The Week in Gigs

There were a lot of bands to see this week and after putting through my Coachwhips review I decided it would make more sense to bundle the rest together.

Tuesday night was [url=http://www.burningpilot.com] burningpilot [/url] at White Heat, a post-punky Wire-ish slice of excellence. They’ve just recorded a session with Xfm and have a single out on the 28th. The gig was a good, with a really nice sound, even if ‘London Flat’ didn’t make an appearance in the set list. I didn’t really catch any of the other bands, unfortunately.

On Wednesday 9th I attended Akira’s free monthly night at the Catch bar. As with last month, there’d been a host of things going wrong, leading Sarah to speculate about the venue being cursed since January. First up was a guy whose name I didn’t catch but he was damn good, and it’s probably the first time I’ve seen a guy with an acoustic guitar come close to something you could call ‘post-rock’. He runs through one of those big red Boss sampler pedals (and RC-230 or something), layering several guitar and vocal pieces including a monologue before crashing to a finish. The next track builds slowly into a wall of ringing feedback until the sound engineer shuts him off. He finishes his set on the floor in front of the stage in an un-mic’d little sing-along session. Quality! Next up are a band called (I think) [b] In-Flight Scare [/b], who seem to have bought wholesale into the late 70s/early 80s revival synonymous with The Strokes and Interpol, clothes and all. Unfortunately they seem to have way too much in common with the Strokes and totally fail to grab me: I don’t dislike them, it’s just sort of bland and they seem obsessed with looking ‘NYC’, which is weird to me. [url=http://www.akiraband.com] Akira [/url] take to the stage with a host of equipment failures having dogged them, but the result is a set I enjoy more than last time. Sarah’s on the Roland V-Drums this time but I think it’s more that the wildly experimental side of the band seems to be hidden beneath a uniformity to the tracks. We’re left with a strongly energetic gig full of noise and anger. Final band are…er…I forget but they explain that they’re loud and fuck they are. I have to leave before the end of their set due to exhaustion and it’s a shame because they’re live and edgy.

Friday 11th found me at [url=http://www.letsgotoprison.co.uk] Prison [/url] at Camden’s Purple Turtle. The club describes itself thusly:

[I] Because we’re not a horrible corporate machine where you’ll have to hear the same damn songs you’ll hear everywhere else, and because we bring you the best bands, the loveliest most comfy venue and bloody cheap drinks. Because our dj’s are fun loving bundles of joy that are obsessively enthusiastic about every song they play. Because you will never have to hear the likes of Oasis, The Stone Roses, Jet, Kasabian, or any other sub standard overplayed crap. We don’t want people standing around thinking they’re too cool to dance whilst adjusting their v necks and side partings, we want people to have fun, but without compromising the playlist to some populist crap to achieve that.[/I]

which sounds good. What music I heard I enjoyed and no I didn’t hear Jet once. They have Sonic Youth, Shellac and Death From Above 1979 in their playlists so it’s all good: Phew. Anyway, wasn’t I talking about the bands?

First up are [url=http://www.namelessgrace.co.uk] Nameless Grace, [/url] who I vaguely know through [url=http://www.metrocorskol.co.uk] Metro Corskol, [/url] and they open with a song that doesn’t really grab me: overlong and a bit uninspring. Then in a bizarre twist they follow it up with a track that is pure and utter gold and proceed into a set that seems to be a mix of Hendrix, grunge and hardcore in all the best ways and blow me away. Their drummer plays like a demon yet hardly seems to move. How does that work? Second band [url=http://www.lesincompetents.co.uk] Les Incompetents [/url] are kind of indescribable. Their two singer, four instrumentalists incoherence leaves me wondering if they’re simply taking the piss, but it’s quickly clear these guys are really good and serious musicians, and tighter than Mary Whitehouse’s arsehole. I don’t like all of it to be sure: it’s a bizarre mix of funk, Dexys (though maybe that’s just the waistcoat and shirt that one of them’s wearing making me think that), ska and whatever else they can throw in, but it’s quite a spectacle. Best track is called something like Martine, where the bassist and guitarist swap instruments. Finally we get [url=http://www.thebarbs.co.uk] The Barbs [/url] who I heard about maybe a year back when I was flicking through my MP3s at work. I found a folder with four little clips of their stuff that I’d downloaded in 2003 but have never for the life of me worked out why I did this. They are a bit punk, a bit Bowie circa-Ziggy Stardust, a bit chunky power-riffage, a bit 60s surf-grunge…er basically I can’t describe them without making them sound like a band I’d hate, which is a shame because they’re fundamentally fantastic. Yes, both guitarist-singers play bascially the same fat chords through most of the set but it doesn’t matter and the girl/boy vocal thing really works here. Their stuff is massively infectious and I’ll do my best to catch them again.

Finally on Saturday 12th I found myself at the Metro to see four more bands. I realised again why I don’t go there very often: They have a bloke in the toilets. What the fuck? This is some tacky, seedy indie club, why have they dragged some poor guy in to stand in the smell of everyone’s piss and shit and attempt to get tips out of you for attending to personal hygine? It stinks and the fact that these guys are always black makes me feel like some sort of colonialist who should be referring to them as ‘boy’ or something. Okay, liberal overreaction rant over…

[url=http://www.salvo-online.co.uk] Salvo [/url] are first up. [url=http://mokita.net] We [/url] played with them back in January and I was impressed by the bits I caught of their set. They are still impressive, lying somewhere between Mclusky and early Nirvana I suppose – grungy guitar with shouty angry lyrics and driving bass stuff. Unfortunately they’ve been shoved on 45 minutes earlier than they expected, with no small amount of reluctance. The upshot is that maybe 20 minutes in the sound engineer cuts the PA to a CD to finish their set without any warning, which frankly I find fucking rude. Maybe I missed an episode where they insulted him mercilessly, but in my book if the engineer has to cut a band’s set short he comes up and tells them ‘last song’. [url=http://www.luxembourgweb.co.uk] Luxembourg [/url] are up next and are a strange sort of outfit. If you saw them with the sound off you’d assume they were some sort of 80s obsessed electro band, but despite their clothes and actions of the singer, they sound more like Britpop-era Indie, with Suede-esque vocals. They’re good at it but this sort of thing doesn’t tend to move me any more and I feel like they lack ‘hooks’. The last time I saw [url=http://www.corporationblend.com] Corporation:Blend [/url] must have been three years ago. Back then the singer had short hair and they were a really impressive live band backed by some decent ‘indie rock’ choons. Now the singer seems to have decided he’s going to be Justin from The Darkness, but they still have one of the greatest live shows you’re going to get at a gig like this. Unfortunately they seem to have forgotten how to write interesting songs: all the elements are there and the band are obviously shockingly tight, but nothing is standing out for me and every track seems to last forever. A man in a straw hat describes them as sounding like King Crimson at one point. Finally we get [url=http://www.rhesus.info] Rhesus [/url] taking to the stage with their heavy sound somewhere between Green Day and first-album Manics. They have a great bass and drum set up to drive their stuff forward and they know what they’re doing, though a lot of the set is a bit to ‘straight rock’ for me. The lyrics (and I’m not a lyric man, nor am I good at catching them) sound strongly politicised, which is nice, and they finish on a blinder where the singer Jim goes without his guitar to do a full-on front man moment. The use of girl-boy vocals (courtesy of their rather fab bassist) is a nice touch.

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