Artrocker Night – Paradiso, Amsterdam 10/02/06

Kaito are thunderous live and thrive on the tension between the clipped stentorian 1920s school mistress rants of vocalist Nikki and the slobbering, baroque grandeur of Dave’s guitar playing.

Kaito are thunderous live and thrive on the tension between the clipped stentorian 1920s school mistress rants of vocalist Nikki and the slobbering, baroque grandeur of Dave’s guitar playing.

Artrocker Night – Paradiso, Amsterdam 10/02/06


Artrocker. What precisely is Artrocker and what was it doing in the Paradiso, hosting its own festival? Maybe a quick explanation is required before we proceed. Artrocker is an independently run magazine that was set up about two years ago (maybe the summer of 2004, forgive me but I can’t remember exactly) with the intention of commenting on the then burgeoning and renascent Art Rock scene. Hence, I suppose, the magazine’s name. This scene, peopled as it was – and to some extent still is – with the likes of Selfish Cunt, Art Brut, the Paddingtons, Kaito and the odd Libertine was – and to some extent still is – decidedly Bohemian in its outlook. At its best, it has been a good and honest breeding ground for some genuinely creative and gutsy people. At its worst, the whole thing has just been an excuse for some lazy half-baked rich-kid posturing.

Anyway, Artrocker has covered nigh on every gig, reporting all the highs and lows, very often wittily and, in doing so, has become something of a Fowlers Guide to the entire movement. It has even managed to become as successful as the scene itself, shedding its photocopied fanzine appearance, slipping into – by way of a glossy makeover – clothes of a more prosperous cut. I suppose that this Artrocker evening in the Paradiso (themselves no strangers to sniffing out trends from afar) was a celebration of the magazine’s recently gained gravitas. Certainly the new glossy edition was being bandied carelessly about (even being used by some scenesters to scrape the odd wayward fringe away from their downcast eyes).  


After a short introductory DJ set (replete with a quick-moving montage of photographic stills culled from previous Artrocker events) we were introduced to the first act on the bill, Theoretical Girl. Theoretical Girl is one girl, some pre-recorded tracks and a semi-acoustic guitar, which (being demure and petite) she could easily have hidden behind. That she didn’t is to her eternal credit. With a brisk introduction of “hello I am Theoretical Girl and I am going to play you some of my songs”, she launched into a very enjoyable set indeed. Most of the songs were introspective – and rather caustic in tone. One, by way of example, was about Real Men (who fight after hours). Sonically, they reminded me of the gentle dreamy sounds to be found on the Ultra Vivid Scene album. It was very 4AD in timbre, very late eighties, but in its own peculiar way. Another thing to note is that Theoretical Girl (or, to cast theory aside for a moment and call her by her real name, Amy Turnnidge) has a hell of a voice, very rich and powerful in delivery (somewhat at odds to the angsty bed-sit musings that constitute her set) giving a real emotional thump to the music.  Incendiary were impressed enough to buy a single and get it signed, only to then (in an act of drunken stupidity later in the evening) leave said single on the train home. So, one of the first Theoretical Girl singles to be bought in Continental Europe has been sent on a journey with a theoretical destination, in turn meeting a theoretical fate. Oh well…


Once Theoretical Girl had departed to warm applause, more fast-moving stills of people singing and drinking were shown, and more arty records were played by the DJ. Eventually Ladyfuzz appeared and the fuzzy, guitar-heavy art-rock records spinning on the turntable was replaced by erm, fuzzy, guitar-heavy live music. The lady singer of Ladyfuzz reminded one in her shiny New Look style dress of the mad lass out of Propaganda. But no matter, things kicked off at an agreeable pace and the clattering, in-yer-face rock of Ladyfuzz began to assert itself. Unfortunately, once it had asserted itself, it didn’t seem to have any real idea what to do. I mean, it was alright, it just felt that there was a lot of bluster and preening and little else. It was also very one-paced, and consequently rather tiring. Ladyfuzz gave us a lot of musical stick but precious little carrot.


Off trooped Ladyfuzz and back came the arty DJ-ing and the flurry of cool images on the big screen. Oh for the test card… After a slightly longer delay, on trooped Shit Disco, sleeves meticulously rolled up. For the record, Shit Disco has, at times, three bassists playing simultaneously. At least one of them plays bass and dances in a manner sickeningly reminiscent of Alfie Agius, late of the Teardrop Explodes. At least two of them play bass in a position more suitable for ukulele, that is, strapped to the upper reaches of the torso (albeit jauntily placed under the armpit). Ah, but we must suspend our disbelief for a moment. For what was once pop posturing is now Art Rock. We decided to give the band a whirl. Unfortunately nothing really connected. It was all energetic stuff, and winningly performed, but it all seemed slightly pointless. The best two songs came last (the single and the new single). Both sounded like variants on New Order’s Temptation.

They were pleasant enough. Off trooped Shit Disco. Back came the DJ and some more arty meanderings. However, we didn’t mind that much as we knew Kaito weren’t far off.


There are many great things about Kaito, from miniscule personal observations that make you feel that there are still independent minded souls about (at last, a guitarist playing his instrument from the hip) to major obvious things that smack you in the face. The most noticeable thing is Kaito’s innate sense of theatre and occasion. Kaito are thunderous live and thrive on the tension between the clipped stentorian 1920s school mistress rants of vocalist Nikki and the slobbering, baroque grandeur of Dave’s guitar playing. Add clattering drumming and very purposeful bass lines and you are faced with possibly one of the best live acts around. As for Dave Lake, I’ve not heard anyone play guitar like that with that amount of Rock sensibility since Kevin Shields or Lee Renaldo. It was utterly overpowering.

Stirring renditions of Johnny and 2Say were possibly the highlights, but why nit-pick. Kaito are bloody fabulous and their performance put a gloss on the night.


After that we decided to head to the pub and get thoroughly wrecked – after all it would only be seemly to do so given the Bohemian credentials that had been espoused in the Paradiso. Our company was a very influential executive, his decorous companion the odd band member and, quite unexpectedly a rather chippy long distance runner. Incendiary upheld its own credentials by attempting a rendition of the splendid British Sea Power’s Remember Me in the style of George Formby. If only George had lived longer… Still, this review is no place for regrets.


Words: Richard Foster.

Photos: Chris Gibson.