Le Butcherettes – The Workman’s Club, October 19 2016 – Live Review by Peter McNally
Le Butcherettes’ Teri Gender Bender begins the evening with a classic misdirect. Standing well back from the microphone at the centre of the stage, she draws the audience close to her with what appears to be an emotionally wrought traditional Mexican ballad. Her voice is mournfully pretty and inviting, but the longer the lament progresses – and with reverb swirling the melody around the room – it starts to feel ever more menacing, like an incantation. It’s an entirely hypnotic performance which ensures that attention is locked exactly where it should be, when suddenly she stabs her hands at the keyboard and kicks into the staccato distorted Hammond organ intro of ‘Burn The Scab’. Drummer Alejandra Luna Robles and multi–instrumentalist Riko Rodríguez-López lurch in behind her and together they explode into a groove heavy, B–movie garage rock, as a wide–eyed Gender Bender gutturally implores the crowd to “Burn it to the ground/Watch it melt away.”
The last time Dublin had to contend with the flailing outsized personality of Le Butcherettes it was on the much larger stage at Vicar Street. There Gender Bender stamped, howled and raved like she was the headliner, when in fact it was Riko’s big brother’s band, At The Drive–In, who had that honour. In the more claustrophobic and dimly–lit confines of The Workman’s Club, the manic energy of her theatrical lunges and electrified zombie jerks are all the more confronting.
When she straps on a guitar for ‘Demon Stuck In Your Eye’ the hinges truly come off, and on ‘Boulders Love Over Layers Of Rock’ she throws herself between three microphones set up with specific effects, as if to capture the unique qualities of each of the multiple–personalities struggling to escape from within her shuddering body. In reality the singer has a voice worthy of three microphones – powerful, assured and at times vulnerable, but always impressively delivered considering the wild abandon with which she attacks the stage.
This is a wicked theatrical rock and roll and, as such, it’s hard to take your eyes off the star performer as she careens and spasms across the stage, or delivers a monologue that begins, “So I decided to take a cooking class because I wanted to please him…” However, Rodríguez-López puts in a hero’s shift as he switches nimbly between bass, guitar and keyboards; and Luna Robles is a powerhouse behind the kit, dragging ‘I’m Getting Sick Of You’ to an ecstatic conclusion via a 60’s drum solo led rave–up of rattling snare and thrashing cymbals. As a trio they are air–tight and perform with a swagger that is all their own. This is no more evident than on the funky and cocksure ‘Stab My Back’, which struts up like it’s looking for a fight.
In the end, though, it’s clearly and irrefutably the Teri Gender Bender Show. It’s hard to pay attention to much else when the magnetic leader is at turns: tearing off her green flight suit to reveal a red dress while delivering a drum backed vocal freak out that you’re not sure you should even be watching during ‘Dress Off’; or convulsing like a reanimated corpse performing a voodoo ritual as she climbs atop her keyboard while continuing to play ‘The Leibniz Language.’
‘Your Weakness Gives Me Life’, from 2014’s Cry Is For The Flies, is a clear highlight, combining the best of what’s come before, but allowed to breath a little more and build to a suitably epic climax of tumbling drums and soaring vocals.
The set comes to a close with Gender Bender diving into the crowd for ‘Henry Don’t Got Love’ from debut album Sin Sin Sin and, as the song clatters to a close, the singer begins to hug the people gathered around her in the front few rows, passing her guitar off to some lucky punter who gets the last word with a cacophonous distorted noise solo.
It’s been a night not many in attendance are going to quickly forget as Le Butcherettes surely move on to bigger and more spacious venues, where the stages will still struggle to contain them.