Live Review: Gemma Ray + Thomas Truax at The Victoria, Dalston

I’ve had it with the real world. With climate change, Brexit, Trump, Putin, Xi Jinping, proxy wars, austerity, the housing crisis, knife crime, racism, homophobia, transphobia, the gender pay gap, child poverty, social media addiction, data mining, gentrification, the closure of independent music venues.  I’m done with it all and plenty more besides.  Thankfully tonight’s show at The Victoria offers a glimmer of a way out.

I’m packing my suitcase and heading out to Wowtown with Thomas Truax and his assortment of weird and wonderful creations.  It’s a fantastical place of philosophical dogs and six foot butterflies with a weather forecasting groundhog named Al as its mayor and Truax is its ambassador to the rest of the world.

Weaving wondrous tales with the help of his guitar Hank, mechanical drummer Mother Superior and the otherworldly Hornicator, we’re soon wrapped up in Truax’s spell, hanging on his every word and wondering where the next surprise will spring from.  To give too many more details of the bizarre and wonderful occurrences that take place throughout the set would be akin to detailing the plot of a cult art house sci-fi film, and we don’t want to spoil it for those yet to have had the curious pleasure of seeing Truax live, which we implore you to do at the earliest possible opportunity.

And if a no-deal Brexit leads to problems with my exit visa, tonight’s co-headliner Gemma Ray has an alternative escape route: I’ll just shut my eyes and enter the ‘Land of Make Believe’, which in her hands turns out to be a vast and dusty technicolour dunescape located somewhere between Basildon and Texas.

Ray takes her place front and centre, hitches a hefty kitchen knife beneath the bridge of her guitar and transports us from a dark pub backroom in Dalston to a psychedelic spaghetti-western dream world with just a few gently strummed chords and ethereal ‘aaahs’ before launching into a set drawn heavily from new album Psychogeology.  It’s an immersive sound that matches sumptuous vocal harmonies and hazy dream pop with a sharp edge of rockabilly punk danger, and live conjures a sublime kaleidoscopic mirage even more vividly than on record.

And if both destinations sound equally beguiling, you’re in luck, as the two artists re-emerge for a joint encore which includes their duet ‘Save Me’ from Truax’s 2018 album All That Heaven Allows.

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Review and photography by Paul Maps

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