We aren’t the only ones pinching ourselves tonight as a reminders that we are not in the hot, fast environment of the US, but are in fact in east London, where the unfathomably fascinating take-us-as-we-are duo She Keeps Bees have packed out Cargo on one of the warmest evenings of the year so far. “We’ve been in Norway for two weeks” gasps Jessica Larabee between songs, “and it was awesome. I fucking hate this ‘naked’ weather.” If nothing else, it’s somewhat amusing when an English summer can make a band from Brooklyn sweat.
She’s quite something, miss Larabee, standing almost side-stage so as to be level with drummer Andy, peering out from between the long brown hair that drapes over her impossibly happy face. “So these bangs, huh?” she chuckles, “What a fucking great idea, eh?”. Between songs, she’s hilariously funny and nothing short of loveable, making hurriedly self-depreciating jokes and literally jumping up and down with excitement at the size of the crowd – it’s nice, actually, that the relatively large room is completely packed out for the band, who seemingly arrived in London only a few hours ago. During songs, however, the whole atmosphere shifts – Jessica is utterly formidable in her delivery, commanding silence, respect – the whole nine yards as a performer.
Admittedly, sonically, the band tend to echo Elephant-era White Stripes at times, although that’s all it ever is – an echo. Beyond this, their DIY American sound is rooted in a rawness and authenticity that even Jack White would struggle achieve. As Jessica sings – or howls, whichever is more appropriate – over the muffled roar of her guitar, the audience are hushed, mutually in the throws of being practically ripped out of London for an evening.
It’s all rather enjoyably unfamiliar – like you’re being treated to a first-hand experience of the country a distant relative or old friend you’ve not seen for years lives in. The heat, which has everyone from the two onstage to those at the back of the room sweating, however, is somewhat appropriate for the band’s presence. Projected behind the pair is a reel of handheld camera footage of scenes from the States – of bears, rivers and vast forested mountain scenery. Couple this imagery with a sound as deliciously primal as that of She Keeps Bees and you’ve got one hell of an infectious atmosphere. Superb.