PVA raise the roof of Scala with a storming headline set.

Bringing together some of the best party acts going, the night was an enchanting graduation from the scene to a grander setting.

Photos: Holly Whitaker | Words: Lloyd Bolton

In the bright evening of early April, Hard of Hearing descended upon Scala alongside most everyone who has seen some part in PVA’s rise from Windmill regulars to national sensations over the past five years. The lineup was frankly irresistible, the headliners complimented some of the most distinctive and brilliant voices of London’s scene in the shape of Jessica Winter, Birthday Girl (aka Caitlin Power, also of Paddywak) and a DJ set from Lynks. Shows like this are always special for offering a moment to recognise a band’s growth from the grassroots scene to a bigger stage. There was so much love in the room shared by fans who have fallen under PVA’s spell since debut single ‘Divine Intervention’ and those who were there before that.

This feeling of community was established by the opening set from Birthday Girl. Her music has that unique texture of idiosyncratic perverse pop that works so well blasting unnecessarily loud out of the Windmill speakers. Taken to the larger setting of Scala, it felt charmingly decontextualised, and you wanted to hear that room full and singing along to refrains like, “Get the poppers out”.

Next up was Jessica Winter, the defining voice of non-commercial contemporary pop music and always easily the coolest person in the room. The commanding bounce of ‘Something Like a Knife’ began to take the room where it needed to get for the headliners. Winter strutted about the stage, slowly shedding layers to reveal several outstanding variations on her effortlessly stylish getup. The progression began with the chic ‘Choreograph’ overcoat to a final bra and suit trousers combo. The introduction of special guest Lynks to the stage to perform their new collab ‘Clutter’ was not a surprise but was of course an utter delight. Their hasty campy choreography was an absolute joy to watch.

We shot over to the bar to pay £6.50 for a 440ml can of Red Stripe that tasted more like warm fruit juice. On the way, the venue’s striking red staircase became mildly clogged with ad hoc photo shoots that took over a number of Instagram stories the next day. The place was beginning to fill up. As we returned to the eager tension of the packed-out room, PVA emerged.

The band opted for a brooding opening with ‘Transit’, setting the tone for an intense but murky beginning. ‘Untethered’ began to evolve towards the more dancefloor-friendly, while maintaining that ominous edge. It was the third song ‘Hero Man’ that really kicked things into gear, Ella Harris’ addictively repetitive vocal hook acting an irresistible call to arms.

From here, we settled back into a groove of the band’s signature winding evolving rhythmic tracks. With hips and shoulders liberated by ‘Hero Man’, a new energy infiltrated the crowd as songs like ‘Bunker’ and ‘Kim’ were teased out. It is on numbers like this that the drumming of Louis Satchell comes into its own, regenerating loops with carefully timed punctuations that keep the whole show propulsive.

Where much of the set had relied on sustained grooves that swelled and shrunk around a consistent mood, the final two numbers switched the show into an all-out party. ‘Exhaust/Surroundings’ is one of the best examples of what makes PVA work, evolving from a sun-bleached dance riff to a blissed out close that never fails to generate a sense of communal warmth more spiritual than the heat of a busy dancefloor.

The set covered a lot of ground, but there was still something held back for the final song, ‘The Individual’. Having been predominantly fixed labouring over his miniature kingdom of synths, Josh Baxter was finally freed for his frontman moment, strutting around the stage as he spat, “Was it mean? Was it clean? Was it fresh? Was it tense?”. Bearing down on the barrier, he transmitted a mix of gratitude and virility to the crowd as he yelled into their rapt faces.

In the smoke machine daze left in the wake of that song, the crowd mostly began to dissipate. A hardcore handful remained to leave what little they had left on the floor as Lynks stubbornly continued to bring the party from the decks. Another contingent made the short journey up the hill to the after party at The Lexington, clashing with the crowd leftover from Kyoto Kyoto’s sold out headline show. It was one of those delightful rare occasions that bring the community together with all the warmth and energy of a festival crowd, and indeed I was not the only one found recklessly observing festival hours at The Lex.