By: Daniel Lombard

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Support: Lilacs and Champagne | website

Birthdays, London | February 7, 2015

London braced itself for a sonic invasion of American post-rock – times two. No sooner had the good people of Dalston stepped foot in the pleasantly intimate surroundings of Birthdays than they felt pleasantly lost among the swirling epic instrumentals of Oregon’s Lilacs and Champagne, followed by the headline act, Watter.

The evening kicked off on a more lo-fi note, however, with a finely-tuned solo set courtesy of Holy Sons, aka Emil Amos of Grails. The New Yorker made a tangible connection with the audience thanks to a triumphant combination of beautifully clear, thoughtful lyrics delivered through warm vocal melodies, accompanied by the gentle finger-picked notes of an acoustic guitar.

Next, the microphones were packed away for safe keeping, save for those amplifying the psychedelic soundscapes of drums, guitar, keyboard, and plentiful sonic effects, as the post-rock feast began.

Emil then stepped up to do a second shift, this time creating hip hop/instrumental wizardry with Lilacs and Champagne.  He and his clean-shaven mates came mob-handed with regular-fit t-shirts and copious amounts of musicianship. Their compelling brand of psychedelic rock is built around the following formula: take one core sound effect (including what sounded like a flock of angry seagulls); repeat on a loop; add layers of hard-rock guitar and foot-stomping bass. Rinse and repeat. Cue appreciative nodding and applause from the audience.

More harmonious soundscapes followed in a similar vein from Watter, hailing from the US city of Louisville, Kentucky. Also beloved of a special effects pedal, the four-piece’s set was filled with reverb, and the mood intensified with the introduction of a doom-laden synthesiser riff, played over a spiky bed of electric guitar. Spirits were lifted with Watter’s take on the bluegrass scene of their home-town, complete with acoustic guitar and the interesting addition of a slide guitar, famously used by the Steve Miller Band in The Joker.

Audience interaction was kept to a minimum: these guys let their music do the talking. But the quality of the performances – and some memorable effects-pedal tuneage from both Lilacs and Champagne and Watter – was well worth the entry fee. Perfect soundtracks to your own imaginary movie.

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