We’re running late. The venue was hired out in the afternoon, and so the sound checks were delayed by two hours, with the following consequences: we’re making people wait at the door and I do hope it doesn’t look like a cheap attempt at building up anticipation and atmosphere, as regrettably happens in clubs and venues up and down the land. And tonight’s event organiser, Mokita frontman and possible nepotist Theo looks incredibly stressed out. The Faculty’s bobbing bassist arrives to tell us he’s brought mostly vinyl for his DJ set. There is no record player in the venue, stupid. The venue fills up quite impressively – I wish they would let remove some of these chairs, or at least burn some of them in some mad ritual. Theo looks like he will unhesitatingly, and with some glee, skin alive the next person who bothers him with some trifling request or social pleasantry. Which makes Mokita’s performance that little bit more manic and energetic than usual; there’s a song which goes “You’re better than this/You’re better than this” and it sounds like he is singing “Little fish! Little fish!”, perhaps in some crazed appeal to a lost, or maybe scorned, guppy.
A packed venue starts to sweat, because the windows are kept shut out of necessity. Sunset Gun, who seem to have a rather large army of admirers, are up next – theirs is a set that can be lazily, but not unreasonably, compared to something Polly Harvey may have once put together, some time ago. It’s a truly Shredded Wheat racket, full of wholesome goodness – slick, melodic vocals on the one hand, and decent musicianship complemented by the introduction of some strange curly thing which defies description – guitarist Sam blows into it and produces the most unlikely noises. Jack Charlton would be most proud. Their final song is a song of tribute to Colonel Gaddafi. A frenzied, riotous three minutes of high-octane punk rock – “This one’s for Libya!” sings singer/guitarist Alice Lacelles.
The instrumental four-piece Cathode Ray Syndrome are the third band on the bill, and the pick of the night’s entertainment. Combining Mogwai broodiness with Shellac-esque riffage, they are incredibly tight, their drummer – who would later be found pissed as a fart and ranting incoherently to anyone who would listen – deserves a special mention for a superb performance, holding together, and at times dictating, a frenetic and pulsating performance which peaks with an excellent version of “Princess X” from the band’s “Use Forgotten Tools” EP. Bassist Thomas Hatfield defies post-rock clichés by employing some frankly baffling cock-rock/early Manic Street Preachers-type posing. Bands with no singers tend to have trouble keeping a crowd engaged, but a sweaty CRS take the plaudits tonight.
If having no singer challenges an audience, having no drummer seems to be even more of a faux-pas. A few acts have managed to obtain fleeting indie stardom in recent years by employing the boy-girl-drum-machine format, but in fairness they haven’t mustered a memorable song between them, which would suggest that it’s all a load of hairy old bollocks. But your writer this week saw a man at Vauxhall train station dressed as a giant scrotum, and it really was quite a wonderful sight. Done properly, and with the correct attitude, anything is possible. Unfortunately for Liverpool duo Dirtblonde, considerable sound problems contrive to take some of the fizz out of the occasion by the time they get up and play their rather lovely, Jesus-&-Mary-Chain-meets-Ramones-meets-waah-waah-wankiland-guitar-pedal-masturbation blues. The set is tidy – “The Hangmen” is belted out effortlessly by a very pissed-off looking Lula Blue, while other songs like “I’m So Tired” complete a fuzzy, hazy dirge that would make the perfect soundtrack to a film, methinks, about a distraught and paranoid blind man, wired on amphetamines, looking for his lost dog and locking himself in various cupboards along the way. A haggard-looking Ivan (second name: Hell) mounts the bar for the last song.
At some point a man approaches yours truly and says that this is a great event, with great bands – he claims to represent a band called Mad Staring Eyes and he hands me a CD and suggests that I should put them on the bill for one of our forthcoming nights. In time, I will take this CD home and listen to it and opine that I will cut off my ears and insert a plough into my rectum before Mad Staring Eyes play an iShotTheDeputy night. A tiring evening, quite trying in places, is fades out to The Smiths’ “Barbarism Begins at Home” Some other stuff happens after this, but I can’t remember it.