THEESatisfaction @ Birthdays, Dalston
Seattle's THEESatisfaction might mix themes of race and sexuality into their beat driven live set, but as Steph Kretowicz reports, it's the warmth and inclusivity of the duo that the audience take home. Photo: David Belisle
“This is for the queens,” Stas purrs before a backing track drops into the punching beat of single ‘QueenS’ –an instant hit. It’s hard to tell if THEESatisfaction are aware of the Diamond Jubilee celebration just past but it’s clear the ‘queens’ they’re referring to have little to do with the British monarchy. There are mostly women in the crowd at the new Birthdays venue in Dalston, but male and female alike are equally susceptible to the infectious groove of the Seattle duo’s twisted take on creamy beats served on a bed of R&B and hip hop.
If you hadn’t heard the neo soul song like ‘Bitch’ from the Sub Pop signed outfit’s debut album awE naturale you might believe THEESatisfaction was an angry band with riot grrl inclinations. Theirs is certainly a musical take on firm, though slightly ambivalent, social commentary but they hardly play it through the unbridled anger of punk rock. Instead, it’s the silky smooth repetition of
lines like, “What it means to be black,” that conceal a righteous undercurrent, performed by two African American women from Washington who also happen to be gay.
Stasia Irons and Cat Harris-White prove that forging the path of justice can also be swathed in effortless cool. The two band members, each rocking a pair of high vis spandex (Stas a pair of ‘low vis’ sunglasses) are so in sync that they sashay in and out of choreographed dance routines as fluidly as their pre-programmed backing track cuts between songs.
That said it’s a slight disappointment THEESatisfaction are performing to a laptop. With the instrumentals being henceforth normalised and flattened, the pressure is on for the vocals to carry the set. Luckily, Stas and Cat are more than up to it. If there was ever a doubt that a recording project begun in the bedroom could cut it live, then it’s Cat’s humming backing vocal, punctured by Stas’ succinct rhymes that make the set.
The musical medley, reminiscent of an online mix, flows through any given track, often intercepted by a handful of short interludes – from 90s-era Babyface soul to old school rap.
What’s more spectacular about THEESatsifaction is that, despite the digital nature of their sound, there is still an earthiness to the outcome. There is a mood of love and wellbeing generated through their performance, embellished with their famously cheeky sense of humour. A beat here is punctuated by the duo’s saucy groans, another by a speedball dance move, all while ‘Bisexual’ pokes fun
at sexual ambiguity.
In all of this, it’s clear that THEESatisfaction say what they mean and mean what they say - and you’d best sit up an listen.