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Maccabees / Bombay Bicycle Club / The Drums / The Big Pink – My Gigging Year

December 21, 2010

Moody teenagers BBC show of their acne. Low-blow? Yeah, but I likes 'em so it's OK.

Ok, so inevitably I fell at the first hurdle and couldn’t keep kicking out gig reviews once a day. Pie in the sky stuff really – what was I thinking? Anyway, to get up to speed, I’m going to rush through the rest of my gigging year as best I can.

Maccabees were headlining, but I only went to see BBC. I’d heard a couple of their singles on yes, you guessed it, 6music and was really excited about this new English band. I didn’t really know any of the other bands much. I did a little research before the gig and thought Maccabees’ ‘Wall of Arms’ was darkly intriguing and that The Drums were probably going to be a lot of fun from their ‘Summertime! EP’. I read a Pitchfork review of The Big Pink’s ‘A Brief History of Love’ and subsequently listened to their album: not for the first time, I really didn’t see what the big fuss was about (the album got an 8.2) but chalked it up to me just needing more time with the album.

How wrong was I? The Big Pink turned out to be my most hate-filled gig-watching experience of the year, and probably ever (including Allusion!). Seriously, they were unbelievably bad: the sound levels were obnoxiously loud (this may seem like a petty criticism but trust me, it isn’t), their stage presence reeked of 40-year-old-past-it-has-been-never-will-be-mother-fucking-go-pick-your-kids-up-from-school-you-gothed-up-shithead, and their songs all sounded the same (distorted mess multiplied by tonnes of reverb – no wonder Pitchfork bummed them, they love swimming in reverb. Pitchfork pricks). I could go on, but I won’t waste any more time writing about them. Simply: stay away, stay well away. And if you see them, kick them hard in the balls for me, and when they fold forwards in agony, scream in their ears “That’s for deafening Rajaman! He really likes hearing shit you know” – did I forget to mention, they had the audacity to wear earplugs themselves. Wankers.

On to… The Drums. Phew, what a breathe of fresh air these guys were. Not particularly because they came after TBP, as I don’t actually remember what order they played in at all, but because their live show was one of the funniest I’ve seen. And funny in a good way – the guitarist (I think he’s now left the band) had some amazing moves. Whether he was brandishing his guitar like a toy gun or going crazy with a tambourine he was first rate entertainment, a ball of energy. The singer too has oodles of charm, albeit in a different way: it’s kinda hard to describe. I’m guessing he’s gay, and he has attitude to spare, but… you know what, see for yourself:

They were good live, a lot of fun, but their songs didn’t quite match up to their on-stage antics. Good, but not great.

Bombay Bicycle Club, the band I went to see in the first place, were by far the best. By a country mile in fact, even though they were easily the youngest band there. If you listen to their debut “I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose” you should notice pretty quickly the unique baritone of singer Jack Steadman, and for some reason I thought that it was probably helped a lot by studio trickery, and that he was probably a little bit poo live. Wrong, wrong and wrong. His voice was even better live than it was recorded, and his band lived up to the recording too – they were very tight and if you were blind you would never guess they were as young as they are. For the sighted, however, their stage presence sometimes belied their age and with a slight nervousness and the awkward shyness of a moody teenager. This mattered little, however, since the songs were so good, and as their set progressed the crowd got more and more raucous. Some songs also sounded amazing live compared to the album version – Dust on the Ground’s quiet/loud dynamic in particular feeling huge. I should also add that the lighting at this gig was really good, not just for BBC but for all the bands. Small detail, but it was a nice touch – well done  Brixton Academy. So, in conclusion for the BBC set, a great live show and one I want to see again. If you haven’t heard a BBC tune yet, you need to listen to the one below.

As for the Maccabees, I had quite mixed feelings about them. After the gig I listened to their album a lot more and really enjoyed it for a while, but at the gig I found them hard going. Maybe I was all gigged out by the time the fourth band of the evening came on, but I think it’s the combination of a pretty average set of musicians coupled with them having no personality that makes them hard to like. I think they even had a little string quartet with them, and they made very little impact on the songs, which sounded so lethargic, repetitive and uninspired compared to their album counterparts. I think it was their last gig of that tour, so maybe fatigue played a part, I’m not sure, but now I find myself thinking of the Maccabees hardly ever. Shame.

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