Live at The Library on Friday, 14th October 2011
First, an apology to These Blue Arms who opened the night. Basically, old habits die hard and experience tells me that showing up to gigs on time usually means you'll spend a good hour or longer faffing about waiting for something to happen. No, it's fair to say that punctuality is not this scene's forte so when a gig does actually start on time it's an unfortunate state of affairs that people are potentially going to miss it. From what I heard though, my absence may have been a blessing in disguise - the band were a drummer down and making do with a drum machine, clearly not on top form so I hope to catch them in better circumstances.
Onwards, then, to Northern Ireland's More Than Conquerors who ticked all the right boxes in terms of performance but seemed leave the crowd largely cold. Their music reminded me of early Lostprophets (though with far better lyrics) and seems to draw a lot of material from the guitar-indie of the last 10 years, albeit with a ton more balls. It's hard to put a finger on why they didn't get a better crowd reaction, though given that much of the crowd arrived half-way through the set it did feel like a bit much too soon and without the home crowd advantage what is one to do? To all intents and purposes though, it was a brilliantly tight set and the band have the chops - for a first night of a UK tour it could have been worse.
By now, the crowd are out in force ready for the pure pleasure of Castrovalva, a band of Wagnerian complexity and elegant mannerisms displayed with poise and dignity, though musically akin to rolling about in filth: Once your feet are wet, you might as well dive right in and to hell with whoever's watching. Brew Records have a taste for visceral sounds that bring out the primal in you and 'Valva are no exception. Meaty bass thrashed about with undeniable skill combines with groove-tastic, balls out drums while Leemun Smith plays about with the settings on the various synths and pitch-modulators that sensible sound engineers leave well alone. It's ridiculous, it's abrasive but to be honest it's just downright fun. The other thing that's apparent is actually how good Smith is at what he does, pivoting between aggressive rap, all out screams and falsetto that makes your toes shrivel. A marmite band, for sure, but one you've got to give props to - there's no one out there doing what these guys do.
Dananananaykroyd have been bubbling under the surface for years, keeping a steady reign on the underground consciousness. Now, after 5 years and 2 albums we reach what is to be something of a farewell tour. Clearly, in that 5 years they've learned a thing or two about audience participation. First off, and 3 songs in, the band hold a note while singers Callum Gunn and John Baillie Jnr. bid everyone to their knees (well, crouching). The return to standing position was actually a bit underwhelming but the youthful energy of the band definitely wasn't. I don't know if it was the teenie-boppers in front or the constant cheerful shouting and chording coming from the band but I couldn't help feeling a tad old, despite probably being younger than the band themselves. I blame Radiohead.
My personal disorders aside, the band's punky indie sounds push through a lengthy set a breakneck speed. I imagine a slower tempo number would have been out of the question and the lack of subtlety in the sound suggests that they're all shout and no substance but really no-one's complaining. The biggest shame about Dananananaykroyd's imminent demise is the lesson in performance that would benefit so many bands right now. In another risky manoeuvre, both singers run into the crowd (the dual singers really add presence in themselves) and bomb about in pleasing fashion. There's no cockiness here, no malice, just a band enjoying themselves to bouncy music that you can all enjoy too. RIP.
THIS IS NOISE HOP