Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen – October 22nd
It’s 9.30 on a Thursday night. The back room of Hoxton Bar and Kitchen is bathed in red light. In front of me, a seven-foot man with a top-knot is yelling to two girls about his plans to fix the gun crisis in America. On stage, a cloaked figure is telling vampire jokes.
“Why did the vampire avoid the barbecue?”
“Because of the steaks!”
In Camp La Luz, it’s never too early to get in the Halloween spirit. The cloaked hosts perch like gargoyles as the jokes phase into the sultry intro for ‘Big Big Blood’. Like a bizarro world Beach Boys, La Luz’s guitar-led slow jams are two parts surf, two parts R&B vocal harmony with a twist of gothic Americana. Their swinging doom-wop has a touch of the uncanny in itself; familiar yet dangerous.
Openers Night Shades have more rigor in their limbs than the vampish sway of the headline act but they play with a juddering intensity. The twin vocal of guitarists Clare McNamara and Shaun Blackwell evokes the dreamy glides of Julee Cruise, planting one boot in rockabilly twang and the other in contemporary indie. It’s a rough-and-ready set that’s over just as they hit their stride.
La Luz make it look easy. A better rhythm section you are unlikely to find, with early highlights ‘You Disappear’ and ‘What Good Am I?’ riding powerful grooves. Shana Cleveland is an understated lead, applying a less-is-more approach to her guitar melodies. ‘Sleep Till They Die’, the opening track from their latest album Weirdo Shrine, waxes under reverb-soaked chords and haunting four-part vocal harmonies, drifting on gentle currents.
Crowd-pleasing antics such as inviting a drummer from the crowd to play through ‘Sure As Spring’, or a round of decidedly-chilled crowd surfing from Shana and keyboardist Alice Sandahl, are fun diversions, but the loose and lucid groove of their music retains focus. A double encore of ‘Believe My Eyes’ and ‘You Can Never Know’ is a gentle end, their noir-lilt delivering the audience safely back to shore. An effortlessly cool performance.