The Gate, Cardiff, Sat 29 Feb
When I expressed an interest to my colleagues about interviewing Marika Hackman, we were all somewhat puzzled that she was only playing a relatively intimate venue like The Gate. The converted Cardiff church isn’t small exactly, with its ascending levels of pews, but someone like Hackman – who has evolved significantly from her early indie-folk days and resurfaced as a bit of a queer icon – could’ve comfortably filled a larger space.
Nottingham art-rock quartet Do Nothing open with customary oomph, even if the initially small and shy crowd doesn’t call for it. Suited-and-booted frontman Chris Bailey veers between two personas, New Romantic crooner and raging punk loudmouth. It makes for a thrilling display of tortured masculinity, mixing charm, vulnerability and anger in equal parts. There’s an edge of sophistication, both musically and lyrically, that sets them apart from all the other all-male, post-punkish guitar bands. Their sound calls back to those bands at the more bookish end of new wave, but with a jittery dance-punk sensibility.
As something that sounds a bit like The X-Files theme tune plays, Marika appears to squeals from the crowd and dressed in a dark blue boiler suit – quite a change from the baggy Y-fronts she donned for the cover of her most recent LP Any Human Friend. Wasting no time, she revs into The One, which deserves to be an essential new addition to any indie disco playlist.
Those who might prefer Hackman’s older, quieter and darker oeuvre aren’t disappointed either, when her backing band vacate the stage at the halfway point for an interlude of the “old Marika”. Her light, soaring voice carries beautifully in the space, particularly during the delicate folk ballad Drown, from her first full-length album We Slept At Last. These cryptic, elliptical lyrics are a world away from the much more direct approach she has adopted recently, single and a-mingling.
It’s not long though before the crowd are dancing again to her amped-up anthems about self-love and queer sexuality, including the brazen banger Boyfriend (once described to NME as “payback for all those times I’ve been interrupted mid-snog by some seedy wanker asking to join in”), and her ode to masturbation Hand Solo (on which she sings “I gave it all, but under patriarchal law, I’m gonna die a virgin”). By the end, despite the audience’s glowing reception, Marika still comes across as a little surprised that we have enjoyed ourselves quite so much.
words and photos SAM PRYCE