"For believe you me, they are calculating and hard nosed beneath that veneer of village green simplicity and their attempts to make the normally leaden-footed Dutch dance are reminiscent of a Ruth Maddox-like persistence in ensuring that fun will be had..."
The Pipettes – Rotown, 12/10/06
There is nothing worse in this modern world than going to see the Pipettes on your own. Hasty calls to a girlfriend are despatched with intent of her accompanying me, if only to achieve the object of sharing some of my crushing social inadequacies... I mean I'm going to look like a perv am I not? Staring at three girls who blatantly project a 1950s schoolgirl image on stage, all tongues a-pulling and coy flouncing and floral-print dress wearing, it's enough to send a man gibbering to his dotage.
Anyway, for what it's worth Rotown is packed, and I mean jam-packed; full of the oddest sort of people, some actually quite hard Rotterdam lads about town, coupled with their boisterous girl friends. I am also convinced JR Mascis is in the building. The atmosphere is great but not, sadly, for a gig, as Rotown is to all intents and purposes a cafe bar with a stage, and unless the audience specifically want to hear the songs and actually go out of their way to quieten the passing bar trade, the band in question has to work bloody hard or be bloody loud.
A case in point is the Pip's support, Monster Bobby, whose gentle urban tales of love loss and late night drinks are in no way a match for the blatant show of indifference Rotown presents to him. His gambit, (or technical mistake), of being too quiet and winsome rebounds badly when faced with strident forty-somethings in polka dot dresses (if you ever want to know what the Pips will look like when they grow gracefully old, one peep at some of the hatchet faced women drinking gin may give you an inkling). It is as if he's playing for a hen night in Bradford. He is seen to sweat and is seen to cough nervously. The audience want the Pipettes, little realising that Monster Bobby also plays guitar for their heroines. He makes the classic mistake of looking at his watch and declaring, "right, another ten minutes" to which some wag shouts "oh shit". This is a shame because under respectful conditions, Monster Bobby's set would have been a joy. Some of the audience feel for him and his knot of loyal supporters down the front give him a heartening ovation.
Soon the atmosphere lifts 'cos its time for the Pips. On they skip, parading their frolicsome ways with abandon, and the audience, sheep-like to, erm, a sheep, lap it up. It grows painfully obvious that The Pipettes will do very well in a country not overly weighed down by any sense of irony. What is seen as artful and faux-coy in the UK is full blooded fun over in Rotterdam. Which I suppose is a good thing. People can let their hair down and not worry too much. The band deliver tracks like ABC and We Are the Pipettes in a brassy no-nonsense way, solely intent on winning the crowd round. Even Pull Shapes (not my favourite track of theirs by some way) has much more appeal live.
And it has to be said they are bloody good at what they do. I mean bloody good. In some ways this is old fashioned, pier-end vaudeville, not pop. Their asides are crafted and delivered with brio, the flitty inter-band tongue pulling a fluffy divertissement, and their sad songs are delivered in such a way that we can allow ourselves a momentary suspension of disbelief. For believe you me, they are calculating and hard nosed beneath that veneer of village green simplicity and their attempts to make the normally leaden footed Dutch dance are reminiscent of a Ruth Maddox-like persistence in ensuring that fun will be had, even if it takes some persuasion, and repeated admissions that "yes, we are sweating very heavily indeed".
Afterwards the girls do a sterling job in signing and selling to their impressionable legion, giving the feeling that they could go a long way in trade, and I am left to hastily evacuate the building.
Words: Richard Foster.