Gigs of 2013, part three

29th December 2013 – 3.45 pm

Only three parts to my year's gigging. I missed a few gigs I would have liked to attend, but made it to others I may not have gone to. I think I've had a pretty good year of live music overall, but it may be getting more difficult to know what gigs are coming up and when. Maybe I need to investigate this 'facebook' the kids are talking about.

Bo Ningen at Scala

I thought Bo Ningen were the most Japanese band I would get to see without leaving London, but it seems I was wrong. They have invited N'shukugawa Boys to open for them tonight, who are apparently huge in Japan, and I can see why. The main guy is wearing panda makeup and a permanent smile, the girl is perkier than Heather Graham, and behind them is a glam rock drummer/guitarist. They are all bright, happy, and so full of spirit it spills all over the stage and in to the audience. I don't think we quite know what to make of it, but N'shukugawa Boys just seem stoked to be here, if their broken English and successful attempts at jumping off ten-foot speaker stacks is any indication.

Second band Telegrams are somewhat more subdued, which is fine. They seem okay, and the lead singer's accent comes through nicely. Well, I say that, as I think he's Welsh, but I wait to be corrected. I'd be okay with seeing them again.

Bo Ningen know what they're doing, and I've seen them enough to know what to expect. They start strong with some known songs, sandwich some new works in to the middle of the set, and then finish with some more established tracks. It's all expertly put together and performed, with a huge climactic finish that is pretty much a ten-minute jam with more endings than Return of the King. Bo Ningen are awesome as always.

Toy at The Garage

I try to keep an open mind for support acts, so am curious to see what Ornaments will be like. In the first song, their drummer rides the low tom, which can give an interesting different dynamic to using the hi-hat. Except he rides the low tom in the next song, and the next, and, in fact, in all but half a song, where he uses the ride cymbal instead. I noticed early on, and I can't stop noticing, making the whole backbeat really monotonous. Perhaps using the hi-hat for every song could be considered monotonous, but at least the fills would then have a different texture to the main beat. Besides, you don't combat monotony with a different monotony. It's a shame, as otherwise the drummer seems pretty good. There were other instruments, but the drumming made the whole sound bland.

Toy open their set with a bold song, being Kopter, the closer from their first album. Can they possibly hope to follow that up? Yes they can, Other Barry, yes they can. Because Toy have plenty of big songs, and they are interesting in their own ways. They are not just riding at a constant ten in a way that eliminates peaks and troughs, but exploring different ground whilst maintaining a consistent theme. It is a competent and engaging set, one that easily keeps me entertained. And if opening on a closer wasn't audacious enough, Toy finish their encore by playing the title song from the as-yet unreleased second album, Join the Dots. Climaxing with a new song is risky, but Toy make it work.

Emiliana Torrini at Heaven

Emiliana Torrini is strangely reserved during the first three songs of her set. She is normally quite friendly and chatty with the audience, albeit perhaps openly shy, so it is good that after the extended opening Emiliana introduces herself. She says she's been busy, and although an album was ready for Rough Trade about eighteen months ago it was something of a psychedelic AC/DC tribute, so they held off and ended up with better results. The next song played, Caterpillar, apparently initially had a riff that lasted fifteen minutes, which has now been reduced to just a trace. To indicate where this trace remains, Emiliana gives us a not-so-subtle devil's horns gesture for extra emphasis.

One of the band is hobbling around stage, which is a bit peculiar if only because she is not relying on crutches. We are told it's because Mara had an accident checking her bum for bruises, which ended with her falling off a chair in to a bath. I bet she's glad Emiliana shared that little anecdote with us, but gets the next song dedicated to her. It's Big Jumps.

Most of new album Tookah is played, which is sounding great live, and some old favourites are included, such as Today Has Been Okay, Sunny Road, and Birds. The highlight for me is probably the last song on new album, When Fever Breaks, which has a great build up to a rhythmic bassline, continued throughout the song, which then cuts out for Emiliana to say 'I will kill you'. Fabulous as always.

Metz at Village Underground

I get to Village Underground for my first visit in time to see Wytches on stage. They are loud, varied, and good. I'll watch them again, and will even look out for record releases. Second act Cheatahs are also loud, are competent with their instruments, and although they do all the right moves somehow don't click with me.

But a mosh pit, crowd surfers, and thrown beers! Oh my. Just when I think I'm getting too old to come out and enjoy myself, Metz come on stage and reinvigorate everything, reminding me why I continue to enjoy live music. The first two bands were loud, and I know Metz have a reputation of being loud, but this is extreme. They are bursting through my ear plugs, and I don't think I'm that close to the front either. It's the raw, lo-fi loudness that rakes right through you, not one that suffers from distortion but thrives on it, much as the band do. Continually pushing themselves and the mob that used to be an audience to be more energetic, Metz burst with confidence that would tip in to arrogance if their songs weren't so good. It's an amazing, affirming set of explosive music.

Factory Floor at Heaven

Support act East India Youth looks to be playing a keyboard, but who can tell? The few discernible notes that could be heard as he started his set are soon swamped by some amorphous blob of synthesiser sounds. I listen, waiting and hoping for some kind of resolution, but, no, it's just a vague synthesiser-type noise, and if there are any other sounds they are being completely swamped by this blob. Quite what EIY is bobbing in time to is lost to me. Perhaps his monitors are giving better feedback than the venue's sound system. Who knows? With any luck, this is an anomaly. But, again, no. Second song comes and the bass overwhelms the venue, making whatever he's playing lack any kind of fidelity. It's just a mess, maybe caused by poor sound levels, and with all the visual excitement of a skinny bloke in a suit bobbing himself to auditory orgasm behind a table of electronics. I disappear to a quiet corner of the venue for the rest of the set, lest I lose the will to hang around for Factory Floor.

Thankfully, Factory Floor live up to my expectations. I've only seen them once before, when they saved the evening from a similarly terrible Fuck Buttons set, albeit playing support to the poor main act, but the debut album has me excited. Seeing them live has me more excited, and a lot of that has to do with the dynamics of having a live drummer in Gabe Gurnsey, adding a level of performance that can often be missing in electronic acts. But the songs reign in Factory Floor's set. They are grouped together by BPM rating and the set segues from one song to the next until a change in BPM is required, at which point there is a short pause. For each segue and between each, I suppose, medley there are extended intros and outros, adding more muscle to the already impressively realised tracks. Perhaps importantly, and really it should be fundamental, but apparently not everyone believes this, the sound levels are perfectly measured, relaying all the details without distortion. The whole venue positively resonates to Factory Floor, and it feels good.

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