Trophy Wife with Girls Names, The Wheelbarrow, 3 March 2011

Trophy Wife are touring to promote their new single, and tonight they arrive at Camden’s The Wheelbarrow. It’s difficult to know what to expect of new bands live, but with free entry, it’s always worth a look.

Up first are Girls Names, two guys and a girl from Belfast with no regard for punctuation when it comes to band names. They don’t get off to a brilliant start: frontman, Cathal, breaks a guitar string half-way through the first song of the night. He ploughs on but, such is the nature of this hip Camden crowd, the end of the songs meets with only silent stares – not so much as a pity clap.

But the band go on to prove that at times like these, things can only get better. When a replacement guitar is found, it turns out they play a happy form of shoegaze, featuring basslines like The Cure’s and a super-reverberating surfer-style guitar sound.

By the end of the set it’s full steam ahead. Movement comes into their performance and Cathal begins to draw out his words, Morrissey style. In the end, Girls Names have won much of the audience over with their catchy guitar licks and charming Irish accents.

At about quarter to ten The Wheelbarrow is starting to get busy. We are gradually pushed forward until we practically end up stood on the monitor, face to face with Trophy Wife’s lead singer and guitarist, Jody Prewett.

It’s an unusual set-up our headliners have got tonight. The drums are at the front, one of the guitars is at the back, and the stage is split down the middle by, what turns out to be, an electronic drum kit.

They open with one of their better-know songs, Take This Night. Immediately an enthusiastic fan leaps into the remaining space at the front and starts throwing shapes like he’s at a warehouse rave.

The sound, however, isn’t brilliant. The danger of having the drums too far forward on the stage is, predictably, that they sound too far forward in the mix – almost drowning out Take This Night’s delicate guitar-playing and gentle vocals.

Thankfully, drummer Kit Monteith knows it doesn’t sound right, and politely demands that everything else be turned up.

Mid-second song, Jody breaks a string. But, if Girls Names are anything to go by, this can only be a good omen.

And it is. Suddenly it becomes clear why Kit is up front: it’s impossible to keep your eyes off him. He provides the backbone for the almost robotic level of precision and timing this band have. But there is nothing robotic about the way Kit plays: he hits those drum-sounding pads with a serious amount of energy; this is clearly his favourite place to be. The mix of electronic and live drums only adds to the energy onstage. When Kit hits that crash symbol, you feel the impact.

But it’s not all about the drums: the whole aura of the band is captivating. There is a real connection between all four of them, particularly on crowd favourite, Microlite, which seems to send them into their own little world, where the music is the only thing going on.

They end it on a powerful, way-better-than-the-original, cover of Joanna Newsom’s Book Of Right On. At this point Jody steps into the audience to grin at Kit: they know they’ve got the goods to back up the hype.

If you thought Trophy Wife sounded good on record, seeing them live puts them into a whole new league. Free entry? A performance like this is worth a shed-load.

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