Sunday, 23 November 2008

Out on the town

The bloke in front is really annoying me now. Earlier on during the set, he was a mild irritation - a fly buzzing in the background, occasionally knocking against the windowpane - now he's a next door neighbour undertaking a major DIY job at 10pm on a Sunday night.

There he is, right in front of where we're standing - quite near the front of the stage in fact - chatting to his mates, leaping about all over the place to pull 'amusing' faces at girls, raising his arm in the air and doing some weird flicky thing with his fingers when he hears a song he thinks he recognises; except the flicky thing is neither in time with the music nor in keeping with the fact that he's at a Goldfrapp show. Kasabian, maybe, Oasis definitely - but not Goldfrapp.

Where do these people come from? I wonder. And at what point do they decide, yeah, you know what I'm going to pay thirty quid to see that dirty bird with the lalalala song who isn't Kylie - what's her name? Sounds a bit like one of those Starbucks coffees...

I'm aware I'm sounding like some old fella at the back who shushes people at Bert Jansch gigs but you know, if you come to a gig, get in the spirit of the thing! I'm here with someone who works at EMI and so traditionally we should be the annoying freeloaders who don't appreciate the ticket price and talk in loud voices all the way through the show. But actually we're both real fans. Much earlier in the year, I waxed in this very blog about Seventh Tree by Goldfrapp and I still stand by what I wrote - it's one of the albums of the year and no doubt will end up in many end of year Best Album lists. Mind you, it will be at position 87 much further behind more superficially exciting stuff like Glasvegas or Bon Iver - neither of whom, incidentally, I have been able to listen to more than once. But that's pop for you.

Talking of overrated things, I went to see Damon Alban's Monkey opera last week. I was reviewing it, so again, you could argue that my opinion doesn't hold as much weight as someone who paid good money for a ticket, but I have to say I really didn't like as much as I thought I was going to. Maybe it was the whole expectation thing - everyone I know who had seen it either in Manchester or at the Royal Opera House or in one case, Paris, darling! Everyone was raving. The costume, the music, the choreography... oh what a tremendous show, they all said.

My view... well, you can read the review. When I phoned in the star rating (three out of five) so they could have this for their editorial meeting, I distinctively got the impression that they were surprised I hadn't shouted "Five! No, fuck it, six out of five - it's a mindblower, my friends, start queuing now before it's too late!"

And who could blame them? Everyone else seems to have loved it and you know what, it is spectacular and the music and costumes are good, but come on, if it's supposed to have a story then let's have that made preeminent. As it was, even if you religiously read the surtitles (the show is in Mandarin, Parklife fans) you mainly got the libretto which only embellished a story you were supposed to already familiar with. On the subject of the surtitles by the way, they weren't 'sur' at all but 'side' - the stage was flanked with screens which forced any audience member keen on finding out what the hell was going on to constantly turn his head from stage to screen and back again; the cast must have thought they were watching crowd at Wimbledon. Monkey Tennis indeed.

Come to think of it, the side-titles were the wayward star of the opening night: during one particularly incomprehensible Mandarin moment, we swiveled our heads round to find out what had just been said and were greeted with a random string of letters splayed across the screen "ttttttttttyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.. aaaa" as if a small child had been given free rein with the keyboard in the backstage side-titles suite. This was quickly replaced with the blank screen familiar to anyone who has had Powerpoint presentation issues. Shortly after this, we were treated to the sight of Damon's manager panicking past us towards the side-title suite with a large dose of Short Shrift.

I went out to see some new stuff last week too. I missed cutesy Brooklyn threepiece Chairlift at the Dublin Castle who lots of people seem to be looking at because I was having an interesting conversation in the restaurant over the road (one of the bonuses of being an A&R spectator is that if I don't fancy going I don't have to - brilliant!) Next night, I was asked out by a mate to see some more new groups that the industry are currently foaming up over.

First up, we went to Bar Rumba on Shaftsbury Avenue - not the usual venue you'd expect to find the future of music - a basement underneath the cinema and shopping centre. The band were female fronted and called Pageboy. My heart sank during the first song because the singer - seemingly styled by the Partridge Family in high-cut flared jeans with braces and fringe over her eyes - had one of those voices which is keen on revealing everything in one line of a song - vowel-stretching, yeah-ing, yelping and showing plenty of Come Awns, she was intent on proving just how damn good a voice she had. In my head I was forming sentences like Duffy singing for Toploader, but once the second song began it was as if the voice felt its work was done and the human being could come out and it was actually pretty good - more like Ann Peebles or Amy Winehouse, authentic, soulful and melodic. Bizarrely, I was greeted Bob Stanley who was watching Pageboy too. Kind of like seeing John Martyn at a McFly show.

Next up we braved the doors at the Hoxton Bar and Grill and got away with not having the right trousers. We were there to see the brilliantly-named Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, an inevitably East London threepiece who turned out to be a Klaxons-with-rapping combo with a neat line in chorus and very strong voices. Handsome fellas too - although the keyboard player had something of the night about him.

Still, at Monkey, at Pageboy and indeed in a club almost entirely full of Hoxton fashionista (the type who all have three jobs - DJ, photographer, club promoter - as well as three simultaneous haircuts) I fortunately didn't encounter anyone remotely as irritating as the gurning buffoon at Goldfrapp. Of course, mid set, as the fawn and stag mask-wearing backing vocalists stood back for some wonderfully pervy folk dancing (a brilliant juxtaposition of maypole- and pole-dancing) I walked up to him and had a word. He was instantly subdued and massively apologetic, promising never to behave like such a twat again and everyone around me slapped me on the shoulder and offered to buy me a pint.

No, of course that's not what happened. What actually happened was this: I pretended he wasn't there and after a while, aside from occasionally looming up like baboon in a wildlife park, he really didn't bother me. A response, I think you'll agree, very much in keeping with the warped English repression of a Goldfrapp show.


  1. Oh God, I've met them too. These cretins are somehow totally oblivious to the idea of a gig as a communal experience, where of course there is fun and enjoyment to be had, but acting as if the people onstage are purely there for their own entertainment.

    I went to see Focus (I know, I know, so shoot me) supported by Groundhogs and Wishbone Ash t'other week in the cutting edge surroundings of the Royal Hall in Harrogate, and amidst a crowd of perfectly well behaved middle-aged folks, some with with their teen offspring, there was one drunken, annoying couple , who talked all the way through it. When they weren't talking, the were making complete idiots of themselves dancing, to the extent that the stupid bitch eventually fell flat on her back and couldn't get up.

    As they discussed retiring to a nearby bar after `The Ash' and before Focus, I at least had the pleasure of saying "and don't f***cking come back will you" in their stupid inebriated faces.

    Total and utter disregard for everyone else, there's a lot of it about.

  2. I'm 21, and believe me; it happens to the best of us. I'd imagine it would be even worse at a Goldfrapp gig though?

    I have been known to dish out a few flaling arms/elbows depending on the gig, but I usually try to get in front of them or out of ear shot at least.

    In other news, Glasvegas are woeful and Ou Est Le Swimming Pool seem a bit repeatative?

    Pageboy sound quite interesting though, despite how little their profile gives away.


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