Monday, 20 July 2009

The Birthday Massacre at Dingwalls, 16 July 2009

It can take just the smallest incident to spark a gig into life and make it memorable.

Picture, if you will, Toronto’s Birthday Massacre, performing in a hot and sweaty Dingwalls.

The band is here to promote their new live album ‘Show and Tell’. It is the last night of their European tour and things are going well. Tiny singer Chibi is dressed in school girl uniform and is enjoying herself bustling back and forth on a cramped stage. She is slightly disturbing – the uniform doesn’t really make her look sexy, it just makes her look very young.

The rest of the band are heavily made up in the white face “evil marionette” style that is much favoured in those parts of the rock world that dig Joel Gray in Cabaret. It’s a sort of visual shorthand for “We’re so decadent”, and can be easily washed off at the end of the evening, as opposed to trying to get the same effect through a predilection for underage whores and dirty syringes.

It’s a good solid professional show, but not really taking off. Songs such as ‘Red Stars’ and ‘Blue’ are fine, but everything is a little too neat.

And then one of the audience hands Chibi a pair of bunny ears. I’d seen the guy earlier, dressed in almost random fashion, two thirds military/ leather chic to one third dragged through a hedge backwards. And incongruously topped off with a set of pink bunny ears. He bequeaths his headgear to the singer from within the tightly packed throng at the front of the stage.

Chibi absolutely loves them. Stuffing them on her head she spends the next three songs waggling them or plumping them on the head of whichever band cohort she is standing near. And this mild anarchy causes the band to visibly relax and really let loose, to actually enjoy themselves and let the sheen of sleek professionalism drop a little.

The band jump and bounce through their final numbers. One of these is the Tommy James and the Shondells track “I Think We’re Alone Now”, as popularised by 80’s popstress Tiffany. All merry hell erupts, with the crowd of Goths, punks, crusties and other disparate tribes bawling along to a song from their youth. For a few moments it’s not about looking cool or outrageous, but just being happily daft together.

Chibi and co are back for their encore almost before they have left the stage in the first place. They thank us all and smash into their signature anthem “Happy Birthday”. By the time they crash to a close, the atmosphere is so hot that steam rises from the front.

We head to the back, open the venue doors and find ourselves in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm. Lightning flashes, thunder rolls and water floods past. It is epic and biblical and perfectly in keeping with what we have just seen. Elaborate hair constructions are plastered to faces, black eyeliner makeup runs, T shirts become transparent. It’s like the end of the world. It’s a funny end to a funnily enjoyable evening.

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