It’s a sad coincidence that I’ve been banging on about thegreat times that I had in Madame JoJo’s, as one of the reasons that I’m out tonight is to say goodbye to a venue that has played a huge part in my life.
In the early 2000’s, I used to practically live in the small red-walled shoebox that is the Buffalo Bar. It was noisy, crowded and the sound was often awful. You could be stuck behind a pillar or a bigger person with the result that you only had an approximate idea of what was happening onstage.
I saw dozens of bands here, the majority of whom never went on to play venues that were any bigger than this. I saw, amongst others, Kaito, Electric Eel Shock, Klang, The Hotwires, Mikabomb, Help She can’t Swim, The Long Blondes, The Grates, Bolt Action Five, The Chapman Family, Tiger Force, The Sam I Am, The Bisons, The Mighty Roars, The Tennessee Train Crash, Cat On Form, The Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club. I was here earlier this year forA Witness and The Senseless Things. I (mostly) enjoyed them all.
I even enjoyed the gallon bottle of Buffalo Trace whiskey that I won in a raffle here one time. It was vile, but I persevered. You could certainly taste the Buffalo.
The Buffalo Bar is going to close at the end of the year, so tonight is the chance for me to have one more rowdy evening down here.
Things start off with the loosely-organised chaos of Keith Topof the Pops and his Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band. Tonight there are more than fifteen musicians wedged on a stage the size of two telephone boxes. The horn section are jammed next to the toilets, a sax player eventually has to stand on the bar.
Keith wrangles everyone as well as he can. It’s like herding cats. The general instruction is for those who are unfamiliar with a song to join in as best they can once it gets going.
A typical Keith TOTP song consists of a spoken/sung snark against bands or institutions that have slighted him. Targets tonight include The Cribs, “a band from Birmingham called Peace” and the IndieTracks Festival (“Fuck off with your Ukulele Orchestra!” is a fine chorus). It’s all very funny, the more so because there is a genuine bitterness underneath some of this.
The band finish with a naturally epic sweep through ‘Two of the Beatles are Dead’ and end in discordant triumph. A great show.
Miscalculations couldn’t be more of a contrast. They’re a spare and lean four piece punk band who do not crack a smile during their entire set. And they’re all the better for it.
Fronted by Marco Palumbo Rodrigues, a searingly intense presence tightly buttoned up in a black leather jacket adorned with badges, the band spit out short, sharp songs that reference the first generation spiky punk of Buzzcocks and The Clash. This is a new take on 70’s new wave music and it sounds surprisingly fresh and powerful.
The audience certainly likes it. The front row is almost entirely young women who dance exuberantly throughout. There’s an astringency to Miscalculations. I find myself thoroughly enjoying them.
Headliners Desperate Journalist get more enthralling each time that I see them. I can tell that we are in for a good show by the way that singer Jo Bevan warms up by bawling and dancing along to McClusky’s ‘To HellWith Good Intentions’.
This is emotional stuff. Jo has a voice that soars and roars, and she almost hunches double with the effort required. This, together with her bright blue hair, makes her an arresting figure.
In some ways Desperate Journalist are a ‘traditional’ indie band, if there can be said to be such a thing. What elevates them is that their power comes from their songs rather than particularly flashy musicianship. They are very hard to resist, so I settle down to loving them.
If this is the last time I go to the Buffalo Bar, then it’s been a brilliant way to bow out.