More gigs! I can only get to gigs when bands I like are playing, or when I notice that bands are playing, but I'm still trying to get out when I can. I really need to make more notes on the night or day after, though. I think I assumed I'd be writing the individual reviews sooner after the gig than I have, as I have left a few of them a bit too late to have anything other than an overriding impression of what I remember. Still, this is more a record of what I've been getting up to than a gig guide, so a few missing details don't really matter.
Crocodiles/Virals at Hotel Street
I've had the second album by Crocodiles on my list of CDs to buy for a while, never quite getting around to picking it up, so when a gig at Sailor Jerry's Hotel Street comes up, for three quid a ticket, it seems to be an ideal way to get a feel for the band. There is even a support act to enjoy first, for loose values of 'enjoy'. It's easiest to clump the two bands together for the review, with Crocodiles being a little more emphatic than Virals, but both being pretty much the definition of MoR indie rock. Despite playing in a tiny venue and having the opportunity to really connect with the audience, the music is relatively bland and uninspiring.
Most disappointing is the finale from both bands, neither of which is really big enough to make a difference. Crocodiles choose to just play loud, but strumming distorted guitars hard and smashing cymbals is not in itself an effective way of adding intensity to the performance. Neither band is bad, but neither are they more than quite forgettable. It doesn't help that the sound levels are off so much that the keyboards can't be heard through most of the set, but I honestly don't think it would make much difference if they were included. I have crossed Crocodiles off my watch list now.
Django Django/NZCA/Lines at Cambridge
NZCA/Lines is one band, not two, and, we are told, is pronounced like 'Nazca Lines'. I mishear this and have to ask after the support set what they said, also getting the explanation that it is easier to search the internet for 'NZCA' without the 'a', which makes sense. As for the music, I am initially sceptical, because of the electronic drums, but they turn out to be played competently by the drummer, who simply chooses to stand up and not mess around with his feet. That's probably quite wise, in its way. And the krautrock vibe to the electronica keeps me interested, and entertained enough to pick up their album after the gig, which is an indication of how much I enjoyed the set.
There are thoughts that Django Django are deliberately coming on stage late because they're watching the footy in a pub somewhere, which is only partly true. They appear at an odd time, for a set to start, but before the European finals match has ended, giving an occasional pause to ask the smartphone-equipped audience for an update to the score. But we're here to see the band play, and play they do. Even though the debut album doesn't quite hold my interest all the way through, Django Django are a force to be felt live. The stomping four-to-the-floor bass drum keeps the rhythm pounding along to the grooves, and the whole band are clearly having a good time performing.
The audience are having fun too, even if they're not quite paying attention. 'We've got another one', says lead singer Vincent Neff, and hearing someone shout a request adds, 'but it's not Storm, because we've already played that'. And after that one more there is only one more, making the audience call for even more. But there is only so much that Django Django can play. 'We've only got one album! We'll be back in four years.' Whether that's four years to write, record, and produce a new album, or four years to come back to Cambridge I'm not sure. I have to say that my enduring memory of the gig, beyond the music, is just how provincial it seems, when I am used to the London scene. It's not just me either. 'This is the churchiest church we've played in', says Neff. 'We've played in churches, but none as churchy as this.' And they nearly bring the roof down, too. It is a fantastic gig that reinforces once more the power a performance has to bring music alive.
Bo Ningen at Hotel Street
It's Bo Ningen again, and in the tiny Hotel Street venue which naturally gets packed. There isn't much of a riser for the stage, making it difficult to see Bo Ningen play, although guitars being jerked in to the air every few seconds aren't hard to miss. Neither is it difficult to see singer and bassist Taigen climbing on the amps near the end of the set. And having a shield of bodies to help protect against the wall of noise isn't so bad, and can in no way disguise the sheer energy the band projects. I keep coming back to watch Bo Ningen, and they never disappoint. A new album is on its way!
Novella at Hotel Street
Another gig at Hotel Street, before it closes, has me see new band Novella again. There's not much to report beyond what I've said on previous occasions. They are interesting and engaging to watch, have good songs and a different set-list tonight, and they are definitely maturing further as they continue to practice and play. I'll be picking up an album if it gets released and will be keeping my eyes out for future gigs, as Novella remain a band that offer a good evening's entertainment.
Achilla/Neuronspoiler/Orpheum/Human Wave Attack at Boston Music Rooms
The Boston Music Rooms is peculiarly deserted tonight. I've been to quite a few gigs, and even the smallest bands at least fill the venue so that there are bodies around. But something is awry, because everyone in the audience could swing a guitar around without hitting anyone. It's the same throughout the night, for some reason, and can't be blamed on the mediocrity of opening act Human Wave Attack. To be fair, they would be pretty good—fuzzy guitars, shouty vocals, catchy songs—if it weren't for their mechanical drummer, who plays the same beat with almost no variation through each song, and almost the same beat for each song. It really drags down what could easily be competent rock.
Orpheum don't have the same problem. I'm not sure why their drummer wears a mask, beyond them being goth rock, because he needs to be recognised as the genius drummer he is. It's not even the stark contrast between the blandness of the previous drummer, he really is damned good! I am mesmerised watching him play all around a big kit, wishing I had the dedication and skill to get to his level, although I also try to pay attention to the band as a whole. I kinda know the singer, which is why I'm at this gig in the first place. She's got a great voice too, and although goth rock isn't my normal genre Orpheum play some accessible songs, and they're all pretty perky for goths. I don't know how much market there is for this kind of music, but I hope they get some success.
Considering the Boston Music Room is opposite Tufnell Park tube station, it seems appropriate that Neuronspoiler fill the role of Spinal Tap. One of the two guitarists can't get his amp working for half of the first song, walking back confused when no sound is made, then strutting to the front of the stage when he thinks he's fixed it, only to turn around in frustration when he clearly hasn't. He even gets his hair caught in his guitar at one point. It's easy to mock this 80s hair rock, with so much preening, leather, and extended Axl-esque warbling that even Beavis and Butthead would take the mickey, but I have to give Neuronspoiler credit for not only playing the part perfectly but taking themselves seriously. More power to them, even if it's not my scene.
Headliners Achilla look like they're going places. They have the athletic blond lead singer, a bass player who looks out of place in the band but is enjoying every moment of being on stage, and a decent drummer, along with some good tunes. It really is a shame that they are playing heavy rock to an almost-empty room. But they give it all they've got, pimp their album-launch gig, and blast out a great set. It's been a good night's entertainment.
Allo Darlin'/Tigercats/Martha at King's College
I catch the end of Martha's set as I make to the fourth floor of King's College. My only real impression is that it must be pretty cool to be young, in a band, and playing in front of friends. I get to see the whole of the set by Tigercats, and even though the lead singer seems pretty nerdy the band play some confident and tidy music that's very much in the traditional indie sense. Guitar-based, charming and melodic, Tigercats play music that keeps me interested through the whole set, which is fairly unusual for a support act. I shall watch out for more from the band.
Allo Darlin' are the main act, and there are unsurprisingly a number of vocal fans in the audience. It's unsurprising because the band are charismatic, outgoing, and happy to be playing music, which all comes across in the performance. I know that there is a first album that I have not heard, so the first few songs are unfamiliar, but still enjoyably familiar. And it's not long before Allo Darlin' move in to promoting current album Europe, filling most of the set with catchy, poppy songs from it. Lead singer Elizabeth Morris has an amazing voice that lilts with such an airy manner it makes you not care that some of the lyrics are a little pedestrian. She also somehow hides her Australian accent whilst remaining distinctively different when singing. Seeing Allo Darlin' live reinforces my enjoyment of Europe, making it a current favourite album, and I will try to see the band again when they next tour.