Baby Hair @ The Rose Hill, Brighton, UK, November 3, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, December 6th, 2023  

Baby Hair

Baby Hair, Ben Featherstone, Horla

Baby Hair @ The Rose Hill, Brighton, UK, November 3, 2023,

Nov 06, 2023 Photography by Nick Roseblade Web Exclusive
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Every town has that special venue. You know what I’m talking about. That place where they generally have great gigs. These might not be the most attended, or well known, acts but they always put on something special. The Rose Hill in Brighton is this venue. Formerly an old man boozer but now a creative arts hub, with a studio in the basement, they regularly put on exceptional gig for people with a slightly experimental slant. La Horla Collective nights are a mixture of music, art and projections. The Halloween special from them felt like a match made in heaven with the venue, but sadly there was a lot of substance over style.

The first act was Horla dressed. He wore a boiler suit and a purge mask. You know the ones. Neon crosses on the eyes. I wasn’t sure if this Slipknot cosplay was for Halloween or not, but it wasn’t a bad look. His set started promisingly. Electronic beats exploded out of the PA. Then Horla started to loop his guitar. This carried on for a few minutes. New melodies and motifs were added until there was an interesting mixture of harsh electronics and warming guitars. Then Horla started to play the main riff from John Carpenter’s “Halloween”. It was a nice touch, as this was the Halloween special. After this the set kind of went downhill. The music was ok, but it just kept going and going and going. After 25-minutes, or so, Horla played something that was akin to a Dario Argento/Giallo horror theme. I thought this would have been a good place to end, but the set kept on going. I can’t remember anything past this point really, apart from it was unrelenting. After forty minutes Horla brought his set to a close. In hindsight it wasn’t a bad set. The Carpenter-esque music was fun, and seasonal, but the set wasn’t dynamic enough and was reliant on a few tropes to get it over the line. Ultimately it was about twenty minutes too long.

After a brief interval Ben Featherstone took to the stage. Featherstone wasn’t just going to be singing songs but reading out a ‘play’ he’d written. The play was called ‘Ghost Emma’ and was about abuse, death and pain. The main character, Emma, was in an abusive relationship. One day she’d had enough, while her abuser was out, she left London for a day trip to Brighton. She ended up on Devil’s Dyke as this was where her Dad used to take her after dance lessons before he died. For some unknown reason Emma goes back to London and her abusive partner. After being attacked, and left for dead in a bathroom, Emma manages to escape. She ends up on a bridge and is dancing. A group of drunk men pass and jokingly suggest she should kill herself as she’s “the worst dancer ever”. So, she jumps into the Thames. While drowning she meets a water demon who says he’ll grant her life again, and make her the best dancer in the world, but she can never touch her dance partner on stage, or he’ll take both of their souls. After a few years of being the best dancer in the world, you guessed it, she touches her partner and they both die. The end. This convoluted story had a backing track of glorious string and luscious harmonies. When Featherstone joined in he picked up an acoustic guitar and played along. The best of these songs was touching singer/songwriter stuff, the worst being Tom Waits-esque. At one point Featherstone stood on a chair wearing mirror sunglasses with a red light in an old wooden box with a chain on it and groaned gravelly and raved at the crowd. It was almost laughable. In fact, pockets of laughter were heard from the crowd throughout the performance. Behind Featherstone were some animations by Nick Toye. These were the stars of the performance. One of the problems with ‘Ghost Emma’ was it was too earnest and self-important and parts of it felt like torture porn. Another was that Featherstone kept breaking his ‘narrator’ character. At one point, during a really beautiful string section that worked well with the animations he addressed the crowd and said, after drinking some beer “I actually wrote in the script drink beer now” It was slightly off putting as it changed the tone of the piece. After his performance was finished Featherstone went outside for some fresh air. While outside he spoke passionately with members of the audience who had enjoyed his performance. La Horla Collective nights are based on respect for each-others art, even if you don’t appreciate it yourself. This involves music, and art, that you might not like, or enjoy, but sitting there and trying to workout its meaning and how that relates to you. It was disappointing to see Featherstone leave the main room, instead of checking out the headliners, who had sat through his performance. Yes, it was bad etiquette on members of the audience who tittered throughout his performance, but so was Featherstone’s for not checking them out for a song. Poor form…

After a final interlude Baby Hair took the stage. This duo released one of the finest albums of 2022. It’s an avant-garde, goth, occult, post-punk marvel and well worth your time. The live set was a mixture of these songs and new ones. The new music was more electronic in nature, but equally exciting. This gave the set a different feel, but the intensity was there. During the first song they played an excerpt of “Baby Hair The Song”. When they sang “Baby Hair Baby Hair Baby Hair Baby Hair Baby Hair” in a round it started to sound like “Baby Her” and with the lyric “Not do like you’re told,” the “Baby Her” took on a whole new meaning. During “Concerned, BBY” the electronics whipped around the free jazz wind instruments, taking us somewhere different than on the recorded version. “Stranger Fessing” was one of the standout moments of the set. It has one of the best lyrics on the album “You Look Promising, Can I get a pinkie swear. You may have a girlfriend, but God you can do your hair.” Delivered dead pan, live, it was devastating. Throughout their set Baby Hair performed synchronised dance moves. These were simple, but effective, set pieces. Some twisting arm moves and left, right, forward, back steps, but they leaned into the occult nature of the album. Next to the stoic delivery of the previous two performers it felt revolutionary to see someone actually move about and, dare I say, have fun on stage. Behind them was a projection of their new video “Baby Hair: The Movie”. This is a slight exaggeration, but only slight. The movie is actually the twenty-two minutes video for their album track “Two Swans”, which takes up the whole second side of their debut album. The footage shows the band performing synchronised routines in fields and rooms. There are shots of candles. People in veils and a general feeling of the macabre. It worked incredibly well within the setting and this slightly new electronic music backing track. Baby Hair’s set reminded me of eating popping candy for the first time. It was jarring, unexpected, pleasurable and over too soon.

Baby Hair
Baby Hair

The night, like Halloween itself, was a mixed bag. Baby Hair’s performance was well worth the entrance alone. The same couldn’t really be said for the other acts. Horla’s would have been more powerful if he’d played for less time and hadn’t repeated the similar motifs. It was class when he played the “Theme from Halloween” but playing another horror theme later in the set diminished the impact of it a bit. Featherstone’s play felt quite out of place, given the rest of the evening. If he’d been the headliner, it might have gone over better. Make an event out of it but putting him in the middle really didn’t work. It was too jarring. However, the art on sale from Good Witch Offerings and Elizabeth Clements was interesting and reasonably priced. It wasn’t all to my tastes, but I appreciated the place it came from. Baby Hair aren’t really like any other bands out there at the moment. Their sets were something to experience, rather than sit and listen. Much like The Rose Hill, Baby Hair are something special that you need to experience at one point in your life.


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