Live Reviews

2 Nights In London

I’ve managed to get myself out to two excellent gigs in London this week (both of which were handily recommended by myself here – sorry for the shameless self-promo) and I thought I’d get together a quick round-up of the bands;

Tuesday – Birthdays, Dalston

After hearing Looks for the first time recently I thought it was worth checking them out, especially as the gig at Birthdays was free, and I found myself fortunate enough to stumble upon Holy who informed me that they’d travelled down from the West Midlands just for the show and weren’t getting paid. Oh the life of a musician is a glamorous one…

But I digress.

When Holy first took to the stage I was a little put off by their somewhat mis-match of outfits and styles, however as we’re all told ‘you should never judge a book by its cover’. That old chestnut may well ring true though as I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the band’s set and their presence on stage was heavily increased by the obvious fact that they were genuinely loving what they were doing. The pick’n’mix job of outfits did ring through to a certain extent as the band didn’t necessarily have a pin-pointed distinct sound, there were plenty of influences on show – most notably a track that ‘borrowed’ heavily from Pink Floyd’s classic ‘Another Brick In The Wall Part 2‘ (though the band assured me it was a semitone out). I’m probably being a little too harsh though as I thoroughly enjoyed every song and the room was lit alight by the band’s sheer brilliance. With one of the best double guitarist partnerships I’ve seen in a long time, a quietly confident drummer and a frontman who oozed charisma and style, they’re well worth catching if they’re in your town.

(Oh how I wish I could find a track to show you…)

It was long before it was time for Looks who arrived with an interesting set-up in which the two vocalists faced each other rather than the audience. I felt a little like this affected their connection with the audience as there was no eye contact but it seemed crucial to their set-up so perhaps it was a necessity. The room was instantly flooded with sound and there were some excellent riffs on show along with an array of ingenious technical effects ideas. At times the vocals felt a tad strained but there can be no questioning of the trio’s passion and commitment to their music, it was clear to see that the group had a definitive direction that they were heading in and every track stuck seamlessly to this blueprint. Having already managed to create their own, distinctive sound, Looks are just a few minor tweaks from having something really special

Wednesday – The Garage, Islington

After having to wait 20 minutes for chicken in KFC (I never thought I’d see the day) I stumbled into The Garage in an effort to catch both Deafkid and Abby with whom I had been particularly impressed thanks to their readily available music. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was to catch an opening act who would step up to the plate with such ease as Alphabetic

With waves of clubs both Two Door Cinema and Bombay Bicycle washing over their sound, Alphabetic could have easily fooled me into thinking that they had been around for years and were using this as an opportunity before heading off to the Pyramid Stage. There was already a surprisingly sizeable crowd in attendance by the time I stepped through the door and it was easy to see why everyone was standing in almost complete silence in admiration of the band. There were excellent harmonies, some nicely judged slap bass (always a good thing) and a wonderful command of a synthesiser on offer, all brought together to create an indie band providing a little extra value for money. Not a bad way to kick off the evening by any means.

They were swiftly followed by two man outfit Deafkid who seemed to find it a little harder to win over the crowd. With a much more intense, melancholy sound as they kicked off, the balance didn’t seem to quite follow on from what had gone on before – not anyone’s fault by any means, it’s just unfortunate that these things happen. Looking a tad nervy at times, the duo relied fairly heavily on pre-recorded tracks to create their sound as it would be nigh on impossible for the pair of them to master the range of sounds used at once. Once the early nerves and possible mis-communications failed, however, Deafkid really kicked into life and the second half of their set was an enjoyable experience – the penultimate track being a personal favourite. Maybe there’s a little work for them to do with regards to commanding the stage and set list selections but the music Deafkid are putting out is top-notch.

Finally, Abby launched into life and it wasn’t long before they engulfed the whole room with sounds so juicy and thick that you could almost feel them pounding away at your body. There were plenty of effects, changes and wonderfully weird musical choices, including what I think may well have been a recorder. There was no mistaking that these guys were the headline act as they had such a swagger and confidence about them that simply exuded excellence. At times it began to border on house music and it would take a fool to try and pinpoint any particular sound-alikes or influences as what Abby were producing was pure, unadulterated musical gold. It was pleasure from first to last and, whilst I hugely dislike when bands go off-stage to come back for a prepared encore, the ‘jam’ that they undertook upon their return was the perfect way to end the evening.

I love music.

Ciaran Steward

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