The way audiences react to bands at the Basement Club is something you don't often see at many other shows - the way those crammed in to the always sold out Buffalo Bar pay such close attention to and feed off the band is something you'd do well to witness anywhere else in the country. The bands thrive also, knowing what they'll receive in adoration from the limited crowd exactly will be in exact proportion to the amount of effort they put in to making this a night worth coming out for. The first time I personally witnessed such a stunning, fitting reaction was my first Basement Club, when Regina Spektor (then supported by Bloc Party) made her first visit to the UK, sat down at a keyboard and had hundreds of people in a tiny central London bar fall absolutely silent for what must have been nearly two hours. The second time I was really knocked off my feet by the commendable attitude of our attendees was just last week.
It started early - people queuing from mid afternoon in order to guarantee entry and secure a good spot for The Mystery Jets, making their return to (and curating this evening at) the Basement Club after conquering the world with their debut LP 'Making Dens', subsequent to their humble beginnings on our own Transgressive Records label. But also a notable throng of admirers for our first act, the worryingly fresh faced Cajun Dance Party, the first to benefit from the close attention of the already sizeable crowd lapping up their every bellowed word, syncopated guitar riff and keyboard twinkle delivered by the most cutely polka-dottedly dressed lady in the room. From both the sound of the tunes - delightfully mischievous indie ditties delivered in a manner only possible when you've yet to become old and jaded - and the admiration of the crowd (prompting the first, but by no means last crowd surfing excursion of the evening), you get the feeling these times could be just perfect for them.
Taking things up a notch even from there were GoodBooks, making their second consecutive appearance at the Basement due to tonight's curators sharing our opinion that what UK guitar music has in these four boys is something really worth celebrating. Displaying a lyrical maturity beyond their years (starting with the deceptively jaunty anti-war sing-a-long of 'Paschendale' and moving on to 'Start Stop' and it's assessment of last year's tragic London bombings), what's most interesting about them tonight is how such weighty topics are transformed in to hand clapping, communally vocalised works of glee without losing any of their originally intended weightiness. The Mystery Jets fans who refuse to leave the front of the venue all night for fear of missing a moment of zoological time go home with another new band jostling for position atop their hierarchy of favourite acts - which was precisely the point of putting them on in the first place.
Where they were intrigued by the promise of the Cajuns and decidedly thrilled by the intricacies and infectiousness of GoodBooks, the horde hand over their lives to the Mystery Jets, who provide a set of such quality that debate currently rages amongst the rockfeedback inner circle as to whether this might actually have been the greatest Basement Club ever. Let's for the moment entertain the idea that indeed it was - there would have been two ingredients that went toward giving it that title.
One - the sheer, unadulterated, pure, unashamed adulation of a crowd who know how to utter perfectly every syllable of every 'Jets song bar none. Remember the first time you heard of the band? Remember the obsession every writer you read had with referring to them as a prog band? Well, if this were ever true, then the Mystery Jets have somehow found a way to turn prog-rock in to an art form as communal as a bar room sing-along without losing anything that made their craft so interesting in the first place. The stage gets invaded, guitarists lofted above the heads of kids desperate to parade their idol around the venue. I never made it to Eel Pie, but finally I feel like I've had a night that stands up to those legends.
Two - all of which would have counted for nothing if this wasn't an absolutely stellar performance from the band themselves. Just from sitting down and shouting out "there was a boy who ran away..." onwards, 'Alas Agnes' was insanely enjoyable, 'You Can't Fool Me Dennis' rapturously entered in to by both band and crowd alike, whilst in closing things with 'Zoo Time' and its once-Transgressive counterpart 'Lizzy's Lion', the Mystery Jets suggested that they might just love rockfeedback as much as rockfeedback loves them back.
See you next month. Whoever graces the stage, take note - the bar has been raised.
Cajun Dance Party / Mystery Jets -
GoodBooks - Charlie Mines