The Noisettes, The Victorian English Gentlemens Club, Mayor MaCa
Tim Miller 20/01/2007
Posters clamouring about tribute bands such as Green Bay, Whole Lotta Led, State of Quo and The Smyths adorn the walls of Mr Kyps, a grimy village hall-type venue saved from indifference by a cosy bar at one end, a small but well-formed stage at the other, and an overly large control booth at one side. Where 500 or so overweight 50-something couples would normally be shouting “Rockin' all over the world!”, tonight the indie kids from Bournemouth and Poole have come out of the woodwork, strapping on their braces, sewn into their jeans and petitioning their eldest friend to get rounds of Reefs in at the bar. It is an unassuming setting to witness one of the most genuinely exciting new bands on the circuit.
First though, there is the small issue of Mayor MaCa to get through. I think he said he was from Ontario, but by the time he got around to mentioning his hometown I was beyond caring. Calling himself the 'hardest worker in the music industry', Mayor MaCa is a one-man band extraordinaire…and a total mess. Playing basslines on some homemade creation with his feet, guitar and tinny Casio keyboards with his hands, backed by drum loops from a Walkman hooked up to the speakers, singing and occasionally playing a kazoo-type instrument, Mayor MaCa stumbles incoherently between what was about seven songs that have titles such as “Hey man you have a cool job”.
Because, like the average human, MaCa doesn't have any extra limbs, his songs are punctuated by hideous pauses while he switches instruments or starts a drum loop or picks up his plectrum, chattering some waffle into the mic as he does so. This dreadful DIY set does see him rip some admittedly furious blues solos out of his Gibson, but the guitar is so woefully unbalanced against the level of the rest of his instruments and songs that it's just too loud and, without anything to set the guitar against, too alone. Mayor MaCa thanks 'his friends' The Noisettes for having him before wandering among the crowd handing out flyers (I studiously avoid him), but it won't be long before The Noisettes are playing shows where there is no call for a DIY artist as tacky as this blustering Canadian to make them look good.
The next act, contrarily, are a band I've been hoping to catch live for some time and was mildly surprised to find them on the bill, especially below The Noisettes, who are yet to release their second single. Their album, a blend of quirky vocals and sparse, awkward guitars, was one of the indie success stories of 2006, and tonight they come across very well. The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club launch straight into a new song, and mix in three or four new ones among the pick of their self-titled debut, including Dead Already, My Son Spells Backwards and of course Ban The Gin. I don't think this crowd fully appreciate VEGC; many of them are probably still not finding out the newest music for themselves (indeed there are one or two sets of parents lurking nearer the bar), but they will have gained a few new fans tonight, getting a decent send off which they do deserve. VEGC could probably expect better venues with bigger crowds with their peculiar appeal, but they're clearly a tight knit triplet who enjoy playing together, giving it their all and reeling off a performance that sparkles with sincerity and pride that people want to come and see them do their thing.
I managed to catch bassist Louise afterwards; the whole band are standing around chatting to people (Emma's drumming is being lauded by a tall Norwegian guy), and she's the most nicely-spoken girl you could meet. She confirms that they're not sitting on their laurels since their debut album: one of the new songs they played tonight was being reworked just before they came on stage! Louise also had good things to say about our zine; clearly we're putting ourselves about with the right people, and supporting bands like VEGC at the forefront of exciting new music is definitely the way forward.
I can, however, also recommend that we jump on The Noisettes bandwagon as soon as poss. They arrive onstage and immediately the atmosphere crackles with frenetic energy. Another mixed-sex threesome, they have sprung into the limelight from nowhere but are soon to be coming to a radio and TV channel near you, or more likely a MySpace profile. They ooze attitude on stage, the drummer Jamie and guitarist Dan all flailing limbs and furious head shaking, but in their vocalist/bassist Shingai they have a pure diamond of a leader, the most enigmatic frontwoman this side of Courtney Love. Shingai has a voice that could cancel third world debt, or ignite tensions with Jupiter and Saturn and lead to intergalactic war. How she does that, plus work her 6-stringed bass, and bounce around the stage like a ball of lightning, is a sight to behold.
The Noisettes aren't just a performance band though - they're the real deal. They've got the songs alright; taken from their upcoming debut 'What's The Time Mr Wolf?', they're broadcast live as furious and crashing slices of indie-rock that rival the Foo Fighters for noise and power. Each song is a brawl of spiky guitars and anthemic choruses, occasionally breaking down into whispered interludes. One even develops into a mini jam. It is such a shame that first single Sister Rosetta, possibly the perfect mix of catchy hooks and thunderous guitars, played last in the set, is interrupted half way through by a power failure, both guitars losing sound. However, this leads into a unique situation: without really missing a beat, Dan joins Shingai at her microphone, and Jamie leaves his kit behind and clicks his drumsticks over their heads: the two vocalists continue their harmonies and the audience is treated to an acapella finish to a stunning set.
Without power restoring properly, and visibly frustrated at this ending, the band go off briefly, but return to finish with a bang, eking out a little noise (noisette) from the struggling equipment for one last song. A memorable night indeed: the first date of the Young Persons Railcard tour, and the beginning to what should be a refreshingly new obsession for music enthusiasts everywhere. The first bright young things of 2007, these are exciting times for The Noisettes.