Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographer Connor Pope
To say Isle of Wight indie rock band Wet Leg have come up quickly is quite the understatement. With their first single ‘Chaise Longue’ released in 2021 reaching 3 Million streams, quickly followed by EPs in 2022, and their recent album (also) Wet Leg, which debuted at number one on the UK album chart, Wet Leg have taken the UK indie scene by storm.
With five Grammy nominations in tow – including one for Best New Artist, shortlisted for the 2022 Mercury Prize, and bragging an impressively large 2.5 Million monthly listeners on Spotify, I’ve got reasonably high expectations of the duo as I battle my through torrential rain to the O2 Institute on Digbeth High Street.
The doors are a breeze, and as I enter the misty lavender lit main venue I hear someone talking about new wave Bowie, then I notice a spattering of black and white Vans. Sheepishly I look down at my own shoes, clearly we all got the memo.
Upsettingly, I don’t see any support acts mentioned online (though I later find out they’ve been posted on Wet Leg’s Instagram story) but I arrive just after doors in the hopes of seeing some local indie acts.
At 8pm, just when I think I’ve wasted my time, a four piece takes to the stage. Introducing themselves too quickly for me to catch a name, they begin confidently with cool indie breeze and a big slice of rocky edginess.
The drums are rhythmic and pacy, feeling a bit like garage rock with sharp pulls and perfectly timed pauses. I catch that Malady is from London, and the frontman drags his accent as he sings the bass notes.
The guitarist produces classic, melodic indie licks, the bass twangs and Malady bops about the stage. It’s a well-placed support (even though it’s not local) and the room’s getting so full I’m having to strain on my tiptoes to see.
Malady’s final track is about London bringing you down, and there’s some really wobbly synth sounds coming from, I think, the bassist, who’s got a laptop a metre in front of him.
As Malady heads into the last chorus the sound swells, made more interesting by the additional textures, and the lads use this energy to take up more space on stage, closing to claps, whistles, and whoops from the audience.
There’s a 30 minute break and then it’s time for Wet Leg. There’s barely room to move now.
As the stage goes black, several people scream from the audience, and the opening soundtrack to Lord of The Rings plays accompanied by a singular spotlight. A guitar pacily strums, and the audience are already clapping.
Cooing vocals join the guitar and the track breaks down into a spiral of tantalising tones, snares, and bass bass bass. Wet Leg smiles as the audience sings along.
They seem the tiniest bit nervous but it’s endearing and isn’t affecting the quality of their delivery. To begin with, there’s more movement coming from the backing musicians than Wet Leg themselves, but as their confidence grows sassy personalities glimmer through.
The lead vocalist, Rhian Teasdale, is putting her pipes to work, pushing her voice to the back of her room. She reminds me of MARINA dynamically reaching high notes with ease whilst maintaining her resonant vocal tone.
Hester Chambers’ vocals are breathy, at times taking centre stage, but often layering delicate, fluffy harmonies over Teasdale’s main melody.
The next instrumental feels like running between rides at a fun fair, and the duo starts to jump around the stage, rushing back to the mic to deliver their vocals.
“It’s so nice to be here, hello everyone at the top,” Teasdale laughs, “Hello everyone in the middle… Hello everyone on the ground.”
Each section shouts louder than the last.
Someone yells “Shrewsbury” and, “Turn it up we can’t hear.” A man comes to the bar complaining that he can hardly hear the music even when he’s at the front. “The crowd’s dead,” says someone behind me. Although I’m not sure Wet Leg is music to go wild to, it feels more like a groove to me…
Then, Wet Leg plays their next track ‘Oh No’, and I think ‘Oh no, I was wrong’.
This one is much heavier with bending elongated guitar tones, clamouring drums and near screaming vocals. I think I’m getting what the hype is about now as Wet Leg enter the raw second half of their set.
They’re a bit aggressive, a bit promiscuous, the sound’s tight, indie with a delicious twist.
I thought I heard a theremin earlier and as if by magic its crisp devastating voice soars wavering at ungodly pitches for what seemed like hours and no time at all. I’m dumbstruck, it reminds me of Benjamin Clementine singing what angels sound like.
A tear wells up in my left eye, the pounding drums kick back along with Teasdale’s gut-wrenching vocal and I’m smacked back to reality.
The next track is ‘Ur Mum’ and the teenage angst is present in the guitars from the get go.
“What the fuck is going on with the sound?!” shouts someone else, clearly also feeling the rebellious nature of the song.
There’s no chance of me getting involved because the sheer amount of bodies would be impossible to penetrate, but everyone else does seem to be enjoying themselves, especially at the front jumping around and waving their arms about.
A single guitar chord rings out in anticipation of Wet Leg’s final track, the drums come in, then the guitar, then the vocals bolstered by the collective voice of the crowd.
It’s the long awaited ‘Chaise Longue’ and everyone knows the line from Mean Girls screaming it out: “Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?” Then, even louder, “What!?”
Wet Leg and their backing band work their instruments to the max, finishing to elongated applause and ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael.
Although I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Wet Leg are my new favourite band (to misquote the O2 bio) but I will say they’ve mostly met my high expectations.
And I, like everyone else apparently, eagerly await their second album release date.
For more from O2 Institute Birmingham go to: www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham