It’s kind of peculiar – if not surprisingly refreshing – to see Tufnell Park’s legendary rock’n’roll dive The Dome laid out like a wedding reception. The scene of some of the messiest moshes in North London is neatly arranged with tablecloths and meticulously spaced seating. It’s all in honour of its first gig of 2021, a double afternoon/evening set from post-punk gang, Goat Girl.
The four-piece have played some legendary shows in their five year lifespan – including supporting The Fall at the iconic Manchester band’s last ever London show before the death of pugnacious frontman Mark E Smith – but to be one of the first bands to return to the UK live scene during the chaotic swell of a global pandemic seems almost revolutionary. At least, it does when, at an extremely civilised 2.30pm, Goat Girl saunter into The Dome, accompanied by four extra musicians with flute, bugle, violin and keyboards to beef up their hypnotic sound.
“It’s so weird to be back, finally,” cautiously announces vocalist and lead guitarist, Lottie Pendlebury, like even she’s not really sure that all this is actually happening despite being in the middle of the stage. “Let’s play some songs.” They tumble straight into ‘Pest’ from this year’s ‘On All Fours’. It’s on ‘Badibada’ that their temporary status as an eight-piece band makes its full impact, however, their collective creeping and moody noise propelling itself into a furious funk freak-out that then tightly winds itself into ‘Jazz (In The Supermarket)’. Twisting and turning, theirs is a sound that feels free-form but is always neatly stitched together – meaning the more jammy moments never seem self-indulgent but rather, thought-through and purposeful. With Goat Girl, everything is in its right place, Pendlebury’s harmonies stacking up against those of her bandmates to create a near impenetrable wall of sound.
But today it’s the psychedelic disco of ‘Sad Cowboy’ – which has nothing to do with stetson-wearing musician Orville Peck after a particularly rotten break-up – that sees the south Londoners truly hit their stride. The closest they have to a sing-along banger, it inspires a hearty clap-along from the audience (which in a seated, socially distanced venue, we have to read as a full-on dance floor invasion). Its euphoric electro breakdown twinkles like a mirrorball before the heavy groove of ‘The Crack’ kicks in.
Despite playing for a full hour, Goat Girl’s self-titled 2018 debut album doesn’t make a dent on the set-list – but considering the past fifteen months we’ve had, all of this looking to the future can’t be a bad idea.