Dry Cleaning, Leeds Stylus 18/02/23

Originally slotted in for a date at Leeds Academy the move to Stylus, a smaller more intimate venue, was guaranteed to mean tonight’s show was a sell-out. And those that managed to grab a ticket were in for a treat. Especially those who made the effort to arrive in time to see all three bands.

Thus Love, a Brattleboro, Vermont, US trio open proceedings and from the moment the first notes are struck you know you’re going to witness something special. A set of songs with a pure punk attitude but absorbing influences from glam, pop, and solid rock n roll. Vocalist/guitarist Echo Mars dominates the stage and is a mesmorising presence as she slices sounds from her instrument whilst delivering vocals that seem to sum up perfectly the chaotic, overwhelming state the world is currently unable to shake itself out of.

Thus Love are clearly a unit working together in complete synchronisation. Whilst bassist Nathaniel van Osdol rarely strays from a square metre of stage the chemistry between them, together with drummer Lu Racine is there for all to see. 2022 debut album Memorial gained a heap of positive reviews from the likes of NME and The Guardian. Songs such as Family Man, Anathema, Put On Dog and Friend bristle with thrumming bass and spikey, occasionally airy guitar sounds. New single Centerfield slows things down to a dreamy, ethereal sound punctuated with a soaring, anthemic guitar that could have been dragged kicking and screaming from the vaults of the very best shoe gazing bands of the 1980’s. What’s clear from tonight is that this trio deserve to be around for a long time to come so that they can take their brand of post punk rock n roll to bigger places.

Chicago three piece Dehd play a superb set of non-stop catchy, jubilant indie pop greatness. Whatever your mood Dehd have the ability to lift it a few notches higher. 2022 album Blue Skies is their fourth and just about half tonight’s set is taken from it. From the opening surf vibes of Bad Love Dehd capture the audience with their foot tapping, sing-a-long tunes. The combined vocals of bassist Emily Kempf and guitarist Jason Bella mix perfectly. Bella, completely unable to remain still for more than a second or two twists and twirls around the stage between vocal deliveries packed full of expression and energy.

As a recorded output production on Blue Skies is less raw, more polished than it’s predecessors but live every track, whether it’s Clear, No Difference or Widow from the most recent offering or Lucky from 2019s Water or the trio of songs from 2020s Flower Of Devotion, all fill the room with reverb drenched garage guitar, simple yet powerful rolling drum beats and deep bass riffs. By the end of their 11 song set there’s barely a still head. If you weren’t a fan before, or if you’d never heard of Dehd prior to stepping onto the floor tonight, their irresistible hooks, melodies and catchy vocal delivery together with a captivating stage presence very likely means those people will now be investigating Dehd further and putting them firmly on any future playlists.

With the popularity of lyrics being spoken rather than sung growing every day Dry Cleaning still stand out from the crowd. This isn’t a band who want you to jump around in a swirling moshpit. Dry Cleaning are a band to listen to. To concentrate on. To watch. To really appreciate. After the success of debut album New Long Leg 2022 saw the release of Stumpwork to yet more rave reviews. Tonight’s show is a perfect mix of the old and new. Kwenchy Kups opens proceedings – “Things are shit, but they’re going to be OK”. A perfect opening line. Florence Shaw’s deadpan delivery of brutally honest observations of everyday life and vivid imaginations run throughout everything Dry Cleaning do. Flagship single Scratchcard Lanyard comes early in the night before the band dip into early release Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks – Viking Hair sounding every bit as good now as it did when many first started noticing Dry Cleaning.

Whilst the lyrics and vocal delivery from Shaw, not to mention the facial expressions as she seems to lose herself in another place altogether, demand your attention it’s all underpinned by some of the most brilliant interplay of instruments you’re likely to hear anywhere. Spikey, angular guitar work from Tom Dowse, hypnotic bass riffs from Lewis Maynard and the percussion of Nick Buxton weaving together to produce a bewitching sound that captivates the whole venue.

Fan favourites Leafy, Strong Feelings (who else could write “Just an emo, dead stuff collector. Things come to the brain” and later, “I just wanted to tell you I’ve got scabs on my head” ?), the psychedelic guitars of Unsmart Lady, Conservative Hell and debut single Magic Of Meghan, together with the funky beats of Goodnight from that first EP are spread nicely amongst the set. Throughout it all, whilst Dowse and Maynard are full of pent up energy and use every inch of available stage space, Shaw remains still, moving only her arms and hands to help emphasise an expression or to lift a tambourine, maraca or small cassette player. But it’s all there in her face, as if every word she’s saying has only just come into her mind and requires the utmost contemplation.

It’s testament to Dry Cleaning’s talent as musicians and Shaw’s lyrics that they hold the complete attention of a sizeable crowd for 90 minutes. There’s no singalongs, no moshpit, no dancing. Just nodding heads, concentration and full appreciation of what Dry Cleaning do.

Words and Photos by Steve White



Philip Goddard

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