October 15, 2010
Austin, TX USA
Review by Roy Turner
Don't let your guard down on account of her unassuming stage presence, though, unless you want your teeth knocked down your throat by that first buzzing, electric riff. The instrumentation may be sparse and the songs simple on her new album The Calcination of Scout Niblett, but on-stage her guitar is plugged in and the knobs are twisted to eleven. Such an unrecognizable sound, I don't even know what to say to describe her oscillations between hushed lyrical confession and face-melting power chords. One moment she'll coo over folksy, experimental melodies you might expect from Cat Power; the next, she and her drummer explode into simple grunge choruses you might compare to the freaking Melvins.
I had literally no idea what to expect at all. A week previous, I had never even heard of her, and the week since the show, I've devoured as much information as I can about her. Such a fascinating figure that with the right business decisions, you should be hearing her for a long time to come with zero compromise.
Dressed in what could only be described as homeless looking, she had that anti-star thing going. Because she is naturally attractive, and her power and prowess make her exceptionally so, that with the minimalist of efforts she could be a babe, and it was obvious that she was downplaying this as much as she could. That wouldn't work in her show anyway - though English, she is from Portland, worked recently with Steve Albini, and as about as DIY as it gets.
Niblett forcefully spits her personal lyrics through gritted teeth, her face so raw with emotion that she looks like she might bite the mic out of spite. A quirky, sweet personality, the next, between songs, and she asked in her lilting English accent, "Does anyone have any questions?"
I had about a million, but I kept them to myself. The crowd was as sparse as her music, only about 40 or so people there, but they were so fanatical, that it felt like we were all cramming into a phone booth to get a look at her. Just her and a drummer, they worked through most of the new record, but then he leaves the stage and something extraordinary happened. She walks behind the drum set and sits down with her guitar, and plays the first verse to a song called Pom Poms - while keeping time with her foot by playing just the kick drum. When she gets to the second verse, she abandons the guitar and she is just singing while playing this ridiculous, John Bonham fat beat. I was totally blown away.
Then she goes back to her guitar and mic stand, the drummer returns, and she goes into Cherry Cheek Bomb from the new album, and she is in total control. By the time she gets to the soaring chorus, I'm practically in tears. Just one of the biggest surprises I can remember of going to a show.