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The gig picture - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
The gig picture
This month I have mostly been going out a lot. Below is a quick and dirty write-up of a lot of time, a lot of fun, and probably utter financial ruin.

Contents:



Broken Family Band / Mousse 20 / Skip the Rush / Alizarin / Niccokick
The Junction, Thursday 22nd September


Five bands for a fiver is a good deal at the best of times, and given that I'd've happily paid that just to see the Broken Family Band, anything else was a bonus. Niccokick were pleasant but forgettable, Alizarin were moody and not very interesting, and Mousse 20 might be interesting once they work out what they're doing; but Skip the Rush provided great indie pop, great stage presence, indie-boy eye-candy, and a chance for lnr to launch her career in the music biz. [lnr, unsurprisingly, reviewed this gig at greater length.]



Battle / Stuffy and the Fuses
Portland Arms, Sunday 25th September


I heard Battle's single, "Against Demons", on 6 Music and liked it enough to look up who the band were. That's about it, really. The gig was a bit like the single, only longer. :-)



The Producers
Theatre Royal, Friday 30th September


I'd wanted to see this for ages, so I was delighted when addedentry and I happened to see a deal on lastminute.com for cheap tickets to see The Producers and a meal at Porters beforehand. I'd always loved the film, and wondered how it would translate to the stage, and whether it would be as good.

It was better: bigger, louder, gloriously over-the-top, and more camp than a gay Glastonbury. This show had everything: the faded glamour of Broadway's broken dreams, glittering chorus lines, a neurotic Jewish accountant, a flamboyant Swedish sex-kitten (or rather, given her stature, sex-puma), goose-stepping showgirls, singing pigeons, nymphomaniac grannies tap-dancing with their zimmer-frames, and self-referential irony. The one thing it lacked was subtlety, and that's something I can live without.

The meal was good, too; serious pie action in a relaxed environment, with good beer (St Peter's) as the ideal accompaniment.



Covert / Damo / Digitonal @ Clear
The Cow, Sunday 2nd October


This was the second Clear, a relaxed, intimate, smoke-free live DJ night, in the basement at the cow. I wish I'd made it to the first, and I'll certainly be going to the next.

covertmusic played a great set to a sadly-underpopulated dancefloor; the high point for me was a live bootleg of Radiohead's "Everything in its Right Place" and New Order's "Blue Monday" (with some other stuff thrown in), though there were some other great tracks that I didn't know at the time but should follow up later. I tried to dance to as much as possible, but the chilled-out atmosphere of the club (reminiscent of the ID spiral tent at Glastonbury) meant that it was far too easy to just lounge around drinking some of the extremely silly cocktails which were on sale. NB: this is not a complaint. :-)

Digitonal produced the sort of electronica that makes a lot of people wave their hands around and say things like "soundscape", but mostly made me say things like "I really really want a 5-string electric violin". A great sound, if a bit rambly and proggy for me, but to be honest I was more intent on soaking up the atmosphere than analysing the music.



Editors / We Are Scientists / The Cinematics
The Junction, Wednesday 5th October


The Cinematics were underwhelming and loud (hint: try turning the volume down, even just one notch, for even just one second); We Are Scientists were surprisingly good (and had FREE BADGES featuring KITTENS); and Editors were great. Essentially, they have a Hit Single, and a lot of things that sound a bit like the Hit Single. This is a pretty good strategy (see also: Battle), particularly if your Hit Single is a bloody good song.

Editors, like most other good bands at the moment, sound a bit like Wire. (This also appears to be a pretty good strategy.)

[lnr has reviewed this one too.]



Club Goo
The Soul Tree, Wednesday 5th October


After the gig we legged it to the Soul Tree for Club Goo, where Editors were supposed to be doing a guest DJ set, though frankly we couldn't tell one angular indie-boy DJ from another. Goo was good fun (and the Soul Tree a great venue, spacious and trendy without being barn-like or boring) despite proving to me that I'm PAST IT. I spent most of the night shouting "WHAT'S THIS ONE? I'M SURE I RECOGNISE IT" in people's ears, but whenever I actually recognised something all the young people looked rather bemused. I can, however, now recognise "Mr Brightside" by the Killers. This is good, because it meant that I recognised it when I heard it being played by buskers -- a long-haired hippy girl with a guitar, and a floppy-haired indie boy with a tambourine -- on Bridge Street in the middle of last week's unexpected heatwave.

Despite getting back absurdly late for a school-night, I had to dig out a couple of CDs to prove to myself (and addedentry) that the suddenly-slower chiming guitar melody in the middle of "Lights" by Editors (oh, go on, you've all got copies of this, it's at about 1 minute 20 seconds into the track) is the same tune as the glorious great big tubular bell chimes in the "Dies Irae" section of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. Yes.



Macbeth: The Hour
ADC Theatre, Thursday 6th October


An hour-long production of Macbeth, billed as "experimental" and involving "dance". Thankfully, the "experimental" aspects seemed to be reduced to a lot of frenetic lesbianism from the Witches (hey, I'm not complaining), a bit of tastefully-done singing, and some very clever scene-shifting effects involving large wooden boards used like Roman shields to form instant walls. Oh, and a man pretending to give birth to another man, in the visions that the Witches show Macbeth. So, nothing very odd there, but all in all, an entertaining hour.



The Threepenny Opera (ADC Theatre)
ADC Theatre, Thursday 6th October


Oh dear. I expected to like this, I wanted to like this. But if I'd wanted to see an amateurish production of The Rocky Horror Show only without the catchy tunes ... well, it was Freshers' Week, I suppose. Admittedly, the running commentary from the spotty teens behind me didn't help ("There's so much LATENT HOMOEROTICISM!" they gasped, as a chap in stockings and suspenders languorously wrapped his arms around another man), but it was less of a handicap than a Macheath totally lacking in charisma, and a general lack of singing ability. The notable exceptions were Mr and Mrs Peachum, who not only presented us with plausible and amusing grotesques but could actually carry a tune; but they were fighting against an otherwise lacklustre cast, and it was definitely a losing battle.



Ladytron / Battant / Um
APU Students' Union, Sunday 9th October


Um was unlistenably awful, and by writing that I've already devoted more space to him than he deserves. Battant were unmemorable, but that's got to be better. (Actually, their lead singer was very good, but if not let down by her backing band then certainly limited by them. Let's hope she finds a better band to back her Siouxsie-style shenanigans.)

Ladytron, I have to say, were slightly disappointing. I didn't know many of their songs, but I'd enjoyed those I'd heard, and was looking forward to an evening of sexxxy machine-music (oh yes). Unfortunately the rather muddy acoustics didn't do them any favours, and after a while all the songs started to sound not only rather leaden but rather too similar to one another. "Seventeen" and "He Took Her To A Movie" stood out from the murk, as did new single "Destroy Everything You Touch", but apart from those high points the set seemed to drag at times. Overall I'd say I enjoyed it, but I don't think I'd go out of my way to see them live again.

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Comments
beingjdc From: beingjdc Date: October 13th, 2005 03:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like Battle, and Ladytron are indeed better recorded than live, though I did have fun when I saw them live - I think they've changed, but they certainly need crisp acoustics to work.

Can I link from ukgigreviews info page, given this is a public post covering lots of bands?
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: October 14th, 2005 08:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Um, they're not very good reviews, but feel free to link if you want.

Battle were cool, but I really only knew the single, so the whole gig was a bit "Ooh! Another song...!" -- they all sounded good at the time but I can't remember any of them now.

It's a real shame APU's acoustics were so murky -- it was a really nice venue otherwise, bright and spacious and comfortable. And with sofas! I'm getting too old for this standing-up-through-gigs lark. :-)
beingjdc From: beingjdc Date: October 14th, 2005 08:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Battle, I think, did Tendency, which I like.
(Deleted comment)
sion_a From: sion_a Date: October 13th, 2005 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: The Threepenny Opera (ADC Theatre)

I wonder how much better the experience would've been with a better audience. Such as one that wasn't prone to laughing out loud for no apparent reason. Or had the wit to realise that by giggling along to the annecdotes of Macheath's past violences and then gasping in horror at a slap or a spit in the eye they too have become his stooges, and are every bit as much victims of his personality as any of the characters on stage. And I wonder if anyone there saw any irony in the "tidy and happy ending". It's not tidy—there are far to many questions left unanswered about the futures of the characters and their relationships. And it's not a happy ending if a dangerous shit like that comes out on top.

Oh, and going for A Clockwork Orange when Rocky Horry failed to inspire was a little obvious too.
j4 From: j4 Date: October 14th, 2005 09:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: The Threepenny Opera (ADC Theatre)

It's not a tidy ending, but then it wasn't a tidy beginning either. It's just a glimpse into an underworld that we as an audience can't really empathise with -- all we see is caricatures and stereotypes -- and by stepping outside the play to say "that's not how it really ends," the characters are effectively mocking the audience for thinking there'd be a tidy (and morally uplifting) ending, because after all, that's not how life works.

If you don't want to think of Macheath having "come out on top", though, consider perhaps that he's denied the potential closures of both marriage and death, things which might give his life some kind of dramatic meaning, only managing a shabby pantomime of both; instead he has to go on grafting and bullying and lying and whoring and running to keep one step ahead of the hangman. (Perhaps he's supposed to be an unconvincing character, trapped in a drama where he can neither have a 'happy' ending nor assume the role of the tragic hero....)

And I think trying to appropriate A Clockwork Orange's atmosphere of ultraviolence and casual terror just by means of black eyes and bowler hats was a rather lazy attempt on the part of the producer to tap into something which the rest of the play suggested they didn't really understand.

</handwave>
camellia_uk From: camellia_uk Date: October 13th, 2005 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
> The Threepenny Opera (ADC Theatre)

funny, I saw a production of this done by our uni's theatre group, and it was almost exactly as bad. They couldn't sing, Mack was timid and flakey, they looked either bored or embarrassed to be wearing stockings and corsets, and it was generally quite painful to be there. I just assumed our theatre group were abysmal (there is other evidence to support this), but maybe it's just a really bad play.
j4 From: j4 Date: October 14th, 2005 08:44 am (UTC) (Link)
There's certainly growing evidence for the idea that it might be a difficult play for amateur theatre groups to do well... I'd be interested to see a professional production of it, though. (And I really should get round to listening to the recording of it that I've got...)
lnr From: lnr Date: October 14th, 2005 09:24 am (UTC) (Link)
At least this lot seemed comfortable in their outfits. And there was some nice eye candy for those of us who like that sort of thing (read all of us).

I enjoyed it at the time, but looking back it really wasn't that much better than I'd expect of a school play. Perhaps that's what you expect of amateur theatre in general, I don't know. Macbeth was definitely of a much higher calibre.
j4 From: j4 Date: October 14th, 2005 09:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Perhaps that's what you expect of amateur theatre in general

After 9 years (Christ!) in the mythical city of Oxbridge, I've come to expect am-dram to be practically indistinguishable from pro theatre. Perhaps I've just been spoilt. :-)
rysmiel From: rysmiel Date: October 13th, 2005 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've never seen Threepenny Opera, and after the graduating class of the National Theatre School of Canada did the original Beggar's Opera as their final piece a couple of years ago, I really want to be able to compare them.
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