Lexie Mountain Boys @ St Augustine’s Tower, Hackney
A confused grass-scramble leads us to the maudlin remains of St Augustine’s Church, dressed tonight in equal parts gig poster and visitor information placard. Inside is small and dim-lit, and has the ‘old shit’ smell. A radio pipes Birdsong FM to a gathered handful, all pretending to know what’s going down (nobody has a clue. shhh…), and above us hangs a creepy barred window, which will play first stage to the LDN debut of ever-so-Baltimore acapella ensemble Lexie Mountain Boys.
They first appear in footfall, then in space disco PE kits. Head-mounted mirror tiles clack against each other on their slow motion, giggling descent through the tower. “Zoom in”, they chant, “zooooom iiiiin”. Hands reach through the bars, ghostly, fingers contorted, shaping play-dough ambience.
Okay, here’s the thing. It’s 6pm and we’re in Hackney central, not the realm of The Brothers Grimm, in fact I could probably get a round of Starbucks in, purely by waggling my chip and pin at a window. As such, throughout the theatrics a number of sirens, smells and light breezes invite themselves along. “Whoosh” goes a plane, “whoosh” go the girls, stomping slightly out of sync with the pendulum case, very out of sync with our snufflin’ and a-shufflin’.
“Okay, ready guys? Here we go” ring their chipper intros as mechanical gubbins jump noisily to life, and I feel like we’ve suddenly washed up in a TV advert for a 1980s board game involving dreamboat quarterbacks and a huge pink telephone. These five in their unbroken growls (“I ain’t never seen you plow so hard”), howls (“what’s your dad like, what’s your dad like”), chunter (“soup-a-soup-a-tha-day”), stomps, scratches, slaps, bowed heads, dramatic face rubs, and gold-feathered-stomach washboard play.
With each act we’re beckoned onward, from clock-room to bell-tower, through the ever-narrowing stairwell to a doorway so Caligari-esque in it’s ‘no really, it actually is this size’ that I’m forced to dive headfirst and tumble gracelessly onto the rooftop. At this point one of LMB is crouched on all fours over the hatch, trailing noisy beads ‘n’ shit over her guests.
And here’s where it ends. The back to front gig, which starts with a pin-drop, Anderson shelter atmosphere and ends at open air, breathtaking views of Primark and McDonalds and some hipsters brushing dust from their jackets. It occurs to me now that the troupe have lost something along the way, the functioning musical circle who fought off reality in favour of slumber-party Goth theatrics are now just a few girls in pretty dresses, freezing their balls off and wailing Spandau Ballet. Oh well…