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The Long Blondes, Mystery Jets, Larrikin Love, and Jamie TEdit this event
It’s a beautiful January afternoon in North London: the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and teenage tourists are buying magic mushrooms. It’s a beautiful scene. So, what better way to spend it than spending nine beer-soaked, smoky hours in the windowless top room of the Camden Barfly observing some of the cream of the up-and-coming indie crop, all introduced by Jon Kennedy’s natty pink and black striped sweater? Well, it’d be rude not to…
The Holloways kick off proceedings with some enthusiastically done but thoroughly unoriginal Libertines/Clash-esque posturing. Songs like Great Britain and Generator rock along nicely, and there’s a moment of near-excitement when a (remarkably civilised) stage invasion erupts. Fun while it lasts, but eminently forgettable.
Larrikin Love are probably one of the most anticipated bands here today, as opinions are already polarised upon their two-tone/skiffle hybrid chaos – depending on which ear you listen with, they’re either set to reinvigorate the UK music scene or they’re harbingers of a musical apocalypse. Judging by this performance, they’re neither. Whilst they’ve certainly got a strong identity which surpasses their influences and gives them a distinctive sound, there’s an occasional hollowness to their slower songs, belying the vulnerable androgyny of Edward Larrikin and making it all seem somewhat cynical. However, when they do really get going, as on songs like Happy as Annie or recent single Six Queens, this all falls away and they don’t so much harness a chaotic energy as hang on for dear life – and you can’t help but dance to it. Worth seeing out of interest, and make sure to bring your dancing shoes.
The Pistolas are a walking talking cliché of a band – from the Token Female Bassist to the Ian Curtis-alike frontman climbing the speakers during their penultimate song, you can’t but feel you’re watching a photocopy of a photocopy. They do provide some entertaining balls-out rock action in a New Wave fashion for about twenty minutes, but it all goes horribly wrong with a remarkably contrived stage invasion before their final song (trying to outdo The Holloways for the ‘Most Inept Stage Invasion’ award?). They’re a marketer’s dream – expect to see them supporting the Kaisers before long. When they do, stay in the bar.
Now, 65daysofstatic are generally lauded with almost unbelievable amounts of praise on these pages. Apart from the odd song on a compilation and a couple of hurried downloads from their website listened to on the bus to the gig, I’m a complete 65dos virgin, and was more than prepared to debunk this heady rhetoric from my completely objective viewpoint.
But I can’t. I’ve been thoroughly converted. These four, clad in black as though they’re the high priests of post-rock, make a colossal wall of noise, letting you get lost in their songs but still never letting you drift away. If there’s any criticism to be made, it’s that the Barfly’s sound system just wasn’t loud enough for them. Superb.
By the time The Long Blondes take the stage, the room is absolutely crammed with people: expectations are high to see something really special. Which is why I’m still wondering if I’ve missed something essential about this band. Sure, they’ve got a beautifully glossy sound, bringing to mind Echobelly, Le Tigre and early (ie half decent) No Doubt; songs like Separated by Motorways and Appropriation (By Any Other Name) are certainly indiedisco floor-fillers; and frontwoman Kate Jackson is beguiling indeed, working the crowd with apparent ease. It’s just that beyond the professional veneer and catchy hooks, the band don’t connect in any more meaningful way than ‘nice to tap your feet to’.
Tapping your feet isn’t the reaction to Pure Reason Revolution, however: a full-scale head-banging session seems more appropriate at points during their set. Prog is certainly not a four-letter word to them, with their sound (and beards) firmly rooted in the Seventies, veering between almost ridiculously cosmic and excessively heavy. Despite a couple of dual-vocal moments which nearly ruin it all by sounding a little too much like Evanescence, you really feel that every note is carefully arranged for maximum effect, and with evidently increasing confidence and a natty little lightshow, PRR are certainly worth seeing: if only to see a man play four keyboards a once, and Chloe Alper’s beautiful Ascot hat.
There were only two words going through my head whilst watching Jamie T: ‘Young Dylan’. His rough-edged lyrical stories really do seem to capture a truth about things in a way that makes you smile knowingly, in a way that only the best books, speakers and indeed, early Dylan can evoke. You must see this man play – soon.
Maybe everyone’s still stunned by Jamie T, or maybe gig fatigue is finally setting in, but The Young Knives (often praised as one of the best live acts in the UK) just don’t seem to engage with the audience tonight. The back and forth banter between Henry and House is barely present tonight, and even set closer and live favourite Weekends and Bleakdays seems strangely flat. It’s disappointing, as they can be so much better.
And it’s with a chorus of ‘ZOO TIME! ZOO TIME! ZOO TIME! ZOO TIME! ZOO TIME!’ that the day comes to an end and the Mystery Jets take to the stage, which is now rather cosy despite circumstances requiring that their normal stageside accoutrements are somewhat sparse. Their eccentric urban fairytales are evidently well-known to the audience, and an atmosphere of barely suppressed hysteria greets forthcoming album tracks like The Purple Prose of Cairo and The Boy That Ran Away, as well as previous singles You Can’t Fool Me Dennis and (of course) Alas Agnes. It almost seems like tonight’s the first night the band themselves have experienced the songs live, the amount of passion and sheer joy they throw into every moment of the set; and there’s not a person in the Barfly who’s not swept along by the enthusiasm. This culminates in a joyous influx of the first ten rows onto the stage at the end of Alas Agnes, forcing the band into an impromptu one-song encore just so they’re allowed offstage. Whether the Mystery Jets can sustain their idiosyncratic appeal and approach throughout the wider attention that 2006 will inevitably bring remains to be seen: even so, tonight is a triumphant beginning to the year for the Eel Pie Island boys, and certainly bodes well for their immediate future.
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