Thursday 28 August 2008

Be Your Own PET: First and Last - Parker Place 2005 to Dingwalls 2008

From this - Photo: Leia Jospe

To this - Photo by Ponyrock

Be Your Own PET are no more. These Nashville teens arrived, blew me away and entertained me royally in the space of four short years. I was there at the beginning, and I was there for the end.

Let’s compare and contrast. On 23rd March 2005, I saw them play their first London show in Parker Place, Holborn. I filed the following report for Artrocker along with an email that read “I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with this lot.”

‘On Tuesday morning I become aware through my many media tentacles that the hottest band in the entire history of the planet i.e. right NOW are Nashville’s Be Your Own PET (typography important). And that they are playing at Parker Place the following evening.

So I slide down my Bat-pole and 24 hours later I’m in the venue. And so is every music biz hanger-on in London. This is basically a nice quiet new bands night in a nice new (to me) venue. But tonight the circus is in town. There are queues up the street and bouncers on the door.

The venue is as long and thin and crowded as a tube train during rush hour. The stage itself is situated behind a crash barrier and mounted in a kind of Regency dining room at one end. There are chandeliers, mirrors in golden gilt frames, red velvet drapes and chinoiserie screens. It’s fair to say it’s not your normal set up.

Be You Own PET are on first and despite being a little nervous and awkward for the first few numbers, once they hit their rhythm…wow! These teenagers are the long awaited Yeah Yeah Yeahs/ At The Drive In hybrid. Impossibly feisty and cute singer Jemina Pearl screams, rolls her eyes and camps it up like a shopping mall amalgam of Britney Spears and Courtney Love while the hugely afro-ed bassist Nathan Vasquez bounds around like a frog. Furious guitarist Jonas Stein is prettier than any girl in the room and plays as though his life depends on the next thirty seconds.

After about five numbers they have smashed the stage up to such an extent that Jemina is scared to stand on it anymore and comes down to crowd level to finish the set. Single ‘Damn Damn Leash’ is a real stand out, but it’s all good stuff.

Be Your Own PET are so full of naïve charm and youthful excitement that it doesn’t matter that their sound is not the most original. They have got moxie by the bucket load and they are going to make a lot of friends. Tonight they really are the hottest band in the entire history of the planet. And it’s still only Wednesday…’

That was the beginning. I’ve seen them many more times since, and they have never disappointed.

Four years later, on 26 August 2008, I am here in Dingwalls for the end.

The air is heavy with sweat and expectation. Support act The Hot Melts have done a good job in warming things up and various roadies are fiddling with equipment…

…and suddenly Be Your Own PET are onstage. And they are playing the Fleetwood Mac track ‘The Chain’. All hell breaks loose.

Jemina has cut her hair short and daubed her face in red war paint. The guys are all topless and also crop haired. While the singer remains upbeat throughout, her eyes saucer-wide, the others seem rather grumpy.

The set flies by in a thresher’s flail of limbs and hair and bodies and stage divers. There are mixed messages from the band – the guys warn people off, Jemina eggs them on. It’s chaotic and silly and utterly appropriate for this most delinquent of juvenile bands.

“Black Hole” and “Becky” are blasted out, the singer bouncing all over the stage, the guitarists occasionally venturing into the madding crowd. With the screamed “Food Fight” things almost get out of hand, but the boarders are just about repelled.

It’s a losing battle. Once “Super Soaker” is announced as the final song (of what I suspect was intended to be the end of the main set before the encores) an enormous scrum of bodies piles forward. Remember all those hordes of rats that run over Indiana Jones? It’s like that.

You hear the band playing on, Jemina occasionally popping her head between the sweating mass, but then the equipment is crushed and the gig is over. It’s mildly disappointing, but entirely in keeping with their whole career. They are just too much fun to be tidily contained.

Be Your Own PET were a delightful antidote to serious attitudes. They epitomised what it was like to be young and full of life and just wanting a good time at high school before the real world weighs you down.

They were brilliant, messy, and they didn’t stay a moment too long. Thanks for everything, guys.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Mindless Self Indulgence / Fucked Up/ The Deathset at ULU

Pink Eyes - Hairy Back

The first thing that I notice about tonight is that the venue is only about half full. The large bar by the side of the stage is shut altogether. I find this boggling – there are three bands here this evening, two of whom would each expect to fill this place on their own and a third who I have already seen this year headline a sold out and rammed Roundhouse. This concert has been put on as part of the Kerrang! Awards 2008. They don’t seem to have told anybody.

I am looking forward to seeing The Deathset, about whom I have formed a generally good impression, heightened after a conversation with their record label owner.

The three piece run onto the stage and seem chipper enough. Two guitarists and a drummer and a great deal of material on backing tape. It soon becomes clear that they are having difficulty synchronising themselves with their previously recorded samples, and this leads to a stop-start set in which the gaps between the songs are in some cases longer than the songs themselves.

It may be the small crowd, or the overall sound tonight, (which is not great for any of the bands) but the Deathset don’t really make much of an impression. A very small group of fans have a bit of a mosh. Over all, the band comes across as likeable, but of no real substance.

Which is not an accusation that could be levelled at Damian Abraham aka Pink Eyes, the enormously obese and pale singer with Fucked Up. He is a big lad, and spends almost the whole gig topless and down amongst the crowd, who shoal around him like fish around a whale.

He is impressive (and relatively kindly to the audience of mostly small females) but it’s the rest of the band that gradually attract my attention. Drummer aside, there are four guitarists in a line across the stage, laying down a driving barrage of noise. With their matching sunglasses they look both mean and cool and almost completely separate from the screaming blubberball churning around below them.

Pink Eyes eventually clambers back on stage, and with a swift drop of his underpants to reveal an arse that you could park a motorbike in, departs. Fucked Up they may be, but they are solid entertainment.

I have previously reported on Mindless Self Indulgence here, so I won’t add much further. What is noticeable tonight is that in this much smaller venue, the band is much funnier and less intimidating than it was at the Roundhouse, and that Jimmy Urine is not so much channelling Marilyn Manson, as paying homage to Alice Cooper.

Jimmy does most of the same schtick as last time, but does hit on the reason for the small attendance – this seems to be an industry bash. He drags various “journalists” on stage for opprobrium.

With Urine reliable as ever, the intimacy of the venue gives an opportunity to admire the contribution of the rest of the band. Bassist Lynn-Z, dressed in full hentai schoolgirl gear, complete with pigtails, is particularly eye catching, bounding from one side of the stage to the other, and never passing up the opportunity to windmill her arms as she strikes a power chord.

Of guitarist, Steve Righ?, it is perhaps best to say that he ‘tries’. But you’ve either got presence or you ain’t, and gurning like Quasimodo’s ugly brother doesn’t really help him. He’s a fine player, and integral to the band, but he should leave the showmanship to others.

The crowd go berserk and there are mad scenes of moshing. As before Urine ends with his twirled cane and a knowing wink.

Another powerhouse performance from Mindless Self Indulgence, and a triumph for Kerrang! for tonight’s entertainment...

...Next time they might invite people.

Thursday 14 August 2008

Acid Mothers Temple / Shit And Shine - White Heat / Madame Jo Jo's

Acid Mothers / Pika pic by Greg H

Tonight is a night of experimental music.

I’m somewhat on my guard, as previous experience of such events warns me of the likelihood of random noise, extreme seriousness and a general vibe that this is not ‘entertainment’ but something more akin to that medicine which tastes nasty but is supposedly good for you.

The initial signs are not promising. A young chap sits on the floor of the venue, generating and distorting feedback through a guitar resting on a speaker. It is ear damagingly loud, but is the aural equivalent of watching paint dry. It beats me how anyone has the gall to present this guff to a paying audience.

Fortunately, it doesn’t go on for long and the next band more than make up for any doubts that I may have had. In tonight’s incarnation Shit and Shine comprise five drummers (three on stage, two amongst the audience), plus three sinisterly masked guitarists, two of who also sport bunny ears. There is also a girl doing something fairly indefinable with a small keyboard, apparently using it to warp the vocals of the Bunnymen.

There is nothing subtle here. The five drummers wallop the living crap out of their kits while the guitarists lay down screeing shards of metal riffage. There is much electronically altered screaming.

And it is wonderful. The noise and rhythm generated by the drummers is astounding. They are all synchronised, but seem to take their cue from a green-clad girl on the stage, who is pulling the most extraordinary faces as she laughs and competes with the other percussionists around her.

This barrage goes on for around half an hour, during which time one of the Bunnymen attacks a fellow guitarist and rides his back like a horsey. They careen into the audience. This does not phase anybody at all. Things gradually wind down when one of the guitarists throws his instrument onto the stage, awkwardly clambers after it and then proceeds to kick the drum kits over as their operators dive out of the way. There is a final squawk of feedback and (blessed) silence.

Organisers White Heat have said that the headliners Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno will play for around two hours. Despite attempts to get the band on stage quickly, it is still nearly a quarter to ten before they start.

Tonight the veteran space/psyche rockers are joined by the marvellous Pikachu, the whirlwind drummer from Afrirampo. She dresses like a drunken 20’s showgirl and screams and clatters along throughout. The rest of AMT specialise in extremely long, improvised jams based around the guitar heroics of the extremely hairy band leader Kawabata Makoto. Aside from Pika’s squeaks there are only very limited vocals from bassist Tabata Mitsuru.

As there are two drummers pounding out a rhythm, there is no let up in momentum, even if no tune really goes anywhere. This formlessness would under other circumstances become boring, but fortunately there is so much going on (and at such a speed and volume) that there is always something to get your attention.

One lengthy song seems to be based around the guitar figure from PIL’s ‘Poptones’. It’s hypnotic. Centre stage, Higashi Hiroshi wearing the garish trousers of a down at heel court jester, sways back and forth, apparently completely lost in music, caught in a trance.

Things reach a conclusion with Pikachu clambering around atop her drum kit and improvising a scat vocal call-and-response with the audience.

Makoto then smashes a guitar (not the one he has been playing) into pieces with extreme gusto. With total finality, the plug is pulled from the feedbacking amplifiers and all is quiet. The silence itself is deafening.

It’s been at times a literally stunning evening. I doubt that either of these acts could reproduce this effect on record, but in this small space they are devastating.

(Additional reporting by CW)
Here's a representative clip from their earlier London show at Corsica Studios.

Monday 11 August 2008

Mono Taxi / Tom Allalone & The 78's / Lucky Soul at No One Died

Tom Allalone pic by Jenny Hardcore

Tonight is ‘No One Died’ night at the Enterprise, a jolly happening held upstairs in what is becoming an increasingly decrepit venue. Just don’t ever, ever, go into the upstairs gent’s toilet.

Not that the pub's medieval facilities detract from the effort that the club organisers have put in to making the evening go with a swing . There are nice black balloons and a stylish and funny compere who moves proceedings along in good natured fashion. It looks as though we are going to have some fun with the acts too.

As an aside - I love it when small venues have an MC. It keeps things moving and stops bands from dithering around and running late. It also adds an air of community to the proceedings. It doesn’t happen often enough and unfortunately it is the more ‘serious’ and self-important events that would most benefit. And yes, Upset The Rhythm, I’m looking at you.

We start off with an acoustic set from Ali Howard, Andrew Laidlaw and Ivor Sims of Lucky Soul, who are road testing new material while the rest of the band is off on their hols. While it is hard to fault the songs, and the band is affability personified, they don’t really fully engage. There is something too cold and clinical about their Sixties pastiche and it all seems a little flat. I have the same impression from this band when they are at full strength. Something gets lost in the performance, they don’t really let rip. “The Great Unwanted” is still a damn good tune, though.

Lucky Soul (and many other bands) could do worse than emulate Tom Allalone and the 78’s, who take the stage by storm with a teeth rattlingly loud and frenetic take on that era of British pop which was lost when teenagers stopped congregating in milk bars and Billy Furie and Adam Faith stopped being the coolest cats in town.

It is like being in a small room with a large hurricane. Tom Allalone bounces, poses and wields his guitar like he is wrestling with a living beast, the rest of the 78’s (plus guest trumpeter) assault their instruments in similar fashion. The whole place is in motion, including the floorboards which are pitching and yawing as though we are on a ship. It’s exhilarating, because there is a real feeling that we may crash through to the pub below at any moment.

This lot are new to me, and I’m amazed at the strength of their material, which sticks in the head right from the get go – ‘Crashland’ is a terrific Motown-flecked ballad, ‘Gravesend Boys’ name checks their home town and ‘Cassilero Del Diablo' gets us all yelling "Diablo" in the appropriate places.

It’s an absolute tour de force and we are still clapping and gingerly stamping our feet long after much of the remaining audience has cleared off downstairs. My group stays, nursing their ears (one believes it to have been louder than My Bloody Valentine).

I had been worried that tonight’s headliners would be delayed because they were playing earlier this evening in Shoreditch. However, miracles do happen, and Mono Taxi are here and ready to go in very short order.

Ellice Williams sings and plays guitar, while Antoine Collin sings and drums. For a two piece they make a surprisingly full on noise, complete with unintentional, but not wholly unwelcome, shards of feedback. They are certainly much more ‘Pixies’ than they are, say, White Stripes.

Their songs are compact and catchy and bring on a frenzy of dancing from the four Über fans who have taken up a position in front of the stage. Fan devotion can sometimes be alienating to others, but tonight it works well, adding the extra element of a floorshow to the performance.

I like Mono Taxi and the only thing that goes against them tonight is the feeling that it is all a bit after the Lord Mayor’s Show, with many bystanders still reeling from the previous band. This is unfortunate, because songs such as “We Wanna Get Some Real Fun” and “Kind Of Better” are pop gems and deserve wider exposure.

It’s been an excellent Saturday night’s entertainment. ‘No One Died’ throw a good party. Their next night here is 4th October and features previously lauded Call Of The Wyld faves Royal Treatment Plant and The Molotovs. Recommended.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Pop Fosters: Your Music Is Shit - Sort It Out

I first came across Wakefield’s Pop Fosters via one of those ‘Can I Be Your Friend?’ requests that you get on MySpace. While I am not interested in dubious invitations from women called ‘Sherri’, I do listen to every band that makes contact in this way.

And Pop Fosters have a song called ‘Firing Line’. In its original demo form it had a tremendously loud, stuttering guitar riff and a slow, almost stumbling rhythm. I loved it unequivocally.

I’ve kept in touch with Richie Day and (guitar, shouting) Sara Askew (drums, backing shouting) ever since.

Now they have self-produced their own CD. It was recorded on a four track and is as rough and ready as might be expected from a garage band that does indeed practice in a garage. What it lacks in production values it more than compensates for in gleeful enthusiasm and pleasure in the sheer primitive power of rock and roll.

Opener ‘Insane’ sounds like a hammer hitting a wheel barrow. This is a good thing. ‘Breakin’ Up’ bashes along at a quick tempo, and deals with affairs of the heart.

‘Everyday’s The Same’ (sic) is marginally slower and features good use of what sounds suspiciously like a container of dried peas. ‘Phoenix’ is past you in a fifteen second burst of fury.

These songs are pure punk pop, in the traditional late Seventies sense of the word. They could have been played at the Roxy way back then and the clientele would have been spitting on each other with delight at the music’s happy bludgeoning.

‘Samuel Byck’ references Sean Penn’s character in the film ‘The Assassination of Richard Nixon’ and John Peel also gets a tribute song. He may well have appreciated it, too.

‘Self Health Preservation Society’ follows, with a gulped chorus from Richie that all can sing along to. Also good, is ‘USA’. You can just guess what that’s all about.

A change of pace occurs with the acoustic ‘The Band With No Fans’, which has the ring of personal experience. The album then ends with the fuzzed up title track, which may be the best song here, and directly challenges those who doubt them.

My only mild disappointment is the new version of ‘Firing Line’. It is now a full speed gallop and that wonderful halting, tottering riff has been buried and lost. A shame, but bands are always adapting, always moving forward and occasionally little things get misplaced in the march of progress. (The new version is also pretty neat though.)

The Pop Fosters' sound is unpolished, unpretentious and doesn't break any new ground. But it delivers a no frills old-school punk thrill that is mostly missing from the modern scene. It's got energy and it's got life. I'll happily settle for that ahead of all the muso noodling in the world.

The album title apparently comes from graffiti sprayed upon the wall of the garage where Pop Fosters rehearse and record. That critic is wrong. But ‘Your music is fun, raw, rowdy as hell and is annoying the neighbours – Keep up the good work!’ is nowhere near as snappy.

“Your Music Is Shit- Sort It Out!” can be obtained from the band here.

And here's a video of them doing the above mentioned 'Self Health Preservation Society'.