Shockwaves. Yeah. Hair gel! Yeah. Rock n’roll! Corporate whoring. Whoop! Yeah! I shouldn’t mock, after all music and sponsorship go back a long way but nowadays it’s just that little bit more IN YOUR FACE! I’m only jealous, I’ve never had the kind of hair that could be teased into silly shapes, although I do now sport a ridiculous moustache that benefits from a great wodge of hair wax to keep it under control (otherwise it runs riot you know...getting drunk...drawing on toilet walls...shouting abuse at Traffic Wardens...shocking...or SHOCKWAVING...eh? Eh? EH? See, I’m getting the hang of this corporate sponsorship thingy now. I’ll expect 12 cases of hair gel by the morning).Anyway tonight the Academy...sorry O2 Academy (see, I’ve got this sponsorship thing cracked)...was awash with trendy young things with jizzed up hair (NB: jizz is a lot cheaper than hair gel and totally environmentally friendly too), all here to see the next big things. Given this (it’s my understanding that the Shockwaves tour is mainly here to promote ‘new’ artists), the bill was a little odd. Both The Maccabees (formed in 2004) and Bombay Bicycle Club (formed in 2005) have been around the block a few times, I’d seen The Big Pink a year or two ago as well, so only The Drums (formed in 2008...mere babies) were ‘new’. Hmmm.
The Drums were first up too, coming on at 7.20, just as the crowd was starting to build. If you missed them (and I guess a fair few people did given the early start time) you missed a treat. If you’re looking for musical references then The Drums are an anorak’s delight, echoing The Cure on ‘I Felt Stupid’, updating The Beach Boys on ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ and embracing the whole C86 movement that’s so hip right now on tracks like ‘Submarine’. There’s a distinct Echo & The Bunnymen vibe too (the lead singer’s voice had a touch of the Ian McCulloch about it), albeit with a surf twang. They’re being hailed as the best thing in music since, well, the last best thing and, although it’s early days in their career they’ve got that certain era defining something that bands like The Strokes and Arctic Monkey’s had. Lead Drum Jonathan (who knows, he might become a sex cymbal...) spent most of the set twitching across the stage like Ian Curtis on acid and it left me wanting more, more, more. Drum-endous.
Coming onto the stage bathed in dry ice The Big Pink were up next. The Big Pink play doomy, gothy sort of tracks (with a bit of an electro / industrial edge) and are, predictably, signed to uber cool doomy, gothy label 4AD. Not a bad set but they didn’t set me on fire. Could be my unfamiliarity with most of their material, although, from my vague memory of the last time I saw them their sound had become a lot ‘meatier’ so they’re probably heading in the right direction. The set ending sing-a-long ‘Dominos’ however impressed me (and the crowd) no end (I’m sure it’s been used on an advert somewhere...hair gel maybe...no, I tell a lie...it’s for something called an X-box).
With the venue now full to bursting point with teenage bodies (and a smattering of dodgy old men like me) Bombay Bicycle Club blended Orange Juice (the band, not the fruit based beverage) intellipop with Interpol (the band, not the Police based organisation) cool, especially on standout tracks like the classic in the making ‘Evening/Morning’. The lead singer’s got one of those quivering sort of voices that suggests frailty and sensitivity. Aww bless. I’m sure he’s neither. He’s probably a right geezer, shagging his way across the country and snorting coke off goldfish...or whatever pop stars do these days. The fact that he looks like super cool anti-folkster Jeffrey Lewis is a bonus. BBC have a great set of tunes and, over the space of 40 minutes or so we got the lot, from the aforementioned ‘Evening/Morning’with its slow build intro that explodes into one the kind of dirty great bass line you’d like to spend the night with right through to the twitchy Vampire Weekend-ish ‘Always Like This’. As a thousand hands were raised aloft (I even saw one guy waving his shoe around...) BBC firmly cemented their position as one of the great indie bands of the moment.
Finally, time for headliners The Maccabees (sadly without the holiday Armadillo...if you’ve never seen Friends that reference makes no sense at all...then again, even if you have it might not). I’ll be honest, I knew very little about The Maccabees before tonight. I’d had a quick listen to a couple of tracks and wasn’t that bowled over, so my expectations were low. That all changed when they came on backed by a neat little three piece brass section, the crowd started singing along and the dark backdrop (what looked like a moody shot of an industrial landscape) was obliterated by a burst of golden lightbulbs. I got it then. With the warm brass and lead singer Orlando’s emotive vocal I was reminded of Dexy’s Midnight Runners or, the criminally underrated Rumble Strips. There’s an Editors-ish knack with a guitar too, that kind of driving playing that really pushes a song along. A lot of the tunes weren’t instantly memorable, at least to my ears, so I guess I’ll have to spend some time with the album before I reach the orgasmic state achieved by an impressively large proportion of the crowd. Tonight the Arcade Fire sounding ‘Love You Better’ made a great impression though, together with ‘Can You Give It’ (which drove several thousand people to leap up and down in ecstasy...it even got my head nodding) and the new wave-y classic ‘X-Ray’. Oh...I nearly forgot ...there was ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ too (which curiously sounds like something that could’ve been a hit in the 1920’s) played pretty much by Orlando on his own, complete with a sweet little whistling bit. Just lovely. It’s the oldest trick in the book for bands to say that the crowd they’re playing to is the best they’ve had, but Orlando really sounded like he meant it tonight. Judging by the sweaty throng that danced happily away into the night the feeling was mutual.
PS: For lovely pictures of this gig courtesy of Mr Wayne Fox Esq don't forget to check out the Gig Junkies site too!