Four-band bills? Archly ridiculous, a technical hell-hole, and about as financially rewarding as gambling on Fatboy Slim actually doing another worthwhile record (sorry, Norm). But, for all the behind-the-scenes maintenance and extortionate coke-bills they prompt, they're bloody fun to watch. That's why we do it; for you.
This month's sell-out showcase was a valiant one; featuring hi-fi electronic-pop-rock ensemble from Staines, Hard-Fi (fresh signings to Atlantic, and poised for greatness in '005), new Transgressive Records batch The Young Knives, eccentric jazz-core trio The Noisettes and Basement regular / solo troubadour Ed Harcourt's incessant death-punk trio, Wild Boar. Cue: a round-the-corner, well, queue; a swamped room; and much tiresomely eclectic aplomb.
First up, the 'Boar - and song-titles such as theirs explain it all: 'Henry Rollins' Neck Is Bigger Than His Head'; 'Tenderiser'; 'No Time To F**k'; et al... Ed Harcourt has finally lost it, and it's f**king thrilling. He stares at a shy, still-sober, conservative audience, largely composed of fans of his more plaintive tinklings and solo repertoire. 'Well, I'm having a good time,' he states with a maniacal grin prior to another of the Boar's trudge-punk anthems. Equally hilarious and terrifying, this was quite an inauguration. And no full-time bass-player in sight.
Like our next lot. That The Noisettes exist in our world is a blessing to be counted. For every one of their prized minutes onstage, a miracle occurs - enlightenment of what could be, or, more accurately, what already is. This band fuses and exhibits in just three members the dextrous soul and impacting punk-kick that no other presently bandies around - drummer Jamie looks like a hippie werewolf, crashing cymbals and snare and floor-tom with a rigid trajectory that's both wilfully accomplished and entrancingly, shamelessly muso; guitarist Dan respectively stares and stabs at his guitar with gaunt eyes and entrancingly weaving hands; and vocalist Shingai Shoniwa...
Oh, Shingai Shoniwa. Heart-rendingly beautiful, she struts and prowls the stage with a sorcerer-like command and coos a beguiling series of yelps, screams and classic smoky jazz dynamism that leads the room to silence during songs, and go f**king mental in between. An intoxicating display in rhythmic audacity and a band in constant search of Arrangement Reconstruction Therapy, we are breathless at what is possibly one of the most timeless and awesome Basement sets in our two years. We wouldn't let them go.
So, consequentially... That The Young Knives had their work cut out (insert your own 'knives' / 'cutting' puns here, budding scribes!) isn't in dispute. But when you've got tunes in abundance of this esteem, you need not bother holding doubt nor contempt for what's to ensue. From the crashing guitar of 'Kramer V Kramer', and its implausibly infectious choral refrain, to its whizzing, dizzy six-string solo ending, we're again immediately ensconced.
Then, the Pixies thunder of 'The Decision' - complete with its earnestly British, twee outbursts (references to the New Forest, no less) - and pub-punk throttle of 'She's Attracted To', and unsettling bass-led gloom of 'Coastguard' (tales of getting lost at sea have never seemed so unholy), and searing, all-out pop assault of 'Weekends & Bleak Days', aaaand the darting post-punk riffage of 'Dialing Darling'... and we're slain. The best pop songs in the country today from a new band. No question. Little wonder The Futureheads are fans of such similarly eccentric, bewildered-seeming provincial bumpkins. This is art-core.
Judging from the numerous onstage plugs from Hard-Fi, they really want us to look up their home-made website. We shall, after this. Sampled beats, melodica-strewn dub-centric wig-outs, housed in pop structures and delivered by a hard-eyed singer who's not potentially adverse to a cat-walk part-time job, and it's everything that should be taught at school - themes revolve around urban frustration, unplanned pregnancy and attempting to make a wage. And that's just genius single 'Cash Machine', the sort of smoky, West London, Clash-ish anthem Damon Albarn wishes he wrote. It'll blow up this summer, just wait. The rest of the set, with its dark yet accessible turns, pulsates and throbs with articulate flare and tracksuited gusto, delivered with an everyman-accessible zeal that instantly appeals. Not to be sneered at.
Then, more customary dancing like parochial monkeys, unnecessary beer bingeing and shooters-indulgence, and the hanging sense that we've become better people after tonight. Shame the ringing in our ears and heavy head in the morning seemed to suggest otherwise. Still, there's always the memories.
Photo-Credit: Beamon 65