Gang Gang Dance
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- XOYO, London »
It’s Monday night, and doesn’t it show. Presumably on a high from their All Tomorrow’s Party performance the night before, New York five-piece plus dancer (after a fashion: he drapes a towel over his head and wafts a plastic bag around a bit) Gang Gang Dance have turned up for a party. But tonight’s audience – some possibly shattered from ATP, others certainly with one eye already shut in preparation for the next day’s early start – would rather observe from afar than indulge front and centre. So, sweaty pits and swaying hips are in relatively short supply. But at no point does the audience’s reservation impact upon the band’s performance: sure to be one of the year’s best in this writer’s book when it’s closed come December.
Lizzi Bougatsos leads her colleagues through a set that (unsurprisingly) leans heavily on new LP, Eye Contact. There’s no setlist space for an older favourite like ‘First Communion’, not when the opening track on your latest collection runs for close to 12 minutes. ‘House Jam’ is the sole cut lifted from the band’s Warp release of 2008, the superb Saint Dymphna; but the shortage of back-catalogue fare isn’t a problem: we’re here, largely, because the new set is so very fine. A mid-set run of three Eye Contact numbers sees the band turn from by-the-good-book preachers to genuinely possessed missionaries, charged with filling the hearts of strangers with alien music to make the limbs come alive. On another night, all would have welcomed their advances.
But clusters of bopping do break out. Those who take the plunge are patient while said longwinded effort, ‘Glass Jar’, cautiously feels its way into glorious flight, like a bird of paradise first stepping from its nest; they are rewarded with what follows, a powerful performance of new album highlight ‘MindKilla’. There’s an unexpected excursion into brand-new material, as the unreleased ‘Kou-da-ley’ makes an appearance, and ‘Bond’ – Eye Contact’s bonus track if purchased in Japan – is aired. The audience connection subsequently slacks, slightly, but never slips loose entirely. Throughout, Bougatsos is a compelling presence: half Kate Bush mystique, half against-that-wall-now lustfulness. She manages to appear grungy yet glamorous; kooky, but tough as nails. That few of her words are identifiable matters not, as atmospherically her siren’s call has many willingly smashing against the band’s singularly sculpted shoreline. Around her, GGD’s gentlemen (keyboardist Brian DeGraw is the sole founder still around) make merry with their chosen weapons, acting as if each is melded to their instrument, biomechanical mastery as second-nature as breathing.
The mainstream might never embrace them – one feels the moment to strike has probably come and gone (discounting Florence’s theft, which did crack the commercial sphere, more’s the pity) – but on nights like this Gang Gang Dance prove, with smiles intact and eyes sparkling, that the secret alleyways on the pop block make for much more interesting places to hang out, anyway. And dingy basement clubs are just as special, it seems, as for an hour or so XOYO is blessed by the presence of one of the most captivatingly original bands touring today.
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