clearly acknowledged by South Central‘s avidly-watching frontman.
The pernickety could moan about the lack of a collaborative Trash at the end or that somehow no-one had sussed that this kind of aural punishment would require heavy-duty amps – they failed at one point during South Central‘s set as well as The Whip‘s first two abortive bashes at Divebomb‘s beautiful intro (if you’re going to hear something three times it may as well be as good as that, mind).
But that would be to miss the point. The Whip at present remain one of music’s best-kept secrets – and while it’d be impossible to begrudge them the success the music deserves, it’s hard not to keep hoping they remain that way just for a little while longer yet.