Live at HiFi Club on Monday, 23rd March 2009
The 360 Club tonight is something of a slow-burner. I walk into the club promptly at 8pm as the doors open, descend the stairs (escaping the freezing cold of the outside) and nearly stop short at the foot of the stairs as I behold an almost-empty club.
I was genuinely surprised - every other 360 Club I have reviewed has been very busy and indeed very exciting. At half past eight I find myself checking my watch. No bands have made any indication of going onstage yet and the DJ is playing away happily. The numbers are growing, however, and at 9pm, when the room is really quite full, Pilla take the stage.
Pilla are wonderful. They are a duo consisting of acoustic guitar and male and female vocals. Their songs are very subtle and docile and as they played an interesting quiet descended on the audience as everyone stopped to listen. Dave (the guitarist) has a great voice, not unlike that of Damien Rice but with a slightly different tone, and his female companion has a lovely soft voice that really tugs at the heartstrings. Their voices work especially well together and harmony-wise, they don't always opt for the '3rd above' trick, instead choosing to weave in and out of one another and work with more complex melodies, using less obvious notes in the scale that make for much more interesting and enjoyable listening.
Next up were apparent late-comers to the line up, L-Mo. L-Mo are a joy to watch, the guitar, bass, drums and voice are brilliantly played and the band is tight and works together really well. They introduce themselves with the singer, Luke, beat-boxing very well and fitting in what sounds like a sampled and distorted voice, all acoustically and without the help of anything more than his vocal cords and straight away you know you are in for something a little bit different.
The band's sound is truly unique. Their brand of alternative acoustic laced with a healthy dose of funk and reggae works insanely well and Luke's vocal style is among the most intriguing I have ever heard. He staggers the rhythm, drawing the listener in and his melodies jump around in pitch. He has obviously taken a lot of time over his voice - each note seems contrived and perfectly placed to achieve a certain effect. He uses loud and soft syllables in each line that makes the vocal seem off-kilt but also adds to the funk. By not sticking on the beat, the band manage to accentuate where the beat is and succeed in making you want not only to tap your foot, but to shake your ass. Indeed, many of the crowd who apparently didn't know L-Mo before tonight were doing just that.
Origami Bullets the third band to play. I was rather surprised to see them since they were on the bill the last time I was at the HiFi on a Monday night, exactly a month ago. Once again I was struck the band's large sound but sheer lack of enthusiasm for the music. They seem like genuinely nice people, and it is hard to criticise them, but unfortunately their music is just too dull to enjoy. Their songs drag on one after the other. The vocals don't carry strong melodies and the band don't even look like they are really enjoying themselves. The numbers do thin, and those that don't decide that Origami Bullet's set is the perfect time for a cigarette break, end up talking at the back.
To be clear, Origami Bullets play well. Everything is generally without mistakes. It's just that their performance is rather dull and flat, as is their song writing. As a band they only have two dynamics - ff and fff (i.e. pretty loud and a little bit louder).
One of their songs goes "we're so bored and lonely" - is that because you've had a house-party and decided to play your album?
Dan Audio is like a whirlwind. He takes the stage forcefully, rejects the introduction from the host that all the other bands received and introduces himself confidently.
I hope the other bands were watching Dan Audio's set because they gave a very good lesson in how to perform. He works the crowd, bounding up and down the stage and engaging with everyone. In minutes, the dancefloor has turned into a crowded, pulsing, dancing organism that everyone gladly shares in.
The music is a little bit indie, a little bit reggae, a little bit hip-hop and little bit rock. They have an amazing ability to remind you of the Streets (but cooler), Bob Marley (but with more energy) and Chunky Butt Funky (but less chunky), all at the same time. They have their own sound and they really rock the joint.
The performance is flawless and exhilarating, and as I overheard one of the promoters comment: "he really knows how to string a bloody good melody together". I couldn't agree more.