Thursday 20 May 2010

The Pack a.d. / Rich Aucoin / Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers at The Lexington 19 May 2010

We start with six guys on stage. Five of whom have beards. Two of them are respectively clutching a trumpet and a saxophone. I fear the worst. I am proved massively wrong.

Far from being earnest and dour young miserablists being all lovelorn and sensitive, Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers are a jolly band of lads. The most cumbersome thing about them is their name.

It’s uptempo raggle taggle enjoyment al the way. The brass section swings, there is joyful off-mike singing. Main singer Ali Downer thumps his guitar and orchestrates a jaunty knees up that belies the fact that this is the band’s first appearance in London and that they face a long and gruelling journey home on the “£10 Megabus”.

Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers describe themselves as ‘horn tinged folk rock’ but they have confounded my expectations and get the evening off to a flyer.

I suspect that the next set by Canadian Rich Aucoin and his band will live long in the memory of all who experienced it. This white-uniformed bunch of funsters hail from Halifax, Nova Scotia and have honed their act into an all immersive multi-media extravaganza in which the audience works as hard as the band.

It starts with a projection of a screaming goat. The audience are encouraged to scream along with it. It ends some half an hour later with us all in a mass pile up of balloons and confetti chanting “We Are The Undead”. In between Aucoin has had the entire venue on its knees bawling out the choruses to his synth and percussion driven anthems, the words flashing up on screens that appear to be showing a distorted version of the Dr Zuess cartoon “The Grinch That Stole Christmas”.

The whole performance is akin to joining a cult and I’m totally brain washed. If Aucoin and co had ladled out toxic Kool-Aid, I’d have drunk it. This is a text book example of the advantage of live performance over other forms of musical delivery – a CD or DVD of this show would be utterly self defeating. You have to be here.

Headliners The Pack a.d. hail from Vancouver and are a stark and simple contrast to Aucoin’s gallimaufry. Maya Miller drums and Beck Black plays guitar. That’s it. However, in this band’s case, less is definitely more, more, more.

Miller looks like a laconic Suzi Quatro, laying down thunderous beats and acting as wry commentator. She is well aware that her function is to add direction to the astonishing power of the whip-thin Black.

Becky is an extraordinary performer, and one of the most potent guitar-slingers I have ever seen. She hollers in a rasping, blues shout, straining every sinew, belting out each song with such force that it looks as though her jaw must crack.

This is real down and dirty no frills rock and roll, delivered hard and heavy. The audience throws indie decorum to one side as hair is tossed and the air guitars come out.

It’s a blistering show, with the highlight probably an iridescent version of ‘Deer’ from their new ‘We Kill Computers’ album (a version of which can be found on the mixtape player at the top of this screen). Damn these two are good.

I leave the venue deaf and exhausted and weighed down with merchandise. Gig of the year so far?


Jordan said...

Dude you have a kickass blog. I've been reading it for a while and felt like coming out of the shadows.

Let's exchange music sometime!

Keith Knight said...

I'm sorry I missed this not only because of the screaming goat but "six guys on stage. Five of whom have beards. Two of them are respectively clutching a trumpet and a saxophone." is of course my starter for ten for a good band.

But I'm not sorry I missed it because I saw Peter Hammill instead.

Wyldman said...

Glad you enjoyed Hammill.

Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers were like a slightly more straightforward version of Mistys Big Adventure and I would happily see them again.

Needless to say the person I was with hated them just as much as I liked them.