Wednesday 4 July 2012

Novella, Drop Out Venus, Clockwork Era at Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes - 3rd July 2012

Novella by Karen Toftera

I’m here at the Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes for a Gibson/Supajam promoted bill of happening new bands. 

The bowling lanes are in full effect, with the young and trendy hurling gutter balls, flattening pins and having a rare old time. There’s a deliberately retro vibe and the excitement and clatter is fiercely evocative of American Graffiti, Grease or any other 50’s film set.

In a small corner of the lanes a small stage plays host to the bands.

First up are Clockwork Era, who are really basic and spiky and shouty and very good fun. Singer/guitarist Jason is sweaty and feisty in a distressed Chapman Family T shirt. He flails at his instrument, regards us with piercing eyes and screams himself breathless. There’s a lovely angry simplicity to the band, an honest emotion of the kind that never goes out of fashion.

They remind me of first album ATV or Mekons circa ‘Never Been in a Riot’. I like them a lot. The singer also spends time off the stage and amongst the small throng watching them, dragging a long microphone cable behind him. I’m always a sucker for this kind of thing.

Every time I see Drop Out Venus I think “This is the best band that I have seen since…” and each time the ‘since’ goes further back in my gig history.

What can I say? Every performance is unique, every performance would be the best thing I’ve seen this year.

Tonight the stand out star is drummer Ursula, here combining phenomenal power and complex rhythms with the not inconsiderable feat of holding a disintegrating drum kit together with whichever hand she can get free.

Guitarist Chris continues to do amazing things whilst also providing support and a focal point for his ever intriguing sister Iva, who is wound as tightly as a spring and who becomes ever more so as the gig progresses.

The band retains their unique ability to create their own hermetic atmosphere around themselves. As they play, the sound of bowling and drinking and a carefree existence just disappears. Drop Out Venus lure you in like Sirens enticing passing sailors on to the rocks.

I have seen tonight’s headliners before, in a big tent at last year’s 1234 Shoreditch festival. At that point I had certain reservations. Twelve months on, these have all disappeared.

Novella play guitar music. Great, chugging layers of guitar music. Their sound is part way between indie jangle and something much more substantial and meaty.

They build up a momentum as their set progresses, and I’d like to think that the bowlers who stop their games and turn to watch them are doing so because of the power of the music and not because the band features three women playing guitars. Their last two songs this evening are phenomenal.

I needed something to clear my head after Drop Out Venus, and Novella certainly do the job. I’m seeing Hollie, Sophy and Suki again in a fortnight and I’m now really looking forward to it.

It’s been a great, sticky summer evening. I’m bowled over.

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