Last Tuesday Jon and I, along with Louis and Gab and a few others, went to the Village Underground for a triple bill of indie guitar rock. Not the coolest genre these days perhaps, but we like it!
We were there primarily for the band who were second on the bill, Butch Kassidy, friends of ours. Louis was at school with two of the band members, Fionn (guitar and vocals) and Tom (bass). But the all the bands promised a good night of music.
I like the Village Underground as a venue. It’s a renovated old warehouse on a side street off Shoreditch High Street, about 10 minutes north of Liverpool Street station. Old Street station isn’t far away either. It has a high ceiling, plenty of natural light during the day I imagine, and unadorned brick walls. It is used as a cultural centre during the day as well as a theatre and concert venue. I’ve seen some good concerts there before, notably Pumarosa and Goat Girl – the first time I saw them, supporting Moonlandingz, the Fat White Family offshoot. It was good to back – it is one of the best medium sized venues around, holding about 700 people standing. I’d guess we had about 500 today.
First on were Automotion – a little surprising, as their profile is a bit higher than that of Butch Kassidy, who haven’t yet recorded a lot of music. We saw Automotion at End of the Road recently. Perhaps unfairly, they are always going to be known as Lennon – son of Liam – Gallagher’s band. Like all the bands on the bill tonight, they played a variant of fast-slow-fast rock that Pixies, Sonic Youth, Fugazi and others forged in the late 80s and which Nirvana and other grunge bands took to new levels in the 90s. In more recent times the rise of Black Midi has been particularly influential. But these are just the influences I perceive: each band had their own style. Automotion for me need a bit more melody in their sound. There are plenty of riffs and time changes and it’s entertaining for half an hour, like tonight. But I think their journey needs to be towards a bit more pop. I can see why Lennon might be keen to avoid that though.
Butch Kassidy won’t ever be pop! Though quite what they will be, I’m not sure yet. Previously I’ve likened their sound to a combination of Mogwai (for the slow, atmospheric builds) and Black Midi (for the frantic riffing interludes). I can hear a bit of Black Sabbath too, though this isn’t metal. There are no guitar solos right now, for a start. Like Automotion, they had half an hour. I think they played four pieces in that time, maybe five. It was the best I’ve seen them play, and I think that was a consensus amongst us. They are developing a big, powerful sound, pushed along by the energetic drums, which provide a dynamic counterpoint to the slow build. The intermittent riffing gets the mosh going, and they got a great reaction from tonight’s crowd. It was all helped by the excellent sound system, the acoustics of the building and the atmospheric lighting. Their biggest gig yet and a great success. We need some more recorded music now, so the fans can relate it to the live shows.
The Lounge Society are from Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire – quite a fertile area for indie bands at the moment, other luminaries being the Orielles (Halifax) and Working Men’s Club (Todmorden). They released their debut album Tired of Liberty in August. On a first listen I was getting a bit of Talking Heads and the Strokes, maybe the Libertines too. The singer Cameron Davey’s voice reminded me a bit of Pete Doherty – and Steve Harley. In other words, rather strangled. In interviews they sound pretty angry about the world around them. Live they were dynamic and tuneful and reminded me at times of Franz Ferdinand and the Futureheads. Cameron started on bass, but he and the two guitarists swapped their instruments around during the show. It was an entertaining and energetic performance and the crowd appreciated it. On the faster numbers there was some serious moshing – the most that evening. Cameron’s vocals came across better live than they do on record and he sang (and moved) with a real intensity. I thoroughly enjoyed the show.
We all departed in an upbeat mood. Three good bands, Butch Kassidy triumphing on their biggest stage yet, and the Lounge Society showing why they are getting a lot of good reviews in the music press.
Indie guitar rock, post-punk – call it what you will – is alive and well!
A few more photos.
The Lounge Society