Midweek hurtles into Manchester are becoming more and more of a regular thing for your humble reviewer these days, but tonight was off the back of a particularly busy weekend with a Friday visit to Projekts MCR to see Death Valley Girls, Deaf Deaf Deaf, Total Luck and Wax Head, followed by a trip to The Asylum in Birmingham to catch up with a band I’ve previously reviewed (Bunker9) supporting Black Spiders – they have grown in confidence since the last time I saw them and I’d hope to see them again, should they decide to venture North of Stoke anytime soon. Also, for those of you in ANY doubt, Projekts MCR is an outdoor venue. And you need coats. LOTS of coats. Well at least until May. But I’d urge you to check it out as a venue nonetheless – it’s very different, but loads of fun!
The six piece outfit (whose name is pronounced “dame-eh-frizz-your”, and translates from the Danish as “women’s’ hairdresser” – but you knew that, didn’t you?) are based in Bristol and comprises Kazhi Jahfar (vocals), Nyle Dowd (drums), Megan Jenkins (bass), Sam Nobbs (keyboards), Garin Curtis (guitar) & Jamie Brown (guitar) who sadly wasn’t able to perform tonight, but his five bandmates more than made up for his absence with a thoughtful and intense performance that has the audience hooked from the outset. With a 10-song set largely consisting of February’s The Island of Light EP and their 2022 single Do You Think I’m Special/2-HEV-V, DAMEFRISØR have been through a number of line-up changes since first getting together at a Bristol club night in 2019.
They’ve shared stages with such luminaries as Katy J. Pearson, Squid, Folly Group and Walt Disco with a highlight of 2022 being an appearance on the main stage of Bristol’s Dot to Dot festival last year. Whilst they consider comparisons with both past and current bands to be flattering, they’re very keen to be judged on their own merits and their own sound, but when I have to try to convey what they’re about sonically within the confines of the written word, I have to throw a few in. Think Bauhaus, Joy Division, Suicide and Depeche Mode at the darker end of their spectrum, think IST IST, Interpol and Editors, if you want more contemporary reference points.
A key theme of their music is ordinary people, how they view themselves and how perceptions of people differ from one individual to the next, particularly in terms of relative values – those who are vital to one are often expendable to another. Taking their earlier industrial sound and adding in club/dance influences with the help of producer Alex Greaves (of Working Men’s Club and bdrmm fame) DAMEFRISØR have taken the next step of their musical evolution beyond the harder sound of tracks such as Torres Del Paine, As You Know and Huile and present themselves for the consideration of the Mancerati on a cold Tuesday evening.
Set opener Signs Of Life, which is an up to date reworking of very early song is picked up on eagerly by die-hard fans, and drifts effortlessly into D.O.D, (the opening track from the Island of Light EP) with its insistent Morse code-like theme underpinning for Kazhi Jafar’s mournful vocals (perfect for a song whose theme is loneliness and feeling that nobody is aware of your existence) are a little reminiscent, to my ears at least of Depeche’s Dave Gahan or IST IST’s Adam Houghton. Kazhi peers out from the dimly lit stage as Sam Nobbs’ electronics continue to pulse out into the darkness, sounding like a signal that’s being sent, and which is desperate for a reply of any sort. Thankfully, there’s an audience here to be on the receiving end of THIS message and they sway in appreciation.
Stage left is guitarist Garin and behind him is the latest bearer of the bass in the shape of Megan Jenkins, who was only supposed to be joining the band for a couple of gigs, but who has thankfully decided to become a permanent fixture. To her left and our right is drummer and co-lyricist (with Kazhi) Nyle, with Sam Nobbs holding court stage right behind a smorgasbord of keyboards and other electronic wizardry (with LOTS of cables coming out – great fun to photograph!)
Next up is The Grip which has your reviewer prick up his ears as a bass introduction not too dissimilar to that of JD’s “Transmission” chimes out from the rear of the stage. This is a more guitar-based number with its opening lyric, “There’s something in this room that’s putting me on edge” – there is an air of John Foxx lurking within this one too, but I’m trying very hard not to make too many comparisons and judge these songs on their own merits, which thankfully are many. Above Board is a slower, brooding and more contemplative number, backed with swirling distorted keyboards that highlights Kazhi’s vocal range and bids you to gaze at your shoes with great intensity, which I’d be happy to do if I didn’t have my camera at the ready at all times for fear of missing something. PHOTOFOMO is a curse indeed.
Starting quietly, 52A completes the run of the first four tracks from Island of Light, in the sequence in which they appear on that fine body of work. “You didn’t want to say goodbye… and that angered you” paints a picture of the end of something, who knows what, before picking up the pace over a background of insistent bass, swirling guitar and pounding drums, all complemented by a range of electronic sounds delivered by both Sam and Kazhi. This is a very busy group of friends, tonight having to work just that little bit harder to make up for the absence of a sixth of their party, but not making it look that much of an effort.
We now take a brief trip back to 2022 with “Do You Think I’m Special?” and “2-HEH-V”, both tracks from their debut 7”, sadly now unavailable unless you have ridiculous sums to spend. DYTIS thunders along with an IST IST bassline and an almost Theatre of Hate vocal, whilst I try VERY hard not to do a chicken dance from The Sisters of Mercy’s “Temple of Love” – dear reader, you really DON’T want to see that… 2-HEH-V (say it slowly without the dashes…) opens with a battery of sampled vocals and its repeated refrain of “I am Perfect” suggests someone who has to keep repeating it, either because they DO believe it or just to convince themselves they do, because they actually DON’T – the message is sometimes whatever the listener want to make it. “Are you over it yet – ‘cos I am?” delivered in a cynical Terry Hall monotone sees Kazhi’s impassioned vocals acting as a counterpoint to his robotic alter ego chirping away in the background, all delivered over the top of a very simple, but inescapably catchy electronic rhythm that creeps up on you almost unawares.
All that remains is to draw the evening’s proceedings to a close with Island of Light’s final track, “Horizon” which takes us neatly back to the swirling synths, electronica and mournful vocals of D.O.D. There’s much going on visually too with Megan getting involved with the electronica in the form of a keyboard that’s sitting on the floor for some reason, as Nyle bangs away insistently on an electronic drum pad out back somewhere. It’s very fitting that today sees the 40th anniversary of the release of New Order’s Blue Monday and you can almost see it sitting back contentedly on its porch as it surveys a little of its legacy in so many of its grandchildren.
If you’re a fan of paying close attention to your shoes, electronica, industrial, synthwave, John Foxx, Depeche Mode and IST IST with just a little goth thrown into the mix for good measure, then DAMEFRISØR are the band for you. Get yourself to see them and if when you’re there someone in the crowd asks you “How does it feel?”, you’ll have so many answers, you really won’t know where to begin.
DAMEFRISØR played Signs of Life, D.O.D., The Grip, Above Board, 52A, Do You Think I’m Special?, 2-HEH-V and Horizon.
Special thanks to fellow tog Anthony McIver for providing me with some video of the gig which helped me with this review immeasurably after I discovered that my audio recording had disappeared from my phone when I got home. Also, to Ant Turner for providing some useful background information around the setlist. The beers are on me the next time we cross paths, gentlemen.