Wednesday 26 November 2008

Telepathe,Chew Lips, Pens - Catch 26 Nov 2008

Telepathe photo by Nicole Blommers

There are omens that this is going to a good night. Having a quiet drink before the gig I spend quite some time watching two Portuguese bar staff inveigle a customer to help them attach two life size fake magpies to the light fittings. As you do.

Heading into the venue I am lucky to catch a short and chaotic set from Pens, three girls (Amelia, Helen & Stef) who mix and match themselves between a guitar, a stand-up drum kit and a tiny keyboard. It is the absolute golden rule of enthusiastic new girl bands that there should be as much swapping of instruments and sharing of the vocals as possible. They are the most democratic institutions on earth.

The girls are having a ball and are not that bothered that they have difficulty keeping time or that their set is basically a shambles. And nor should they. The fun on stage communicates itself to the growing crowd and we are off to a good start.

Due to the hipper than hip nature of the headliners, this tiny venue is soon rammed with people. Only one person is missing, the dainty Tigs, singer with the next act. After a slight delay, she finds her way to the front and the band kicks off.

I have followed Tigs’ progress for a few years now and was always disappointed that she did not get more attention for her terrific solo album ‘Cut With Fire’ (This seems to have disappeared, but you can hear tracks on her old Myspace page here). Now she is back with two guys in tow as Chew Lips and it finally looks like things are looking up.

Will and James lay down a thumping electro beat, their backs to the crowd and heads nodding in unison. In front of them, Tigs preens, tosses her head and rolls her eyes at the audience in a manner that is so arch that she is danger of becoming Frankie Howerd. Oooh yes!

Her voice is superb and a reminder that it not often that you hear a singer who can genuinely SING – you get the feeling that she could bash out a Shirley Bassey power ballad without pausing for breath.

At one point Tigs solves the problem of the ever encroaching crowd by climbing on top of the bar and singing from there. The rest of the band have surreptitiously turned their keyboards to automatic pilot and are now rocking out on guitars. It all makes for a tremendous performance.

By the time that Telepathe appear there is such a crush to see them that I have to leave the floor and hang from the side of the bar. It hurts, but it is worth it.

Telepathe are a duo from Brooklyn comprising Melissa Livaudais, who sings and plays keyboards and Ryan Lucero, a young man of quite startling androgyny, a gender confusion that is not dispelled by his voice. Or his eyeliner.

Tonight the backing beats and almost symphonic keyboards which are an understated presence on their forthcoming album ‘Dance Mother' are ramped up to the max and Ryan and Melissa stutter and jerk along to the pounding rhythms. It’s not subtle but it is hugely effective and the whole venue is soon carried away, everyone dancing and bouncing in staccato fashion. I’m hanging on to my perch like grim death at this juncture.

Comparisons are going to be made with Crystal Castles but such comparisons are unfair – Telepathe are great fun in their own right. In this tiny, mobbed and euphoric venue they are in their element.

The two magpies in the first pub have been a lucky omen. This was always going to be a good night.


Anonymous said...

More gender confusion than you think there. Ryan Lucero is their (male) guitarist, but he didn't appear at the gig at Catch. Melissa was the one with the eyeliner, Busy Gangnes was the drummer. Still, I wasn't sure first time I saw them earlier this year - "startling androgeny" is spot on.

Chew Lips and Pens were both great.

Anonymous said...

... or even "startling androgyny" as you correctly spelt it first!