Zola Jesus and EMA provide a fitting tribute on EVOL’s birthday night, Getintothis’ Andy Minnis joins in with the celebrations.
Tonight’s gig at the Kazimier marks the eighth birthday of EVOL – perhaps the pre-eminent event promoter in Liverpool, responsible for showcasing the finest in fresh talent and giving a platform to the more leftfield music scene.
Headlining is Zola Jesus, but support is first provided by swaggering lone Liverpudlian troubadour Johnny Sands and then South Dakota’s EMA (or Erika M. Anderson, to her mother).
The crowd is small but what we lack in numbers, EMA makes up for in presence; captivating, feeling and expressing every line and riff – several times ending up in the audience dancing among the revellers. The set, like much of her debut, Past Life Martyred Saints, is dynamic, with songs beginning subtle and tender, before kicking in with big thick chords and heavy distortion.
A real mix of sounds and moods hit home. While Erika draws most of the attention, her whole band are also a riveting watch, providing one of the best, authentic performances Getintothis has seen for a good while.
Erika urges the crowd to dance, but tracks as visceral and laced with lyrical scars as California and Red Star get the hips quaking with unease rather than shaking. But make no mistake, this was a hugely impressive set from one of the artists of 2011.
After a break, which includes EMA mixing with the audience in the smoking area, Zola Jesus emerges on stage.
Ending up with considerably less room than their support, the band crams in four keyboards, three laptops and two sets of drums.
With electronic acts there’s always a question mark over how the recordings will translate in a live performance – but with Zola Jesus, it’s all about the drums. And indeed, Zola herself (Nika Roza Danilova to her father).
A slow, easing in process is brought to an abrupt halt as Nika climbs around the multi-tiered Kazimier amid a dense, hypnotic and encompassing soundscape. The layers, dynamics and soulful, treated vocals keep the crowd hypnotised as her wall of sound ramps up the intimacy.
As the set builds, the band seamlessly mix tracks from this year’s Conatus and highlights from 2010’s Stridulum II.
Nika, meanwhile, reverts to being rooted to the spot before jumping into the crowd pulling everyone into a tight circle.
Building in energy, stand out track Ixode acts as prelude to the final song Vessel which provides a suitbaly amazing climax. The lyrics of the chorus, ‘it surrounds everything‘ a fitting conclusion.
Feeling totally immersed in the performance, we sing with arms raised and simultaneously convulse to the machine gun drum beat ending, like creatures possessed.
It feels like a special moment and one Getintothis‘ will remember for a good while. An encore follows with more songs to keep our smiles going, though they feel more like afterglow than fresh fuel to the fire. Despite that, we’re left feeling elated. The birthday celebrations continued long into the night as DJ’s James Rand and Paul Hutchinson took over after the bands finished.
Although the club became sparser, the dark, compelling music of EMA and Zola Jesus provided a perfect tribute to what has become a great Liverpool institution – here’s to many more years of EVOL, and bringing the city tremendous artists like those we were privileged to see tonight.
Pictures by Michelle Roberts.