Two Fridays on the trot out at small gigs in London, away from the centre. In recent years, particularly as rampant development has swept away much of the Alternative landscape from Central London, unexpected corners of the city have popped up as useful places to put on smaller gigs.
Into the Pit: 205: FOXCUNT: 20-April 2018
The Stag’s Head, N1
So it was to a backstreet in Hoxton, off the Kingsland Road, that we headed on this warm spring night to yet another small venue that I’d not been to before. A pleasant, nicely-restored boozer, as it went, with a big beer garden and a small gig room at the side that got, to put it mildly, rather uncomfortably warm as it filled up (although props to the organisers for sorting out an industrial-sized fan to help mitigate it).
Neither of the bands on the bill were unfamiliar to me, really – I just perhaps don’t write about either as much as I should. First up was Keith Top of the Pops and His Minor UK Indie Celebrity Allstar Backing Band, whose live appearances are fairly frequent across North London and beyond, but it is rare that you get even remotely the same show, by virtue of the fact that Keith’s band varies from gig-to-gig dependent on who is available.
I’ve seen well beyond twenty members onstage before (with what must have been nine guitarists!), but here things were comparatively stripped-back, with just seven of them. They still made quite the noise, mind, and it is perhaps remarkable that despite the revolving nature of the band, and the off-the-cuff nature of their playing (“no rehearsals, no soundchecks”, which adds a strikingly raw edge to the sound), that Keith’s excellent and witty songcraft continues to shine through.
There are songs about Morrissey (the gloriously funny Morrissey Will Never Forgive Me), wearing band T-shirts (Stupid Rules for Stupid People), The Beatles and general fandom oneupmanship (Two of the Beatles Are Dead), and of course lamenting the torrent of shit indie music (#propermusic and I Hate Your Band). But more than anything, Keith and his band remind that great music can co-exist with a sense of humour, and as long as there are shit bands out there, the humour within his songs will continue to have a long shelf life.
Keith TOTP’s new album Livin’ the Dream is out soon.
Headliners FOXCUNT are perhaps a more serious endeavour in their lyrical subjects, but are by no means a band looking for mainstream success – after all, just look at their name, which is unlikely to get them Radio airplay, for example.
Sick and Tired
Une Enveloppe Mysterieuse
UKBA Suspect Vehicle
Phone In Sick
But I can’t imagine they give a fuck about that. As befits the interests of a number of the members of the band, they play fairly stark punk-based rock, with a viciously political/social justice slant that doesn’t forget to have some fun along the way. I’ve seen them a few times now over the past couple of years, and what has been interesting has been how the band have evolved. Early on it felt like there were a few sloganeering songs, most of which have now been dropped from their sets for better, more nuanced fury.
That said, some of their earliest material remains the best. Early singles Sick and Tired and Phone In Sick remain scorchingly angry, fightbacks against work-day drudgery (and are catchy-as-all-hell to boot), while Scum Landlords neatly sums up the shitty housing crisis most Londoners currently have to endure in one way or another.
Elsewhere, misogyny is torn a new one by the pummelling fury of Rip Yr… (Key lyric: “Rip yr fucking cock off and suck it yourself“), and there is even time for a Crossrail incantation, lamenting the various venues and opportunities for fun that were lost in it’s wake.
One interesting dichotomy in FOXCUNT live appearances nowadays is a clear divergence of style, with the short-sharp punk tracks joined by a number of slower, longer songs, and I have to say that I’m not totally convinced by these moments, which seem to lose momentum – and maybe needed a better sound than the band had on the night, too. For me their snappy punk tracks are their best, every time.
Despite the sweltering heat inside the venue, this was an enjoyable show. Humour and politics, railing against a number of current issues, rubbed shoulders with excellent music, and I’m curious as to where FOXCUNT in particular go next. Hopefully we may hear more of their material recorded in due course.