The Toilet Circuit Diaries #2: Jim Bob, Karmakops, Drat, Bloc PartyGood lord… I wrote one of these an age ago, then forgot to do a followup.
There are many bands to be encountered on London’s toilet circuit. The term ‘toilet venue’ comes about because the venues a) often stink of toilets, and b) are the size of toilets. There is only one proper toilet venue that we know of in the UK, and that is the Tunbridge Wells Forum – famous because it is actually converted from a public convenience into a proper music venue.
So, onto some small gigs then. Here is a VERY small handful we can remember from hazy nights and hungover mornings, over the last month and a bit…
DiS is in Manchester. It’s the annual In The City convention. To be honest, the bands this year were a bit of a letdown. The best ones were the ones we’d seen before. Hookers Green #1 baffle everybody, Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies kick up a storm, unexpectedly finding themselves as one of this year’s ‘buzz’ bands, Agent Blue and Sammyusa do the Fierce Panda/Temptation stable proud while Dogs Die In Hot Cars have their industry fans drunkenly singing along – they were certainly a lot better than The Strokes’ mates Johnny Lives, who were on before them.
C-Jags did the punk/pop thing but were a bit shit. They were far, far better at the DiS gig which followed in London Village the next month (but we don’t review our own gigs, so hush hush Adie). Menlo Park are quirky, The Gems are spunky, and The Earth Californian Love Dream are boring and Mellafone make us want to kill ourselves, or at least go to a venue which serves alcohol. Where else did we go? Geez, I have no fucking idea. Everything started to blur into one.
There was one saving grace, however. DiS was on a demo workshop, run by those lovely folks at Plum Promotions (who promote at the infamous Water Rats and Betsy Trotwood venues in London). DiS is, naturally, hungover. DiS has to listen to 2 minutes or so of a band’s demo, and give a verdict on its quality, and offer advice. It’s near the end of the 3 hour session, and Nik Moore from Work Hard PR/Playlouder.com has nearly reduced a 16-year-old called Katie to tears. Things are getting bad. DiS wants guitars, and rock, and hard drugs. DiS is too knackered to be of much use, having had this thing come up at the last minute, but the last demo of the day is the lifesaver. “Thank fucking god for that,” says DiS, now fully awake, “I’d been wanting to kill myself for the last hour at least.”
The band to cause such a reaction are Manchester’s Karmakops. The demo is unfinished and ropey, having been brought in by their manager (a 5’ 7” mod who rides a Vespa). To put it in a word (or three), they’re fucking brilliant. To make things even fucking better, the band aren’t even playing In The City! DiS is ferried to their rehearsal room the next day. The band play five songs, pretty much all of which are single material. Think Supergrass, Electric Six, The Who, and a ballad which the mod manager says “is the song Stereophonics would have a hit with, but would never be able to write.” And he is correct. Absolutely. Spot on.
They were so good, we go to see them again the next day, and book them for their first London gig.
But That’s Enough Of The Capital Of The North, Let’s Get Back To The Capital Of The South
Ahoy! Bloc Party keep on gigging and we saw them at the Buffalo Bar and the Windmill and the Electrowerkz. Now, this is a band who’s come a hell of a long way in a year and a bit. Now on their third name change, they’re getting a buzz about them. Indeed, Steve Lamacq has called their forthcoming debut single “genius”. Influenced from everything from The Strokes to The Cure to Suede and Brett Easton Ellis, the range of styles is proper melting pot in their sound. The single itself comes across as Joy Division meets Gang Of Four. Out of these three gigs, it’s the Electrowerkz which is the most impressive. Adie DiS even considers having to leave the room, it’s that good. Having honed their set into an impressive big beast of top tunes, tight arrangements, and improving stage presence, Bloc Party, more than ever, look like the finished product. They grow up so fast, don’t they?
At the same venue, Franz Ferdinand play two sets. It’s cramped. There are girls and boys in cages at the side. People are fighting to get in. Outside, DiS queued up behind the biggest bunch of wankers, claiming to be from Virgin Radio. Fuck them. Franz Ferdinand are too cool. This is the band which has been bubbling under in the Glasgow scene for a long time, and in ‘Darts Of Pleasure’ they have one of THEE greatest singles this year has spawned. To wit, your humble DiS correspondent hasn’t ‘moshed/pogod’ to a band in quite a while, but this time we make an exception. On top of all that, the venue is great: really grimy, a horrible basement feel to it, paint peeling off the ceiling, like a cellar or something. Yum.
That’s Very Nice, But Have You Been To Camden?
Why yes! One of the bands to impress most was Drat, the Northern Irish Grandaddy wannabes. OK, they weren’t wannabes as such, but that’s how their CD would lead you to believe. Live, it was a different matter. Some lo-fi powerpop undertones and, like, proper good tunes were in evidence. They have the endearing charm, the good songs, and the token cover version – a brilliant yet slightly spooky version of ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. A good future lies ahead of them, much likes fellow Irelanders (er..) Element, who’ve been taken on by Hope Of The States’ manager.
Up at the Barfly, we saw Silver Sun play their first ‘proper’ gig in four years. Oh, happy happy happy days! It was certainly ropey yet none of the magic has been lost. Indeed, the magic has been regained. The band’s second album was never than well-received, but tonight’s gig is a mixture of three things: 1) first album, 2) second album, 3) forthcoming third album… so it’s not all bad. It’s easy to forget how great a song ‘Lava’ is, it’s annoying that they leave out ‘Julia’, but never mind.
Still in Camden, it was time to bring things down to an acoustic level. Jim Bob – him ex of Carter USM and current of Jim’s Super Stereoworld and, er, Jim Bob – has got himself a solo gig at Lock 17 (the venue formerly known as Dingwalls). The tube closure of the northern line does nothing to stop a great turnout, and the gig is awash with Carter USM songs. This is, in itself, both good and bad. Good, because it causes a great singalong and great atmosphere, and gives the people who paid £10 per ticket what they wanted. But it’s bad, because Jim has so many great songs of his own: you just need witness ’Touchy Feely’ for evidence of this, as it’s certainly a proper singalong classic and is the one which got everybody rushing to the front. A jolly good night which DiS’ companion reckons is “very Billy Bragg”. Much alcohol was consumed, then a loss of memory, and a trip to the Ritzy Cinema to see ‘Finding Nemo’ (for the record, not that great a film. It’s not about a shark, it’s about a couple of stupid clown fishes).
OK, I’d Love To Know More, But You’ve Written Over 1,000 Words
Correct. So tune in next time for more regular (we hope) updates and more diversity of bands. Woo!