From Visigoths to YouTube. From Antarctica to spaceships. Is this psychedelic folk?
On 2 August Reverend Jonathan Shaw led the congregation at the Wesley Anne.
Priestessa and Dash are a challenging beast to classify. Led by songwriting duo Marlene Samson (vocals, keyboard and ukelele) and Jonathan Shaw (vocals and acoustic guitar), the band included a horn section, backing singers, drums, percussion, electric guitar, bass, and various other bits and pieces. Lead vocal duties were shared between Samson, Shaw and guest vocalist Haran Driori. Keeping all twelve musicians coordinated is an impressive task and it’s to their credit that they all performed like an old family.
The music covered a broad range – from the uptempo almost-rock opening number, through to slower laments and traditional folk storytelling. The breadth of the band gave each song a unique sound.
Samson and Shaw draw inspiration from a wide variety of sources, from historic civilisations, to explorers, to personal courage, to the internet, celebrity and popular culture. At one point Shaw recalled a story of Lawrence Oates, an antarctic explorer who sacrificed his life to increase his companions’ chance of survival.
“This is a big sprawling sonic experiment, like the 1970s was. God I wish I was there right now. Hanging out with Billy Joel.”
Priestessa and Dash is an impressive and ambitious venture. It started life as one-woman electro-folk act Priestessa (Marlene Samson), gradually adding members and instruments leading up to the teeming folk collective it is now.