Thursday 3 July 2008

Why? / Yeborobo / Munch Munch at Cargo

Yeborobo in full cry.

It’s a warm summer evening and once inside the venue it is extremely hot. And unbelievably smelly – as if all the competitors in the London Marathon had taken their shoes and socks off at the same time. Really nasty.

Munch Munch are on stage and the room is already crowded. The band gets bonus marks for having no guitars of any description, relying instead on a couple of drum kits and two keyboards. However, they also have very fiddly song structures which rely on many changes of pace and pitch, and which require a great deal of staccato shouting, much of it off microphone. Occasionally they get a good riff going, or hit upon a felicitous sound, but then they are off doing something else a second later and the moment is lost.

It maybe because they have already started and I’m still reeling from the smell, but I have difficulty getting into them. Another day perhaps.

Yeborobo are up next and from the first sight of them it is clear that they are either going to be fantastic or the worst abomination of the year. The singer is dressed up as a giant peanut. The bassist is dressed as a tiger. The second drummer is attired as a psychedelic Old Mother Riley. Fortunately, they are fantastic.

I realise we are in for fun when the singer straightaway sets his microphone stand up in the middle of the audience and gathers his loins ready to leap among us.

What follows is twenty minutes of weird and wonderful semi-improvised jazz punk freakout. Costumes are destroyed, the audience is chivvied about like hamburgers on a grill, drum kits are beaten almost to destruction. If this sounds fun – it is. If this sounds random – it isn’t. Yeborobo know exactly what they are doing, and every song makes sense and hangs together. You dance, even as you step out of the way of a lunging musician.

It all ends with an exhausted singer calling the crowd forward so he can perform a ‘lullaby’. This of course starts quietly and quickly degenerates into a screaming, flailing mosh pit. Top marks.

Why? are one of the many projects of Yoni Wolf, and are part of the Anticon collective of vaguely folky, kinda hip hop musicians who hang out in Oakland and occasionally produce work of real quality and interest.

Tonight the emphasis is firmly on the new album ‘Alopecia’, one of the best of the year so far. It should be great...

…and yet, somehow, isn’t. Whether it is because of sound difficulties that delay the start of the set, whether it is the heat and yes, the smell (both of which the band remark on) something isn’t quite right.

They do the songs well, with ‘Fatalist Palmistry’ a particular highlight. It’s just that their whole performance seems rather grudging and remote, a technical exercise to be completed rather than a celebration to be enjoyed.

They don’t seem happy, and at this time of night, I’m not going to suffer with them. I make my excuses and leave.

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