I first came across And So I Watch You From Afar at Damnation a couple of years ago – and even for the handful of songs played, I was one of a good number of people suitably blown away by this young and energetic band.
Live @ The Scala, London N1
03 May 2011
Fast forward two years, and said young and energetic band are still both of these things, just channeling their unbelievable energy in better ways. And since that first show, I’ve taken in their striking debut album, the slightly odd Letters EP and now the new album Gangs, released in the week of this very show. As a result, other than the previously released single Search:Party:Animal, I can’t say I’m that familiar with the new material yet – I’ve only had the chance to listen to the album twice since I received it on Sunday.
Even without knowing the new album well, I was certainly looking forward to the show, something not tempered by two average support bands at best – The Computers and Mojo Fury. Neither of which were particularly interesting, the former trying to rock a Hives-style uniform. It’s just a shame that their music wasn’t anywhere close.
And So I Watch You From Afar instead arrived to a heroes welcome onstage, a quick wave to the crowd and they were off, bursting into the power-chord-led, spiralling rock chaos of new album opener BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION. What this – and the rest of the set, frankly – proved was that the title of the new album is no accident. This band is a tightly-knit gang of friends, who clearly exist on the same plane when it comes to music and frankly to play such complex (post)rock music they must be near-telepathic. No, really. Songs spiral nearly out of control at points, band members whirling over the stage as songs get ever faster and heavier, before being pulled back from the brink every single time. And it’s not just one member of the band who can be singled out for being so astonishingly talented – they all are. Both guitarists unleash astonishing fretwork, the drummer seems to be playing three or four rhythms at once, and the bassist is frequently the calm, the eye of the storm.
Gang (Starting Never Stopping)
A Little Bit Of Solidarity Goes A Long Way
If It Ain’t Broke, Break It
D Is For Django The Bastard
Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate
S Is For Salamander
Set Guitars To Kill
Clench Fists, Grit Teeth… Go!
And watching a musical storm like this unfold in front of your eyes almost makes the whole idea of stormchasing seem like a good idea. After all, why not when you can get such a visceral buzz? And I couldn’t stop smiling as song after song had the same effect. This a band breaking all the rules of the nominal post-rock pigeonhole they have been placed in. For a start, they look like they are utterly revelling in what they do – loving every minute and taking every chance to say so to the crowd. And not to mention the fact that they have all-but dispensed with the idea of the quiet, moody bits so beloved of their peers, instead concentrating on ecstatic high after ecstatic high.
Picking highlights is rather tough, it has to be said – but new songs were certainly some of them. Recent single Search:Party:Animal was staggering, while main set closer Lifeproof seemed a logical end to the set as they let the sample finish and walked off the stage. But it was the old stuff that had me there in the first place, and that delivered in quite jaw-dropping fashion. If It Ain’t Broke, Break It was absolutely astonishing as it coiled ever tighter towards a climax, before going for it again and again, while Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate was the undisputed centrepiece of proceedings. A slow-burn to start with, it came alive not only musically but also from the entire crowd providing the wordless “gang” melody throughout the latter half, and then continuing unprompted once the band had finished with it. Set Guitars To Kill ran it close in the encore, though, and more than any other song doesn’t half show off the other unfashionable thing about this band – they aren’t afraid to show influences from a long way out of their comfort zone. In this case, it’s stadium rock. No, really. It’s there in the power chords, the crowd chants, the apparently undying loyalty from fans already. Oh, and the cowbell.
This band are going places, or at least I really hope they are. The only band close to this lost in recent times were 65Daysofstatic, who somewhere along the line lost something of their magic on record, but broadly keeping their live power. I’ve got some hope that the same fate won’t befall ASIWYFA. Anyway, if you get the chance, and you’ve not heard this band already, go hunt out an album. Buy a CD or a download, but more importantly, see them live. You won’t regret it.
As a final note, I must admit to my shame that I managed to miss the final track (the second encore). Seeing what the song was (thanks to a contributor to setlist.fm for the setlist, which I’m not totally convinced is in the right order in the mid-section), has made me kick myself even more.