Kiss The Frog
Leisur Hive
Dublin Castle, London
Saturday October 19
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

These days, goth often seems ring-fenced from the rest of the world. Goth bands play goth gigs to goth audiences; everything is kept cosily within the scene. That's fine for bands whose ambitions don't extend much beyond achieving big fish status in the small pond of goth, but there's an obvious limitation there for any band which wants to pull in a wider audience. The solution, obviously enough, is to play non-goth gigs - jump out of the small goth-pond altogether and splash down in the big wide ocean of the 'general' live music circuit.

Now, that might be a scary prospect for some bands. Playing goth scene gigs at least guarantees a ready-made audience, and a certain level of interest - in short, an informal support network which is there to be tapped into. Beyond the goth scene, none of this exists. You're on your own. It's sink or swim time.

Leisur Hive are brave enough to take the plunge. Rather than opt for a standard 'scene' gig, they've pitched up at one of London's prime indie venues, the Dublin Castle, in the middle of a general alternative bill, topped and tailed by a bunch of post-Britpop indie kids and a psychedelic combo from LA. They don't look quite as incongruous in this company as you might expect, because Leisur Hive are not your standard crimps-and-flounces goffband. They're rooted in the post-punk art-school end of goth: they're angular and new-wavey and they don't give a stuff about being 'goth enough'. They'd be equally at home supporting the Sex Gang Children or the Pixies, UK Decay or God Speed You Black Emperor. In some ways, they're actually more at home here than at a straightforward goth gig.

Before Leisur Hive take the stage, however, it's time for Forcis - the post-Britpop indie kids - to show us a thing or two. Their sound is abrasive, in that son-of-Sonic Youth manner which Blur suddenly latched on to round about the release of 'Song 2'. I'd guess that's the area Forcis are coming from: late-model American art-punk, filtered through a British indie sensibility. It's actually quite good - especially the squalls of bluesy guitar which erupt in some of their songs - and the bassist, writhing around like she's got a whole colony of rock 'n' roll ants in her pants, means that the visual side of things never gets dull. There's a bunch of teenage fans down the front (always a good sign, that) and a feeling in the air that this band is hungry to get somewhere. Whether they will or not is, of course, another matter. I suspect most record labels would regard Forcis as somewhat dated - their style is perhaps a little too mid-nineties Blur-meets-Dinosaur Jr to make the band qualify as the latest indie-scene sensation - but personally I won't hold this against them. After all, I like goth stuff, which most people would probably regard as dated and dead!

Leisur Hive arrange themselves on stage in a flurry of effects pedals. In a further subversion of the goth-norm, they're an entirely live band: guitar, bass, drums, vocals, another guitar and sometimes a violin. No backing tracks, no drum machines, no keyboards. They construct a clanking, buzzing, juggernaut of sound, all strange shapes and odd angles. Their song titles, scribbled on the set list down the front, read like an English class in non-sequiturs: 'On Sectional Pad', 'Applicant Seed', 'Neck Decision', and - my personal favourite - 'Shelves'. How can you fail to like a band which has a song called 'Shelves'? Lead singer/guitarist Dan works himself up into a frenzy of angst and passion (those pesky shelves certainly seem to have given him some stress) while the bass and drums lock tight and rumble along like a tank. Occasionally, Maria, the band's other guitarist, puts down her axe and takes up a violin. It's covered in hazard warning tape, and it makes a hazardous noise. If all this makes Leisur Hive sound like they're very much out on their own peculiar limb - well, yes, they are. But it's not just weirdness for the sake of weirdness. It *works*. It's all a bit heavy going for the teenage indie kids, but, encouragingly, a few brave souls in the audience start getting into it, and by the time the set shudders to a close, with Dan on the floor playing the effects pedals, Leisur Hive seem to have picked up a few new - and non-goth - fans. Which is a result. The fan-base broadens, the band moves on. There is method in Leisur Hive's madness.

Kiss The Frog, tonight's headliners (if a gig at which all the bands are more or less level-pegging in terms of profile can be said to have a headliner) are apparently winding up an extensive European tour. They're a wiggy art-rock psychedelic experience from California, and you can almost tell where they come from simply by looking at their clothes. The bass player's wearing beige slacks and burgundy loafers. He looks like he's just stepped off his yacht. Very laid-back. The music is mostly instrumental - long, looping workouts that unfurl and curl back on themselves. The bass is nimble, dancing all over the drums, which themselves jump around all over the place but still somehow keep the beat rock-solid and pushing forward. Over all this, great shuddering slabs of distort-o-guitar arrive like gatecrashers at a party. The band use about a squillion effects pedals, and sometimes they just seem to play the effects: the sounds are in the effects loops, going round and round, then out to the Theremin, and back again. Ah, yes, the Theremin. This is Kiss The Frog's secret weapon: played as a lead instrument, via all those effects pedals, it whoops and buzzes and shrieks like a whole army of fuzzed-out guitarists. The band seem to have attracted some fans from somewhere - they all look like Zonker in the Doonesbury cartoon strip - but mostly they're playing to a mix of goths and indie kids, all of whom, I'd guess, are utterly unfamiliar with the music. And yet, the room is captivated, and when the final song fades out in a fuzzstorm of effects, the applause is tremendous. I'm left feeling that maybe I should've got into the Grateful Dead after all. Dammit, this stuff is good.

Yep, that was a good gig, a good variety of music and people that all somehow all held together. Crossover successfully accomplished. Other bands please copy!

see all the photos from the show here

Kiss The Frog:

Leisur Hive:

Forcis: [No website]

Bugbear Promotions, promoters of the gig:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: