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Live review. Gengahr at The Portland Arms

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The intimate yet packed Portland Arms provided the perfect backdrop for Gengahr on their return to Cambridge. Last seen in this venue back in October 2015, the four-piece were here to exhibit their excellent new sophomore album, ‘Where Wildness Grows’.

Their previous Portland show came during the band’s first headline tour. Tonight, Gengahr were a band not just on top of their game, but a band who have grown as a live act. The sixty minutes of dream pop mixed with eerie vocals was a far more polished affair than their previous visit.

After the customary struggle to get through the crowd on sold out Portland nights, frontman Felix Bushe unlatched their dream-like haziness via the panoramic indie-psych of ‘Is This How You Love?’. The opener was a track that showcased the band’s knack for mixing hazy with melody. This time thought there is more swagger than on their debut, setting the tone for the rest of the set.

The new record’s biggest singles were all out in force. ‘Before Sunrise’ caught the ear. The track finds the band at their most anthemic, producing a cinematic sound that is both playful and breezy, yet still with an eye on the dark and unsettling. ‘Carrion’ was our first glimpse at ‘Where Wildness Grows’ when it debuted back in September last year. Tonight the track thrills with it’s swirling like nature. The heavier ‘Mallory’ and ‘Burning Air’ appear mid-set and showcase the new, fuzzier and distortion side to the band which is introduced on the new record. It’s an exciting twist on their trademark indie, falsetto pop.

Gengahr whizzed through a 15-track setlist in what felt like no time at all. The set also paid homage to the finer moments from debut album ‘A Dream Outside’ which in fairness, accounted for nearly 50% of the set list. Not only are we big fans for this righteous inclusion but it also offered the crowd the chance to join in on the choruses. In particular, ‘Heroine’ and ‘She’s A Witch’ getting the biggest responses. Still sounding the best from the debut offering though was the vampiric ‘Fill My Gums with Blood’. A fan favourite since first appearing online as a demo back in spring 2014, the track has since evolved into a standout cut from both the critically revered album but also the quartet’s live show.

Chatting to a punter afterwards, he details how the surprising aspect of the night was how good Felix Bushe’s vocals were. And he is right. Sounding impeccable and grander than the record, Bushe’s performance stole the show. That said, tonight was full of more hypnotic and fuzzier strings than back in 2015. There was also an ease and confidence about this new sound too which was the underlying victor tonight.

Tonight Gengahr have proved that they have found their rightful place in and amongst an over-saturated indie rock crowd. Bring on album and visit three.