The Mae Shi, Johnny Foreigner, The Lionheart Brothers
Tom Blackburn 13/05/2008
Opening a review of a London gig by berating London crowds would be as easy as repeatedly kicking a Radio 1 presenter in the face, so I'll take the novel approach of trying to find excuses for their static awkwardness.
Perhaps it's just that famed British inability to cope with a couple of days of reasonably warm weather, but on a muggy midweek night at King's College there's really not a great deal of movement from the gathered indie kids. Which is a shame, because the bands themselves provide a fine evening's entertainment.
Norwegian shoegazing types The Lionheart Brothers kicked proceedings off. Being first up really didn't do them any favours, as the venue was still half-empty (and even as its busiest was nowhere near full). They still whipped up an impressive racket, and are a much more interesting proposition live than on record. They're ceaselessly polite too, even offering a generous 'Thanks, you've been great' to the crowd towards the end of their set.
But it seems tonight's main draw are much talked-about Birmingham trio Johnny Foreigner. Pop-punk in the best possible way, the band's bright, Meneguar-styled melodies, call-and-response boy-girl vocals and scrappy energy combine to make them irrestible fun.
Tearing through a set consisting mainly of songs from last year's mini-album and their imminent full-length, the chemistry between the three of them is clear and would be infectious were it not for the self-conscious crowd. 'Dance, you fucks!' half-jokes vocalist Alexei, but nothing doing. The band deserve better, but tonight's gig does at least provide further evidence that Johnny Foreigner are maturing into one of the country's best live bands.
It's up to Los Angeles dance party demons The Mae Shi to engage those left behind as the venue empties considerably after Johnny Foreigner. Never ones to shirk a challenge, having endured various line-up changes over the last few years, the band take on the task with admirable enthusiasm, starting their set half on stage and half on the stairs nearby.
The band's generous offer of the princely sum of £1 to crowdsurf ('that's two US dollars', they add temptingly) is silently declined, but various band members snake through the crowd, hollering and thrashing their instruments as they go before a large white sheet (the 'Mae Sheet', apparently) is thrown onto the crowd, who by this point have finally worked out how to cut a rug. Sort of.
The atmosphere may have been a little flat but it was an enjoyable evening nevertheless. The Mae Shi were their usual demented selves and Johnny Foreigner continued on their upward trajectory. And what else are you gonna do on a Tuesday night?