Call me Russ L

Two gigs and a spoken word doo-dar

Posted in Music, Stage by Russ L on 24 January, 2010

It came to pass, then, that my two-thousand-and-ten gig campaign was to start with Rolo Tomassi at The Flapper on Wednesday the 20th of Jan. Word circulated that some of the tour was sold out and threats of yet more heavy snow a-threatened themselves, but neither of these things turned out to be the case. Population/Precipitation: for the former it was very busy but not quite sold out, whereas regarding the latter… well, in retrospect I don’t know why I paid even the least bit of mind to snowthreats. I don’t usually heed weather forecasts (given that they’re as often wrong as they are right) and I always find it hard to see why anyone else does either, but this time I fell for it and was genuinely expecting snow to fall fulsomely. I’m not sure precisely why I did this, although I suspect that – one way or another – “dumbass” is probably the word that we’re looking for here.

Putting aside the extremely exciting stuff about snow and/or my expectations of it, The Flapper is still The Flapper. I’ve always thought that the downstairs room is a fantastic place for gigs, but then again I’ve also always thought that the toilets there should probably have a “WARNING: EXTREMELY MANKY” sign displayed with great prominence. It no longer feels to me like the centre of everything popular-musical in Brum in way that it used to back in the day, but maybe it still does to others.

A feeling of horror descended upon getting into the gig: the audience were all so young, with their lopsided fringes and their being thin and their music television and their world wide web etc etc. Oh well. I don’t think I caught it off them. I still seem to be more-or-less the same age I was a few days ago. Slightly older, if anything.

Soni Quella (a name I find hard to think without a ridiculous Dolmio advert styled Italian stereotype accent, widda da Soni Quella anda da pasta anda da bolanaysi) were on first. They kept reminding me of Mr Bungle in a funny sort of way (nowhere near as surreal as all that, but in the way they veered from funk bits to screamy and growly bits), although their overall approach seemed more akin to a Glassjaw. The thought occurs that this should all add up to something like early-mid period FNM, but they didn’t sound in the least bit like that. There are probably far more obvious references than these but I am simply not far enough down with the young’uns to know them. I liked bits of their set. I would say that they were not without their charms.

Shapes were on in the middle and played a time-changing metalcore/mathsrock type of lark. I can’t pretend that I have a lot to say about them. Again, I liked bits. Probably fewer bits. More often the instrumental bits.

Rolo Tomassi, then, apparently suffering a touch from being halfway through a tour in the cold weather (not that it showed in their performance). If you don’t know them they’d probably be best described as a series of screams and daggadaggas and bleeps that have been cut up and rearranged in a random order that still seems to make sense (having sad that – did their new songs they played seem to be a bit more straightforward? Maybe, on first listen). What I was happy to note (and I have sort of half-thought this the last couple of times I’ve seen them) was that their quieter bits are a lot more convincingly spooky/ethereal live than they are on record. It does definitely seem to add an extra dimension to them. Lovely stuff, all told.

(More accounts of this gig here and here).

The original idea for Friday the 22nd was to go and see Baroness at The Hare Und Hund, but that one actually sold out. No matter, though, as I already had a B-plan in mind: the first gig of a new promotional outfit calling themselves I Love Noise Pop (TheirSpace proudly displays an image stating that “We’ve been introduced by Tom Robinson”, and I can’t quite put my finger on precisely why I find that combination of words so very funny). It matters not that when I first heard of this and thought “Ooh, Kategoes – they’re one of those bands I’ve been intending to see for a while” I was actually thinking of Miss Halliwell. That isn’t in the least bit important.

The Island Bar, then – I’m really not sure whether I like the place or not. I did the first time I went, but on this occasion I wasn’t as sure. It certainly tries very, very hard: posters for gigs that happened elsewhere, indoor paving slabs upstairs, theatrical barstaff that keep you waiting while they club a block of ice like a seal cub/the effeminate foster child they never liked anyway etc etc etc. If I were to compare The Island Bar to another pub, it would definitely be the one that appeared in that James Bond film where he posed as an annoying student to foil the baddies.

What I definitely don’t like is the way that at both this and the one previous gig I’d been to there (I’m further told that it’s a regular occurrence in general), the quieter bands (KateGoes for the first half of their set, in this case) have to battle against the voluminous buzz of public house conversation. There’s a downstairs room to talk in, of course, but everyone here seems to want to swap their red hot horseracing tips in the gig room during the gig. Loudly. Perhaps it’s not really that bad and some acoustic quirk of the building (those slabs, maybe) ensures that the chat-volume is held very well and seems worse than it is. Or perhaps the folks who frequently attend gigs here are a bunch of insufferable cunts. One of the two, my sweethearts, one of the two.

I got there way too early, anyway, having stupidly believed the promise of early runnings and a half-ten finish that the flyer boasted (this turned out to be what we in the lying trade refer to as “a complete and total bloody lie”, but I really should’ve known better and seen that coming so it’s my own fault. “Dumbass” is once again the word for which we might be searching). All wasn’t too bad as The Infamous Ken Parallax turned up after a while, and it was nice to see him again.

I liked KateGoes, who were (perhaps surprisingly) on first. They played a doggedly straightforward-rhythm plonk-of-the-keyboard-on-the-beat pop that occasionally bursts into something a bit like Polly Styrene’s Tourette’s fits that were kept hidden from the public. Standard rock guitar/bass/drums/keys instrumentation was mixed with the glockenspiels/tiny string-linked cymbals of a school music lesson. The studied quirkyness of it all so could easily be really bloody irritating but somehow isn’t, and instead comes across as likeable. Or the bits of it I could hear over the crowd did, at the very least. I wished I’d seen them back in the days when they did themed gigs.

I didn’t think a great deal of next three bands on. I had listened to all three on MySpace beforehand, and although I couldn’t remember which was which it turned out to be unimportant – they all sounded very different to me live than anything I thought I’d heard (I haven’t done a post-gig second comparison since). Anarchist Cookbook were suffering from lots of technical difficulties but sounded like your modern emo/post hardcore/teen-angst-rock, apart from one song that was all Nine Inch Nails and such; Eat Y’Self Pretty sounded like a chart indie thing with Editors-ish chiming guitar, apart from one song built around a big dubby bassline; Sonic Delays (whose set I had to leave halfway through, so it could have all changed later) sounded like the melodic end of Nirvana, apart (again) from one song that was a lot more shoegazey. None of ‘em really worked for me, but I probably liked Sonic Delays the most out of the three. Rolo Tomassi definitely took my band of the week award, with KateGoes in second place a fair distance in front of everyone else.

(More talk of the gig here). (EDIT: And, a long long time later, here as well).

To The Wulfrun in Bulberhampton on Saturday the 23rd, to hear your man Hank Rollins rabbit on for a bit. This is the second one of his spoken word thingybobs I’ve been to and I’d massively recommend them – they’re a mix of comedy, political commentary and Wot I Done On My Holidays. Informative and extremely funny. This time he spoke of (amongst other things) playing a white supremacist in “Sons Of Anarchy,” acting as a judge on RuPaul’s drag performer talent programme, delivering a commencement speech to American university graduates, and as ever his world travels (focussing this time particularly on Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, India and China). In-joke for anyone else who’s seen him on this tour – the “HELLO!” taxi driver bit absolutely slayed me.

(And, of course, this. I don’t get the reference any more than I did two years ago. I just like it).

That’s been the entertainment from the last few days, anyway. Bits of it were great.


5 Responses

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  1. NRG said, on 25 January, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    You’re right that Island often suffers from a bit of excess crowd noise, but it was unusually bad for Kategoes. Speaking to a few other people there we figured it was probably because it was a student organised thing, I think at least one of the other bands were students as well as the promoters, and most of the crowd were probably there purely for their mates with no interest in the rest of the night. Massive shame as Kategoes can be bloody great in better circumstances (as it was, they still put the rest of the line-up to shame)

    Oh, and while it was surprising Kategoes were on first, rumour has it that this was at the request of the band themselves – apparently they’d been asked to headline but wanted to go on early for some reason. At least that meant I could shoot off once it became clear the last band were as ropey as the two preceeding ones (not that I can really remember what any of them sounded like, the cocktails were taking hold by that point, I just remember being completely unimpressed)

  2. Russ L said, on 25 January, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Your thoughts seem to be broadly the same as mine, regarding the bands. I’m obviously far too punk to be particularly concerned who about goes on in what order (obviously), but I had expected KG to be headlining. Maybe they’d anticipated the nature of it all and wanted to get it over with.

    I’m yet to try the cocktails at The Island Bar. I can imagine how they could quite easily be the saving grace of the place. It was a case of them being a bit dear over the course of an entire gig, though, and so I opted for the customary student-venue styled crap lager.

  3. Ben said, on 26 January, 2010 at 2:52 am

    Rolo Tomassi’s songs only barely made sense to me when I saw them a year and a bit ago. They made a real impression because of the disjunction between what they look like and what they sound like, more than anything – but I couldn’t say I found it genuinely enjoyable. Perhaps knowledge of the records is a precursor to enjoying them live?

  4. The Baron said, on 26 January, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Kate Goes have stopped doing themed gigs? Aggghhhh…first Cadbury, now this. Is nothing sacred? Mutter, mutter…mumble…groan…kids today…etc etc (repeat to fade).

    Anyway, I agree with your review of the Island Bar. A bar? Yep. A gig venue? Nope. Too chatty (man). Either split the two bits up somehow or issue a free muzzle with every cocktail.

  5. Russ L said, on 26 January, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Ben – I doubt that’s something you could apply as a blanket rule to any band, but I’d certainly recommend you check ’em out on wax. They do have a pretty fractured discography (limited edition 7″s and tapes a-plenty), but their album “Hysterics” and their self-titled EP/mini-album/thing can still be easily obtained, I think.

    Baz – If there was a theme for this gig I really really couldn’t spot it (maybe it was the very clever “band getting talked over” theme). This may just be a case of me being thick, though.


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