Electric Citizen, Blackwater Holylight and Snakes Don’t Belong In Alaska @ Newcastle Trillians, May 2 2019

Newcastle isn’t the most obvious pit stop on the road from Bristol to London’s Desertfest. As detours go, it’s a biggie. But Electric Citizen and Blackwater Holylight are making the most of their European jaunt – and spreading their psyched up, retro vibes across the UK plays a crucial part in this.

Indeed, for Oregon quintet Blackwater Holylight, hitting Britain in support of their self-titled debut, tours like this are going to play a crucial part in their journey. Following Snakes Don’t Belong In Alaska, who punished Trillians’ PA with a blistering psych-out, Blackwater Holylight brought a colourful sonic tapestry with them from Portland, woven from raw grunge, dark post punk and technicolour goth. It’s heavy without being ‘heavy’, a vibrant riposte to anyone who wants to put bands like this into a ‘stoner rock’ straightjacket.

Willow lulled as the luscious harmonies of Allison Ferris and Laura Hopkins glided over chiming guitars, Paranoia echoed Joy Division’s bleak visions and Babies rode on a simple rhythmic pulse, burrowing into the ears of their entranced audience. And the more ‘metal’ attired crowd members looked on in awe as the colossal Sabbathian riffs of Jiz Witch pummelled the basement venue into the bedrock.

With a new album already in the works, it might not be too long before Blackwater Holylight return. Let’s hope they do.

Ridingeasy labelmates Electric Citizen are no strangers to England’s shores – and with three albums under their belts in just five years, they’re practically veterans compared to their buddies from the Pacific Northwest. They have the raw energy and vigour of a band on the rise, an act who, in another time, would simply be called a ‘rock and roll’ band.

And the Ohio quintet are a fine live act to boot.

Much of their on-stage appeal is conjured by livewire singer Laura Dolan, a wide-eyed Valkyrie in platform heels, who once again showed why she’s one of the most compelling frontwomen to emerge post-noughties. It’s also down to how her bandmates lay down their immense grooves, with drummer Nate Wagner – so low down he was nearly sitting on the stage – conducting the ebbs and flows of booty shaker New Earth with sublime skill.

Heart Attack – opener of 2018’s Helltown – was a primal scream from the American rust belt, all garage punk suss and engine grease riffs, while Beggar’s Need took us back to Electric Citizen’s debut, Sateen, and to the nascent street doom of Pentagram that the band hold so dear: anyone here holding a Desertfest ticket would have been salivating at the thought of witnessing this again.

Indeed, as a warm up show to Camden’s annual riffs and spliffs party, this was pretty damn hot. A smaller crowd? Sure. But one which welcomed two of America’s most exciting new acts with open arms and open minds.