Monday, 14 December 2009

Afrirampo, Pens, Fair Ohs at Cargo - December 10th 2009


It’s the week before ATP and all manner of bands are in town for warm up gigs. This has led to tonight’s venue being less full than I expected, apparently due to Lightning Bolt playing elsewhere. I’m sure the ‘Bolt were great, but the real fun is right here.

We start off with the elephantine dance funk of Fair Ohs (it was Egyptian Hip Hop on Monday – is this a trend?). These three guys jig up and down and are as subtle as a sledgehammer, but are having such a good time that the party is well and truly started. Repeatedly self-referencing Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’, most of their choruses involve yelling and whooping. It’s too early to whoop back, but a good vibe is engendered…

…Until Pens show up. This band completely divides the audience (and my own party) and for once I find myself on the side of the nay-sayers. As seasoned readers will know, I don’t give a damn about technical ability, but I do expect to be entertained.

Pens have got the audience/band relationship ass-backwards. Their entire schtick is “Hey, we’re just girls who haven’t rehearsed, isn’t it crazy and amusing how crap we are?” All that they do is beg for the indulgence of the crowd. It’s cynical and infantile. Watching other people’s kids being irritating is never amusing; no matter how much their loving parents may dote upon them.

I last saw Pens about a year ago and assumed that they were just starting out and cut them some slack. No slack for them now.

In addition to the existing four horsemen of the Apocalypse – Death, Famine, Pestilence, War – we can now add a fifth. Afrirampo. The last are two fearsomely manic Japanese girls, clothed in red and smeared in war paint. They are louder and scarier (and more fun!) than the first four put together.

They start by being carried shoulder high through the crowd, their faces covered by masks, throwing CDs, sweets and other goodies among the throng. They then scramble on stage, Pikachu behind her drum kit and Oni to her guitar. The noise that they then make would get a medium–sized airport shut down.

Oni puts her foot on the monitor and thrashes her instrument. Pikachu bashes and squeals. They shriek back and forth, call and response. The really impressive thing is that this is clearly not random, it’s practiced and structured, even if improvised.

After about ten minutes Oni grabs a member of the audience and drags him onstage by the hood of his parka. He is given a guitar and he immediately begins to play, while the two girls climb atop their drum kit and chatter. This seems suspiciously pre-planned, but it works.

Later on, the two bring another fellow onstage, perch him precariously on a chair and encourage him to make bird sounds while they blow flutes at him. He seems suitably nonplussed.

And so it goes on. Pikachu and Oni alternate between deafening riffage and barmy percussion. Occasionally something approaching a tune breaks out. They chatter away in Japanese, although their English seems to improve remarkably if they need the sound or lighting altered. It is wonderful, silly fun.

As the audience file out, they charge back onstage for a mostly unexpected encore. Oni runs straight off the stage wielding her guitar and crashes into the crowd. It’s insane. As the mayhem subsides, the girls declare themselves to be off to Lightning Bolt’s hotel.

It’s probably no longer standing...

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