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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Gig Review: Wichita 10th Anniversary Celebrations at The Highbury Garage

First Aid Kit, Peggy Sue and Meg Baird lead the celebrations, and treat our reviewer to a night of sublime and delicate harmonies

Written by Oliver Franklin


Peggy Sue Illustration by Emilie Lashmar

Wichita, price the record label that has brought us Bloc Party, The Cribs, Los Campesinos! and Simian Mobile Disco (to name but a few) continued its 10th Anniversary celebrations at the Relentless™ Garage in sunny Highbury. As a special birthday treat, early arrivals received a gift bag full of delightful Wichita goodies, including a Simian Mobile Disco vinyl LP and the new album from Peter, Bjorn and John. The resultant hubbub and excited rustling of bags did little to detract from a nice opening set from Meg Baird, whose delicate fingerpicking and lush, hushed vocals set the tone for a great evening of folk.

Next on stage was the more vivacious Peggy Sue, who didn’t hesitate to show a dazzled crowd why their debut album Fossils and Other Phantoms was so critically acclaimed. Opening the set with the captivating, percussive ‘Watchman’, Rosa and Katy really were a surprise and a delight – consider me a convert. Their luxurious, soulful vocal harmonies were only outdone by their impressive instrumental dexterity, alternating effortlessly between guitar, percussion, ukulele and accordion. With Olly’s marching drums ably complemented by the violin and cello of Becca and Emma, the highlight of the set came in the form of a particularly stunning rendition of ‘Yo Mama’, its chirruping, Gallic accordion and bluesy lead riff laying a spirited backdrop to Katy and Rosa’s spectacular voices. As the girls finished their all-too-brief set with a modest thanks to Wichita and the crowd, the sheer volume of rapturous applause (particularly in such an intimate venue) was a real testament to the performance. You can’t help but get the impression these two have only good things on the horizon.


Illustration by Jill Patterson

Last up were headliners (and perennial Amelia’s Mag favourites First Aid Kit, each taking to the stage in stunning gold dresses – Klara’s marbled with purple paisley, Johanna’s with a magnificent Persian pattern flecked with deep reds and autumnal browns. As someone who had heard little of their music beyond their fantastic cover of Fleet Foxes’ ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ (Youtube it) and recent single ‘I Met Up With the King’, I was pleasantly surprised by their laid-back, distinctly acoustic folk-pop; mature, intricate lyrics and the sibling’s vocal harmonies – the combination of which results in a sound reminiscent of Tegan and Sara’s ‘So Jealous’ crossed with the aforementioned Foxes’ eponymous first album.

Despite coming off a little awkward at first, Johanna and Clara soon settled into a relaxed, warm-hearted banter with the crowd between songs as they made their way through debut album ‘The Big Black and The Blue’. It was settling in to be a perfectly pleasant – if unremarkable – set until, four or five songs in, Kara brazenly unplugged her guitar and the sisters emerged from behind the microphones and belted out a beautiful rendition of ‘Ghost Town’ to the muted room. The stripped down version of an already great song perfectly played to the intimate setting.

The spectacle didn’t stop there. Perhaps buoyed by the song’s thunderous reception, the girls then proceeded to hilariously produce four tickets to this weekend’s Latitude festival, before plucking four volunteering fans from the crowd for a heart-warming demonstration of the brave souls’ lyrical knowledge, with a pair of tickets going to the two winners. It certainly brought the evening to life, as the crowd – now buzzing with excitable chatter – cheered on their favourite contestant. And although you had to feel bad for the unlucky guy and gal who left the stage empty handed, it was impossible not to be charmed.

Closing off the set with the lovely lilting melodies of ‘I Met Up With The King’ was a perfect end to the evening (and no, I wasn’t biased by it being the only song I knew all the lyrics to). Emerging from the Garage and shuffling sleepy-eyed towards the Tube with a bag full of music treats, I couldn’t help but feel contented: beautiful music, memorable chatter and an irrepressible charm to the whole occasion – it perfectly summed up Wichita as a label. And the celebrations aren’t over; the likes of Los Campesinos! (a truly great live act), The Cribs and Johnny Foreigner are still to come later this week. On the basis of last night, it will be well worth a look.

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