Live Review – The grueling ritual of Daughters @ Cassiopeia Berlin
Text by Serena Mazzini/Photos by Nic Bezzina
I’ve never got to see Daughters before their break-up in 2009 but everyone who did have told me about a brutal legendary experience, marked by a certain character of peril and insanity due to both the flagellating sound of their music and the the bodily experience of the singer Alexis S. F. Marshall who gave the crowd flesh, blood, saliva, piss and fucking hostile confrontations.
I didn’t think I could ever see them live, which bothered me, considering they are one of my favorite bands.
But I was wrong. After an 8-year hiatus, Daughters came back last year in October with the release of “You Won’t Get What You Want”, a truly mesmerizing album acclaimed by critics and fans as the best record of 2018 and characterized by a deconstructed, decomposed sound that leads to the most extreme levels of noise-rock experimentation of which they were the bulwark for a generation.
For this reason there is a lot of anticipation with respect to the live performance of the record and so it is not surprising that their tour dates are almost all sold out.
I’ve seen them at Cassiopeia, Berlin, on April 12th. Friedrichshain district has transformed empty and decadent warehouses of the former national railway repair factory into a place of sociality and creativity and there could be no better place in this city for a record that could be the soundtrack for the Berlin post-conflict.
Welcomed by a sold-out audience, the show was a truly ritual experience.
From the first note of “The Reason They Hate me”, the pit launched into a a fiery and wild dance, completely harnessed by the power of sound, made even more caustic by the auxiliary percussion and sample triggering from Lisa Mungo and rhythm guitar from Gary Potter.
I wasn’t sure that they would be able to replicate the dark, winding and nihilistic atmosphere of the record but the show was much more than I could have ever imagined.
Largely playing material from YWGWYW (all the songs of the record except “The Flammable man” and “City Song”), and a few songs from both 2006’s Hell Songs (“Daughters spelled wrong”, “Recorded Inside a Pyramid”) and 2010’s S/T album (“Our Queens”, “The Dead Singer”, “The Virgin” and “The Hit”), they were able to create a harsh wall of rage and anxiety, being absolutely furious, abrasive and dangerous for all the songs in the setlist.
They seemed to be wrapped in spirits that guided them through an esoteric and monstrous dance, a deadly ritual from which it is impossible to escape. If you’ve seen it, it’s something like Suspiria’s final choreography. Their bodies, driven by screaching, dynamically and painfully loud riffs made by the guitarist Sadler, the rentless thunderous blows of Syverson and the Slorach rhythmic and caustic bass strokes, force the crowd to do the same, creating a vortex of dissonant and transcendental energy that was difficult to break. Like being shut up in a mirror house on the verge of exploding.
And then there’s Alexis. It seems to me a mix between an animal spirit stuck in a chest, the destructive poetics of Viennese actionism and the physiological need of a man to be able to externalize the vortex that compresses his body. He reminds me a quote from Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty according to which a performance should be total and seek to explore the limits of nervous sensibility: “the unendingly repeated jading of our organs calls for sudden shocks to revive our understanding.”.
His moving are the main focus of the show while his body becomes a further instrument made of flesh, blood, saliva with which he gives us an impressive canvas from which it is impossible to detach, while remaining both kidnapped and terrified.
I think he is looking for some form of redemption on stage. He uses music and his body as a medium to reach some form of atonement. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the setlist there is “Daughters spelled wrong” from 2006’s Hell Songs: “I’ve been called a sinner.”
His performance was visceral and harrowing, he gave to the public so much of himself, and he continued to go completely insane song after song, jumping into the crowd, exuding saliva, forcing his mouth to swallow his fingers and the microphone during pieces like “Long Road, No Turns”.
Songs like “Guest House” draw from live experience an even more majestic and lacerating force and the wonderful closure entrusted to the over 7 minutes of Ocean Song has left the public helpless, pulsing to the rhythm of this feral and disillusioned march.
Alexis throws himself on the crowd claustrophobically repeating “If there is an ocean beyond the waves, beyond the waves” and then returns to the stage, moving as if he wanted to open a gash in his body to make that pain even more real, make it explode.
Repeat with the rest of the band in silence once more “To know, to see for himself, If there is an ocean beyond the waves, beyond the waves “before the show ends.
If you get the chance to see Daughters live, do it. Cheeky, rude, brutal, as precise as a surgeon’s knife: you won’t easily forget them (also because you’ll come out of the concert full of bruises and cuts but this is why we love this band).