Keeley/Nick Haeffner/Dragon Welding

Dimple Discs Label Showcase @ The Lexington

An impressively large and enthusiastic crowd braved the cold wet weather on a Thursday night to attend the Dimple Discs label showcase at the much-loved Indie venue The Lexington. They were duly rewarded with an evening of finely balanced and good quality live music. To explain, Dimple Discs is the Peckham, South East London-based independent label run by the genuinely amazing Brian O’Neill, a quietly hard-working supporter of grassroots music with a background of working in Rough Trade and the BBC whose roster includes members of Irish Indie royalty such as Microdisney and Damien O’Neill. He is also, as this gig demonstrated, getting behind artists who are yet to break through but are being given a better chance for having him in their corner.

Dragon Wielding

Dragon Welding is the solo project of The WolfhoundsAndy Golding. Playing with a pre-programmed backing track, he makes a reverberant roar of sustained guitar inventiveness; a kind of Post-Rock with Psych and Dream Pop tendencies. Most of his set was instrumental and the sound of his upper register chords, searing harmonic extensions and repeating melodies filled the room. When he did sing, his voice was distinct and endearing. Opening as early as he did meant having to draw people away from the bar and onto the main floor and it is testament to the compelling sound world he created that he succeeded in that goal. A great start to the night.

Nick Haeffner

Brian could scarcely disguise his excitement at being able to introduce recent signing Nick Haeffner. Nick’s indie credentials stretch back over 40 years as a former member of John Peel favourites The Teaset and various others. Brian credited him with having reintroduced English Psychedelia. How precisely true that is I would not know but the audience let out a collective gasp when Nick explained this was his first live appearance in more than 30 years! 

There were certainly no obvious signs of ringrust either in his performance or in his relaxed communicative persona. Playing an Electric-Acoustic Guitar, his intricate picking, extended and suspended chords and double stopping harmonic figures over pre-recorded backing were played with delicate dexterity and his voice is as engaging as ever. Midway into the set he was joined by Bass Guitarist Ian Montague whose thoughtful playing added a deep and mellow contrast. It may have been over 30 years but Nick can still work a crowd on the back of intelligent, imaginative and finely crafted songs.

Keeley

As good as the support acts were, there could be no doubting who the star attraction of the evening was. Recently interviewed in Fresh On The Net by our own Del Owusu, Keeley is, in essence, both a band and a solo artist in so much as the band is called Keeley but it is unquestionably her project. Flying in from Dublin, this was only the second time the band has played to a live audience. Such has been the impact of an extended lockdown in Ireland. 

From the opening dreamy guitar play, resonant synth and solid syncopated bass and drums of the first track, I knew I was in for something special. It was as if Lost Horizons were in a mash with NewDad while My Bloody Valentine added chops. Given the more driving Alt Pop character of Keeley’s last two EPs, it was a genuine and very pleasant surprise. It soon becaame apparent that this inventive style and inter-band chemistry is the real Keeley sound, topped off by her gigantic and distinctive voice which reverberated all over the room and dominated every corner of it in the process. Shades of Kristin Hersch in a mash with Hope Sandoval but bigger and louder than both. The word formidable comes to mind.

Keeley explained that all her songs are inspired by the tragic tale of Inga Maria Hauser, the German teenager who fulfilled her dream to travel across Europe to the UK and Ireland only to be murdered upon her arrival in Northern Ireland. She was semi-tearful as she told us why she became obsessed with this tale and feels such a connection with Inga. The song Gift from a Ghost was particularly poignant as the track immediately following this explanation. It also put into perspective why London, where Inga spent three nights of her journey, figures so frequently in Keeley’s lyrics. Never O’Clock and Never Here, Always There are also among the highlights. Not that there were any low ones! The band responded to the encore by finishing off with the track The Glitter and the Glue, two different mixes of which appear on the two EPs. It is a track I have played a number of times on my radio show and it represented a barnstorming finish to one of the absolute best live performances I have witnessed by any artist in 2021. 

After the show, I had the pleasure of a long chat with Keeley who declared this the best night of her entire life! There was no doubting the sense that we had witnessed something well worth getting excited about. With Brian’s enthusiastic backing and such strong, original and exciting songs in their expanding repertoire, 2022 could be a significant year for the Dublin band. I am already dying to see them when they come over again, possibly in late summer. 

Neil March

Neil March is a Composer & Artist with a PhD and Masters in music composition from Goldsmiths University, who has pursued careers in the contemporary classical and pop worlds, and has been supported by BBC Introducing, for whom he performed with his live ensemble The Music of Sound at Latitude in 2017. Read more.

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