Letter from London April 2008

"Two of the most witty wordsmiths that the UK have produced in recent years teaming up together! In a glam rock band! Let's get it on! "

Letter from London April 2008I'll admit to being very excited when I stumbled across the listing for this months first gig on myspace. Why? It offered a chance to see a favourite from 10 years ago, Mikey Georgeson from David Devant and his Spirit Wife, as well as a favourite from 3 years ago, Eddie Argos from Art Brut. Two of the most witty wordsmiths that the UK have produced in recent years teaming up together! In a glam rock band! Let's get it on! So I hang around in south London after I finish work (not something I like to do, normally I leg it back north of the river as quickly as possible), grab a bite to eat and then head on over to the venue: The Half Moon. Not in Putney mind, this 'Half Moon' is in Herne Hill, which (it turns out) is about a 15 minute walk from Brixton. It's a nice, big old boozer that has the air of somewhere that was very rough not so long ago. The room at the back isn't open when I turn up, so I order a drink and ask the barman if he knows what times the bands are on.

"Dunno... they normally put the shit ones on first though."He's right. I don't rush in when the doors do open, and thankfully that means I don't have to listen to the awful heavy metal that's leaking through them. There follows another awful band, so I stay in the bar, sucking on another ginger beer (for some reason I'm on the wagon at the time), watching the world go by. At one point half a dozen Japanese twenty-somethings walk in, head straight for the venue room, and then re-appear after 3 minutes.

The evening drags, and I nearly can't be arsed to wait for Mikey and Eddie, but the terrible music fades away just as I'm about to give up hope, so I scamper into the venue. It's a big room that has a high stage and a raised area for the punters too. It's an odd shape mind, so if it was full to the rafters

, folks at the back wouldn't have a chance of seeing. Fortunately there are less than 100 people here. Unfortunately I have come a tad too soon, and have to watch 4 women in their 20's, prancing around in their leotards. Sounds sexy, but believe me it's not. They call themselves the Panther Girls, and they really should grow up. Doing badly choreographed, badly rehearsed dance routines to cool records might be cute if you're 10, but if you're 24 it's a bit sad. Thankfully they only do a couple of numbers and it's time for the band to take to the stage. They rejoice in the name of Glam Chops and it's their first gig. Well... they did play the week before, but they had a different name then. As well as Eddie on vocals (metallic face paint, over-tight white jumpsuit, flying V) and Mikey (black and gold jump suit, Elvis wig -of course, white face paint) on guitar, we are treated to a bass player in a Red Indian head dress, another guitarist in Bay City Roller trousers, a saxophonist who looks like a clown, and the drummer who is all big hair and a dinner jacket. Fantastic. The music is 'glam by numbers', big riffs, big choruses, there's plenty of chances for the audience to join in, and we do with gusto and beaming faces.  As a side project for Eddie to let his hair down Glam Chops does its job as you can tell he's having a great time. That kind of enjoyment is infectious and I have a whale of a time. Glam Chops are never going to win any awards for song writing, but if you get a chance to see them you should grab it with both hands.http://www.myspace.com/paranoiddogbark A trip to the Buffalo Bar next, mainly to see a band that gets enough attention in these pages, so I won't over expose them. However, there is another good band on the bill: Shimmy Rivers and and Canal. Yes, that's 2 'and's. They pack out the (tiny) stage: there's at least half a dozen of them. A singer, a bass player in a weird animal costume, a keyboard player, at least one guitarist, a clarinet player (who spends the gig lurking behind the bass amp) and a drummer who uses a spade in his drum kit. There might have been a trumpet player too: it was all too chaotic to see. They make a glorious racket, and are clearly having a ball, swapping instruments willy-nilly. The look on the clarinet players face suggests that she's as bemused as the rest of us.  The singer's vocal style is very Mark E Smith, and is lyrics are a little surreal, which are a little off putting to begin with. Then, a couple of songs in, I found that I could more or less ignore him and just enjoy the madness. Finally I realize that it does no harm to allow his voice into the mix, and it kind of makes sense.

http://www.myspace.com/shimmyriversandandcanal shimmyriversandandcanal.comNow... time for some ENO. Not that bloke who used to be in Roxy Music. Thanks to a more cultured friend of mine dragging me into a theatre in the West End a few years ago, I thinking of the English National Opera. They've just put on an adaptation of the David Lynch film Lost Highway at the Young Vic. The venue is wonderful, the stage (for this production anyway) is long and thin and bisects the room. There's a large Perspex box above it that has a spiral staircase within it. The Perspex box is the home to quite a lot of action, but thankfully, after 20 minutes or so, it also spills onto the stage. The acting is a little bit hammy, but the singing can't be faulted and the score is simply spectacular. I've got to admit it was a bit pompous and that it took me ten minutes or so to get into it, and at one point I couldn't help thinking "Howard Moon would love this", but I did really enjoy it. As the plot develops the character of Mr Eddy is introduced, he's a sort of mafia boss. The guy playing him, David Moss, gives the most amazing vocal performance. It's almost impossible to describe, but the closest I can come to is that character from Police Academy: the one who was the head bad guy in the second film, and then a recruit in the next. Mr Eddy manages to beat up someone by singing at them: it's probably some clever metaphor. But he comes to a sticky end, when his neck his messily slashed. By this time the long, thin stage has become the Lost Highway of the title, with a car moving up and down it.

 

http://www.eno.org/youngvic/lh_about.html Finally another exhibition. It's in the same gallery that I went to last month, The Nacy Victor Gallery, and it's a solo show by one of the guys who was exhibiting, Timid. Timid is a photographer, but there are none of his photos on display here, which is a shame. Instead he's turned the small room into one large installation. There's black, latex paint dripping from all the walls and the occasional piece of Perspex with sprayed black and silver paint. It's an impressive effort for a first solo show.

 

Words: Chris Gibson