The week in gigs

“Hey, you go to more gigs than me!” a good music agent friend said the other day. “What’s the point of being in London if not?” I replied. There’s so much going on that as a beggar for good music (and as someone working in the industry), you just cannot stay away. So, that’s what I did: I spent the whole week following gigs and here’s what I thought.

I spent Monday night at Heaven watching Django Django and you can read the review in the previous post. I had planned to go to the genius Andy Burrow’s show at Borderline on Tuesday but I was in a very foul mood so preferred to stay at home. On Wednesday, it was time for DIIV.

DIIV // 8

I never get this right. I go to a gig at 9 and miss half of it. I go to a gig at 8.30 and stand alone for two hours like a Christmas tree. And there’s the torture of the support acts. For the love of God, may headlining acts choose support more carefully. Have some mercy. Thankfully, The Garage is a cool venue to hang out alone. Even when it’s full, it’s easy to see the stage from anywhere and find yourself a comfortable corner. The sound system is also one of the better ones compared to other London venues.

After enduring two very challenging bands, DIIV took the stage a little after 10 pm. The packed room instantly went berserk. These guys have the real “I don’t give a damn, I’m miserable” feel to them. The last time I had a Kurt Cobain revival was when I saw Cage the Elephant in Amsterdam but this lot are as close as it gets to the tortured look of Nirvana. They are often compared to the Cure (on reasonable grounds) and I even hear faint traces of Interpol’s intensity in some of their songs but whatever they remind you of, their impeccable mix of dream pop, indie-rock and shoegaze is fascinating. Luckily, their live performance was just as bewildering. There was quite a lot of head banging, shoeagazing and losing it. I went home immersed in my depression, all my senses running wild.

SWANS // ?

On Thursday night, I decided to accompany a good friend to the cult noise band Swans at Koko (what an amazing venue). He had warned me that if I didn’t enjoy Liars, I would not be able to stand Swans. I insisted, saying I was in for a bit of noise. He filled me in saying he had watched them last year at Primavera and was amazed by the sheer high level of the volume. He also said that although their earlier stuff was not exactly easy on the ears, their last two albums were more accessible. Yeah, right. When the band started their set, I knew I should have brought earplugs. God knows how many shows I have been to but I have never ever felt the need to cover my ears on any occasion.  That put aside, even if you don’t enjoy the music, you can tell if a performance is great or not. This one was pretty intense. The way people reacted to their songs was more in line with followers of a religious cult. The show felt more of a ritual than a concert. However, my ears could only take so much and after half an hour, I had to make my exit.

NZCA/LINES // 7

This is a little one-man electro-pop band in its own right, a project of Londoner Michael Lovett. Although the album does not come across very memorable, with help from Simian Mobile Disco producer Ash Workman, it’s not short of a few good tracks either. Lovett was at XOYO to support Lindstrom on Friday with two other musicians on his side and happily, they were a great fit for the stage. It is a rare experience these days to enjoy a band live much more than when you listen to a polished record at home. It is exactly the case with NZCA/Lines. Although they had to pause twice to fix their keyboards in place with a duck tape onstage, they laughed it off apologizing politely and picked up from where they left off. With a catchier follow-up with more of Lovett’s falsetto laid over up-tempo r&b beats or perhaps with more of that sassy Moonlit Car Chase track, they would be headlining soon.

LINDSTROM // 6.5

The Norwegian producer Lindstrom’s latest offering Smallhans sees him operating in his comfort zone while perfecting his signature disco sound. It is a beautiful dance record that I can’t stop listening to. Collaborating with another Nordic household name Todd Terje, on Smallhans, as Pitchfork puts it,  Lindstrom is “an accomplished master at work.” Whether he is a master in the dj booth, is yet another question. I was looking forward to seeing him on Friday; I thought he would have some sort of live thing going on. However, the album launch at XOYO literally turned out to be him playing his songs from the album. I was at the venue with a lovely Brazilian dj friend who has probably seen a thousand djs play at her club and we both felt quite surprised with how little interactive his performance was. We hopped onstage, (yes we did, along with 20 other people) and observed what he was doing the whole time. He was playing songs from a bloody iPad, wonder with what app. Ok it was accompanied with a laptop and a controller but he almost did not touch anything. Or perhaps that’s the new thing and I’m just ignorant. He did not once lift his face up to look at the crowd either. Lindstrom is not a band I get that. But after seeing so many great djs, you can’t help but expect a little more from this expert.

SWISS LIPS // 8

By Saturday, I was beginning to realize I am not 18 anymore. I was so tired I could barely lift a finger. However, Swiss Lips were to play their latest London gig at the Union, some kind of art factory they had closed down for a month to give a set of guestlisted gigs. I had been hooked to their catchy, sugary, 80s infused synth-pop for some time now and was wondering if they had the same appeal onstage. And boy, what a night it turned out to be! I met some cool girls who are the band’s friends and we moved to the front to watch the Manchester five-piece. They started their half-hour set with the single Danz, the peculiar characters from their video also onstage and actual dancers in the front. It truly was a pop explosion. They fired In the Water and You Got the Power towards the end and the show ended as fast as it started. It was too little too good. If you are after some no strings attached, good-time electro pop, these are the guys to go to, to care-freely dance the night away. Total energy injection.

Next week, I plan to watch the lovely Citizens!, the cool Tom Vek, the mind-blowing Maccabees and choose between Noah and the Whale and Crystal Castles. Keep checking this blog for follow-ups. Until then, have a great week with great music!

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