Next door (in the big room) the newly reformed Happy Mondays are twisting the melons of hundreds of mums and dads on the old ‘topping up the pension’ circuit. Meanwhile, here in the Academy 2, the night gets off to an equally twisty (but infinitely cooler) start thanks to the sinuous ass shaking of Aluna Francis, one half of new London R&B electronic duo AlunaGeorge. It’s always nice to see an artist enjoying themselves up there and Ms Francis seemed quite happy bopping away to the glitchtronic soundtrack, sprinkling sweet as candy vocals over the top like hundreds and thousands. One for fans of late 90’s garage 2-steppers Shanks & Bigfoot...their classic Sweet Like Chocolate must surely be an inspiration on some of this stuff?
Look up cool in the dictionary and there’s a fair chance you’ll find a reference to Brooklyn’s latest musical offering, Friends. Despite sharing a name with a ‘90’s sitcom (seriously...let’s have a little more imagination people) they’re so cool right now people were chipping bits off ‘em and popping them in their drinks tonight. Fact. Happily the hipness doesn’t get in the way of a good time though and lead Friend, Samantha Urbani (resplendent in green fluoro lipstick) quickly connected with the audience by leading us in some kind of primal scream therapy, “Go on...scream!!!” “Let out your demons” drawled keyboardist Nikki Shapiro...bearing three week stubble and black eyeliner...now that’s a brave look. And scream we did. Inhibitions suitably lifted and connections made Samantha abandoned the stage altogether by the third song, Friend Crush, and literally leapt into the arms of one lucky dude at the front of the crowd. After bouncing her around in a mildly provocative manner (lucky, lucky dude) she played out the rest of the song getting up close and personal with the rest of us.“Iiiiiiiiiii wanna be your friennnnnd” she sang breathily. The feeling was already mutual. She went on to win even more hearts though by bravely attempting to pronounce our city’s name correctly...always a challenge for our American cousins more familiar with the Alabama version. “Is that right?” she asked after getting it spot on. The crowd enthusiastically cheered. “Oh you’re just...taking the piss”. That’s just an English phrase right? Full marks for learning to speak the lingo.
Musically the band’s heavily influenced by late 70’s, early 80’s New York post disco scene, perhaps most notably the criminally underrated ESG (that might explain the mix of older punters amongst the hip young thangs). There’s funky bass in yo face, cowbells, synths and lashings of street sass...what’s not to love? Pick of the set was...oh hell... the whole darn thing. Mind Control was awesome, like Lene Lovich getting it on with Rick James and Tom Tom Club at Studio 54, and the languidly dreamy anthem to post modern relationships I’m His Girl firmly cemented itself as one of the tracks of the decade. This and any other. After the Bonde De Role-tastic Van Fan Gor Du the band left us wanting more, dispensing with the tired old cliché of the planned encore. I’d expect nothing less of a band this ice cool. Now that’s how you win, Friends.
PS: Wot, no merch stand? Shame!