Gigs of 2010-ish

23rd October 2011 – 3.47 pm

It looks like back in 2010 I was still endeavouring to write a review for gigs the day after I attended them, the habit tailing off towards the end of the year. I find it difficult to be thorough and timely, particularly if I don't have much to say, probably because I think I prefer to write a more personal review than critical. The single-paragraph anthology format works well for me in this respect, certainly when I am reviewing a band I have seen more than once in a year. For those gigs I have already reviewed I provide links for completeness, for the others I finally publish my experiences, such as I remember them after all this time. Also, I am fairly sure the Dinosaur Jr gig was in 2009.

Dinosaur Jr at Koko

Dinosaur Jr are back, and with Lou Barlow on bass. This would probably be of more significance to better fans than me, although I certainly appreciate knowing I am here to watch the original line-up. In truth, even though I'm no Spring chicken I am not old enough to have been fans of Dinosaur Jr from the beginning, although I have a few albums, and I remain impressed with the latest one, Farm, which is why I am happy to nab a couple of tickets for tonight. There are plenty of aging rockers in the crowd, and king of them all is J. Mascis, with his fabulous mane of white hair. Mascis has himself semi-surrounded by three double-cabinet-and-amplifier racks, the guitarist at the focal point of the arrangement, all the better to hear himself play. We can hear him just fine, riffs and licks powering out of the venue's systems, although it all gets a bit quiet between songs. Barlow occasionally barks randomly towards the audience, but otherwise we are simply treated to a collection of songs from the new album, followed by what I can only assume are tracks from early Dinosaur Jr history. It's all good, making for a loud and solo-filled night of very fuzzy rock.

Slow Club at the Garage

Already reviewed.

Fuck Buttons/Factory Floor at Koko

I've reviewed this gig already, but this seems like a good place to share an anecdote that may not translate so well to text.

I was buying some tickets at my normal agency, Stargreen on Argyl Street, which was having a fairly busy Saturday morning. It's only a small place, so it doesn't take much to make it bustle. A couple of telephone operators were taking orders, another assistant was serving one person, and the lovely manager was dealing with me. There was even a small queue waiting to be served. I was happily buying tickets for my gigs, almost pleased that there was sufficient murmur to disguise asking for the last request. But all went still, a rather coincidental silence suddenly dropping as I was about to speak. 'It's all gone a bit quiet', I say, before continuing to ask, 'and a ticket for Fuck Buttons, please'.

I wasn't embarrassed, I knew what I was going to be asking for when I left my house, and that I've uttered ruder phrases in my time. But the atmosphere had gone from busy bustle to pin-dropping quiet only a moment before, and the haphazard arrangement of queueing meant that I had to ask diagonally across the desk, speaking across another customer and the two or three behind me. I could help but be amused, and neither could some others. I could see the chap behind me stifling the giggles at the absurdity of the circumstance. It is a silly band name, and it led to a silly situation. I left the agency a couple of minutes later, tickets bought, still a little tickled.

Blitzen Trapper at The Borderline

Already reviewed.

Holy Fuck at Heaven

Already reviewed.

White Hinterland at The Social

Already reviewed.

Rolo Tomassi at Camden Underworld

I'm always a bit dubious about liking Rolo Tomassi. I have to wonder if I like them because they're obscure or if I do actually like their music, if only because I'm not a fan of screamed vocals. But when I listen beyond the screaming I find interesting and complex music, which I suppose is only to be expected from a band who perform maths-core, as it's called. I take the opportunity to see them live in a small venue, and they are impressive. They all have a lot of skill in playing their instruments and are really tight as a band, even if I'm still not sure about the screaming. Still, the music's good and they have a lot of dedicated fans who appreciate it all. During the encore, one of the band says they'll give a prize to anyone who can plant their feet on one of the air conditioners on the ceiling, which results in lots of stage diving and other ways of being thrown around. No one manages quite manages the challenge, but the mayhem is certainly entertaining to watch.

Slow Club at Koko

Already reviewed.

It Hugs Back at The Borderline

Already reviewed.

School of Seven Bells at the Scala

I'm beginning to dislike the Scala as a venue. It seems nice enough and I've seen a bunch of good gigs here since it opened, but the layout is beginning to irk me and the sound quality seems to be suffering. Maybe it's not helped by the support act being a man playing a harp and wailing in to a microphone. Because he's on a harp he has to sit, which means unless you're in the front row of the audience or over six foot tall you won't see a thing, and as he only has a harp he relies on backing tapes for accompaniment, which makes the whole experience not much different from listening at home on a stereo, except surrounded by a bunch of sweaty people who are constantly talking and without a comfy chair to sit on. That his singing is mostly wails is simply the icing on the cake to make me return to the lobby to sit this act out, and even then I plug myself back in to my iPod because the venue pipes the music back to the bar too.

Support act aside, I like School of Seven Bells and am really looking forward to seeing them. I enjoy both their albums, this tour being to promote second album Disconnect From Desire. Unfortunately, seeing them live doesn't quite live up to the promise of the recordings. Maybe I'm standing in a flat spot in the venue, which would be disappointing in itself, particularly as I have a good view of the band, but the instrument mix seems flat. On top of that, or maybe because of it, I have no idea what most of the band are doing. I can hear the lead vocals okay, and can relate them to the singer, but the guitarist at the back is strumming away vigorously apparently to no discernable effect, the keyboard player may be hitting keys or not, I can't really tell, and although the drums are coming through loud and clear they are being augmented by a backing tape too, so I can't be sure how much of the drumming is live and how much is being played back. Sure, the music's good and it's nice to be out of an evening, but the performance is lacklustre because of the disconnect between what I'm seeing and what I'm hearing. School of Seven Bells are a good band, but I don't think I'll see them live again.

Part Chimp at the Luminaire

Already reviewed.

The Joy Formidable/Chapel Club/Flats/Wilder at Koko

An NME night at Koko, four bands are playing. And a screen is lowered between acts, showing a looped montage video of three of tonight's bands, so short that it plays out many times between each act. Flats look interesting, I'm seriously bored with Chapel Club before they come on stage, and I know all about The Joy Formidable already. But first, Wilder. I know nothing about this band, and they all look young and terribly trendy, so it's probably not my scene. But the drummer is so fluid in her playing that I'm mesmerized, enjoying the whole set. I don't know if I'm just smitten with how cool the drummer makes drumming look or if I actually like the music, but I'll definitely be checking out Wilder again.

Flats come out next, and their video snippet makes them look interesting. It's a shame, then, that they are juvenile prats. The music's okay but the lyrics are childish, much like the band. When there is a technical difficulty and the set pauses for a couple of minutes the bass player huffily drops his instrument on the stage and strops off, which is only made amusing because he has to come back as if nothing happened a minute later to continue the set. Flats come across as being about as edgy as flicking the Vs to the camera when having your photo taken.

Chapel Club are on stage half-an-hour later, and by this point I'm ready to burn that stupid projection screen. I must have watched the same video looped a hundred times. Chapel Club aren't helping, being awfully maudlin and slow and boring. It's all so dreary. I can't even entertain myself watching the drummer, who makes even the simplest beats look like hard work. I want to watch Wilder again.

Finally, The Joy Formidable, the band I've come to see! If only I could watch them, instead of constantly being barged by someone who, apparently, is the flatmate of drummer Matt. She tells me this as some kind of justification for wanting free movement right in front of the stage where everyone is crammed in. Personally, I just want to watch the band. I'm all up for a bit of jostling, and have moshed plenty in my time, but I never like idiots who just pushed people to get their jollies, and this person, barging her way to one group of people and then another, comes close to being as rude and inconsiderate. Still, The Joy Formidable bring out Paul Draper, of Mansun fame, to play guitar and sing on Greyhound in the Slips, which was awesome, and the band are excellent as always.

Part Chimp/Torche at the Garage

I turn up to see favourite band Part Chimp play a support set at the Garage and bump in to the Power Armoured Beard, who is here to see main act Torche. I honestly can't remember much about the gig. Part Chimp were incredibly noisy and completely brilliant as always, and I always love hearing their huge album-ending Starpiss. I know nothing about Torche but am happy to see PAB here, as it gives me confidence that they'll be good. And they are, in perhaps a more traditional way than Part Chimp but still off the mainstream track. Very heavy rock, tight compositions, and an enthusiastic and appreciative band always make for a good performance, and I much enjoy the whole evening.

Wilder at the King's Cross Water Rats

No sooner did I want to see Wilder again than they play a smaller headlining gig at the Water Rats, in Kings Cross. I snap up a ticket and head across. The audience looks vibrant tonight, and I wonder if Wilder are actually quite popular, but apparently they are all here to see the support act. I forget their name. Once the support gets off stage everyone disappears back in to the pub, and few of them return when Wilder get on stage, which is a shame. I try not to get lost in the drummer's smooth technique this time, listening to the music instead, and they are pretty good! They have some tunes and good songs, as well as a decent drummer. I'll be keeping my eye on Wilder.

Autolux at the Garage

I've been a fan of Autolux for a while, enjoying their debut album but not during a time when they toured for it. Label disputes delayed their second album for a couple of years, but eventually it is released and the band are back on the road again, making their way to London. The Garage may not be a big venue but it is packed with Autolux fans, and the band themselves are happy to see such enthusiasm. We're happy to offer it, getting a rare opportunity to see Autolux perform live, and they don't disappoint. Mixing new songs from second album Transit Transit amongst tracks from the first shows the newer nuanced Autolux contrasted against their older rawer style, and it's all good. I hope I get to see them play again before too long.

Slow Club at Union Chapel

This is the second Slow Club Christmas Show I've been to, again at the Union Chapel in Islington. And, again, I should probably have made notes closer to the event as I can remember little, even who the support bands were. I remember slightly disappointing someone checking the guest list when they lost a bet that the real P J Harvey would be turning up, but I still got a sweetie for being me. Slow Club were in familiar form, awed by again playing to a packed house, although Charles was a little put out that the person who put in a request for a particular song at last year's Christmas Show hadn't come along to hear him play it. The band play old favourites, new tracks, and their Christmas songs, and everyone has a merry time indeed.

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