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LIVE: bdrmm / DAMEFRISØR – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, 13/11/2023

It’s a cold, dark, wet night in Birmingham, but that hasn’t stopped a capacity crowd showing up in Kings Heath to see modern shoegaze visionaries bdrmm, promoted to the ‘big’ room at the excellent Hare & Hounds following their memorable appearance down the corridor a couple of years ago.

And most of that crowd is in place when DAMEFRISØR take to the stage, the band turning out not to be from Scandinavia, as I had wrongly assumed, but Bristol. They look like they mean business, singer Kazhi Jahfar coming across part Ian Curtis, part Peter Murphy, totally in the moment as the band negotiate an excellent 30 minute slot of their own brand of 2023 post-punk.

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There’s an intensity that draws in the crowd – tellingly, an absence of mobile phones and chattering, all eyes on the band. I’d listened to their Island Of Light EP twice during the day and the songs have already found a place in my heart even though I’ve been aware of the band for just a few hours! ‘D.O.D.’, in particular, is immense. Jahfar softens towards the end of the set, seemingly unable to hide his joy at the reaction of the audience. He knows that he’s onto something special.

bdrmm themselves may or may not know that this show has been sold out for weeks, but there’s an air of anticipation as they take to the stage and begin with the opening track from their brilliant new album I Don’t Know, the dramatically pulsing, slow-build of ‘Alps’. It’s one of those tracks that sounded like a real departure from their trademark sound on first listen, yet now somehow sounds exactly like bdrmm. The band has a real locked-in power, their music has a depth that reveals itself more and more in direct proportion with the time you spend with it, and their live incarnation is one of a band totally in tune with themselves and their audience. The affable, jokey between-song announcements, usually from Jordan Smith (mainly bassist but a bit of everything!) are quite at odds with the bands intense soundscapes, and serve as a little light relief and let the crowd know that while the band pour everything into their performance, there’s a very human side to bdrmm as well.

‘Be Careful’ is next, a tender, bass-driven track that puts guitarist / singer Ryan Smith’s voice more up front than it is usually; again the track builds beautifully, the little touches from the album version re-created perfectly. When ‘It’s Just A Bit Of Blood’ arrives as the third track, it’s time to wonder if this is one of those ‘play the album in full’ shows, though that would be unusual for a six-month old record!

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The set draws also from 2020’s debut album Bedroom (and that’s how the band’s name is pronounced, if you weren’t sure), highlights being the tuneful ‘Gush’ and a rapturously received ‘Push / Pull’ , as well as ‘Happy’ and it’s close cousin ‘(Un) Happy’. In the end the material is drawn pretty much equally from the band’s two albums, as well as recent standalone single ‘Mud’, a brilliantly understated track that shows a little of the band’s love of trip-hop in its beats and approach, it’s certainly a departure from their walls of shoegaze sounds – in fact to describe the band as such is to do them a slight disservice, as there is a lot of light and shade in their music, Ryan Smith’s guitar conjuring up thoughts of Vini Reilly as much as Kevin Shields or Andy Bell (the Ride one; there’s not a lot of Erasure’s sound here!).

It’s another non-album single, last year’s ominously dramatic ‘Port’, that closes bdrmm’s set tonight – a wonderful track but another interesting choice as a single. There’s no encore (it’s a bit of a pantomime to do one in a sold out Hare & Hounds) but there’s a rapturous ovation for a band who are absolutely at the peak of their powers. If you get a chance to see them, take it!

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.