WET LEG – RESIDENT OUTSTORE, CHALK, BRIGHTON 9.4.22
Wet Leg have been on an upward trajectory since their debut single ‘chaise longue’, and its accompanying video, went viral in June 2021. Formed by friends Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers in the Isle of Wight in 2019, the duo has expanded with additional musicians for live work and signed a deal with Domino Records. Their guitar-driven post-punk sound is willfully kooky, and they have the knack of writing insanely catchy hooks to accompany their idiosyncratic lyrics. Further successful singles have followed, and their eponymous debut album was released, to much acclaim, on 8th April 2022.
We catch them at Chalk venue for an outstore performance for Brighton record shop Resident. Tickets were sold bundled with pre-orders of the album. The event information for tonight’s show is a little sketchy. The band will be playing their set, presumably about 40 minutes, at some unspecified time between doors opening at 6pm and the 10pm curfew. I bag my spot at the front and settle down to listen to DJ B*llocks. That’s his name of him, by the way, not what I think of him. Fortunately, the music choices are eclectic and entertaining. We journey from Talking Heads, to sitar music and Bhangra beat, on to indie classics like the Arctic Monkeys, and cheesy film themes like ‘Ghostbusters’ juxtaposed with Joy Division. It’s quite a long wait before the band comes on at 8.40pm, but the time passes agreeably enough.
Needless to say, the venue is full. It’s getting quite cozy at the front, with a palpable buzz of excited anticipation. There’s a huge cheer as Wet Leg take the stage to the strains of some gently bucolic Celtic folk music. Lead vocalist Rhian has a huge beaming smile, and her long brown hair cascades over the big puff sleeves of a very retro plaid dress that co-ordinates nicely with her blonde Telecaster guitar. Hester is more casually dressed in a T-shirt and cheerleader skirt, and wields a vintage Hofner. They are flanked by two fellow musicians, both long-haired and bearded. Josh, house left, has a Danelectro guitar strapped on and a small synth on a stand. Ellis is house right, on a blue Musicmaster bass. Drummer Henry’s kit is up on a riser between the backline amps. Like the flight cases the amps stand on, it is badged with the band’s logo.
With a stick-click count in, we’re off with the thudding bass and kick of album opener ‘Being In Love’. The verses are sparse, with staccato vocals, but the choruses really get going, overlaid with swirling wails of a synth tone that almost sounds like a Theremin. The crowd are loving it, and excitedly jumping up and down. ‘convinced’ has a beautifully languid and floaty vibe, and Hester takes the lead vocal. She’s a little lost in the mix at first, although this is rectified fairly quickly, and there’s a dreamy playout with nicely twanging guitar.
Rhian is taking a moment to tune up, and chats to the audience in a sing-song voice with exaggerated pauses. “How are you? We’re fine. Thanks for asking.” Everyone laughs, as of course no one had asked. The opening riff of second single ‘Wet Dream’ strikes up and it immediately gets lively in the crowd again. Behind the crash barrier, the assembled mass choir is chanting along with every single word of the entire song. This band has clearly hit on something that chimes with the public imagination. In musical terms, it’s ingeniously simple, just a repeated four-chord progression all the way through, but it’s ludicrously catchy and everyone here, including me, is overtaken by ecstatic delight.
There’s a big take up joining in with the chants over the lilting intro and chorus to ‘super market’ too. It has a steady nod-along pace, and I’m enjoying watching the interaction between Rhian and Hester too. They look like they’re having fun, exchanging cute conspiratorial glances and giggles, and doing a lovely synchronized spinning dance together during the swirling psych opening of ‘Too Late Now’. The pace picks up with a burst of rapid-fire vocal and everyone around me goes crazy again.
‘obviously’ starts sparsely, with just Rhian’s guitar and vocal, then builds steadily. There are more quirkily flouncy dance moves on stage for ‘Oh no’ and the insistent beat of recent single ‘Ur Mum’, with the two main players spinning around, ducking down and flailing their hair in unison. It looks great.
All of the songs played are on the new album, though unless you got a vinyl copy with the limited edition bonus 7”, the next number might be less familiar. The setlist suggests they were planning ‘It’s A Shame’, but they actually decide to play ‘It’s Not Fun’, which is on the other side of the bonus disc. Good job I was paying attention. It’s a steady-paced number with more swirly swooshes of retro synth over the top. I rather like it. What is fun is ‘Angelica’, driven along by a naggingly catchy motif on lead guitar. The album’s only been out a day, so I’m impressed that everyone around me is singing along.
“Thank you so much for coming out this evening,” chimes Rhian, and it’s clear we’re coming to the end of the set. No prizes for guessing the last song, which is the viral hit that started it all. There’s some very vigorous dancing, not least from myself, and every word of the lyric is chanted along with. The breathy “Excuse me…. Que?” vocal interplay sounds very different when bellowed out by several hundred people. It’s a triumphant end to a most enjoyable set, performed well by charming players whose joy and sense of fun is particularly infectious.
If anyone was thinking that Wet Leg were going to be a one-hit novelty act, they’ve probably had to revise their opinion. This band seems to have tapped into the wider public consciousness very successfully indeed, and are still on the rise. On the off chance that you’ve haven’t come across them yet, the album is well worth a listen. The band’s kooky charm won me over when I first heard ‘Chaise Longue’ last year, and tonight’s show has only cemented my admiration for their work.
Rhian Teasdale – lead vocals, guitar
Hester Chambers – guitar, vocals
Ellis Durand – bass, vocals
Josh Mobaraki – guitar, keyboards, vocals
Henry Holmes – drums, vocals
Wet Leg set list:
‘Being In Love’
‘Too Late Now’
‘It’s Not Fun’