Friday 10 October 2008

Rolo Tomassi / Pre / Throats & Madame Jo Jo's: 7th October 2008

Photo by 'Turquoise Boy'

It promises to be a rowdy evening, so where to stand? I eventually settle for perching on a balustrade overlooking the pit in front of the stage. Not that there are many people in here just yet.

The first band is so young and unprepossessing in appearance that you assume that it must be half-term. Surely they wouldn’t be playing on a school night? And then they crank into life and innocence hightails it out the door and off down the streets of Soho.

Throats specialise in slow, monstrously heavy riffage and sport a singer who is almost pathological in his reluctance to stand upright and face the audience. In the brief moments that he is on the stage he is crouched with his back to us, emitting a succession of guttural screams.

The rest of the time he is in the mosh pit, whirling his arms and jumping around. A few of the more energetic youngsters in the crowd stand around him looking fascinated.

Meanwhile onstage, the rest of the bands experiment with feedback – resting their guitars against their speakers, holding their instruments up to the roof of the venue.

Even though their puppy dog appearance makes them unlikely rock gods, Throats deliver the goods.

As it is still relatively quiet, I move down into the pit area. Next up are Pre, featuring the tiny whirling dervish that is Akiko Matsuura on vocals and a band that groove benignly as she freaks out amongst them.

There is either a huge problem with the sound, or the singer is emitting shrieks of a frequency beyond my threshold of hearing. I suspect it’s both. Either way, much of the vocals are inaudible.

This doesn’t actually distract much from the band, because Pre are all about physical performance and niceties such as lyrical content come fairly low down their list of priorities. The only song where the vocals can be heard seems to have the chorus “I want your penis, I want your love!” So that’s alright.

Akiko crawls around a bit and needs a little push to get her back on stage once she’s dropped down into the crowd. Good entertainment.

Rolo Tomassi have got a certain brand of indie kid in a bit of a tizz. They appeal to woolly cuddly Los Campesinos! twee-core enthusiasts, but also flirt with US hardcore in the same manner as acts such as The Ghost Frequency. They’re that happy blend of naughty but safe which means that girls are happy to fling themselves about in front of them as much as their boyfriends.

The very eye catching selling point of the band is vocalist Eva, tonight resplendent in a tight black dress that would be better suited to a posh drinks reception than a sweaty night in a rock band. A colleague describes her the next day as ‘very bendy’, which is a polite way of saying that she kicks ass, flails around and screams like a banshee. She is assisted by occasional vocalist and random keyboard basher James, who is awkward, very bendy, and her brother.

Tomassi songs are tough to get a handle on, because so much of the performance seems completely arbitrary. Any given track will approximate scream-twiddle-drum solo-gentle cooing noises-more screaming- guitar solo- both vocalists cooing-more guitar-twiddle-silence. And then start up again in some random repetition.

They are exhausting, fun, but ultimately baffling. The band seems to have no quality control at all, or ever had anyone say that something might be a bad idea. But this wild experimentation leads to moments of felicitous noise, and the crowd are going mental for them.

Rolo Tomassi have a devoted fan base, certainly in this small venue, but may be in danger of disappearing into their own artistic cul-de-sac. Making students run in circles is one thing, but it is hard to see them appealing to a wider audience without compromising on their ideals.

Me? – I hope they stick to their guns.

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