Squid and P.V.A. deliver a transformative performance at Tramshed, Cardiff

Squid on stage at Tramshed, Cardiff

Tramshed has something of a sacrosanct energy about it tonight. The streets around it are flocked with fellow gig-goers as we walk from the car to the entrance, all buzzed with the same energy about what we might be about to witness. Seeing what everyone else is wearing, I’m reassured in my own choice of attire – blue jeans, ironic baggy shirt and oversized flannel, inspired by the band’s own promo pics. Talk about fangirling, huh.

“…Ella Harris’s body jerks and screams on the right with almost exorcising energy.”

First on stage are P.V.A., a band that warrant as little pre-amble as possible before you first listen to them. Please feel free to skip ahead if you need to. The three piece’s setup of synths, a guitar and drums is conventional, but their sound is anything but, with no limit on where their dancey sonic concoction will take them.

At one point, you could describe them as soft industrial, and the next they’re blending trance with noise rock. Josh Baxter lurches over his synths on the left of the stage, Louis Satchell seems transfixed on the drums, and Ella Harris’s body jerks and screams on the right with almost exorcising energy. A quick read online and you find some people have had the gall to call this ‘dance punk’. You’ve got to be joking. This is more akin to performing witchcraft using house music.

It’s an arresting performance, and sets the mood perfectly for Squid. The stage darkens, and the sound of a rainstick fills the room. The band walk on to ecstatic applause.

“A crowd surfer passes above, and I catch drummer Ollie Judge cracking a grin as he looks over.”

Their setlist builds slowly, delivered with a patience that brings everyone in the room to the same level. We’re desperate to start throwing ourselves around to something more energetic. The immutable twang of ‘The Cleaner’s opening guitar riff rings out – bingo. The floor erupts, and the rest of the night follows suit. A crowd surfer passes above, and I catch drummer Ollie Judge cracking a grin as he looks over.

Squid have a penchant for noodling out wild improvisational moments that delivery extraordinary energy. They turn ‘Boy Racers’ already entrancing ending into a mesmerising wall of sound, matched with intense lighting. But its when they hammer in on their hits that things truly enter the transcendental. Everyone knew they’d play ‘Narrator’, but witnessing its ruthless second half live was an out-of-body experience.

“…people started swaying or humming along to the band’s droney interludes unprovoked. The mosh pits were full of berserked dancing and joyous gazes”

What amazed me most of all, however, was the shared sense of awe in the crowd. The usual larky moments came now and again – credit to whoever started chanting the riff to Scatman – but there were points too where people started swaying or humming along to the band’s droney interludes unprovoked. The mosh pits were full of berserked dancing and joyous gazes. It was moving to see so much unrestricted, unlimited expression.

Squid offer one of the most inspired listening experiences around the moment, distilling absurdist themes for a modern punk audience. It expresses the madness created by a world that is well through the looking glass, something that resonated across Sunday night’s audience. Their talent is being able to appeal both to those who want the politicised anger that post punk gives, and to those who need to let loose to fervent music as an escape. As a result, their gigs are more akin to ritual than to just guitars and amps, not a place that encourages shared love or for people to be preached to, but rather a liturgy of the madness of our times.

Check out my review of Bright Green Field and my video exploring how Squid mix absurdism and punk.

Squid with P.V.A. at Tramshed, Cardiff, 3rd October 2021

Munro Page

Munro Page is a music blogger and former student radio host based in Cardiff, UK. Likes: thrift stores, cooking, parrots Dislikes: chain restaurants, the M25, Simply Red

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