Le Butcherettes – Black Box, Belfast
Mexican garage/punk band, Le Butcherettes have become well known for their theatrical performances and high octane live shows. Whilst the crowd in Black Box tonight may be a relatively small one the band make it a night to remember for those in attendance.
The night is kicked off by a garage/punk band from a little closer afield. Just a matter of days ahead of the release of their latest EP, Sister Ghost treat the crowd to an early listen to tracks from the forthcoming “In A Spell”. Lead singer and guitarist Shannon Delores O’Neill makes no attempt to cover her excitement to be playing the supporting slot for Le Butcherettes tonight.
The band are a great choice for the bill; they play with a sense of intensity which is made visible by the number of drumsticks which meet their end over the course of the set. Sister Ghost round off their performance by ramping up the energy with an electrifying breakdown in “Little Lamb”. While Sister Ghost may have begun as a solo project by O’Neill, the band which they have become are tight and exciting. If tonight is anything to go by, “In A Spell” should be one to watch out for.
Le Butcherettes appear on stage and grip the crowd immediately. As Teri Gender Bender chants in low Spanish tones closely into the microphone, the room is transfixed on her. As she takes a lunge back from the mic she unleashes the full power of her voice, filling the room with no need for its aid. This introduction flows straight into the first track “Burn The Scab” so fluidly that it is barely noticeable that they were two separate entities. This is something the band run through the set. There are no interjections to tell us the names of songs or regaling us with anecdotes. But rather than this distancing the crowd, the band manage to captivate them. When, on occasion there is a short pause at the end of a song, there is a split second of silence in the room as though the crowd need this time to process what they have seen and heard before they can applaud.
That is not to suggest the crowd need simply stand passively and observe the theatrical display on stage. The funk laden tones of “Stab My Back” usher in dancing across the under filled but appreciative venue. The synth sounds and heavy raw guitar is reminiscent of bands such as Bikini Kill or maybe even a better comparison yet, one of feminist punk icon Kathleen Hanna’s other bands, Le Tigre.
The band have such a tight grip over the control of the tone and emotional response within the room. The relatively upbeat “The Leibniz Language” with its harmonic sound and mixture of harsh and melodic vocals draws to a close and only Teri is left speaking as she launches into one of a number of spoken word pieces which are integrated into the set. There is a sharp contrast between the dance-y vibe of the previous song and the subject of rape which she goes on to deal with. The atmosphere changes accordingly highlighting her grasp on the crowd.
While Le Butcherretes have become well known for employing unusual stage props such as blood and even in the past a pig’s head, tonight they make it clear that they are not merely a spectacle with loud guitars. Their oftentimes political messages are made just as strongly with no props at all. This is particularly apparent in “Bang!” with Teri’s robotic marching and scathing lyrics, “Look at him politic wants to blow his brains out, He’s still conservative when the blood leaks out” speaking for themselves. In this as in many instances, it is the voice and subtle movements of the band’s lead singer which create the power.
The theatrics which have defined tonight’s set stem from Teri’s incredible voice which flows through her entire body to create one of the most captivating performances imaginable. A sense of fluidity defines the night. One song flows into the next and on occasion, into a spoken word piece. Teri’s body moves as a physical representation of such fluidity, but, at times her movements become stiff or frenzied as appropriate. The show itself, whilst comprised of songs from across the band’s career feels like one theatrical piece with Teri as our guide.