Letter from London; Artrocker & more...

"This is Deathline's debut gig apparently, and they do well, pulling in about sixty punters. For me, it's simple with this lot; the fast ones are good, the slow ones are poor. "

Letter from London.


Here's my Islington gig month. Let's face it kids, the music scene is the only reason that you'd want to stay in London... October has been bookmarked by my favourite type of gig: small events in the back rooms of pubs. Or, in one case, a gig held underneath a pub.


Let's start at the Artrocker night. I love this place: three bands for free and the atmosphere is good, so what's there not to love?


First up are Gindrinker. Electric drums and a Woolworths guitar. These boys like the Fall don't they? The songs have a spoken (sometimes snarled) narrative that puts me in mind of MES... An occasionally used trumpet reminds me of improvised music nights that I have stumbled across in the past. Not all I'd hoped for.




Children Collide are a traditional three piece. The bass player has obviously seen At the Drive-in and the singer is a big fan of Fugazi (or at least, that's who I first saw do that 'yell into the guitar pickups and it comes out of the PA' thing). That's what you're getting; very tight, polished, credible, loud guitar music. The (typical) London audience stand unimpressed, with their arms folded. It's that "go on, impress us" attitude again. I'm amazed that I don't see more (indeed any) heads bobbing at least. The singer seems to feed off this and becomes more and more animated during the last couple of songs, the closest members of the audience risking a guitar-face connection. It's great if you like that kind of thing. I don't at the minute, though I have in the past and might do in the future.




The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club is the last act to grace the stage; oh look it's another 3-piece. The rhythm section is female, and the drummer is very, very serious (I spot her smile twice at most). Cheer up please; you're in a great band! All the band have a bash at singing at some point. It's a good old a-rhythmic racket. Ban the Gin is the stand out track for me, although I cannot subscribe to the sentiment. Well worth seeking out.





A week later and I'm in a church in order to see Jonathan Richman. The performance space (the church) is very grand and suitable for Mr Richman's music I'd say. The bar area is more of a youth centre. Never mind, a hurried plastic glass of red wine and I'm back downstairs. I haven't seen Jonathan for at least 15 years, and he look's the same as ever. Of course he's aged; but there's the same child like, wide-eyed look, and the same cross between terror and delight on his face. He's struggling with his voice tonight, but he puts on a great show nevertheless. I particularly enjoy it when he gets so caught up in the moment that he puts down his guitar and picks up some sleigh-bells and shakes the rhythm out on them, before having a little dance. Wonderful. We leave resolving to buy some more of his CDs.


Finally there's Deathline at the Hope and Anchor. The Hope and Anchor has a bit of pedigree, if you didn't know, as it's the place where the Specials played their first London gig: members of Madness were in the audience. (Don't forget the Soft Boys! – ed). The venue (beneath the main bar) is very small and it's impossible to get away from the oversized PA. I'll shuffle behind Art Brut's bass player and let her absorb some of the sound heading my way: she's a professional so it won't hurt her. This is Deathline's debut gig apparently, and they do well, pulling in about sixty punters. For me, it's simple with this lot; the fast ones are good, the slow ones are poor. Still, I'm mighty impressed by their organisation and neat little fliers; they're obviously taking this seriously. I reckon that they need a real drummer (they're a guitar player and bass player at the minute). The music is on the rockier side of spectrum and lacks that special sparkle of "magic". But enough cynicism, I mustn't forget this is their first gig and I'm sure things will get better.





So that's October over with. Off the top of my head, November has me seeing The Flaming Lips, The Bow Mods, Jason Spaceman and some improvised jazz madness. Bring it on.


Words: Chris Gibson.