Thursday, May 19, 2011

Warpaint / Connan Mockasin @ The HMV Institute, Wednesday 18th May 2011

Currently riding high on the icy crest of a particularly cool wave Warpaint are every indie loving boy and girl’s wet dream. Four LA-dies playing a mix of shoegaze and psych rock they’re undoubtedly one of the coolest bands on the planet right now, a fact underlined in big red pen by the cooler than usual crowd tonight (not everyone was cool...I was there for starters...but there were some pretty cool looking people

First up though the decidedly uncool, but just so darn loveable, Connan Mockasin. “Er...we’re the support bind” announced lead singer Connan, sounding a little like Murray from Flight Of The Conchords “so you din’t hive to be pilite or applaud or inything”. Bless him. The crowd did applaud though and the applause grew as their set went on. He’s a funny one Connan. Not the best singer in the world his material and musical style (psych pop) is distinctly odd too, you could imagine meltdown era Syd Barrett coming up with this kind of stuff. Tonight he was joined by his dad, Joe, who seemed intent on avoiding as much of the limelight as possible. Connan had other ideas and physically spun him round and gripped him by the shoulder to force him to face the audience. What’s going on there eh? Then he was joined by a geisha who provided a little percussion and waved a fan in front of her whilst practising her best thousand yard stare. See? Odd. Despite...or maybe because of all was an intensely enjoyable show, with some surprisingly funky moments in amongst the tripped out stuff. Connan might well be as nutty as a fruit cake but the world of music’s a much richer place for dudes like this. Check out the vid to Forever Dolphin Love (trust me...stick with it) and you’ll see what I mean.

In contrast to Connan’s opening words Warpaint were a little more confident. “Are you ready for a rock show?” enquired vocalist Emily Kokal. What she’d have done if we’d all shouted back “Nah, we fancy a little country tonight” will have to remain a mystery. What followed was something equally mysterious at times, a hypnotising, slow burning...sensual even... performance that reduced the normal audience jibber jabber to barely a whisper. That’s even more impressive when you consider that Warpaint tracks ain’t bitesize. With several songs clocking in at over 7 minutes there’s a huge risk of losing people during the more stripped back noodling guitar parts but cunningly they seem to know just when to move it up a gear again with a funky bass line, some kick ass drumming or those harmonised, slightly ethereal vocals. So, whilst the spirit of 80’s shoegaze, Curve, Slowdive, Ride (a bit of Throwing Muses too) et al lies at Warpaint’s heart, there’s a neat touch of Luscious Jackson and Chicks On Speed in there to lighten the mood too. The midset pairing of Undertow and Composure, arguably two of the band’s most accessible tracks, neatly packaged all of these elements together perfectly tonight with the former going down a storm. As the set wore on the band seemed to loosen up more and more with both Emily and bassist Jenny frequently losing themselves in some gloriously unselfconscious dancing...the kind of stuff you see teens do when they think no one’s looking. Cute. One of the highlights of the show, Billie Holliday (which sees the letters from Lady Day’s name transformed cleverly into a kind of sing song chorus), morphed dreamily into snatches of Mary Well’s My Guy prompting much slow head nodding along the front’s music to dream by...and judging by the blissed out faces of the crowd that’s just what some of them were doing. Beetles ended the main set before some particularly enthusiastic hollering for an encore saw the band return for Elephants, a suitably hypnotic ending to an equally hypnotic evening.

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