For many, gigs in the heat of summer evenings are a tough sell, particularly in small venues (outdoor, festival shows of course are a different matter entirely). However, the summer is paradoxically a busy time for indoor shows, and two came up this week on consecutive evenings, and they were very different.
The Islington, N1
The first of these was in a small venue in Islington that I’d not been to before. I can’t remember what The Islington on Tolpuddle Street used to be called, but I’m pretty certain it wasn’t previously stuffed to the gills with a large selection of craft beers, and a reasonably-sized gig space out the back.
First on was Madame So, an intriguing French artist now based over here in London, and her music was acoustic songs with a clear punk-ish edge (I understand she has usually played with a band in the past, here it was just her and a guitar). There were some snappy and amusing songs (particularly one about the underbelly of Camden, which as she says is not always a place associated just with music), and a few more biting songs, especially the last one that appeared to go under the title of I Wish You Were Dead, which certainly pricked a few ears up. I must make a mental note to catch her with a full band sometime.
The second support band were a band I’d not come across before, but I was entranced within about the first thirty seconds. This band were LOCKS, whose bio describes them as “murder songs and death shanties”, and that’s not far wrong. There are nods to the usual suspects with that kind of description, but vocalist Locks has a sweet, folky lilt that adds a little chink of light to what are often dark-sounding songs, and musically the band are tight as all hell (a fiddle, acoustic guitar and double bass were backed by what seemed to be a very, very good jazz drummer). Pick of their songs by a considerable distance was the roll and punch of opener Wishbone, that has now been stuck in my head for four days. I cannot recommend this band highly enough.
A band I’m much more familiar with is deux furieuses, who have been playing live in London for sometime now, and building quite a reputation for their explosive (and loud!) live shows, and also their vehemently political lyrics.
It still amazes me just how loud the band can be live, too. Vas’s drum set-up appears to be for maximum power, while their sound mix always allows Ros’s voice and guitar to be heard perfectly, too – something many other bands with more elements onstage could do well to pay attention to. This scorching power only adds to their fury delivered within their lyrics, particularly within the pummelling Can We Talk About This?, something that more and more strikes me as the band’s mission statement. Determined to ask probing questions of their audience, and anyone else that they may confront.
Elsewhere, their searching questions reach their pinnacle in the extraordinary Are We Sexy Enough?, where a brutally direct voice details exactly how bad things are for women in society, where women can be raped and/or abused with impunity. As a male onlooker, it’s an uncomfortable song to hear, and to be honest, so it should be.
What else was interesting this week was the timing of this show. The recent single Silenced By The Roar, another song asking searching questions and dealing with the political chaos that has engulfed our country over the past year or so, has rather been reflected by the unexpected positivity of the election result last week (for overseas readers, where the left-wing Labour Party staged something of a resurgence, and we ended up with a hung parliament where no party has a majority to Govern).
What is perhaps surprising about such a political band is that they are not relentless negativity. They have a knack of asking the right questions, framing them in a way that goes “what are you going to do about it?” rather than just “this is shit, everything is terrible”. And this is what perhaps sets this band apart from the few others that are engaged within politics right now. It isn’t about just shouting about how shit things are, it’s about being involved and asking “why?”, and “how?”.
One of the best live bands in London, still, and you should go and see them next time they play.
The following night took me, on an even warmer night, a bit further north-west to the heart of Camden, indeed The Black Heart.
The Black Heart, NW1
I like The Black Heart a lot. One of the few places that still feels like the “old” Camden that is being swept away so fast otherwise (even if it is a newer venue), with good beer, a great soundtrack and an atmosphere that isn’t intimidating. That said, the gig venue upstairs is rather airless, and isn’t a great deal of fun on a hot summer evening.
Both bands on this night, I wasn’t especially familiar with, and for one of them, this was evidence of the usefulness (still) of personal recommendations. A number of friends in my previous home city of Sheffield have been talking about Awooga for a while, and after being pointed at this show, I thought I’d pop down, and thanks to the band happily approving it, I took my camera with me too.
Awooga described themselves this past week online as “spacedoom titans”, and you know what? I’m struggling to find a better description for them. Even in a small venue, the sound of the three-piece fills every corner with an enormous, rolling sound that is underpinned by a tight rhythm section and some intriguing guitar flourishes. There were vocals there, too, but they were buried a little bit in a very loud mix.
Either way, they were an impressive, confident band that I really enjoyed, although next time I’ll be hoping for a cooler, less sweltering venue to watch them in.
There is something odd about watching bands influenced by the bands you were watching first time around. Pryti is one of those, where there is a distinct feeling of an artist that has listened to an awful lot of late-nineties alternative-metal. Particularly Deftones, but other bands drip into songs as notable influences that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
I, personally, found the set a little difficult in keeping my attention from wondering. Too much of the set was rather one-paced, a mid-tempo grind that sounded too similar, and the couple of faster, heavier tracks were notably more interesting. That said, Pryti has a strong, impressive voice and there is a hell of a lot of emotion in her delivery – and this was her first gig. So, there is promise there.
It was one of those nights, though, that it was very much a relief to get outside afterwards – and I’ll likely be making sure that I see both bands again in the future, as I’m sure I’ll have a few chances.