Well, here we are. The familiar geography of the London live music circuit strikes again. Another gig, another Saturday night in the Underworld. This time, we're here to witness an electronic(ish) show presented by the omnipresent Flag Promotions.
Our first band tonight represents the ish. D.U.S.T. are, as I've noted before, a rumbustious, high-energy glam-punk outfit, all raging guitars and belted-out vocals. But, stage centre at the back, where most glam-punk bands would have their drummer (indeed, where D.U.S.T. themselves used to have a drummer) there's a geezer in blue dreadlocks grooving away behind a small black box of electronic tricks. I can't quite discern if he's actually doing anything, or whether he's just a Bez, but it seems D.U.S.T. have now decided to go with the electronic option. No drums, just technology.
I confess I'm a little disappointed by this decision: the thrill of a live drummer walloping away at a kit - the sheer physical *presence* of live drums - suits D.U.S.T.'s full-on energy rush music so well. No keyboard-operative, no matter how enthusiastically he might flail and swirl, can match that. While I can understand that the band might not want a Keith Moon-type figure battering away in OTT 'rawk' style, there's no denying the fact that the drum-free D.U.S.T. has a rather awkward gap in both the visuals and the sound. The electro-beats which now power their music just don't hit hard enough. Maybe they don't want a Keith Moon, but....surely they could find room for a Mo Tucker? Well, whatever. D.U.S.T.'s songs still nag at the brain in effective fashion, and their roaring, bounding show takes the gig by the scruff of its neck and gives it a right old shake. Just what we need at this early hour of the evening.
Monosect are, essentially, a remixed and remodelled version of Man(i)kin. There. That's the essential background-fact out of the way. I just thought I'd mention it, although I dare say most StarVox readers will never have heard of Man(i)kin, so the point is, perhaps, a little academic. Monosect comprise one boffin-like bloke at a keyboard, one electro-drummer, and a female singer - who, if my poor old eyes don't deceive me, is Lisa of the Cyberpolis club in Nottingham. The overall sound isn't a million miles away from the racket Man(i)kin used to kick up - a mesh of electronic niggles and squiggles, driven along by a fast, pounding beat. It's an effective combination, and the presence of a drummer (even if he isn't generating *all* the rhythms) lifts the band head and shoulders above the electro-crowd.
Where Monosect don't quite hit the spot is in the area of the vocals. Lisa doesn't actually sing - she chants her way through the songs in a stern monotone. I dare say the intention is to create a glacial, other-worldly style; the cold detatchment of a disdainful dominatrix. Alas, after a few numbers it all becomes a bit dull. In any case, didn't Athamay do this sort of thing first? The electro-music thing, with cold, detatched, virtually spoken-word female vocals? Yep, I think they did. I'm sure Athamay would be flattered to think that Monosect are following in their footsteps, but in all honesty *one* Athamay is all we really need. Let's be fair here: Monosect are a very new band. It would be churlish to write them off at this early stage, but I really think they need to do *something* with those vocals to make them sound a bit more interesting. For now, I think we'll have to file the band under 'further development required'.
And finally, those stars of the US EBM scene, Assemblage 23. Or rather, *not* Assemblage 23. For obscure reasons, it seems the full band cannot be with us tonight, so vocalist and main man Tom Shear appears before us more or less as a solo act, singing over a backing track while some random mate of his from Germany stands behind a keyboard and occasionally pretends to play it. If that sounds a bit underwhelming....well, yes. It *is* underwhelming. I want to see a *band*, dammit, not some will-this-do karaoke act!
Still, the fans clustered at the front don't seem to care. The beat cranks up, the electro-sequences kick in, Tom Shear himself starts barking out the words in his sub-VNV Nation style, and the place goes crazy. I'm standing to one side, marvelling at how little Tom needs to do in order to get the audience eating out of his hand - my God, if it's *this*simple, why don't *I* do it? Easy money or what! Musically, it's all very much straight-down-the-line EBM: if you know what VNV Nation do...well, Assemblage 23 do pretty much the same thing. I'm not familiar with Tom Shear's songwriting, but I'd hazard a guess that in general he explores the same territory of high emotion and high anxiety that Ronan Harris of VNV has made his own. I catch a stream of emotional buzz-words in the lyrics: 'soul', 'tears', 'eyes', 'pain', 'regret' - well, if Tom isn't influenced by VNV, he's certainly taken a few leaves out of the Smokey Robinson And The Miracles songbook.
It's an odd paradox that songs which seem to deal with the long dark teatime of the soul should be presented in such a cheery, everybody-party fashion, but the punters lap it all up and respond to Tom's rabble-rousing jolly-ups ('Awwwriiiight London! Let's see your hands in the air!') as if they've been pre-programmed to do so. Call me a cynical old bugger if you will, but I find all this stuff patronising and silly, and after Tom has assured us for the umpteenth time that 'We really love coming to London!' ('We', Tom? Who is this 'we' of which you speak? Your band isn't here - remember?) I experience an overwhelming urge to go to the bar.
I can't deny that Assemblage 23 seem to hit the spot with their fans, but it all seems very flimsy to me. I throw a final pint down my neck and decide to head home to play some old Cabaret Voltaire tunes - just to remind myself of what electronic music sounded like, back when it actually had a cutting edge.
see all the photos from this event here
Assemblage 23: http://www.synthetic.org/a23
Flag Promotions: http://www.flagpromotions.com
Cyberpolis - industrial/electronic club in Nottingham: http://www.cyberpolis.co.uk
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
The Last Dance and Bella
Sept. 1, 2002
~review by Jonathan Williams
With its garish neon lighting and lack of windows, the Riviera looks a lot like a strip club from the outside. Since it is owned by the same people who own several adult-oriented establishments throughout the southeast, it should come as no surprise that the interior of the club looks as if there should be gyrating girls atop the platforms and pedestals surrounding the main stage. Despite its appearance, the Riviera is actually one of the more popular dance clubs in Atlanta, sometimes playing host to live music acts.
Having performed together just two days earlier as a part of Atlanta’s sci-fi/fantasy convention Dragon*Con, California’s The Last Dance and Virginia’s Bella Morte headed a few blocks north to the Riviera for a Labor Day performance to end their tour. The fact that hundreds of people had been at the previous show – along with the fact that tickets were $15 and venue parking was $10 – no doubt explained the sparse crowd in attendance this holiday evening. However, that didn’t stop both bands from putting on energetic shows that clearly pleased the 30 or so corseted and fishneted people who did show up.
Having headlined the Dragon*Con show, Bella Morte took the stage first this night. Wearing a t-shirt with the logo of Rue Morgue magazine, front-man Andy Deane sported his patented blue Mohawk combed to a Misfits-style point that dangled in front of his face. Bassist Gopal Metro assumed the position to Deane’s left with his twin Mohawks and sharp sideburn tattoos. To Deane’s right was the band’s newest member, guitarist Tony Lechmanski, wearing a sleeveless Morbid Angel shirt held together by safety pins down the sides. The fourth member, James Warnock, was hard to see for a majority of the show because he was tucked behind computers and keyboards that controlled the drum and synth sounds.
Bella Morte performed several older favorites including the dark, synth-poppy “The Rain Within Her Hands,” the post-punk/death rock of “Where Shadows Lie,” and the pure horror punk of “The Dead.” The band also performed its obligatory cover of Berlin’s “The Metro,” which was somewhat ironic considering that the gay club of the same name is located across the street from the Riviera. Deane also announced that the band’s next album would be released on Metropolis Records this fall and the band performed a few tracks to be included on that album, including the title track “The Quiet.” Unlike the band’s more familiar songs, which shift from slower goth dance numbers to faster-paced punk anthems, the newer material seemed to meld the bands death rock, synth-pop, punk, and goth influences into each song in a more cohesive manner.
Celebrating the U.S. release of Perfect [7 Sin Records], which had previously only been available from the German label Apollyon Records, The Last Dance took the stage soon after. With members of the opening act in the front row, it seemed appropriate that front-man Jeff Diehm was wearing a Bella Morte t-shirt. He was joined onstage by the Boy George-esque guitarist Rick Joyce, bassist Peter Gorritz, and a green devil-horned keyboardist/guitarist Phil Van Overeem. Considering that the band had unexpectedly lost drummer “Lucky” Ivan D. to illness about a month earlier, it was surprising enough that the band was able to perform at all. However, with a replacement drummer behind the kit, The Last Dance carried on in top form.
In fact, with Diehm announcing the retirement of his mic stand, Blyxa, and telling non-stop inside jokes intended only for those who had been at Dragon*Con, the set seemed more light-hearted and celebratory than mournful. At one point, there was even a brief interruption by two guys in boxer shorts who ran onstage with their shirts pulled over their heads Cornholio-style that almost seemed like part of the show.
Although the band performed several songs from Perfect, including “Parade,” “Winter,” and the title track, it was “Do You Believe in Angels” from the 1996 Tragedy EP [Mystine Records] – a remix of which appears on the new Perfect CD – that seemed especially heartfelt considering Ivan’s recent passing. At the conclusion of the show, Diehm dedicated the entire evening to Ivan before the band exited the stage.
Perhaps because of the small number of attendees – or maybe because they’re all such nice guys – members of both bands ended the night by talking to fans and dancing to the goth tunes being spun by the DJs. If I say so myself, it seemed to be a perfect conclusion to a long weekend and tour.
Bella Morte: www.bellamorte.com
The Last Dance: http://thelastdance.com
The Riviera: www.therivieraclub.com
Metropolis Records: www.metropolis-records.com
Apollyon Records: www.apollyon.de
Dante's, August 30, 2002
~review by Sonya Brown
(Photography by Sean Strauss)
Not so long ago, Concrete Blonde performed at The Roseland Theatre, Tuesday, January 29, 2002. When news airs that Concrete Blonde will soon perform at Dante's Italiano Cafe, a much smaller and more intimate setting, many pleasantly surprised fans become star-struck during the days leading up to the performance night.
What a strange turn of events. Concrete Blonde is to play Dante's, Portland, Oregon, on their way to Bumpershoot in Seattle?! We knew tickets would not last long for this performance!
With doors opening around 8:30, and a line already forming, we arrive just in time to hear Rob, the most gracious doorman, announce, "come on in!" Though Red-cloth covered tables are whisked away by the staff, we are fortunate enough to find a tiny table of sanctuary in the corner, by the kitchen door. This location proves to be a most wise choice as the night wears on and the crowd thickens. Soon, there will be no breathing room at Dante's, save for our little "sanctuary" in the corner.
Drinks begin to flow and the crowd is heavy with comments: "I can't believe they are playing here... such a small club"... "I only heard about this a few days ago and I rushed right out to get tickets"... "did you see them at the Roseland?"...
Lights dim, voices hush, and the "First Act" begins.
A Mime. What?! A Mime! Actually, as we find out later, Don McCloud is a student of Mime, and also a "Butoh" artist. "Butoh", Johnette Napolitano later explains to us, is a Japanese form of "reactionary" dance, and is actually inspired by Flamenco (or Gypsy Dance). Tonight's performance, however, is a Mime performance - very different from Butoh. Vaguely resembling Alice Cooper (sans the trade-mark make-up), Don begins his performance art to a backdrop of aggro-industrial & darkwave industrial sounds. Don moves as if electrified, twitching and bending to the guitar sounds, his body his only instrument, often seeming to defy the laws of gravity with these odd gyrations. By the end of Don's performance, he is now clad only in a pair of pants - his flowing shirt having been torn from his body during his intense movements. Don bows, leaves the stage, and the DJ takes control.
Idle chatter and the hum of a packed house, barely audible over the David Bowie Heathen CD which is warming up the crowd, turns to unbridled cheers as the lights dim once again and the DJ now releases his audience to the legendary Concrete Blonde.
Wielding her bass like an apocalyptic cowgirl, a barefoot Johnette Napolitano immediately spatters the crowd with energy as she launches into the opening song, "God Is A Bullet". Wearing traditional Chinese outfits, she and her amazing guitarist, Jim Mankey, proceed to completely blow me away, performing a perfect blend of the old and the new, with many surprises along the way. One of these little surprises takes place when they launch head-first into a raucous jam of the Doors, "LA Woman"; only to stop half-way through as Johnette teases the audience, "do you think we should learn that one?" Cheers erupt as she continues... "I just have such a hard time understanding what he is saying!" and she garbles some lyrics in a mock-guttural “Jim Morrison” tone that leaves us all laughing.
One of the most intense moments is when they perform Leonard Cohen's, "Everybody Knows". Even thinking about this now, days later, sends emotions welling up inside of me almost to the point of tears. How often can a band inspire such deep emotions? Concrete Blonde certainly were strumming my heart strings during this number.
Promoting their latest CD, Group Therapy, Concrete Blonde perform "Tonight", "Valentine", and "Violent"; as well as the classics we all want to hear, such as "Vampire" and "Joey".
While I move around as much as possible through the wall of bodies that occupy Dante's this night, I often find myself back in that little corner of sanctuary for a bit of breathing room. From this vantage point, I have a perfect view of the drum riser. Johnette introduces us to her drummer, "straight from Mexico City". I study him often during this performance. Much to my amazement, he remains in sync with the skyward trail of notes blazing from the guitars Jim and Johnette play as the world outside spirals into the Inferno. I am always awed at a drummers ability to keep the beat, and to follow the whims of an often unpredictable live show. I often wonder how they can keep their drum sticks from flying out of what must be sweaty hands. I have a newfound respect for this craft while watching from my semi-secret vantage point. Such amazing talent emits from this trio of musicians.
Something I have noticed about Concrete Blonde, is the strong cultural influences they bring to an event. During the Roseland performance, their opening act was a Flamenco act. At Dante's, it is Mime. Johnette, wearing a traditional Chinese outfit, introduces us to her drummer who is of Mexican descent.
After the Dante's performance, we are fortunate enough to meet with Johnette briefly and she discusses many culturally diverse subjects. Butoh. Navajo. Flamenco. Johnette seems to be a deeply spiritual being, embracing so many cultures and incorporating them into her music and her life.
As we are visiting downstairs
in the tiny little "green room" off the stage at Dante's, something I notice,
and I ask her about, is if she always performs in her bare feet.
She replies "yes", and she explains something about the height of her foot
to the floor pedals of her bass, and how having bare feet helps.
Johnette adds, "I've grown to like the feel of the ground under my feet...
like the Indians like to feel the mountain through moccasins." I
now notice she has slipped into some cute black sandals with a black flower
on the top straps. She sees that I notice them and she continues...
"I got these in Canada, for like ten dollars!"... she then puts her arm
around me as a photo is taken. I am, by now, completely reeling from
the entire night. A magnificent performance, and a once-in-a-lifetime
meeting with the legendary Johnette Napolitano. Concrete Blonde.
I went home this night pleasantly star-struck!
Concrete Blonde Set List:
(please note: Johnette states they do not always follow the set list exactly,that they often mix things up depending upon the crowd/show)
God is a Bullet
Days and Days
When I Was a Fool
Scene of the Crime
Still in Hollywood
Concrete Blonde Website:
The Brian James Gang
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Friday July 12 2002
~review by Uncle Nemesis
(photos courtesy Nitro via the CD)
Stop me if I've said something like this before, but...me and The Damned, we go back.
I suspect I've seen The Damned more frequently than any other band over the years. Which is odd, in a way, because if you asked me to name my favourite live band I probably wouldn't mention The Damned. And yet, something's kept me coming back again and again. In that time, I've seen some all-time classic shows: nights where a strange madness grips both band and fans, nights when the heat and light hits you like a physical blow, nights when everything seems removed to a plane of inspirational craziness.
I've also seen them turn in some right old wank.
Which way will it go tonight? Well, the omens are good. The Damned have a new record deal, a new album, and a new line-up, in which all the band members actually seem to like each other. Now there's a breakthrough. This is a big gig for the band: it wasn't so long ago they were playing small pub venues, just to keep the pot boiling until the new release came along. Pitching up at a large London theatre like the Shepherd's Bush Empire must give the band a feeling of quiet satisfaction (or perhaps an excuse to go 'Nyaah nyaah nyaah!' to their critics). The Damned are *back*.
But first, we have a support band. Supports at Damned gigs over the years have typically tended to be anonymous, derivative, thrash-and-shout punk outfits, presumably because the promoters of the shows can't think beyond the simple notion that The Damned are punks, therefore *everything* at the show has to be punk. The fact that if The Damned have had any kind of musical theme over the years, it's been wigged-out psychedelia, doesn't seem to compute. (As a matter of fact, the best support band I ever saw at a Damned gig was Naz Nomad And The Nightmares, but that's another story).
Tonight, our support is punk, and yet not punk. It's the Brian James Gang, an ad-hoc group formed some years back by The Damned's original guitarist, presumably to give him something to do while he was between bands. There has never been a permanent line-up: it's always been Brian James himself, plus whoever he happened to bump into in the pub. This time round he's accompanied by his old mucker from the Lords Of The New Church, Dave Tregenna - plus two members of the Flatpigs, the, er, anonymous, derivative, thrash-and-shout punk outfit which supported the Lords at their recent London gig. Hum. Well, a 50% success rate isn't bad, I suppose.
And what are they like? Entertaining enough, in an undemanding, bar-band kind of way. They knock off a set comprising a few Lords songs, a few Damned songs, and some anonymous, derivative, thrash-and-shout punk songs which presumably originate from the Flatpigs' songbook. And which should've stayed there, in my view, but there you go. The highlight (which, in all honesty, isn't *very* high) is a bashed-out version of that fine old Damned mosher, 'Neat Neat Neat' - which, like virtually everything from The Damned's early period, was written by Brian James. It's good to hear the song, to be sure - but frankly I'd much prefer to hear it played by The Damned.
And I get my wish. The big black curtain which has concealed most of the stage until now is pulled aside to reveal a set tricked out to resemble a Hawaiian beach. The drum riser (and Pinch, the band's post-Scabies drummer) is concealed behind bamboo trellis. They've even got a palm tree. There's Captain Sensible, in a yachting cap and a frightful Hawaiian shirt, and Patricia Morrison with hair down to her waist and a leopard-print top, toting her bass like a bikini girl with a machine gun. And Dave Vanian himself, an earl of suave in quiff and shades, prowling the stage like he owns the place. They roar into action and the mosh kicks off.
Notwithstanding the new album, tonight The Damned give us a fairly traditional 'greatest hits' set, of the kind they've have been playing for years. Well, I suppose they'd get lynched by the fans if they didn't play such classics as 'Love Song' (nice flourish on the bass-intro by Ms Morrison there) and 'Eloise', in which Vanian (as usual) utterly chickens out of the sustained high notes. It's interesting to note in passing that Vanian is the only person on stage tonight who was actually in The Damned when 'Eloise' was recorded. Line-up changes, don't you just love 'em. But a few new numbers make it into the set, in particular 'Democracy' (a high-speed car chase of a song) and 'Would You Be So Hot If You Weren't Dead' , The Damned's own tribute to John Lennon, in which Captain Sensible casually peels off one of his scorching psychedelic guitar solos. If you can look past the loony image, Sensible is actually a stunning guitarist, probably one of the best psychedelic plank-spankers the British rock scene has ever produced. I can imagine that contention generating disbelieving laughter in all sorts of places, but just *listen* to what the man can do. It's impressive stuff. That's not all Sensible does for us, either, because - yep, you guessed it - we get 'Happy Talk'', walloped out as a bargain-price thrash with Vanian on backing vocals. Not only that - we get 'Neat Neat Neat' as well, this time for real. Now there's a bassline you just can't beat.
The show is being filmed for posterity (and, let's hope, prosperity) and perhaps because of this the band don't *quite* scale the heights of craziness for which they're known. Captain Sensible takes his shirt off, but doesn't give us the full strip: this film is going to be family viewing. I get the impression that everyone's on their best behaviour for the cameras - it's not going to get *too* wild tonight. That said, even in restrained mode The Damned are still more exciting when they hit their stride than most other live bands around these days, and this show admirably demonstrates their crazed genius. All the vital signs are good - the crowd hails the band like conquering heroes; the atmosphere is warm and celebratory, and The Damned themselves are really cooking. Yes, tonight will go down in my personal Damned gigography as a good one.
At the very end of the set,
Sensible addresses some touchingly sentimental remarks to the crowd, amid
sustained applause. 'Thanks for sticking with your old mates The Damned,
through thick and thin,' he says in tones of high emotion, and there's
not a dry eye in the house. Then he signs off: 'Now, we're off to drink
champagne in the VIP bar. Don't miss your bus home!'
The Damned's website: http://www.officialdamned.com
One of many Damned fan-sites: http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Towers/4359/damned.html
And another: http://homepages.nildram.co.uk/~culttv/dam1.htm
A recent interview with Captain Sensible: http://www.rock-city.co.uk/content/EpkFuyVupAJXcMOTam.shtml
The Shepherd's Bush Empire: http://www.shepherds-bush-empire.co.uk
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
The Spitz, London
Friday July 19 2002
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis
Siouxsie and the Banshees can certainly pick 'em. Like, I suspect, many people, I first encountered eX-Girl when they supported the Banshees at one of their recent London gigs. Although virtually none of the Banshees' audience had the slightest clue who these three strangely-attired Japanese women were when they first appeared on stage, by the end of their set they were stars. I was mightily impressed with them myself. And thus it is that I'm here, in this bijou little venue at the trendy end of the East End, to see one of a handful of headline shows eX-Girl have lined up while they're in the UK.
The Spitz is a rather self-consciously supercool arts venue with a dandy little bistro on the ground floor. The bands play in the attic, right up under the slates. It's stiflingly hot - the sun has been beating down on those slates all day - and it's going to get hotter. Before eX-Girl, we have a couple of support bands, both of which seem to have been specially chosen to heat things up even more.
Montana Pete sounds like he should be a grizzled old cowpoke with a battered hat and an acoustic guitar. Which just shows how deceptive names can be, because in fact Montana Pete are three reassuringly normal-looking young chaps with a drum kit and electric guitars. They make a frantic, angular, punky noise, with the guitarist shimmying his hips like he's just been wired to the mains.. Someone in the crowd mutters something to the effect that they're like the Melvins. Me, I'm just a little worried by the fact that many of Montana Pete's basslines threaten to turn into 'My Sharona' by The Knack. Good stuff, in a weirdpunk kind of way. (Did I just invent a genre there?)
Torqamada (and yep, that's how they spell it) have obviously been mainlining rock 'n' roll juice. They're a bedraggled bunch of rock desperados, all scuffed leather, black T-shirts and Converse All-Star basketball boots. The lead guitarist has a Jagger-eque pout and a Dee Dee Ramone hairsyle. Even before the band play a note, they've nailed their colours very firmly to the mast. Everything about them says 'We ROCK!'
But do they live up to their image? Oh, most certainly they do. Their set is a howling gale of loose-limbed 100mph punk - like the Ramones crossed with Zodiac Mindwarp. The lyrics and between-song remarks are all delivered in ludicrous cod-American accents and interspersed with frequent exhortations to the audience to shout 'Hell, Yeah!' (And we do!) I'm sure the band are firmly convinced in their own minds that they're playing at the Whisky A Go-Go on Sunset Boulevard, and next week it'll be CBGB's on the Bowery. I imagine it'll come as quite a shock when they emerge after the gig to find themselves on plain old Commercial Street, London. Torqamada are a crazed garage band who probably should never have been let out of the garage, but sometimes this kind of single-minded madness, this loony vision of rock 'n' roll as an all-encompassing concept, is *necessary*. Do I like them? Hell, yeah!
If we're talking concepts here, then welcome to the world of eX-Girl. There seems to be an incomprehensible background philosophy to this band, involving frogs from outer space. Or something. It probably makes perfect sense in Japan. They appear before us in outlandish costumes, like the weird sisters of the Tellytubbies, but after a little dance routine the costumes are discarded in favour of marginally more sensible yellow mini-dresses, and they grab their instruments and crank it all up. And....they're really quite stunning.
The concepts and the costumes and the sheer novelty (at least for us in the UK) of seeing an all-girl band from Japan are attention-grabbing enough in themselves, but this band is far more than just the sum of its gimmicks. There is real musical substance here. All the eX-Girls are impressive musicians, and their musical vocabulary runs all the way from bursts of bouncy pop-punk to long, hypnotic, Krautrock mantras, taking in weird synthesizer interludes and operatic three-part harmonies along the way. The instrumentation - guitar, bass, occasional keyboard, and a stand-up drum kit that comprises nothing more than a floor tom, snare, and sundry cymbals, is as simple as the band's musical ideas are complex. I'm impressed beyond measure to note how the bass guitar incorporates what would be the kick-drum beat, if the band had a normal kit. This, in amongst an array of nimble, driving, basslines which roll everything forward - now why can't *I* play like that? I'm captivated and jealous at the same time. *I* want to make this music!
The songs? Well, they're in Japanese, so I fear I can't give you lyrical insights or even titles, but the music hits the spot so effectively I don't think a soul in the audience is bothered. There's a cover version - M's 'Pop Music', which rattles along with ten times the force of the original. Then comes a short break while the audience is encouraged to shout 'Kero! Kero! (this, it seems, is what Japanese frogs say instead of 'Ribbit! Ribbit!' - hey, don't tell me you never learn anything from these reviews) and then the band swing back into action with more of their gloriously cool sound. As a grand finale, they come out wearing the polystyrene frogs' heads I previously saw when they sang with the Banshees, and those frogs' heads get a cheer of their own from the audience, which is by now virtually signed up en masse to the eX-Girl fan club. Wonderful stuff, and I bounce out of the venue grinning like a maniac. When's the next rocket to planet Kero! Kero!? I want to be on it!
see all the photos from this concert here
This just might turn into Torqamada's website: http://www.torqamada.com
A Torqamada interview in Diskant webzine, while we're waiting: http://www.diskant.net/newbands/torqamada.htm
Montana Pete: http://www.montanapete.co.uk
Bigsmoke, promoters of the gig: http://come.to/bigsmoke
The Spitz: http://www.spitz.co.uk
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
The Ghost Of Lemora
Club Noir, London
30 August 2002
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis
Another Friday night in London, and Flag Promotions bring us another five-band extravaganza at Club Noir. Tonight's bill changed so frequently in the run up to showtime (The Faces Of Sarah and Altered States were, at different times, both announced as playing; Tarantella Serpentine was added to the line-up at two days' notice) that it's a minor miracle the London gig-crowd didn't give up in frustration and decide to go somewhere else instead. Fortunately, there's a reasonable audience in for the gig, even if many people aren't quite sure who'll they'll be seeing tonight. Flag's organisational skills may have been more than usually haphazard at this gig, but we got there in the end.
The Ju Ju Babies aren't so much a pop group as a pop-art happening. Their line-up (which seems to have shuffled around since I saw them last) comprises a stand-up drummer, a keyboard player who wears a multicoloured feather boa and a Ron Mael-style quizzical expression, an ever-bouncing guitarist in red PVC, and two female vocalists who both come across as slightly mad...in that sensible, very English, captain-of-the-hockey-team kind of way. The lead vocalist is wearing a fetching top made from a plastic Kwik-Save carrier bag. This, of course, is a terrible fashion faux-pas - everyone knows the cool kids are all wearing Waitrose this season! There are also two highly disturbing male dancers out on the floor: they don't so much dance as writhe alarmingly in their own little worlds. They look like the people your parents warned you about, and the audience gives them a wide berth, hanging back nervously in a wide semicircle around the stage. It's almost as if the band *dare* their audience to come closer.
All this is an entertaining spectacle in itself, but the Ju Ju Babies aren't a flimsy novelty act. Underneath all the craziness they actually have some rather fine tunes - catchy numbers in that classic punky-pop vein of Blondie or the Rezillos. If the Ju Ju Babies had been around in the 80s, they would've released their records on DinDisc. *That's* their area. They sing a song about spaceships, and suddenly it occurs to me that the Ju Ju Babies are the British version of eX-Girl - they have the same enthusiasm for novelty-weirdness, but it's backed up by real musical ideas. They throw in a cover of Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' which sounds good, even though the ever-bouncing guitarist has caused a DI box to fall apart, leading to an interesting 'minimalist' sound for some of the song, and then finish the set with their anthem, 'Ju Ju Time', which gets them an enthusiastic (and, in some quarters, a rather relieved) burst of applause.
Excession were originally formed back in '97 by Dave, the former guitarist with Vendemmian, and vocalist Yasmin. Their debut EP 'Jong & Huga' was excursion into almost-ethereal territory, but things are different now. After a lengthy break, they've returned with a revised, more rocky sound - and Mark, Vendemmian's old bassist, in the line-up. It all works rather well. Dave has a distinctive guitar sound which he's carried over from his Vendemmian days, but that doesn't mean Excession are simply rehashing Vendemmian's finest moments with a female singer. They have a style of their own, and the overall sound is quite distinctive. Think first-album Switchblade Symphony, with insistent, punchy basslines which sound curiously Joy Division-esque, and a stark, clear, programmed rhythm. That might sound like an odd mix, but it gels together quite impressively when the band hits their stride. There's an album out, apparently, and most of tonight's set comes from it - all unfamiliar material to me, except for their cover of 'I Wanna Be Your Dog'. In a sense, Excession are re-inventing themselves all over again with their new line-up and new sound, so we should probably think of them as a new band. A new band who just might go places, if their set tonight is any guide.
And now here's tonight's last-minute addition, Tarantella Serpentine. Performance poetry to a techno beat. Well, that's essentially the theory, but tonight Tarantella comes on like a 100mph version of Sheep On Drugs, bouncing and gyrating around the stage while a techno-punk geezer hunches over a keyboard in the background. As Tarantella gyrates, he rants. A torrent of words rushes forth - I'm astonished he can hold it all inside his head - and somewhere amongst it all it's possible to discern familiar fragments of lyric. 'Cocaine Disco Riot' is in there somewhere, I'm sure. Some of the audience get into it, and some stand there looking horrified, and I dare say both reactions are equally welcome as far as Tarantella is concerned. As long as there *is* a reaction! On the evidence of this set, he seems to be moving away from his performance-poetry origins, and heading towards some sort of mutant-techno territory: the words are still there, but they're becoming buried under the bangin' beats. I'm not entirely sure if this is a wise strategy - after all, there are plenty of people out there doing the bangin' beats thing, but nobody does the English language quite like Tarantella Serpentine. Long may he continue to do it, I say!
It's time for a complete change of style now, as Corrosion arrive on stage. This is the band which grew out of guitarist Matt North's perennial 90s-scene contenders All Living Fear, and anyone familiar with ALF's guitar 'n' drum machine mash-up will hear similarities in Corrosion's sound. But there are differences, too, and those differences are more significant than the similarities. Corrosion are a *rock* band first and foremost - the gothic choir-samples which cropped up in All Living Fear stuff are conspicuous by their absence here. The guitar (and, at times, guitars, for vocalist Paul spanks a mean plank himself in a couple of songs) is well to the fore: a big, bad, crunchy, physical sound. Sometimes the guitars overwhelm the rhythm section, which is all on the backing track - and this perhaps points up a potential problem. These days, when all the rocky bands of the goth scene seem to be cutting the crap and going for the full-band line-up, Corrosion's reliance on a backing track for a large chunk of their sound does take away some of the force of the music. The Faces Of Sarah, Belisha, even Passion Play now - all these bands have the full 'rock band' line-up: bass, drums, the works. These bands are Corrosion's peer group, their contemporaries - even, dare I say it, the competition. If Corrosion want to make serious waves in the current scene, it's these bands they've got to match, and I wonder how they'll fare when so much of their live show is on Minidisc. Still, for all that, the set hammers along quite impressively. Paul's vocals are intense and - if we really must have a comparison - a touch Cult-like, but, thankfully, without any of Ian Astbury's tiresome 'Look, mum, I'm a rock star!' stuff. The songs themselves are, by and large, full-on rockers - 'Resurrection Playground' in particular comes roaring out of the traps - but there's also an interlude of distilled Essence Of Punk in the form of 'Shattered Fragments'. This song is a 60-second explosion, a musical hand grenade lobbed into the set. It's all good solid stuff, and more rocky than Kilimanjaro.
Arch popsters The Ghost Of
Lemora are celebrating their birthday tonight - the band's been together
for one year. They've made quite a name for themselves in that time, for
the simple reason that nobody else does quite what they do. No other band
has that curious mix of ironic, camp humour and punchy, angular tunes,
which swagger crazily down that fine line between drama and melodrama but
never quite fall on either side. The band are all suited up for the occasion,
and they've even got a net of balloons suspended over our heads in traditional
party style. Their set is a confident stride through their alternative-universe
hits: 'Dread The Day The Cities Rise' (see what I mean about the melodrama?)
stomps along in cuban-heeled boots, 'Lady Lemora' is a wistful little interlude,
'Brides Of The Atom' is a goth anthem as written by nigel molesworth. During
their one-year lifespan the band have picked up quite a following around
London, and a healthy contingent of that following is here tonight, grooving
away and wearing big grins. It's all shaping up to be a classic Lemora
gig, until the very end when suddenly the bassist flings down his instrument
and abruptly leaves the stage. The rest of the band shudder to a ramshackle
halt and bid us a slightly bemused farewell - nobody seems to be entirely
sure what's happened. Did something go wrong? A technical hitch? I think
we'll have to put it down to 'a Lemora moment'. The Ghost Of Lemora are
one year old, and still a bunch of contrary little buggers. But we wouldn't
have 'em any other way.
see all of the photos from this show here
The Ghost Of Lemora: http://www.geocities.com/theghostoflemora/welcome.html
Tarantella Serpentine: http://www.tarantellaserpentine.co.uk
Excession don't have a website, but here's an interview from the 'Jong & Huga' period. It helps if you speak Italian:http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Backstage/2592/interviste/excession.html
Ju Ju Babies: http://www.jujubabies.fsnet.co.uk
Club Noir is brought to us by Flag Promotions: http://www.flagpromotions.com
Writer's note: Some of the
references might be rather baffling for people who aren't familiar with
British supermarkets or classic children's fiction [there's some sort of
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Kozmos - Huntington Beach
The Garage - Hollywood
~review and photos by Blu
It almost looked like a scene out of a post apocalyptic Western as Zombie-like black clad figures in cowboy hats poured out a dust covered van and surveyed their surroundings with sleepy eyes. It wasn’t a B-Grade horror flick, no no, it was much better than that. Ghoultown was here. They had been on the road without stopping for a rest, driving from gigs in Portland and San Francisco and were quite understandably a bit haggard. Blinking at the harsh California sun, one of them looked at me apologetically and said, “We’ve been driving for two days straight; we stink.” I couldn’t help but let out a sympathetic giggle and assured them showers, clean towels and a washer and dryer awaited. Contrary to what a lot of people think touring is like, when you’re an underground band doing it all by yourself, it's anything but a glamorous rock n’roll party. Later I would sit and listen, amazed at their travels thus far – the good shows and the bad ones and how, despite the inconveniences and hardships, there’s a certain “romantic element to it all” (paraphrasing Mr. Paul Morden). Ana related, “It's amazing what your body adapts to on the road. You get used to brushing your teeth at rest stops.”
After showers and dinner, they piled back in the van and rushed to Kozmos in Huntington Beach, CA. From the outside it didn’t look like much but inside it was actually a decent venue with a sizable stage, pool tables and plenty of seating. The bartenders were nice enough and the drinks were reasonable. The décor was amusing with its 70’s retro space theme (the cosmos – get it?) – walls painted black with glowing galaxies and stars.
Set up and sound check went smoothly with the biggest decision being how and where to mount the huge cattle skulls they had brought with them. Turn out was light and the band was a bit disappointed. The venue doesn't really advertise anywhere and it seems my attempts at flyering in some parts of Huntington Beach didn't do that much. It also didn't help the city shut down Pacific Coast Highway that night between Newport and Huntington. A few fans stopped by the merch booth – one in particular who had read about the band in horror magazine Rue Morgue and was delighted they had come to his hometown (proof that magazine articles do sometimes indeed work!). The band signed his CD and I waited up front camera in hand for my first ever Ghoultown show.
The background music que’d up and the most appropriate sound of the Clint Eastwood classic – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly streamed out of the speakers as the band took the stage. Without a word they launched right into “Boots of Hell” – full throttle and even I, as familiar with their music as I am, was taken aback by the precision and confidence with which they played. Before I had a chance to breathe that song was over and they were barreling down "Fistful of Demons". Live they were a complex group with so much going on it was almost dizzying. Everyone was moving the entire time – each musician intensely concentrating, laying it on thick. The energy they put out was just incredible and I was buzzing from it all. Count Lyle made a few light hearted jokes inbetween songs like “that Airport bar we played at in the last town seemed to enjoy this song…” and they even delighted some of us by playing a Misfits cover. Other highlights included superb performances of “Wicked Man” and “Wait Until Dark.” There’s a lighthearted guitar riff and solo in “Wait Until Dark” that made way for some less-than-serious stage antics by Count Lyle as he darted his eyes from side to side and almost did a little jig. It was over entirely too fast. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.
The local band waiting to go on next was impressed and approached the Ghoultown band members afterwards speaking highly of the show they just saw. They even bought a CD. And because they seemed like nice guys, I'm not going to tell you their name. They had a gimmick (something along the lines of being white trash satanists and hating surfers) and as they took the stage I said to Jake, "this is going to be really good, or really, really bad." It was bad. They were the worst band I've ever seen. Ghoultown watched on with a sort of horror - chins dropped - eyes wide in disbelief. I left after three songs.
The next day found Ghoultown
leaving early to fight traffic on their way into Hollywood. I had assured
them The Garage would be a better venue with a built-in crowd. They
had been booked on The Garage's psychobilly night called The Wrecking Yard
and on tap was a pretty impressive lineup: The Deadbillys, the Trenches,
Ghoultown and the Barn Yard Ballers.
The Deadbilly's are a local band led by a female vocalist which is pretty rare in this genre of music. I had heard their CD and was looking forward to seeing them live. They fit in well with Ghoultown as they tend to play a lot of western themed music even covering a Johnny Cash song. They also did a Misfits cover. They were personable and very nice and obvious Ghoultown fans. My only complaint about their show is the same one I have with their CD. I think their vocalist needs to cut loose. Especially in this male-dominated genre, I think she'd do well to really get more angry and punk. She seems to be holding back some times. Don't get me wrong, I *want* a female vocalist in a pyschobilly band. I think it's great. I want her to kick those boy's asses. Give us more attitude - we can take it.
Next was another local band - The Trenches. When I saw them drag a big stand up bass onto the stage I thought - this is gonna be good. I love stand up bass players (see the Spectres). But oh was I disappointed. No stringed instrument should ever be submitted to that torture, nor should our ears. It wasn't psychobilly that came belting out of the speakers. No no, it was hardcore. The vocalist screamed in angry monotone and yelled at the crowd. That's always a sure-fire way to impress me. Bitch at the audience. Uh huh. The bass player was fast... exceedingly fast and it might have been impressive if he was actually plucking the correct notes, but he wasn't. By the off key sounds that came rattling out of it, I suspect he only hit 1/3 of the strings correctly. The rest were horrendously off key and sometimes off beat. There simply is no reason to play songs that fast unless you're covering up the fact that you can't play correctly. People couldn't even mosh to it. Oh what a headache.
Ghoultown was up next much to my relief. Members of the Deadbillys piled up front with me and one of the fans who had been at the Huntington Beach show had showed up here to see them play again. Members of Frankenstein were there as well as Mark Splatter and some of our Ghoulschool regulars. I was prepared to be very proud of a band who I've bragged alot about but if someone had told me that Ghoultown could turn up their performance by ten notches from what I had seen the night before I would have called them a liar. Incredibly, they did. I was completely in awe by what transpired that night. Maybe it was a good night's rest or maybe it was that the venue and the crowd added to the electricity in the air; whatever the case may be, they put on a performance of a life time.
Everyone seemed extra energized, almost hyper. Every note was exactly placed, every level kept in check despite sound problems with the venue's system. Someone commented to me, "I've seen good bands play here and they sound just horrible because of the sound system. But this band sounded good, even here." And here I must stop and praise Ghoultown's head crew guy - Paul Roundstream - who was very attentive and pro-active in making sure the band sounded good and everything ran smoothly. I saw him prevent at least 2 accidents that could have really botched up the show. Any band would consider themselves lucky to have such a man behind the scenes.
They played much the same set as they did the night before but with renewed vigor and aggression. I swear I almost saw Count Lyle's eyes glow. I couldn't help but grin the entire time watching everyone in the crowd being over taken by them. Even if you don't like their style of music you could not deny the energy and enthusiasm they put out on stage. They were clearly the most entertaining band that night.
Jake Middlefinger was a madman
wielding his guitar like a deadly weapon. He literally moshed around on
stage and Paul told me later it's not unusual for him to knock things over
and break things in his frenzy. There were definite moments of god-like
guitar playing that night. I heard a bit of blues guitar mixed in with
heavy rock and of course good old country twang as he stormed through their
Santi on bass and Lizard Lazario on acoustic guitar dominated the right side of the stage. Like gunslingers staged for a shoot out they held their own adding rich textures and layers to the melody while X-Ray Charles plummeted the drum heads in a steady but heavy onslaught of percussion.
"Ghost Riders in the Sky" went over well as did the new song "Wait Until Dark." What's become their theme song - "Killer in Texas" was frighteningly powerful and the snarl that slithers from Lyle's lips as he sings "just look at me mother, ain't you proud of your son" is something you have to hear live to get the full impact of. "Carry the Coffin" was endearingly melodic and by far, my favorite songs both times they played was their closer - "The Worm" - which is an epic of a song that changes tempos and feel many times from haunting soundscape to balls to the wall rock. Also highlighted in this song and one part of Ghoultown that makes them such a unique band is the superb trumpet playing done by Dez Black. Listen for the horse whinny at the end. The crowd went wild and then it was over. I think they won many new fans that night and enfused old ones with new energy.
They made way for what should have been the crowd favorite that night - the Barn Yard Ballers - whose performance was sadly anti-climatic. I'm not sure if they were just having an off night but it seemed as if they didn't really want to be there. They insulted the crowd, spit lettuce on people and didn't even have a set list prepared. Their "fans" started a violent mosh pitt rudely running into anyone who was unfortunate enough to be standing anywhere near the stage. After almost getting ran over I retreated back to the Ghoultown merch table (and thus you have no photos of the Barn Yard Ballers). Their whole show was rather sloppy and half-assed and was a big disappointment after what I had heard on CD. Perhaps another time.
Talking to Ana and Lyle about this tour and its mixed bag of good shows and bad, shitty venues and incredible ones; they didn't seem to regret doing it one bit. Lyle said, “We just decided to get out there and see what there was to see.” And see it they did with 35 dates that went every where from Texas to New York, to Seattle and down the California Coast. From massive crowds to small ones and 16 hour drive times with 8 people crammed into a van just to make the next show; it's a wonder they survived at all without killing each other in the process. Santi was drawing a comic book journal of their adventures - drawing hightlights from each stop. I hope perhaps they'll scan some of it when they got back home and share it with their fans.
If you missed them this go around you've now been dully informed and have no excuse for missing them if they come around again.
If you're at all intrigued, you have to check out their webpage -- one of the best I've seen as far as bands go with the most complete information and plenty of extras including a produced video of "Killer in Texas" as well as footage from a live show. There's information on the B-grade horror flick called American Nightmare that they made a cameo appearance in as well as providing much of the soundtrack. They've also got their own comic book. Issue number one is avaiable now and issue number two is due in September.
Set List - "or something
boots of hell
fistful of demons
death of jonah hex
return of the living dead
pale skin diva
wait until dark
ghost riders in the sky
killer in texas
carry the coffin
American Nightmare (movie)
Rue Morgue Magazine
Give 'em More Rope Tour was:
17: Lawrence, KS ~ Replay Lounge
18: Chicago, IL ~ The Underground Lounge
19: Peoria, IL ~ Peoria Civic Center
20: Des Moines, IA ~ Hairy Mary's
21: Madison, WI ~ Inferno
22: Minneapolis, MN ~ 7th Street Entry
23: River Falls, WI ~ Boomer's
24: Moorhead, ND ~ Ralph's Corner Bar
26: Missoula, MT ~ Jay's
27: Seattle, WA ~ Zak's
28: Portland, OR ~ Satyricon
29: Eugene, OR ~ Samurai Duck
30: San Francisco, CA ~ Covered Wagon
31: Huntington Beach, CA ~ The Kozmos
01: Los Angeles, CA ~ The Garage
02: Tucson, AZ ~ Vaudeville Cabaret
03: El Paso, TX ~ Peanut Gallery
04: San Antonio, TX ~ Taco Land
05: Austin, TX ~ Emo's
06: Houston, TX ~ Rudyard's
07: Dallas, TX ~ Spider Babies
09: Memphis, TN ~ Hi Tone
10: Atlanta, GA ~ Star Bar
12: Columbia, SC ~ Uncle Doctors
13: Charlotte, NC ~ Fat City
14: Richmond, VA ~ Swingers
15: Baltimore, MD ~ Sidebar Tavern
16: NYC ~ CBGB's
18: Youngstown, OH ~ Nyabinghi
19: Cleveland, OH ~ Peabody's
20: Lansing, MI ~ Mac's
21: Champaign, IL ~ High Dive
22: St. Louis, MO ~ The Hi Pointe
23: Kansas City, MO ~ The Brick
30 - 1: Atlanta, GA ~ Dragon*Con
The Ghost Of Lemora
The Verge, London
Sunday July 14 2002
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis
It starts, as is traditional, with a pint in the Devonshire Arms.
Now, I'm not necessarily a fan of London's top goth 'n' punk watering hole. It frequently seems to me that too many people use the pub as their one and only point of contact with anything alternative: they sit there all night, getting pissed in the company of strangers with strange hairstyles, and they think they're where it's at. Meanwhile, the bands and the gigs and the promoters who *really* keep things going in London have to struggle along with audiences that never quite reach that essential make-yer-money-back level. For too many people, it seems our subculture is nothing more than pub culture. Or maybe that's just the English disease. Either way, it doesn't help.
Tonight, however, it seems things are different. Come eight o'clock, opening time for the gig, a substantial chunk of Dev-drinkers detatch themselves from their seats and head off up the road to The Verge, the venue for tonight's show. This is encouraging: sometimes it seems like you couldn't prise the Dev's clientele out of the pub with a crowbar. For a small-venue gig which doesn't feature any superstar bands to part so many people from their pints is some achievement.
Out of one pub, into another. The Verge was once a traditional London boozer - but those days are long gone. Now, it's painted a fetching purple outside, while the interior has been gutted to provide a small but cool live music venue. The place is already crowded, and the opening act, Muffpunch, are already on stage.
Muffpunch may have lumbered themselves with a name that makes them sound like some ghastly teenage nu-metal outfit, but in reality they're on a very different planet. There are two of them, wearing suits and full-head masks. They're hunched over a table full of electronix, hacking out an abrasive noise. Last time I saw a band do this sort of two-men-at-a-table stuff, it was the terminally dull Komputer - but Muffpunch are a lot more interesting than that. The sound is raw and physical: oscillators are tweaked up and down and occasionally real rhythms emerge from the clash of random noises. One of the masked avengers comes to the front and wallops away at a sheet of metal. Next minute he grabs a mic and, amid near-terminal distortion, I swear he sings an Andy Williams song. At the end of the set, as the noises shudder to a halt, the masked men take a formal bow. A nice touch. This sort of industrial art/noise may not be as out-on-a-limb original these days as it was in the 80s, but it's good to see it's still being done.
After Muffpunch's noise-assault, it seems hilariously anticlimactic to hear a Sisters of Mercy track dribble timidly through the PA by way of entertainment while the stage is prepared for Libitina. Neon Promotions really should organise some appropriately varied between-band music, instead of playing that same old tape of ancient goth hits at every gig. Fortunately, it's not long before Libitina are ready to go.
It's odd, in a way, to find Libitina playing this small-scale gig - they're hardly a new band, so what are they doing here in this north London pub with a bunch of up-and-coming contenders? Then again, maybe this is just the sort of gig Libitina *should* be playing. As I remarked when I reviewed their set at the Malediction festival, Libitina's profile in the UK rests almost entirely on their novelty-goth cover of Pulp's 'Common People'. Well, that was fun while it lasted, but you can't base a career on one cover. It seems the band have decided to get back to grass roots and work their way up all over again on the basis of their original material - a courageous decision, and going by tonight's set, the right one. The music crackles with energy, and the band throw themselves into the performance with great enthusiasm. The line-up has now expanded to include a new guitar/keyboard player, although he seems so new that the band themselves seem unfamiliar with the beefed-up, stronger sound his contributions create. 'I haven't heard that version before,' remarks Jamie, the lead singer, as the guitar wrestles one song to a halt. The set is mainly drawn from the band's new album, 'Weltanschauung', although an old favourite, 'Painted Whiter than White' makes an effective appearance in all its angsty glory. Libitina seem revitalised, refuelled, and ready to move on.
The Ghost Of Lemora have only been gigging around London for a short while, but in that time they've built up quite a following. An impressively large crowd clusters to the front as the band take the stage. The reason for the band's appeal isn't hard to fathom: their songs are catchy little buggers and the personality of the band leaps off the stage and tweaks you on the nose. The focal point is the vocalist, who's named Twinkle (presumably because he's a little star). He's part Peter Murphy, part Marc Almond, and part Kenneth Williams, and declaims his lyrics in a drawl which manages to be both sardonic and melodramatic at the same time. Between songs, he fends off quips and barbs and general piss-taking from the feather boa'd guitarist. All this over a robust bass 'n' drum machine beat, with some no-shit guitar and nimble keyboards thrown over the top. Standard ingredients, maybe, but deployed with much more wit and skill than most. 'Brides Of The Atom' drives along like a clockwork robot; 'Gallery Girls' manages to introduce a wistful, sensitive interlude to a set that otherwise comprises full-on rollicking stuff. It's Twinkle's birthday tonight, and the highlight for everyone (except, perhaps, Twinkle himself) comes when he's given his birthday presents - two custard pies splurged over his hair and T-shirt. He takes it in good spirit (although I notice he shoots an 'I'll get you for this!' look at the guitarist) - and the show continues without missing a beat. What a pro!
Our fourth and final band tonight come from somewhere in the east-of-London hinterland. They're Jesus Fix, and they rock. *Really* rock. They're a four-piece, with a bass-playing singer, two guitarists, and a powerhouse double-kick drummer at the back. All the band members look like grizzled veterans of the rock circuit, aside from the second guitarist - an earnest, bespectacled fellow - who looks uncommonly like Rag, from Pete Doree's comic strip goffband, the Infernal Gods Of Electric Disaster. I'm sure this isn't intentional, but it gave me a chuckle. And the sound? Well, I'd hazard a guess that the band have more than a few latter-day Cult albums in their collections: that seems to be the principal influence here. The singer does that trademark Astbury caterwaul - all those dr-a-a-a-a-wn out vowels - and several of the songs threaten to turn into 'Li'l Devil' but pull back from the brink just in time. It's a roaring, powerful, runaway train of a set, but unquestionably more metal than goth, which does rather beg the question - what are Jesus Fix doing playing goth gigs? Given that the metal scene in the UK is far larger and more successful than the goth scene, it surely shouldn't take a strategic genius to figure out that the band's best chance of success lies elsewhere. As things stand, Jesus Fix come across as impressive, but just a touch out of place.
And then it's last train time, and time to go. A good gig, overall, even if the musical styles of the bands did clash head on at times. From noise-industrial to Cult-style metal, via angsty, punky, glam-goth. A bit of diversity to spice up a Sunday night. More fun than sitting over a pint all night in the Dev? I think so!
see all the concert photos from thie show here
Jesus Fix: http://www.jesusfix.co.uk
The Ghost Of Lemora: http://www.geocities.com/theghostoflemora
Neon Promotions, promoters of the gig: http://www.neon-promotions.co.uk
The Infernal Gods of Electric Disaster: http://www.infernalgods.co.uk/infernalgods.htm
The Kenneth Williams Appreciation Society: http://www.kennethwilliams.org.uk
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Resurrection 10th Anniversary
Venue: Underworld, Camden, London, UK
Faces of Sarah
August 10, 2002
~review and photos by Jezebel
(Note: I was not intended
to do a review of this evening. The intended reviewer caught a nasty bug
and was forced to stay home…as I learned this AFTER the fact…please note
this is an atmospheric review as opposed to a more performance oriented
A fitting evening of amazing performances, movers and shakers of the UK gothic scene, members of most of the top UK gothic bands, and the general public lucky enough to get into the sold out nite summed up the celebration of Andy Bush and his partner Katrina and their amazing enterprise of Resurrection Records.
This was not just any gig…Resurrection Records is a required stop for any gothic, alternative, metalhead visiting or living in London when one wants to buy without resorting to mail order. (Although Resurrection has also a successful mail order business as well). With owners and staff that are not only knowledgeable about the scene, but also care about it. Resurrection has endured every test that the tides of changing music interest has thrown at it. And so the night was not only a time to celebrate what they have accomplished through their store and their successful label, but also to thank them by coming out in full mass.
They organized a great show for us, with The Faces of Sarah, Manuskript and Inkubus Sukkubus scheduled to perform. Not one of these bands failed to deliver amazing performances filled with vitality and energy.
The Faces of Sarah defied their opening band status and rocked a packed crowd (at 7pm!!) with their amazing and unique sound. Nick's guttural and sexy voice paired with Iside's lovely and gorgeous voice created the perfect blend. Their sound was on the mark, strong and powerful and no one walked away in any way shape or form disappointed.
Off I went to see about the bar…and became amazed at how many people were there already (early on a Saturday nite). This was amazing! Everywhere you looked there was yet another person from yet another important aspect of the scene, be it musician or promoter or DJ or label owner. But I digress…it was time for Manuskript.
Now…I don't know much about Manuskript. I have met Mike and found him quite charming. But I always suspected the music was bleepy - I don't know why - so have kept shy. AHA! I was wrong! With their new guitar player who has a metal background, manuscript rocked the room which had just recovered from TFoS! Mike roared around the stage in a vicar's costume and just never let that energy down. He constantly seemed to be jumping around the stage and daring the audience for more from them. They surprised me...and I am now interested.
And back I went to the bar. We had John B. and Robin (DJ Death) from the Devonshire Arms with their assistant manager Janine. Oh - was that Paul Wright? Yes, there he was. And John and Anna Whitfield of Grave Records. Matt from All Living Fear, Steve Carey ex of This Burning Effigy. Dark Horizons were there, who are soon to release their debut album.
But it was time for Inkubus Sukkubus. I have seen this band so many times; I must admit the heat from up front stopped me from going too near the stage. But they sounded amazing, with the never ending spirit of Candia just lighting up the stage with not only her presence but voice.
But this was a nite about Andy and Katrina and the crowd roared when they brought up on stage. Both are basically private people, so I am sure it was not easy for them. But in true spirit, there they were….and perhaps touched by the overwhelming response from the crowd.
Based on the turnout and response from the crowd (it was a completely sold out show by 9pm), Resurrection is poised for yet another 10 years supporting a scene that is appreciative of that support.
The Faces of Sarah - http://www.thefacesofsarah.co.uk
Manuskript - http://www.manuskript.co.uk/
Inkubus Sukkubus - http://www.inkubussukkubus.com/
Resurrection Records - http://www.resurrectionmusic.com/
Siouxsie & The Banshees
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Tuesday July 9 2002
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis
Me and the Banshees, we go back.
I remember, years ago, hearing John Peel playing their very early stuff on his late night radio show. I was going through my teenage turmoil period (some would say it's never stopped) and there was something about the Banshees' angular, strident noise that just *connected* with the rollercoaster in my head. It still connects now.
I didn't get to see the band until 1981, when I hitched a lift down to Brighton in a Ford Escort full of punks. The Banshees were playing the Conference Centre (a grim and soulless concrete cavern) as part of the 'Ju Ju' tour. Why I didn't go to the London gig is a mystery lost in the mists of time. Or perhaps I *did* go to the London gig. I've notched up so many Banshees gigs over the years, plenty of London shows amongst them, that it all blurs into one big gig in my memory. You know the old hippy saying - 'If you can remember the sixties, you weren't there' ? I feel much the same about large chunks of the eighties. But I recall that Brighton gig as clearly as if I was there now. It was, quite simply, inspirational. The band ripped that bleak concrete venue apart and rebuilt it with a frighteningly focussed passion. I can still hear John McGeogh cranking out that marvellous, bone-dry riff to 'Monitor' while dancers writhed behind a giant screen at the back of the stage. The visuals and the sound meshed like gears in my head.
And now, 22 years and four guitarists later, I'm going to see Siouxsie and The Banshees again. The fact that the band are back, after splitting with such apparent finality, is a bit of a surprise. This wasn't in the Master Plan, and yet here they are: on tour more or less for the hell of it. Which, when you think about it, is quite a refreshing concept. There's no new product to promote, no particular need to play the hits, no pressing need to bulk-up the fanbase with the crowd-pleasers. This one's purely for the band.
It's a sad indictment of the state of things today that the return of the Banshees seems to have excited little interest in the music media. The Banshees 'artist page' on the NME website, for example, demonstrates exactly how much interest the UK's top music weekly takes in all things Siouxsie-esque: http://www.nme.com/artists/80584.htm It's left to one of the UK's daily broadsheet newspapers to give the Banshees their only high profile coverage this time round. The band's return to the fray is front page news in The Independent, and while the headline 'Punk's Gothic Revival' might, I suspect, cause Siouxsie herself to put her head in her hands and groan, the coverage itself (a potted history of the Banshees within a review of one of the current round of gigs) is positive, and the live photos are great. The broadsheets step in, it seems, where the music press can't be bothered to tread.
The true measure of Siouxsie and The Banshees' popularity - even today, after seven years' absence - can be gauged by the fact that both their shows at the Shepherd's Bush Empire are sold out. Touts are asking 90 quid a ticket on the street. It's not fanciful to think that the band could probably play a week-long run and get packed houses every night. And that would be entirely in keeping with the Banshees' approach: this is a band which has always eschewed the Enormodome circuit in favour of the relative intimacy of the theatre venues, even if that meant playing multiple nights. The Empire is a substantial building, with tiers of balconies sweeping dramatically down towards the stage, but somehow it retains a sense of intimacy. The stage itself is barely higher than you'd find in a club, but the sightlines are so good that nobody, wherever they may be in the venue, feels excluded from the show. A fine venue for the Siouxsie experience. It's a great improvement on the Brighton Conference Centre, that's for sure.
But before we meet the stars,
we have a support band. Now, there's a fine old rock 'n' roll equation
that states that the larger the show, the worse the support band will be.
I've seen far too many anonymous indie-burblers propping up the bill at
far too many big gigs to hold out much hope of seeing anything interesting,
support-wise, at any theatre-size show. But this is a *Banshees* gig. Therefore,
normal rules do not apply. Tonight's support band is eX-Girl. And...they're
Three Japanese girls take the stage, and you can almost hear everyone in the audience thinking 'Shonen Knife!' Which is entirely the wrong thing to think, as eX-Girl swiftly demonstrate. Their line-up may seem relatively conventional - bass, guitar, plus a stand-up drummer - but the sounds they conjure up are something else. Yep, they do bouncealong bubblegum-punk, but they also do weird time-changes that make me think of Captain Beefheart. They sing snatches of operatic harmonies. They nail down krautrock grooves. They're at least four different bands in one. It's all wrapped up in assorted loony costumes and some sort of ludicrous concept that involves, er, frogs from outer space, as far as I can gather. The audience is captivated, and eX-Girl leave the stage to applause that wouldn't disgrace a headline act. Over at the merchandise stall they're selling eX-Girl knickers. I'll pass on those, but I'll definitely be seeing eX-Girl again.
And then it's S-hour. A pounding intro track - something by Neu, if I'm not mistaken - softens us up for the big entrance. And there they are, just as if it's been seven days rather than seven years since they were last on these boards. Budgie looks like he's just come off the Tour de France, in a nifty day-glo body-hugging number. The rest of 'em are suited and booted, like a bunch of Gangsters in a Terry Gilliam film. Severin's suit looks like it's made of rubber, but he still maintains his cool. He's toting that old cream Fender Jazz bass, the same instrument that's been rumbling out Banshees basslines for years. Forgive me for coming over all muso here, but I'm almost as pleased to see that bass as I am to clap eyes on old Spunker himself. Stage left, the Banshees' latest guitarist is Knox Chandler, his orange bog-brush hairdo glowing in the lights.
And there's Siouxsie, stage centre, looking impossibly lithe and youthful, effortlessly commanding attention as she gives us 'Pure' - track one, side one of the first Banshees album, and thus for many of us the first step on a long journey we've taken with the band. Second track - it's 'Jigsaw Feeling', and I suddenly wonder if the band are simply going to play their discography, in chronological order. Some of us wouldn't mind that a bit! But Siouxsie seems to be holding back on the vocal here - it's as if she's reluctant to really let rip. Or perhaps it's down to the fact that the song was recorded by a twentysomething punkette who'd never had a singing lesson in her life - two decades on, maybe she's simply learnt the art of pacing. And the pace picks up: with a set that mixes a smattering of the hits with a trawl through the albums, and a slight bias towards the earlier years of the band's career. 'Christine' gets a special cheer, Knox sending glittering fragments of guitar out into the audience as he precision-slices his way through the song. He's a bit of an unsung genius, in my view: having to accommodate the guitar parts of umpteen predecessors while still bringing his own identity to the sound - I don't know how he does it, but he does it. 'Kiss Them For Me' is given a distinctly 'old Banshees' treatment: Talvin Singh's nimble percussion of the original giving way to a heavy, rolling beat that sounds like it could've come straight off 'Join Hands'.
I'm willing to bet that the Banshees' own favourite album is quite possibly 'Ju Ju'. Tracks from that collection always seem to appear in the live set, and tonight is no exception. 'Night Shift' is cold steel and hot blood, 'and Voodo Dolly' whips up into a hurricane, with Siouxsie on the floor squalling into the mic. There's a frightening intensity here that you'll seldom see from any other band. When Siouxsie gets intense, it's take-no-prisoners time. But for me, the real highlight comes in the second encore. Knox, a small smile playing about his lips, as if he *knows* this is going to be special, launches into the riff of 'Monitor' - and all of a sudden I'm just as weak at the knees as I was when my teenage self experienced that first overwhelming gig in '81. There's something so stark, so implacable, about that song, and yet at the same time it moves as restlessly as a snake. And this performance is total class. The seven-year wait is justified right here.
But that's not all. There's a third encore. Siouxsie comes out and raises a cheer for eX-Girl - 'The best support band we've ever had!' - and all of a sudden we're into 'Peek A Boo'. And there are eX-Girl themselves, on backing vocals. They are note-perfect, spot-on with the rising inflection of the song hook: 'Peeee -EEEK -a boo!' They could've been born to sing with the Banshees. They are also, I have to report, all wearing polystyrene frogs' heads. Somehow, it makes sense. It's gloriously silly, but it works, and it's a fine way to wrap up the show. Some big emotional melodrama of a finale would have been *so* wrong - so what the hell. Let's bring on the frogs' heads!
And that, finally, is that. The Banshees have scratched their seven year itch, and it's just like they've never been away. Will it be another seven years before we see them again? Somehow, I doubt it. It seems all the shows on the tour were recorded, and the second of the two London shows was also captured on video. A forthcoming release (a DVD, maybe?) looks on the cards. Budgie's even dropped hints about possible new material on the Creatures' website. My guess is that the Banshees will be back...one day... possibly in the guise of a side-project into which the various members can dip now and then, in between everyone's main projects. An ironic turn-about, in some ways, but I'd guess it would work. No pressure, no major label demanding hits, no promotional treadmill. Just the freedom for the Banshees to be the Banshees, as and when they fancy it. Sounds good to me.
Which reminds me. Talking of side projects and main projects, and all that...isn't it about time we had that new Creatures album...?
Kiss Them For Me
Cities in Dust
Trust in Me
Blue Jay Way
see all the photos from this concert here
The nearest thing to an official Siouxsie and The Banshees website these days - minimal info only: http://www.siouxsie.com
Website of The Creatures, Siouxsie and Budgie's on-going project. The best place to find information about both Creatures and Banshees activity. Both Siouxsie and Budgie post updates to the 'Diary' section, and fans bitch hilariously amongst themselves on the message board: http://www.thecreatures.com
Two massively comprehensive sites for all Banshees-and-related information. If it's not on either of these sites, it probably doesn't exist:
Steven Severin's website for his label and myriad projects. Check the FAQ! http://www.stevenseverin.com
eX-Girl website: http://0505.net/ex-girl
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Social Tees Animal Rescue
Fund Benefit Concert
Skanx, The Chickletts, The Drossells, The Shakes, Otto’s Daughter, Bitter Grace, Bitch Cat, Charm School, The Gynecologists From Sweden
CBGBs on July 5, 2002
~review and photos by Kimberly
The concept of Social Tees Animal Rescue Fund Benefit Concert at CBGBs on July 5, with the old skool method of putting on fifty bands for fifteen minutes apeice was enough to make me venture out on a Friday night to check it out. Haven’t been to a show like this since Coney Island High’s (in)famous Saturday afternoon matinees, so I was really hyped on the whole idea; didnt even mind laying out the donation money for the show (hey, at being unemployed for ten months, anytime I go out, I have to think, “Is this really worth it?” In this case, unequivocally yes).
The email I got said that doors were at seven, which in New York time always means eight. So, of course, showing up at ten to meant I missed the first opening bands. Usually I’d think “That wasn’t so bad”, but given how good the lineup was that I did see, I wish I’d been there early.
As we walked in, this great ankle-biter punk band, Skanx, were up. Too young to be tattooed, the gutterpunk group could have easily been at ABCNoRio ten years ago. The first full song I caught was “Fat Cunt”; the other title I got was “Job Application”, dedicated to those of us not working. “Typical”, like their other songs, had a hard, fast bass. I couldn’t understand a word of it, but it was fucking great. It took a lot not to put my pen and marble notebook down and slam dance with the few up there. Sitting in the booth, though, watching mowhawked youngsters slam dancing, I was reminded of the New York of yore, when I’d sneak into CBs on a Saturday night, not knowing or caring, who was playing; just knew it would be good. It’s not often that I can do that now.
My one complaint? The songs were a bit too long. I’m a purist when it comes to these things- I believe a punk song should be three minutes or less. But since we’re living a three minute fifty-one second , MTV age, I guess I really can’t complain.
The next band up was a rockabilly trio, The Chickletts (with Cindy of The Shakes filling in on guitar), who just may be my new favourite all-girl group. Raunchy and good and rocking and loud, I wanted them to play for far longer than they did. Very neo-Cramps and catchy, how can you not love a band with the lyrics (from their song “Kitten”) “I love my kitten like a dog loves his bone...Leave my kitten alone”? The other highlight of their set was “Hush”. A slamming bass and the lyrics, “Hush, are you sexy now?...Hush now, shut your mouth”. I love the rare instances when other people think like I do. These are girls I want to have a beer with. Thier last song was, as they put it, “In the tradition of Elvis, who we love very much”, a cover of “Hound Dog”, with the lyrics changed to “You ain’t nothin’ but a bare cat, scratching at my door/You said you were a long hair, I can see through that” How can you not love them? Fucking awesome. I’d pay to see them again.
The third band that I saw were The Drossells, who pissed me off immediately, as they took twice as long to set up than actually play. And not bothering to check their levels resulted in too much feedback for the entire fifteen minutes they played. Plus, the biggest insult was that their whole song was one set. Are they kidding? I can’t even sit through the Ramones medley that’s bombarded Spinner lately. The music itself was very rebel rock, influenced by The Dickies. The sax was used surprisingly well, though the vocals were impossible to discern. The middle of the song (THE song, I still can’t get over it) all but stopped with solos by the members. Maybe I couldn’t get over their schtick, but they were such a dissapointment after The Chickletts.
I immediatly started taping my feet when The Shakes started playing. Cindy, on vocals and equally tight on guitar, has an incredible voice. Another band I’d pay to see again. I really enjoyed them. Having been around for a bit, they were very much the way punk was originally, looking back into the 50s for inspiration. With a dash of Chuck Berry, this group knows what they’re doing. Their cover of “Wild One” was superb. Harder and more modern, but not so much that you couldn’t find the original.
Otto’s Daughter graced the stage soon after. Like Voltaire a few years back, I’m kicking myself for not seeing them sooner. For those not familiar with the band, they’ve been around for four years, have been written up internationally, and their songs are spun in goth clubs on a regular basis. Their sound, goth mixed with punk, hearkenedthe age of Siouxsie and The Misfits. It’s so refreshing to see a goth chick jumping around on stage instead of bemoaning the anxieties of life. The song off their new album (the title of which I unfortunatly missed), really shone. Jump up and down good. Only caught a snatch of lyrics, something about the day coming, almost there. Rocking, just rocking. Jacqueline’s voice, racked with anger, just blew me away.
And Otto’s Daughter was the perfect precursor to Bitter Grace. I’m kind of biased in that I’ve been a big fan of the band for six years, and have reviewed and interviewed the group multiple times over the years. Since I last wrote them up, the group has introduced an electronic aspect aspect to the band’s sound, making Lapis and co. sound like a totally different group. Not to say that they didn’t kick ass before (or else I wouldn’t have seen them so many times), but this adds a whole new dimention. Thier new guitarist and drummer, Vickiand Cailin, very much complete the lineup. They started their set with “Precious” off thier debut album, “God and The Abyss”, immediatly taking over the place. The new infusion gives the old favourite a whole new dynamism. The song off their upcoming album, “Control”, was slower than “Precious”but still kept the same rawness, and demonstrated the way Lapis can hold a note. I can’t say enough timtes how well the new lineup works. I hope this one works since they radiate the energy that can only come about when a band works well together. “End of Days”, another favourite, was like “Precious”- improved from what was already great. The track, always incredibly sad, now won’t make you stand and cry on the dancefloor (think Wolfsheim in that sense), unless you know the lyrics. “I guess I can’t forget”. I guess I can’t either.
Though Bitter Grace was not of the same genre as the rest of the night’s lineup, it hardly mettered. They drew a crowd right up next to the stage (and remember, this is not only NYC, but also CBGBs, where historically a band was lucky if the crowd didn’t throw lit ciggarette them). It’s SO rare that a band can have the range they do., evoke so much. Very professional, very trans-genre.
Bitch Cat, who was on next, is another undiscovered (by me, anyway) gem in what’s left of the NYC scene. Hard rocking and fast-paced, the all-girl group were harder than the guys and so popular I couldn’t get more than one pic. Much angrier than The Chickletts but no less talented, I couldn’t understand why it’s Kittie and not them who are world famous. Infectious they were the ones who beat up the bullies for their lunch money. Their music should have been on the “All Over Me” soundtrack.
Charm School, as famous as they are, did not impress the people I was with, nor myself. As I was trying to scribble down notes, my roomate leaned over the table and remarked that the group made him believe that fascism wasn’t so bad. My boyfriend said that at least if it was a jukebox, we could kick em. So, next.
The band that stood out , though not nessasarily for their musical talent, were The Gynecologists From Sweden. Formally Furious George, they had to change their name because of a very lond and well- publicized court battle with Houghton-Mifflin over trademark infringement. Dressed in labcoats, gloves and sunglasses, they basicaly slammed on their instruments to thrity second songs entitled , “ “Labia of Love”, “Back in the Stirrups” and “24 Hour Cervix”. No lyrics, of course. The set was pucntuated by mysogenist one liners. I thought it was funny, but plenty of people walked out. Not hard to see why the lead “vocalist”, George Tabb, get kicked in the shins on stage.
I had to leave after that, as I’d been writing for hours and we’d run out of beer money. Great night, the perfect show for a too-hot summer.
As most groups that were
on stage were very DIY, not all of them had websites. The ones that did
Launch Party for the Wasp
Factory Compilation album
Working With Children and Animals Volume 2
Ariel and the Flames
Club Noir, London
Friday July 26
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis
Wasp Factory, for those who've just joined us, is a UK-based independent label which provides a home for a bewildering array of left-field noisemakers. The roster includes manic freak-industrialists, The Chaos Engine (Lee of the band is the label's founder), techno-poet Tarantella Serpentine, glam-punk mayhem-merchants D.U.S.T, and assorted other square pegs who've discovered that the round holes of the mainstream music biz just don't fit.
Once in a while, the label
gathers together a selection of its own artists, plus a few friends and
fellow-travellers, and assembles a compilation album with the intention
of showing the world just what strange life-forms wriggle and spawn in
the undercurrents of the UK music scene. The first of these collections
came out in December 2000 - Working With Children And Animals, Volume
1. Now it's the best part of two years later, and Volume 2 is
ready to go. The album's being launched tonight, in the upstairs room of
the Garage. Wasp Factory have commandeered Club Noir and remodelled it
in the label's own style. Let's join the revels.
Our first band isn't actually a band - or, indeed, a Wasp Factory artist. Um, right. So, it's illogical business as usual, then. Ariel and the Flames were supposed to open proceedings for us, but only Ariel - a scantily-clad woman who looks like a New Romantic gym mistress - is actually on stage. Seems the Flames couldn't make it. So, Ariel gives us a solo performance-art show which involves contorting herself into all manner of strange shapes, while a synth-y backing tape plays. It's, er, interesting. If this was 1982, and Ariel was performing at Blitz or Billy's, I'm sure she'd be the toast of the Futurists. In 2002, in the prosaic surroundings of the Garage's attic, I'm not quite sure if it all works, but what the hell. Ariel is extremely brave to get up there all alone and do her stuff, so I'll tip my hat to her for that. Oh, and...nice boots, too.
Next, Deathboy. The name covers both the band - an assortment of black-clad rock blokes, plus an electro drummer who favours the cyber look - and the band's frontman, Deathboy himself. He looks like a marketing man's idea of yoof in his just-so spiky hairdo, cyber-designer T-shirt and wide strides - and he isn't a Wasp Factory artist, either, although that situation may soon change. It seems the label is keen to sign him. OK, then - let's see what Deathboy can give Wasp Factory in exchange for his lavish advance. In a nutshell, it seems he's doing a NIN thing. Angsty guitar-industrial, but with enough straight-down-the-line rock moves to keep the metallers happy. Could be a winning formula - I'm advised that 'the kids' like this sort of thing - but in all honesty it's not the sort of stuff that breaks down barriers or goes down in history. It's the acceptable sound of alternative rock, I suppose. And, dammit, I didn't fight the Punk Wars so today's yoof could listen to 'acceptable' music!
One slightly incongruous
element is Deathboy's vocal. I'd expected the identikit 'Huuurrgh!' sound
which so many bands in this generic area seem to employ, but no - his voice
is natural, which is a pleasant surprise. In all honesty, he's not the
world's greatest singer - some of the songs tonight feature virtually spoken
vocals - but it's nevertheless good to find he hasn't taken the well-worn
path into the distort-o-zone. He's got a lot of mates, too: the front of
the stage is crowded with well-wishers, all of whom seem to be on joking
terms with Deathboy, who returns their quips and hands out free chocolate
bars. It's all very friendly and nice, but maybe that's the problem. I
don't necessarily *want* friendly and nice, and I certainly don't want
'acceptable' industrial-rock! I want to be astonished, transported, taken
aback, skewered on great music and left for dead on the dancefloor. Now,
Deathboy might do all that for the younger alternorock kids of today, and
he might even do it for you. But, alas, I have to say he just doesn't do
it for me.
Psychophile are a relatively established band now, although the present line-up is still quite new. Vocalist Lucy is joined tonight by Cliff, the band's latest guitarist. Many and various guitarists have passed through Psychophile's ranks (there's even an ex-Psychophile guitarist in The Empire Hideous), but the present incarnation of the band is particularly notable for not featuring any original members on stage. Mat Hook, the band's founder, now confines himself to studio boffinery, while Lucy and Cliff do the live thing. They're both wearing PVC tonight, which might be a bit of a mistake - it's a hot night and the venue is approaching sauna-like conditions.
Still, they launch into the
set and - hang on, where's the guitar? Oh, right, somewhere in the tangle
of wires on stage a plug isn't in the correct socket. With that fixed,
the band hit the accelerator again and turn in a damn fine show. Lucy's
voice is, as ever, the focal point, swooping around the music like seagulls
over Brighton pier, while Cliff thrashes and clangs and grinds all sorts
of noises out of his guitar. He does backing vocals, too - a new departure
for Psychophile, and a brave move for Cliff considering he's got a genuinely
outstanding singer right there on stage with him, but his almost-falsetto
interlude on 'Visions' actually works very well. The heat seems to be taking
it's toll on Lucy, however, and the last few songs are delivered in an
uncharacteristically restrained fashion. I get the distinct impression
the band are more than a little relieved when the set draws to a close
and they can leave the stage.
Last time I saw Swarf, they were playing at the Spectrum in Montreal, effortlessly captivating the C8 audience - no mean feat, considering most of that crowd had never seen Swarf before and knew nothing of them. After that experience, it must seem like a bit of a come-down to squeeze onto the tiny stage at this venue - the drum riser at the Spectrum, upon which Liz so memorably played air guitar, is probably bigger than the entire stage at tonight's gig. There's also a slight question mark hanging over the band's involvement with Wasp Factory. A quick look at the band-roster on the Wasp Factory website reveals that Swarf are no longer listed as Wasp Factory artists. What can this mean? Well, I suppose we'll find out soon enough. For now, Swarf are here, set up and ready to go. Let's put all other considerations on hold, and just enjoy this.
Like Psychophile, Swarf seem
to be wilting a little in the heat, but they still deliver a fine set.
Their songs are so well-judged and effective - rolling, liquid rhythms,
through which Liz's voice slices like a knife slits water - that they're
impossible to ignore. Swarf immediately attract the biggest crowd of the
night to the front - even Deathboy, with his instant fan club of mates,
didn't get a reaction as good as this. In any case, genuine fans count
for far more than mates. Anyone can make their gig look good by getting
a bunch of friends down the front. *Real* appeal is a much more precious
thing, and Swarf have it by the truckload. The set is a selection of the
'hits' - 'Fall', 'Drown', and 'Subtext' stand out, and get everyone grooving.
As ever, I'm impressed - although I've seen Swarf umpteen times now I still
can't get over just how *good* they are. With a judicious bit of pushing
and shoving in the right areas, I'm certain it would be possible for Swarf
to become a genuinely big band - not big in goth-scene terms, or whatever,
but *big*. They've got that essential something, and it would be criminal
if they were not given the opportunity to go all the way.
Freudstein top things off tonight. They're an electro-duo, but that simple description doesn't do them any kind of justice. They're a couple of mad professors, hard-wired for happiness among a fearsome array of keyboards and sequencers and black boxes of all kinds. There's such a jumble of electronic gear piled up around them, the stage looks like an explosion in a Maplin store. But hang on - there's a guitar on stage, too. Looks like Freudstein have added a bit of rock 'n' roll to their musical brew. They press the go button, and they *go*. The music is, I suppose, tangentally related to techno, but Freudstein have no truck with genre-boundaries. They make a full-on stompy electro-noise with all sorts of detail in the mix that keeps it interesting even if you don't want to dance. The two of them take turns on vocals and guitar. Whichever Freud isn't fronting the band at any given moment hunches over the electronix at the back, tweaking this, prodding that. Good stuff, and only the band's tendency to indulge in banal jolly-ups (come on, did they *really* have to start the set with a shout of 'HELLO LONDON!' ?) brings things down a bit. Come off it, Freudstein, you have too much depth and substance for this flimsy stuff!
After the bands, Lee Chaos is scheduled to commandeer the decks for a stint of DJing, but unfortunately I have to honour his set in the breach rather than the observance, as 'twere. It's getting on for midnight, and it's time to go. The crowd has, in fact, thinned out quite noticably by this point: many people have headed off down to Soho to catch a few hours in Tenebrae, the increasingly successful goth 'n' related club with which Club Noir rather unwisely collides. I'd rate tonight's shindig as an eight-out-of-ten, most of that score being accounted for by the magnificent Swarf and the splendid Psychophile. Deathboy, I'm afraid, account for the two points I have to knock off.
Wasp Factory has established itself as a thorn in the side of the music biz monster, pricking the hide of that lumbering beast with an assortment of cool and maverick artists - and then gleefully running away, cackling with mad laughter. Long may that attitude continue. But if the label has decided to go for a more 'acceptable' alternorock strategy....well. That way an entirely different madness lies!
The stars of the show:
Ariel and the Flames: No website...
see all photos from this concert here
Wasp Factory label site: http://www.wasp-factory.com
Flag Promotions, proprietors of Club Noir: http://www.flagpromotions.com
Upstairs At The Garage, venue for the show: http://www.meanfiddler.com/version1/upstairsat_thegarage/index.asp
The way it was. The launch of 'Working With Children And Animals Volume 1', December 2000: http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/%7Euncle/3_12_00.htm
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
at The Borderline, London, UK
August 8, 2002
~reviewed by Jezebel
(photos courtesy and property of Martin/InsanitoriuM)
I love Wayne Hussey.
I was in his bedroom.
Okay - it was a venue called The Borderline and there was 250 people there, but really, truly, I was in Wayne Hussey's bedroom.
At least it felt that way.
The Borderline is a small venue in the Soho area of London. Fitting about 250 people, it's one of the more intimate venues. And it was the perfect place for Wayne, his guitar, electric piano and us, his audience, to just settle in for a night of amazing music, great banter and an odd sing-along kind of evening.
Sauntering on stage alone (well with his trusty bottle of wine and some backing tracks), Wayne looked nervous but quickly settled in starting with "Raising Cain" strong and clear and right at us. "Stay With Me" was again, lovely - gorgeous in the simplicity of the arrangement. But that new orchestration was nothing compared to his performance of "Amelia." I have always found this song compelling. But this. This was something unnerving. Guttural, dangerous, sickly sexy, paedophiliac in tone and deliverance. It was dirty - it made me feel dirty. There was a sickness, a gruffness that took the song to a new deeper, lower level which somehow elevated it and Wayne to a different status in my eyes. This was a story teller taking on a role and he did it well. Frighteningly well.
"Severina" was next and I was half hoping that she herself, Julianne Regan would make an unscheduled appearance, she does live in London after all. But there was no need (apologies to the lady), as the audience, including yours truly, sang her part. With which Wayne was truly impressed and encouraged the audience as the evening went on to sing along.
A non-Mission song followed, being by "a friend from California named Kevin" who Wayne had hoped was in the audience but wasn't. "All Tangled Up in You" was a great departure for Wayne as it was not a Mission song and therefore forced him to sing outside that voice. And it was gorgeous and amazingly touching.
The crowd wanted "Mr. Pleasant" but Wayne claimed he could only remember the first few bars and chose then to play a "hippy" song, "Love Is" by John Lennon. Another great choice, although a little bland, it was a great way to get us ready for "Tower of Strength." No towers built in the low-ceiling venue, but there was need. This was a sweet version, one that you hold the hand of one you love with (well, that is most versions)…one of the better versions in my opinion, as with the simple orchestration and presentation and in such a small venue, it was more intimate, and more appropriate for the lyrics and meaning.
Song after song continued, each being new versions of classics or in some ways better versions of new, yet to be classics. "Butterfly on a Wheel" was gorgeous and as the audience again sang the choruses….Wayne was suitably touched and impressed.
Some more covers, a bit of Patty Smith's "Dancing Barefoot", a bit of "My Sweet Love" (which almost seemed like a karaoke night gone wrong) tumbling into "Crystal Ocean."
After - perhaps one of the better and funnier moments of the night was when Wayne was handed a t-shirt and showed it to the crowd. "You can take your glowsticks and shove it up your ass" is what it read. And the crowd cheered as he placed it against his chest! Great shirt - great moment.
"Sorry," again, not a Mission song, was gorgeous and released today would go top ten - a song of being sorry for ruining a relationship - who could not relate to that.
And then we had a surreal moment….Elvis was in the building and Wayne gave us "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You." Once again, the audience helped with the singing.
The one encore (could we not have had more?) included amazing versions of "Wasteland", "Bird of Passage", "Blood Brothers" (with a verse of "Wicked Game" stuck in the middle)..and when he asked for requests, we were given "Black Mountain Mist" and "Deliverance."
The crowd would have stayed for another encore, but it was already late and the venue wanted to close. Wayne was fun and witty going from guitar to electric piano seamlessly and elegantly. He worked with the audience, a conversation so to speak, enjoying the attention and respecting it. His voice still has the quality that makes all his music magical. He screwed up a few times playing, laughing it off, joking with the crowd.
For myself, an acoustic show like this is what exemplifies a musician in a world filled with computer dorks with a bit of rhythm that hash out bleepy music for the masses. I would love to see some of those more popular bleepy techno bands get down and dirty and do an acoustic show like this. No - I am sorry - that wouldn't happen. For you need to be a musician, understand your music, your creation, and the soul that is within it. You need to be able to mould, adapt, re-construct, re-energize, re-vamp that which is being expressed. That is what makes a good musician and, hand in hand, good music. And Wayne Hussey proved he and is music are more than even that.
The Mission UK