The old cinema house was packed to the rafters with London’s edgiest psych fans, with all types of facial hair on show as mutton chops, moustaches and goatees bobbed and swayed to the droning of the keyboard.
As Wooden Shjips frontman and lead guitarist Eric ‘Ripley’ Johnson walked on stage the crowd burst into rapturous applause before the band went crashing at a million miles an hour into their first track Black Smoke Rise from their 2011 hit LP West. The warped vocals drifted through the room while the shredding guitar contrasted with a hard rock feel which seemed to bounce off the reverberation of the organ which echoed waves of ambient sound.
The low key visuals gave a sense of 1960’s psychedelia. A white bed sheet hung on the back of their stage as the band emerged in their uniform white t-shirts with static projections drowning the stage and diffracting off the tinfoil covered organ, filling the room with a strange effervescence.
Drummer Omar Ahsanuddin played a set that rocked Scala to its foundations smashing out beats nonstop for an hour and a half. Bassist – and most American sounding man in the world – Dusty Jermier waved from side to side as his hair whipped across his face, whilst the bassline oscillated, coated in a thick reverb. Nash Whalen on the organ helped the band to produce a sound that was as haunting and melancholic as it was dreamy and ethereal.
Words by Tommy Kendall