Live at Cockpit on Wednesday, 6th September 2006
At the end of opening act Shut Your Eyes And You'll Burst Into Flames' set the sweaty and furious drummer stormed off stage parting a hitherto static crowd. A friend of mine returning from the toilet heard him mumbling, apparently it was difficult to ascertain whether just to himself, to a familiar face or to the crowd in general. "I'm sorry," he said, with a rueful shake of his head, "We were shit."
This capped a bristling and exhilarating half hour where for some reason the lines of communication between band and audience were severed to the extent where I'm sure the band felt they were playing to a bunch of cardboard cut-outs. Equally this wasn't helped by the band assuming the role of mandatory fun enforcement officers. Telling a crowd to dance is akin to a comedian telling their audience to laugh.
How perfectly contradictory then that the general consensus of post-set opinion, certainly my own, was that they delivered a ferociously energetic and striking set. Alongside a hefty streak of dance-punk they also possess a similarity to some of the best American guitar bands of the 90s (Fugazi, Trail Of Dead, At The Drive In) that is also evident in label mates ˇForward Russia!. They create an air of impending explosion, a general unpredictability which draws you in to their unhinged performance.
The highlight was seeing the unlucky bystanders' shocked and genuinely bewildered facial expressions as a frustrated guitarist burst in to the crowd from stage left, trying to inject some movement in the form of a hopped-up guitar wielding one-man moshpit.
The only thing that appeared to be missing from Dead Disco's near flawless preparation seemed to be a sound-check, the levels making a mess of their first two tracks if not (thank L'Oreal) their carefully assembled outfits and hairstyles. Image isn't everything with these girls though, they've got catchy tunes and they're not stand-offish or posy. As soon as they burst in to their first single 'The Treatment' (played third song in) everything starts to click and they convince me to resist classifying them as a case of style over substance.
As the crowd start to thaw, loosened by the illicit electro-rock, the party warms up and the band begin to strut, with the rhythm section putting the brakes on then accelerating the track in to oblivion. It's not just on-stage where Dead Disco are making an impact; Fierce Panda saw fit to end their phenomenal run of singles with 'Automatic'. Here they punched the track in to memory as their closer, finishing a short but sweet six track set that left the crowd tantalised but not yet satisfied.
And so it was left to Brazilian buzz band Cansei de Ser Sexy to wipe away any remaining resistance, finally making everybody stop worrying and just cave in to the rhythm. CSS play DFA school disco-punk chopped up with ephemeral pop culture reference points and lashings of Sao Paulo charisma. They also have an all-consuming obsession with sex. Here, they defied the menacing neo-industrial presence of the Cockpit and established a genuine connection with the audience that made it seem a much more intimate venue than usual. Then, just as spark-plug singer Lovefoxxx began to climb the speaker stack, the power blew and we were more intimate still.
Under the barest of emergency lighting Lovefoxxx took it upon herself to entertain the crowd in the best way she had at her disposal, through the medium of random flashing. You never realise quite how bright those mobile phone lights can be until a moment like that. Eventually the show's powerless momentum began to wane so everyone was relieved when the unidentified problem was resolved and they could resume 'Meeting Paris Hilton'.
The CSS back-story had seemed a little too perfect beforehand, having apparently formed as an excuse for drinking with no previous knowledge of their instruments and made it big via the internet. Live and up close you get to see it's for real; the correspondingly high levels of concentration and associated facial contortions were especially endearing. If their sound was occasionally ramshackle (and it was generally fantastic), then it is easily offset by the warmth and happiness they exude, creating their own beacon of light.
Cansei de Ser Sexy translates as "tired of being sexy" but they don't look tired. They look hungry. They look like they're just getting started.