Photo: Emma Swann


Pumarosa and Bo Rocha sip on magic potion at The Great Escape

There’s plenty of X Factor on show at Komedia. And no, not the kind Simon Cowell yabbers on about.

Every now and again, bands pop out of thin air with more ready-to-deploy magical essence than Harry Potter on a mad one pre-Hogwarts. Tonight in a rammed Komedia, Pumarosa are quite clearly one of those rare acts that already feel complete. The band scurry around the stage til the final second, frowning and tinkering with various dials and saxophones; occasionally breaking concentration to beam at the front row. Then, a switch flicks. A euphoric, industrial, unrelenting haze takes hold. Pumarosa are in the building.

Isabel Munoz-Newsome leads the charge, wielding a drum beater like a summoning staff, and meticulously whacking her guitar across the chops with it at semi-regular intervals. It’s ever-so-slightly menacing. Unruly squalls ring out atop Neville James’ twinkling, cyclic melody patterns, and bassist Henry Brown oversees proceedings with narrowed eyes, all the while producing unholy, shuddering bass-thumps. It’s unbelievable to think that this lot have only been knocking about for five minutes in the grand scheme of buzz; never mind that several months of their short time as a band so far was spent holed up in a dilapidated Italian cinema. As you do. “’It must be hard being so statuesque,” chants Isabel tonight, with her Nico-nodding, ritualistic delivery, and tugging forth the wonkiest, skronkiest saxophone solo imaginable from Tomoya Suzuki. It’s like ‘Careless Whisper’ being sucked into a black hole, having a scrap with anti-matter, and emerging the other side as a strangely affable brass alien.

The stand-out, pick-your-jaws-back-off-the-floor quality that Pumarosa possess so easily is a hard one to pin down. The patron saint of high-waisted bootcut jeans himself – Simon Cowell – would probably call it The X Factor; others might call it an abstract magic that’s impossible to put to paper – a bit like how a vampires can’t see themselves in the mirror. Anyhow, whatever the fresh hell Pumarosa are fuelled by, it really, really works.

Pumarosa and Bo Rocha sip on magic potion at The Great Escape Pumarosa and Bo Rocha sip on magic potion at The Great Escape Pumarosa and Bo Rocha sip on magic potion at The Great Escape

Pumarosa playing DIY's Hello 2016 earlier this year.

Earlier on the same day, Bo Rocha's clearly been swigging on the same thing. The third show she's ever played, her own technical fiddling is a little less honed, and is the only blip interrupting a gig showing industrial-level quantities of promise. So often a certain kind of sleek, magnetic producer comes along with a box packed with whizzy tricks and soulful vocals, and on record at least, their music is a blow-away bundle of fireworks. So often, they're unable to reproduce that same stardust live. Do not fret. Bo Rocha – in possession of an almighty, versatile set of pipes which steal the show – is not one of those 'so oftens'.

An easy, unaffected presence, Bo Rocha writes songs centred around a clear universe; Joan Didion's barbiturate-quaffing L.A. housewives in the middle of all-out identity-crisis, hues of tangerine and green, and self-referential songs about writing itself. 'Live Fast or Die,' is Bo Rocha's mentality. A classically-trained musician still in the process of unlearning every rule, there's an exciting strain of all-or-nothing to everything she does.

Pumarosa and Bo Rocha sip on magic potion at The Great Escape

Photos: Emma Swann, Mike Massaro, Sarah Louise Bennett

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Tags: Pumarosa, The Great Escape, Festivals, Reviews, Live Reviews

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