Review: She Drew the Gun Cambridge Folk Festival 2017

She Drew the Gun

She Drew the Gun - Credit: Archant

She Drew the Gun, the politically-charged psych-pop act from Liverpool played Stage Two late into Friday afternoon and electrified the audience.

Winners of Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent Competition 2016 and with their debut album Memories of the Future released in April of last year, they brought a rawness and defiance to the stage, less common in veteran acts. Charged with passion and frustration, they had something to say.

Songwriter and singer, Louisa Roach’s intense gaze reached far into the crowd from under the hood of a green sequinned boxing-ring jacket. As the lyric of their song, If You Could See goes, she was ready to “pick up the fight.”

This track, featured on their 2016 album, imagines a future generation looking down to Earth from space and warning us of what is to come if we don’t make a stand. “How’s it looking down there love/ How’s it feel to be free?” Or in Roach’s words to the crowd, “This is another one about the state we’re in, how we got here and when are we gonna kick off about it?”

Her hopeful, aching vocal soars over a dampened drum beat and is met with a raunchy 50s guitar from Jack Turner. Her songs are interlaced with spoken word that starts like filler chat until you realise they are in verse and her astute observations are making a lot of sense.

The song, Poem is a brutally honest depiction of what we’re putting up with, “And now the markets are demanding that we give away for free everything our grandparents fought for to some company/ it’s called wealth creation, yeah, it’s more efficient you see...” which resonated with the captivated crowd.

But unlike the harsh synthetic percussion of the 80s, dubbed in Liverpool as “the Thatcher beat”, this lighter pop is hopeful.

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“These things they’re thieving, yours and mine/ I know that they’re stealing, but there’s still time/ if you feel this way too.”

The essence of what they’re doing is captured in Revolution of the Mind with haunting guitar and a military drum beat reminiscent of Scott Walker, “a soldier of the pen, a microphone sniper, deadly with a lens.”

But it’s not all political. Stand-out track, Since You Were Not Mine, is up-beat psych-pop pining for a lost love. Here their Merseybeat roots sneak into the rhythm and the driving persistent chorus line, “Tell me I’m just dreamin, won’t you wake me up? wake me up?” Lingers long after the song.

Roach acknowledged that they were not your typical folk festival booking and thanked the crowd for being so great. “Nice one!” The last song was for us. They ended the set with the song, “Thank You” that gestures to their female influences, (thanking so many women singers of the 20th century) “Aretha, Joni, Nina, Alanis/ Billie, Dolly, Annie, Janis..”

But that’s one of the best things about the festival. The definition of folk is broad, as each year the bookings become more eclectic, the main criteria among the musicians are talent and originality and neither was in doubt here.