Monday 20 February 2012

History Of Apple Pie, Drop Out Venus, Skinny Girl Diet - Roundhouse Studios -18 February 2012

Drop Out Venus (although they were Rough Kittens at the time)

This is why I go to gigs. This is why I seek out bands that I have never seen before.

Tonight’s show is good from start to finish. Within it is the best performance from a band that were previously completely unknown to me that I have seen in the best part of a decade. I wasn’t expecting this. I had never heard of them before tonight. And now I’ll never forget them.

The evening even starts on a high. Skinny Girl Diet are a real shot in the arm. They are incredibly young, incredibly primitive and just terrific.

Delilah, Amelia and Ursula play guitar bass and drums. There is nothing remotely complicated or fancy about this. The vocals are mostly deadpan and flat. When the band is unsure of what to do with a song, they simply scream.

This fundamentalist approach is a lot of the band’s charm. They are not afraid to be basic and straightforward. Theirs is powerful, affecting ‘here’s one chord, here’s another, now form a band’ punk. It’s not amateurish, it’s necessary.

Delilah declaims, arches an eyebrow and laughs. The bassist mostly stands and screams her lungs out. What’s not to like?

Drop Out Venus are very hard to read at first. The singer seems deadly serious, the drummer jovial and the guitarist thrashing out riffs and paying very little attention to anything other than what he is doing. It’s a good sound.

Iva may be one of the most passionate performers that I have ever seen. She recites surreal poetry that seems almost a parody of teenage angst. My initial reaction is to laugh and I even write down some of the more bizarre utterances. “Black leaves don’t flow through veins of stone” is one.

And yet, as I search for cheap laughs, I tune into the performance. She may be spouting apparent nonsense, but the incredible intensity that Iva displays goes beyond anything that I have ever seen. She looks like Natassja Kinski, but she really reminds me of Natassja’s father Klaus. She’s not laughing and I am suitably chastened.

The guitar is electric, the drumming frantic but Iva is utterly astounding. She plays guitar herself, and she occasionally seeks comfort from the other band members (the drummer seems genuinely concerned), but she is devastatingly full on in her delivery. There’s a lot of the young Patti Smith here.

At one point she throws her guitar to the floor and begins an acapella sequence that riffs around the words ‘I hate myself and I want to die’. Her voice is cracking up. You utterly, utterly believe her. A couple of guys next to us start talking and there is a fierce hiss from the rest of the crowd that shuts them up instantly. I’ve not seen an audience so cowed and quiet since watching Jeff Buckley do ‘Hallelujah’ at the Shepherds Bush Empire. (That may sound like name dropping. I'm so hip that I didn't even enjoy his show that much).

The band finishes and there is a momentary pause as the audience tries to assimilate what they have just seen. Then there is such a roar of acclaim that the band is forced to do an encore.

Following the gig I do some internet research and discover that the band were known as ‘Rough Kittens’ until very recently and that they are part of the New Cross scene. They are not for everyone. Of my immediate group, two are happily entertained whilst three of us are emotional wrecks. I’m so overcome I can barely speak.

Chapter 24 have a daunting task following that, but they give it a good bash. The vocals of the red haired singer (Claire Smith) are delayed and double tracked so that it appears as if she is sharing them with a second singer. She splutters and gulps and half sings, half barks. The band plays a driving, head-nodding space rock.

At this point I should play tribute to the people staging the show tonight. The sound throughout is spot on and each band perform in front of elaborate back projections that really complement the show. It makes every act look top drawer, like the stars they are.

With the vocal trickery and the visuals, Chapter 24 resemble a distaff Butthole Surfers. Praise indeed.

Tonight’s headliners are the History of Apple Pie. They round off proceedings with a powerhouse of sweeping guitars and swooning voices. It’s nothing that you have not seen before, particularly if you are a fan of Lush or, more recently, Yuck, but HOAP are very good at what they do and should not be dismissed lightly. They are in fact hugely enjoyable and I already regret missing them at last year’s Camden Crawl.

Congratulations to Roundhouse Rising and EKO for putting tonight’s ‘Through The Glass Ceiling’ show together. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every single act tonight. I recommend them all.

But Drop Out Venus really are something very special. At another time, in another place their avant garde jazz thrash might be horribly exposed. However, tonight they were simply brilliant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was also at the Roundhouse gig, and agree that Drop Out venus were astonishingly good. There were some sections of their songs that had such energy that it made the audience gasp. At other times they showed a patience and maturity on stage that was unbelievable for such a new act. The guitarist held it all together and the live vocal performance of the singer was awesome. Sometimes a collection of performers just come together and bounce the ideas off each other.....and it works. If you get the chance to catch them in and around London, don't miss it!