Traditionally, Mondays in January are supposed to be utter rubbish. The weather is all grey and depressing, there’s no money left after Christmas, and that slightly tacky RC helicopter you happily unwrapped on the big day crashed and burned because the damn thing won’t hover when I want it to. Good thing then, that my mates over at Danger Music were putting on a gig I could go along to and review last Monday. I needed a damn good gig to start lifting the January blues, and we’re well on the way to February so it was high time January buggered off and stopped bringing everybody down.
To that end, the evening took off with the ridiculous and surreal one-man band, MC Cashback, (aka Angus Greenhalgh) a comedy rap act focussed on food. How much can music say about food? How much of that is funny? MC Cashback’s here to answer those questions. There’s a need for some light hearted comedic music to balance out all the gloomy news floating round the UK at the moment, and the surreal, endearing nature of someone on stage running backing tracks from his iPod and rapping with cookbook in hand definitely lightens the mood. If you like Goldie Lookin’ Chain, you’ll enjoy this. Although it was the least polished performance of the evening, that added to his charm and many of us were in stitches way before he broke the fourth wall and lobbed a naan bread into the crowd. I’d love to see him play more gigs, which will definitely iron out any of the criticism that could be levied against his performance that night. His charismatic and naturally entertaining character carried his whole performance, as well as an unnatural enthusiasm for sandwiches. It was an easily digestible, light hearted and entertaining starter before the main course of bands.
Time for T
Time for T is the band bringing several new dimensions to singer songwriter Tiago Sa-Ga’s work, and this was their first performance. Tiago himself hails from Portugal, and the band brought the climate of a sunnier country into the small piece of England occupied by us at the gig. They’ve got a baggy psychedelic summer vibe that reminds you of decades of brilliant music all at once. I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Doors, which is definitely a good thing.
Their set opened with a reminder of the starting point for the rest of the music we’d hear from them that night. Tiago on his own on guitar, belting out an acoustic medley with a simple rhythm but passionate vocal delivery carrying us through Ska classic 54 46 (That’s my number) by Toots & The Maytals and on through several songs by Sublime.
The second song Tornado is one I knew I was going to like immediately, but was even more interested as I started hearing where they went from there. It has a lazy lean on the offbeat, keeping everyone swaying. The shift to a reggae breakdown, followed by a massive build with “I’m gonna sing it loud, to the morning rain” lyric repeated built to an awesome climax. The rest of their set kicked up a storm with some good times rock n roll tracks, and some softer moments that broke up the intensity. It was a set of song climaxes, with the spaces in between filled with a colourful display of musicianship and creativity.
Something often sorely missed in smaller/unsigned bands is a percussion player. Here, it wasn’t just appropriate, it added a layer of interest to their sound, helped them lead you down alleyways you might not be entirely familiar with, but you’ll be glad you chose to go with them. If you want a taste of the summer now, check them out. By the time the season of sun comes round again, this band will be already positioned to reflect the sunshine directly into the auditory processing centres of an audience’s brain.
Seeing them is a beautiful experience. They take you to an alternate universe, and show you things both beautiful and challenging. The softer moments feel like a chance to sit back, light up and chill with everyone. They prove that life shouldn’t be taken too seriously, and music should be fun to watch, play and listen to all at the same time.
The Icarus Youth
This was the first time I’d heard Icarus Youth or seen them play live and I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be checking them out again very soon. They play an addictive blend of styles, summed up in their own words as ‘Indie Rock ‘n’ Rhyme.’ In my words, I got the impression of sweaty, passionate rock n roll/ hip hop beats providing a background for their vocalist Will to paint us a picture of the world as he sees it.
By the time they’d got on stage, everyone in the audience was slightly more lubricated then earlier and much more willing to take advantage of the atmosphere the band brought to the show. The confidence in their performance makes you feel that nothing is out of control, where previous bands had a relaxed and almost jam like feel to them, this musical unit has a tight arrangement and performance style.
For instance, their track Misunderstood was another dancey number blended with a reggae touch in The Icarus Youth’s own mixing pot, creating a whole new blend of musical flavours. For me, the band shows the potential when musicians exploit the Internet providing so much access to all sorts of different music.
If you like bands like Two Door Cinema Club, but wished they had a little more ‘oomph.’ Or dig bands like the Roots, but enjoy a more light-hearted dance vibe, look up this band and go see them live.
Frontman Will blurs the lines between rapping and singing; expertly flowing between the two vocal styles in a way I’m more used to seeing people attempt then actually pull off. Totally absorbed in his own world, his hand movements evoke the feeling that he is weaving his own spell over the audience. The only issue was I couldn’t take enough of it in on a first listen; I just simply wasn’t prepared for all that they have to give.
I for one am relishing the opportunity to properly delve into Will’s lyrics and see what else lays beneath this brilliant surface.
Live Like Kings
Live Like Kings kicked off their set with the explosive ‘Face the Morning.’ The song is an adrenaline rush with a definite Strokes feel to it that immediately shouted at you exactly what this band was about.
The band tore through a whole set of foot stomping, heart pounding rock n roll, which left me unsure whether or not to tap my foot or bang my head, so I opted for an awkward nodding movement. On the contemporary musical landscape, they’re probably closest to The Walkmen or maybe the earlier Arctic Monkeys. Aside from that, they seem to be drawing from somewhere between the ferocity of The Who’s earlier tracks (around the My Generation era) and the attitude of punk. Then again, there are whiffs of The Rolling Stones in there too on certain tracks, with a cheekiness of vocal delivery bringing to mind the great Mick Jagger. Coming from an obsession with punk throughout my teenage years, there was also a raw fire in the band’s performance that I easily identified with.
There were some moments where the band meandered a bit, suddenly dropping into a more American, Rage Against The Machine style break down on one song. Admittedly the riff in that section was still awesome and if that is a criticism, I can admit its not a very strong one and as they continue to rock venues around the UK and hone their sound moments like this wont be as sudden.
Adam T. on the vocals has all the hallmarks of a great rock frontman. He’s deeply passionate about what he does and he’s been gifted with an awesome voice for his music. He funnels the energy of the music through his body and into his performance; I’ve never seen anyone play a tambourine with as much vigour and spirit as he does, giving the impression that he’s only just on the safe side of psychotic.
On the one hand, I love bands that choose to mix things up and cleverly blend different styles of music. On the other, a band that are just straight up rock n roll, embodying it in all its forms with no holds barred and nothing to hide made a refreshing change to the night.
What’s Your Vice?
Finally, bringing a conclusion to the showcase of the night’s acts was What’s your Vice. I’d seen this band play before at The Prince Albert, again in a small room. The atmosphere there had been positively electric. They’d blasted out an absolutely amazing set full of energy, attitude and powerful visuals that totally blew me away. They truly raised the bar for what I expected of local bands and put on a performance that I’ll never forget.
I’d been left with the impression of a small, focussed universe centering on their lead vocalist, Izzy, who’d been a rip-roaring ball of energy, throwing herself around. The band leapt into the crowd, beating floor toms and doing everything right in my eyes.
I was expecting more of the same as I eagerly awaited them to start their first song, but was instead greeted with something very different. With a clearly much more thought out approach then they’d utilised before, the band gave the impression that they were no longer just any old energetic garage band, they’ve risen up out of the underground and are ready to start entertaining thoughts of challenging the major players on the scene.
Tom still provided the same hard hitting grooves on the drums, beating the kit to within an inch of its life and driving the whole thing forward constantly. The drummer as the engine of the band has never been more appropriate. With Chris on guitar still providing as much of an energetic performance as before, but with more surprises in store. His use of effects during his solos twisted the band’s set into a completely new dimension for me. It was somewhere I’ve never been before, but the best music is full of surprises.
When I first saw the band, the whole stage constantly exploded, reverberating around Izzy as a nucleus. For this gig however, she seems more like the calm in the eye of the storm, providing a grounded centrepiece, around which the whirlwind of rock can rotate.
Here I come to my only gripe with the set. Not enough leaping into the audience. When I saw them before, you never knew what to expect, and it made it feel dangerous and exciting to watch. Here, with a more considered approach to their songs they are in danger of wandering too far into the safe zone. So I guess that’s the only criticism I can give, not enough jumping.
All photos courtesy of: http://phisheyephil.tumblr.com/