It’s not often we get an ex-Cramp, a sexy Vamp, and two hot but deadly guitar slingers on one stage, but on this occasion…
As if plucked from a surreal spaghetti western, Mather Louth and Chopper Franklin made quite the spectacle, striding down London’s Pentonville Road in full regalia.
That enigmatic sight not only awakened that mysterious voice in one’s head, that in moments of aging self-doubt makes us slip back into our leather trousers and cut-off cowboy shirts, but also sparked a throwback to Lux Interior’s pre-show red wine chase at Sainsbury’s before a barnstormer at the Town and Country in Kentish Town, many, many moons ago.
Distracted by that sight, our arrival was marked by the popping of discarded kerb-side Jack Daniels bottles under our wheels, a spectral prank by Lux, perhaps? Fingers crossed we hadn’t earned a prairie flat.
Following a quick thirst quencher at the bar, the night’s theme would soon unfurl, a bewitching fusion of petticoats and pistols, conjuring a mesmerizing dance of Gothic Americana. Taking the stage as the captivating curtain-raiser is none other than Kelley Swindall, last glimpsed through our lenses at The Green Note in Camden, taking point for that wandering minstrel, Jack Valero.
The Lexington, a tad more expansive than the Green Note, retained an intimate ambiance reminiscent of a frontier saloon, combining the heady aroma of not-so-fresh outhouses, stale ale, and a ghostly wisp of smoke.
Were the superior acoustics at play here, or did the slightly expanded prairie offer her a larger canvas? Kelley’s set was as crisp and clear as the early morning Utah air, a stirring blend of familiar anthems and fresh ballads. She shared a particularly raw and emotional tale of seeking solace in a medium after her father’s untimely passing, rounding it off with the mirthful mortality reminder ‘We’re all gonna die’. Kelley, true to form, was our darling cowgirl on this musical trail ride.
Beneath the dim, spectral glow of the saloon’s lights, the enigmatic silhouette of Sarah Vista materialized, casting a mesmerizing aura across The Lexington. This spellbinding enchantress, a celebrated figurehead of London’s Western scene, had summoned a motley band of skilled musicians – hardened veterans from the badlands and bordertowns, prepared to guide the audience on a haunting journey through tales of love and bullets that would resonate across the auditory plane.
Perched next to her worn leather boots sat a frost-kissed Pabst Blue Ribbon and a devil-may-care shot of whiskey. From there, she commanded the stage, her alluring gaze casting a hypnotic spell over the room. Yet, beneath the crimson lipstick and captivating charm, dwelled the soul of a battle-hardened gunslinger, a veteran of countless showdowns with rogue rustlers and unruly cowpokes. Cross her, and you’d find yourself locked in a perilous gaze with the barrel of her talking iron.
As though drawn in by an age-old Western saga, the souls of cowboys and cowgirls found themselves helplessly drawn to this enigmatic rendezvous. The expected rockabilly crowd may have been thinner than usual, but the anticipation hung heavy in the air, dense as tumbleweeds on a windless day.
Sarah’s performance ignited with the raw intensity of Another Man’s Hands, a wild ride akin to a stagecoach hurtling headlong through the labyrinthine plot of a Sergio Leone epic. The music reverberated with the echo of smoking guns and whispers of death, ensnaring the listeners in a spellbinding sonic tableau.
Amidst flickering lights, the chilling saga of Belle Star took form, merging into the haunting lullaby, Now You Are Sleeping. Killing Fever cast an enchanting spell, drawing the audience deeper into the shadows with its haunting murder ballad.
The auditory séance unfurled with Get Three Coffins Ready, an ominous ode to impending retribution, and Hour Of The Gun, a melancholic tapestry of sonic despair. Collective harmonies echoed across desolate plains, saturating the crowd in an atmospheric ambiance.
Lonely Are The Brave reverberated through the saloon, a nod to a beloved Kirk Douglas classic, with Sarah’s haunting voice serving as the narrative compass. Then, rising from the spectral haze of dry ice, Dead On Arrival struck a resounding chord with its seductive backbeat.
With a devilish sparkle in her eye, Sarah kicked the spurs in deep and hard, accelerating the pace with a wicked rendition of I Wish You Hell.
In an epic finale, the haunting resonance of Dig Yourself A Hole reverberated through the room, eliciting roars of approval from the spectral figures of the night. Their applause echoed like a volley of jubilant gunfire.
Sarah Vista left her audience spellbound in the wake of this eerily unforgettable soirée, their hearts indelibly marked by the smoky, dusty echoes of a world that waltzed precariously on the edge of reality and myth. The last reverberations of her haunting melodies faded into the night, leaving the crowd with the understanding that they had journeyed into a realm of the quick and the dead, and where only the brave dare tread.
The crowd erupted in jubilant cheers as the Heathen Apostles, giants of Gothic Americana, took the stage. Under the sonic leadership of the completely mesmerizing Mather Louth, with her stirring vocals and rhythmic guitar, they came alive. They dominated the stage as if they were vampire outlaws in a confrontation that could only end one way. Their performance, laced with elements of the surreal and the mysterious, unraveled like a vividly illustrated Nathaniel Hawthorne poem, with each musician playing a key part. Chopper Franklin’s fiendishly intricate guitar work, Thomas Lorioux‘s firm upright bass, and Luis Mascaro’s evocative violin added a rich depth to their sound.
With the first haunting notes of Paint the Stars, we were swept away on a spiritual journey deep into the heart of Gothic Americana. The set was a gripping ride through spectral ballads and propulsive rock anthems that navigated through shadowy and mystifying terrains. Mather Louth’s resonant vocals, laced with an eerie undercurrent, twined with Mascaro’s assertive fiddle, piercing the creeping fog of dry ice, and stirring images of phantom prairies and forsaken souls. Her voice flowed seamlessly with Chopper Franklin’s guitar, which spun complex webs of sound, vibrating with the soul of Gothic storytelling.
Thomas Lorioux’s deep and resonant upright bass laid a sturdy groundwork for the ghostly tales. At the same time, Luis Mascaro’s hypnotic violin added a celestial touch, lifting the music to a new level of emotional depth. Together, they wove a spellbinding tapestry of sound, drawing the audience into their world with bewitching renditions of songs like Death’s Head and Fool’s Gold. Each note left a lingering spell in the air.
As the evening unfolded, the sorrowful strains of Black Hawk and the chilling melodies of Drowned in Trouble kept us on an emotional ghost train. They allowed the indomitable spirit of Heathen Apostles to cast a bewitching spell over the audience. Each song painted lucid pictures of dark tales and enigmatic journeys, climaxing during the performance of Shadow of the Crows. Here, Mascaro’s violin added an otherworldly element that sent shivers down the spine.
The crowd was held captive by Mather’s powerful voice during songs like Lily of the West and Into the Wild. Simultaneously, Chopper’s feverish guitar work in Gravedigger’s Sons and Long Gone Lonesome Blues created a seamless blend of Americana with Gothic allure. The musicians’ harmonious interplay, bolstered by Lorioux’s rhythmic prowess and Mascaro’s poignant violin, further captivated the audience during Two for the Road and Without a Trace.
The atmosphere was dense as Get Outta Dodge and The Reckoning reverberated through the venue, making its very foundations tremble. The spectral melodies, captivating visuals, and the dark allure crafted by Heathen Apostles surrounded the audience in a world between reality and the supernatural, evoking a sense of adventure and mystery.
Then, like a mournful lament, Dark Was the Night echoed through the air. Mascaro’s violin wove emotional threads into the music, each note piercing the soul. It left a celestial afterglow that lingered even after the final chords of Murderer of Souls, as if the spirits of the night themselves had taken the stage.
As the twilight fell over Islington, the echoes of the soul-stirring fusion of Gothic Americana and Country and Western continued to reverberate through The Lexington. This was courtesy of Heathen Apostles, Sarah Vista, Kelley Swindall, and their extraordinary ensemble of musicians. The night, a harmonious blend of riveting performances and the magnetic allure of their unique genres, felt like a frontier tale told around a crackling campfire. Even as the embers died down, we were left yearning for more. The Heathen Apostles had etched themselves into our dark hearts, ensuring their spectral melodies and mystical storytelling would stay with us long after the last note had faded into the night.
Heathen Apostles played The Lexington, London – 19th July 2023
Support from Sarah Vista – Kelley Swindall
Words and live photography Copyright of 1st 3 Magazine
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