LIVE: Squid @ Printworks, London
Squid playing London’s rejuvenated Printworks venue felt like a curveball piece of curation; the former printing factory predominantly functions as a big-scale nightclub and is tailored to carefree dancing where people spend more time looking at their mates and the back of their own eyelids than at the stage. But as they tentatively picked up their instruments, engulfed in lurid lighting, the ambitious prog-punks were primed to make the space their own as they transformed Printworks into an oddball rave.
The Brighton band’s ambitions were evident, having signed to electronic label Warp Records who’ve clearly encouraged their experimental trajectory going by their debut full-length Bright Green Field, which expectedly made up the most-part of their set.
After a short intro, the disjointed riff and overt percussion of ‘G.S.K.’ opened proceedings - a trademark of the Squid sound - as swathes of the crowd squeezed in towards the front barrier, cans of beer flying freely in the air. You could feel the anticipation bouncing off the walls, but the first major cheer of the evening came for ‘The Cleaner’, their Speedy Wunderground-released track that got them recognised by radio stations nationwide.
Acknowledging the mosh pit from time to time, crowd interaction was minimal with a focus on the job at hand, jamming with mechanic efficiency and frantic energy. Perhaps a bit guilty for a lack of presence on such a big occasion, you could also argue it was fitting for a venue that prioritises immersion in the music over anything typically performative.
Leaving out their breakthrough single ‘Houseplants’ in favour of long-plays like ‘Boy Racers’ and ‘Pamphlets’ was a bold move, but indicative of a band that unplugs from their inhibitions. Their math-rock DNA can be tied to their Brighton origins where the sub-genre maintains its popularity, and Yes, Genesis, Neu!, Talking Heads, even The Stranglers feel like important influences.
As one track bled into another, Squid sounded intent on filling every nook and cranny of the cacophonous venue. They were certainly helped by Printworks’ impeccable production, peaking in quality the further back you went - at least the BBC6Music dads who turned up in their droves were accommodated for. Singer and drummer Ollie Judge uniquely delivers his vocal as though he’s an angsty pubescent vying with his voice morphing at a rapid rate, and it successfully pierced ears throughout the crowd thanks to the huge speakers dotted from front to back.
Brimming with intensity and ingenuity, ‘Paddling’ and ‘Narrator’ featured at the tail end of Squid’s set. They were joined on stage by Martha Skye Murphy (who supported, as did Mica Levi’s Good Sad Happy Bad) for the latter whose ominous, almost traumatic wailing made the song feel equal parts mesmerising and traumatising, a crescendo of giallo horror-like proportions against the multi-coloured light show and silhouetted band members.
It’s that explosion of drama, imagination, and - to put it simply - weird shit that makes Squid one of Britain’s most exciting and experimental prospects.