GIG REVIEW: An Evening with OTEP Live at Dingwalls, London
Outside the iconic Dingwalls in London’s Camden Town, a lively crowd begins to form, spilling out into the food market. Their giddy spirits continually elevate with anticipation. You could easily be forgiven for thinking this was a weekend event given the numbers and the energy. But it’s a cool Wednesday evening. One that sees the long-awaited return of the Los Angeles based quartet, Otep, to London. Fiercely and fearlessly led by their namesake champion, Otep Shamaya, Otep have brought their ‘Kult 45’ tour to the U.K capital for one night only. And they’re dead set on leaving London with a show their fans would remember for a long time to come. Suffice it to say, they did just that.
Following some minor scheduling issues along with pre-show commitments running a little over, Otep took to the stage late in the evening. But whether there was no curfew, or they simply didn’t care, being late was not going to pose a problem as their promised show was played in full. One by one each member made their way on to the compact stage, greeted by a tightly packed and thunderously loud Dingwalls. No foreplay, just an eruption of wild chaotic energy, with the band kick-starting everything with one of their earliest numbers, “T.R.I.C” and letting the energy pass back and forth between themselves and their fans before unleashing something even more ruthless.
“Halt Right,” serving as the first offering from the band’s new album, saw guitarist Aristotle, appearing God like, using every inch of his fretboard. Meanwhile, Shamaya invigorated her crowd with “Fight!” chants and shadow boxing. Drummer Justin Kier then added fuel to the fire, upping the ante by encouraging the crowd every chance he got, picking up whole parts of his kit and thrusting them around. Dedicated with seething hatred to “Nazi scum, the groove riddled “Molotov” then blasted through the monitors. It was all security could do to keep the venue from being leveled by the capacity crowd’s roaring response. With the night now in full swing, Otep looked hell-bent on giving it their all and taking no prisoners.
Fan favorites such as the unifying “Equal Rights, Equal Lefts”, the bellowing war cry “Battle Ready”, along with outraged renditions of “Lords Of War” and “Blood Pigs”, saw Otep incorporating a plethora of compelling stage props into their performance, making for some polarizing visuals. Pig heads mounted on stakes, a noose dangling from a microphone, and a balaclava worn with great impact all made appearances throughout the evening. Prefacing one particular new fan favorite, “Boss”, with a fleeting speech around genderising professions, Shamaya announced proudly that she was “not a boss bitch, I’m just a boss… bitch”, much to the delight of her audience. Closing out the night with the sonic explosion that is “Confrontation”, Otep gave their audience a lengthy farewell, despite the time, as Shamaya climbed up on the front barriers, hand in hand with their passionate followers, expressing the band’s sincere love, respect and appreciation before leaving the stage.
A near perfect night. But not quite. If Otep overcame the obstacles of the day to deliver a full set that exceeded curfew, it’s unfortunate that they were let down by the engineer, or possibly the house P.A on the night. With sound often muddled, levels imbalanced and peaking sporadically, both band and fans deserved much better. Thankfully, their tight, passionate and energizing performance transcended these drawbacks and the experience went off relatively uncompromised.
To many, the name Otep represents more than just a band or even a person. It represents an attitude of defiance and an experience of acceptance in a place populated by a loving community where one can take solace, no questions asked. An experience found on a Wednesday evening in Camden Town where fans traveled, locally and internationally, to feel part of this energy, to laugh and sing in solidarity, and to share and scream from the bottom of their hearts as they surrendered into something bigger than themselves. Such was the case in Dingwalls on an unforgettable Wednesday in Camden. A night of exuberance and passion, and one-first class performance, from a band that welcomes all.
Unless you’re a Trump supporter. In which case pull your M.A.G.A cap over your face and walk briskly away.