Tuesday 23 February 2010

Gig - Tuneyards/Trash Kit/Think About Life @ Cargo, 15.02.10

As stated earlier, here is last weeks review for the sublime TuNe-YaRdS gig...

Upset the Rhythm kickstart their onslaught of great gigs last month with the likes of Gary War and Vivian Girls, showcasing some of the best from their stable in the process. Tonight at Cargo the juggernaut continues as the feted cracked genius of Tune-Yards gets to show her minimalist wares to a largely unsuspecting public, who failed to shy away from the admittedly commonplace that is the fucking shitty London weather. Sorry, but after a few months of this, I cannot remember the last gig I went to that didn't require me getting either a wet head or wet shoes...

First band to hit the stage are Canadian quartet Think About Life. Introducing themselves as Hootie and the Blowfish, they broke into their style of disco pop with fervour. The amount of flashes coming from the front row denotes that a degree of hype surrounds the band, and they certainly exude a highly polished sound and an eager to please attitude. Their songs, mostly from their latest album Family, alternates from a jazzy Go! Team-meets-Junior Senoir vibe of Set You on Fire, to the TV On the Radio-lite The Blue Sun and the bubblegum histrionics of Sweet Sixteen. Bassist and backing vocalist Calia bopped and shimmied her way through the set list, whilst guitarist Graham and drummer Greg, along with an array of sound bytes and beats, kept everything tight. Lead singer Martin is a commanding presence, a fist pumping, gyrating, hip swivelling tour de force...when he is singing. However his banter, a nervous goofy stutter, comes over not so much endearing as it does...well, nervous and goofy. They do announce that its their first gig in London, and the first of five in the next four days, so hopefully they will get more comfortable on stage. And whilst the mostly positive reaction from the avid musicgoers can attest they had won over a new gaggle of fans, I couldn't help but note that despite their animated demeanour and high production values, Think About Life lacked the originality of the bands they clearly tried to emulate.

Dalston's own Trash Kit cant claim to a large degree of originality either, but what they do provide the Cargo crowd is an engagingly infectious, if somewhat ramshackle, lo-fi DIY noise blitzkrieg. Donned with fuzzy quiffs, face paint and an element of embarrassed humility, the girls race through a set of songs that often seem determined to limbo under the 1 minute mark. Standouts included the crash-bang cuteness of Cadets, the twee meanderings of Teenagers, and their last which had something to do with being famous (called Fame, funnily enough), but didnt catch the name due to a guy spilling beer down my back. No biggie - I still had a grin stretching my lips, which threatened to spill off my face and envelop the room when the band broke down into a beautifully grungy rendition of 2 Unlimited's 1990's "gem" There's No Limit. When guitarist and vocalist/shriek demon Rachel A broke down the song into a guitar wail of skritchs and blips, the drums petering out and the bass strumming one final damning note, it was clear as to why Upset The Rhythm championed these chanteuses' charms.

And so it was that with grins in check Merrill Garbus, AKA Tune-Yards, walked on stage. I was surprised to find out the show had been sold out some time ago - whilst her 2009 album Bird-Brains was an eclectic experimental alt-folk explosion of a hit (in my opinion), I did not think that it was something that would appeal to a wide audience. I may be a little slow on the uptake here, but Tune-Yards has a lot to offer, and in spades. The adulatory cheers that rose the roof as Garbus came on stage, her squiggly-line face paint accentuating her warm grin, was exacerbated by the opening track, Fiya, and the way in which it was constructed. With bassist Nate Brenner the only other presence, Garbus built up the other elements around her by looping a series of drum beats that she played on stage, followed by loops of her own voice. It was amazing to see and hear this one-woman show build a tribal choir around her. Her voice is amazing - the stong flat notes she is able to hit seeminlgy on a whim were complemented by her bluesy intonations and rapturous whisperings. Her electrified ukelele was in full effect, driving forth the songs with Brenner's capable basslines underpinning them. Sticking mostly to Bird-Brains, Tune-Yards' dexterity was juxtaposed by the way in which the whole thing looked so...easy. There is nothing easy about these songs of course, but I, along with every person lucky enough to have been there, were held in thrall by this amazingly talented songstress. Her affable nature was countered by her distinct sense of awe and gratitude at the reception she was receiving. She deserved every ecstatic cheer and whistle. And despite it being a Monday night and telling us to go home, 'seeing as your mothers aren't here', she repaid the audience in kind by playing three songs as an encore, including crowd fave Sunlight and a new number, You Yes You. Tune-Yards came, saw and conquered, converting the crowded pundits into shiny happy people in the process - and in light of the miserable weather, that is no mean feat.

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