Gigs of 2011, part two

27th November 2011 – 3.10 pm

More gigs! I am trying to Get Out More and seeing live music has long been an activity I've enjoyed. It seems the obvious way for me to do something away from a computer, even if I end up seeing Bo Ningen a dozen times this year. They like to gig, and I like to watch them.

Bo Ningen/Ruins Alone at Corsica Studios

There are only so many ways I can describe the same band, and this is my third time seeing Bo Ningen in the same number of months, in the same venue as the last time. Merely supporting this time, and apparently opening the evening's acts, Bo Ningen still put on an excellent show, sticking with mostly songs not on last year's debut album and promoting their soon-to-be-released single. They are, as always, completely brilliant, dressed and strutting vibrantly, creating a wall of well-executed noise. The single sounds great, another new song brilliantly starts with guitar and bass playing different time signatures, and the energy and excitment is ever present. I look forward to seeing even more of Bo Ningen.

Main act is Ruins Alone, apparently a band that has been around for ages in various guises, but is my first contact with them. And by 'them' I mean 'him', as tonight it is just a drummer on stage—hence the 'Alone'—playing a bunch of songs with backing tapes. This is perhaps more entertaining for me now that I am learning to play drums than it would have been before, but despite it being pretty much a masterclass in technique, as each song almost looks like an improvised solo, there is only so much marvelling I can do. Interesting, but not particularly entertaining as a gig.

Cloud Control/Big Deal at the Scala

I don't know Cloud Control and only bought Big Deal's album a few weeks before the gig, but in my pursuit to Get Out More I buy a ticket. It's interesting how publishing what I get up to can be a motivating factor in seeking activities. I quite like Big Deal and had a poke around the internet to find that Cloud Control seem jolly enough, so even though I'm going back to the Scala venue that has given me poor experiences of late I am thinking positively. Big Deal are as good as expected, the duo serenading the audience with most of their album competently enough, although also as with their album it all feels a bit similar towards the end, with little apparent variation between the two guitars and two voices. In short bursts Big Deal are rather good, in concentrated form I find it difficult to maintain interest. It was good to see them, all the same.

Before Cloud Control come on stage a couple of Polish people take an interest in me, as I am looking characteristically sullen. I am quietly tolerating some chap's repeating gestures as he chats in the middle of the crowd, his elbow occasionally jabbing in to my back, which may explain why I am introduced to the pair with them asking 'why so serious?' Luckily, they don't then tell me how they got their scars and then cut me, but instead we get chatting and I even get bought a drink. Apparently, they have to get me drunk. I'm okay with that, it's part of my New Year's resolution to drink more, being almost a tee-totaler before, so I experience the after-taste of a Red Bull and vodka with some curiosity. Naturally, by the end of the evening, and after another drink, we get a bit frisky, but only a bit before I sensibly head home instead of following them to Soho. But, yes, Cloud Control. They are pleasant enough, if a little bland. There were plenty of people in the audience who were fans and singing along to their favourite songs, but for me the highlight was their first song of the encore, a cover of The La's There She Goes. A fairly average gig, then, but the best night I've had in a couple of years.

The Joy Formidable at Kentish Town Forum

I think I overdosed on The Joy Formidable a little. I saw them quite a few times in the previous year and listened to their various releases, including the excellent live album of the Garage gig I went to. Maybe it was the crappy experience at their Koko gig, or expecting too much of debut album The Big Roar but the band looked to be losing their sheen. But here I am Getting Out More, so I pick up a ticket for their gig in Kentish Town. It's been a long while since I've been to the Town and Country Club Forum, maybe the last act I saw here being Beck so many years ago, but it remains a good venue. Large, but inviting. The support acts are pretty good, The Dig seeming interesting until And So I Watch You From Afar blow them away, along with many unprotected eardrums. And when The Joy Formidable appear on stage and start playing it's like being reintroduced to old friends.

It has been a while since I've seen The Joy Formidable live, or listened to their music, and hearing it again played with such passion is invigorating and comforting in equal measure. The band clearly enjoy what they are doing and appreciate all their fans, also evidenced by all the extra-gig promotional activities they arrange, and it all comes across in their performance. The Joy Formidable also indulge in the art of live performance, not content to play live versions of studio recordings but to extend and enhance their songs in ways that augment the live experience that don't translate easily to the studio. I think my reawakening is helped by most of the songs played being from A Balloon Called Moaning and live favourites from before the debut album release, but even the encore of the later material is uplifting and energetic. The Joy Formidable continue to rise.

Bo Ningen/Blood Music/Advert at CAMP Basement

The gig for Bo Ningen's single launch is listed as having Factory Floor DJs. Normally, who the DJs are doesn't really matter to me, if only because they are stuck in a booth inaccessible to gig-goers and we're simply presented with a selection of songs between bands that we probably wouldn't realise were hand-picked anyway. But tonight there they are, spinning discs right next to the stage, two of the three members of Factory Floor! The band really impressed me when I saw them support Fuck Buttons about eighteen months back, so I can't help but say hi and fawn over them a bit, having a brief and pleasant chat with the drummer. Asking about new material I'm told an album is due out next year, which should be worth looking out for.

First band Advert have a big and noisy sound, and I wish I could remember more about them than their being a band to watch. With Part Chimp breaking up soon Advert are just the sort of band that could fill the gap. Next up are Blood Music, who are also noisy but have technical problems. Their kit is old, apologises the singer/guitarist, and dodgy jacks mean their sound cuts out a bit too often and they need to swap amplifiers, borrowing one that isn't theirs. That works out for me, as the main amp was cutting through my teeth but swapping for the smaller one let me hear the music instead of feel it, and when they aren't fiddling with connections Blood Music are pretty good.

Bo Ningen are the main act, performing to support the launch of their new single, which naturally gets played during the set. It is lively, loud, and as Japanese as everything else Bo Ningen has done so far, screamed out through speakers as the guitarists wail and riff on their guitars, when they aren't making elaborate arm movements. As well as the single and some more new tracks, the band plays some songs from their debut album that I haven't heard live before, which considering this is the fourth time I've seen them play in four months shows the depth they can bring to each performance. I'm still loving Bo Ningen and don't see that changing soon.

2:54/Novella at Corsica Studios

2:54 are being hyped at the moment as a great new band and despite not having heard their music, not even getting around to finding anything on-line, I pick up a ticket to see them play their Corsica Studios gig as part of my plan. I write 'see them play' because that was what I was expecting, but instead over-use of the fog machine combined with a back-lit stage means I see very little. The lead singer is little more than an amorphous blob in silhouette, and I literally cannot see the drummer half the time for all the fog. I'm not entirely sure why the stage is lit from behind, or why strobe lights are flashed directly in to the eyes of the audience, as I have long been under the impression that it is the band that should be illuminated for the audience to see. Half-way through the set I wander from my position near the front to stand further back in the venue, curious to see if it makes a difference. It does, but only in that the strobes no longer hurt my eyes. I suppose I should review the music a little, but the complete lack of performance, at least any I could see, probably negatively influences my perspective. Being bored at having nothing to watch, 2:54 don't sound that special, and although it's maybe a little unfair to think of them as yet another Florence and the Machine wannabe that is my lingering impression. I won't discount them yet, but tonight's gig was a poor showing.

The night isn't completely wasted, however. Support act Novella produce a good set—one that I can see!—with some interesting and lively songs, along with an extended penultimate song that droned along in a very pleasing way indeed. And when bored with standing in 2:54's fog and retreating to the back I grab a serendipitous chat with them, learning they'll be supporting Dum Dum Girls next week, a gig I already have a ticket for. In that case, I can look forward to seeing Novella again.

  1. One Response to “Gigs of 2011, part two”

  2. Actually, I think I can ignore 2:54. NME, who have been keen to promote the band and are pretty much the reason I went to the see them, gave this gig a blistering review, ignoring the excessive dry-ice as being atmospheric and somehow claiming it being 'impossible to get anywhere near the stage', despite my achieving it easily enough.

    The description of the music as 'stirringly dark sounds with wolfish, witchy signifiers' doesn't match with my more mundane initial impression, and I saw nothing of the 'impressive menace', not actually being able to see them. I get the distinct feeling that marketing is playing more of a role here than the music.

    By pjharvey on Nov 27, 2011

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