Monday, 25 April 2011

The Telescopes and Insect Guide at Zigfrid Von Underbelly - 22 April 2011

The Telescopes

It’s something that they can’t have planned. But it works out just right.

The stage at Zigfrid von Underbelly’s is backed with red curtains. There is a patterned carpet to absorb the noise. There is a huge mirror on the wall at a slight angle to the audience.

Insect Guide have synchronised their performance with a lap top powered series of films to accompany them whilst they are on stage. Their projection is reflected in the mirror. It creates double the impact. This, together with the carpet and drapes place the band firmly in a David Lynch tableau. We are all in the Red Lodge.

Insect Guide are terrific tonight. Singer Su stands to the left, blamming on a snare drum next to her. Guitarist Stan paces front to back of the stage.

There are choice cuts from their album, notably ‘Wasted’ and ‘Dark Days and Nights’, which batter past in an urgent fuzzed up wall of sound. There is a hoarse and husky ferocity in Su’s voice, much deeper than that of most female vocalists. It works.

I first saw this band at the turn of the year and liked their fizzing poppiness. Tonight they are even better – a truly excellent band.

Headliners The Telescopes have been around for years and have a fairly fluid line up. They are one of those wonderful bands that only really exist in the live arena – their recorded work is rather unremarkable. In contrast, their live show is like an alcohol-fuelled apocalypse.

Singer Stephen Lawrie is so pissed up that at best he walks like a sailor. For a lot of the time he is prostrate face down on the floor. In between songs you can hear him groaning. The rest of the band play around and in spite of him.

The Telescopes’ intergalactic space rock is anchored by a bass and drum motorik, which the three guitarists use as a springing off point for a massed assault on their instruments. Feedback, noise and distortion is the order of the day.

There is relatively little actual ‘playing’ going on. Instead, guitars are hit, dangled and thrust up against speakers for maximum ear bleeding effect.

It is perhaps fortunate that The Telescopes are geared for instrumental mayhem. Lawrie flails about on his knees and at one point bashes the monitors offstage, flopping weakly after them on his face, only to be retrieved by the intervention of a solicitous fan.

The other members of the band are by no means static. For a good proportion of the time one of them is stood behind me, wrestling with his guitar and smashing it against the floor.

This should all be by rights an incoherent mess, but it is clear that this behaviour neither unexpected nor in any way detrimental to the show.

During the course of the final song the band leave the stage one by one, although not without each ensuring that their gear is left feedbacking and looping back upon itself. Lawrie lurches off, possibly to throw up.

It is of course a tremendous performance – simultaneously great to listen to and be a part of, and laugh out loud comic.

Good Friday. Great fun.

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