The Go! Team, Operator Please, The Satin Peaches
Tim Miller 07/10/2007
Postmen, eh? I'm sure other people had more pressing problems with the lack of post being delivered last week than I, and yes, they do work poor hours for what is largely a pittance, but personally, the Royal Mail owes me Ł8. One of the great things about being involved in music journalism is that PR companies are all too happy to pimp out anything they can to promote their charges. Ask, they implore, and ye shall receive. So when a badly timed postal strike prevents my free gig tickets from dropping onto the doormat, the prospect of actually paying to get into a gig seems something of an inconvenience (regardless that the box office were suitably convinced with my indignation to knock a fiver off the Ł13 door price; that's neither here nor there).
As a connoisseur of the place for over 3 years now, I can confidently state that The Old Fire Station is exactly what it says on the tin. The university's Student Union club, with a downstairs capacity of about 600 standing, it retains a certain air of breezeblock indifference unless filled to the rafters by students every Friday or, more rarely, overbooked for top bands; Bloc Party last January springing to mind. However, only the side tables are full to bursting while others mingle cautiously around the sound desk as Detroit's The Satin Peaches take to the cramped stage. Looking every bit a ramshackle student band, the four-piece throw themselves into their set, grinding out growling guitar songs polished by an indie melody here and there, and some choice snarled vocals.
Though passionate, it's not particularly endearing, and the sight of what looks to be five teenagers a good couple of years younger than any of the freshers here tonight shifting onto the stage 25 minutes later sets minds flicking wistfully through The Go! Team's back catalogue. As if to counter this, the floor has filled at least partially, and the barrier is covered with arms ready to give these kids a chance. They turn out to be 16, 17, 17, 19 and 19, and they also spring a surprise in their confident and energetic music. From the Gold Coast in Oz, and boasting a violinist and keyboard amongst the usual array of indie instruments, Operator Please do wide-eyed and demurely attractive punky rock, bolstered by a youthful enthusiasm and, thankfully, devoid of any cynicism or notion of 'fitting in'. Pushing towards The Noisettes' catchy, female-fronted quirkiness, it's like watching the soundtrack to Skins and the kids are, indeed, alright.
As is so often the case though, the atmosphere thickens considerably as the crowd gears up for the headlining act. With their infectious, boisterous big beats and fresh, jazzy funkiness, The Go! Team are a perfect soundtrack to any student event, and the prospect of the gang playing in the flesh prepares the venue for one big party. And what a party.
From the moment the six members of the Team bound onto the stage, pint-sized Ninja at the front in a sporty pink tennis-dress outfit (oh yep), the fun just does not stop. They open with a personal favourite, â€śThe Power is Onâ€ť, which sets the mood exhilaratingly with its brass samples exploding out of the speakers and the double drummers pounding away in clattering circles. Ridiculously, four of the six will at some point perch behind one of the drum kits, while an assortment of toys - recorder, tambourine, harmonica, Fisher Price megaphone and glockenspiel - adorn the music throughout the set.
Anyone familiar with the band will know their love of trumpet fanfares and brassy exuberance, and it would take a much larger stage and an ensemble running well into double figures to recreate their two albums live. But with the band all careering about the stage locked into their own element of the bundle of joy each Go! Team song is, the crowd can forgive the carefully planned reliance on samples and programmed parts. For the sight of six people making such noise and clearly enjoying it as much as the audience is wonderful to behold. Experience is all.
The magnificent racket is guided loosely by the insatiable energy of Ninja, who dances and dances and dances, spitting out syllables over every track, giving some of the much-loved songs a new lease of life. It isn't possible to not get caught up in it all, and Ninja goes through the motions of every dance move she can think of, at one point feigning what looks to be a serious knee injury, only to jump back into the air and skip around again as she has been, non-stop, for over an hour. Meanwhile, though limited by the guitars around their necks at various point in the evening, Kaori, Ian, Sam and Jamie attempt to jump about as much as possible too, while the shyer Chi is content to remain active behind her drum kit. Ian's harmonica playing does take on an ever-so-slightly manic edge to it but it's all relative: how many bands do you know that make music like this?
All the songs are there, from â€śPanther Dashâ€ť, the riotous opener to Thunder, Lightning, Strike!, to spectacular new singles â€śGrip Like a Viceâ€ť and â€śDoing It Rightâ€ť, as well as choice first album moments â€śBottle Rocketâ€ť, â€śHuddle Formationâ€ť and â€śEveryone's A VIP To Someoneâ€ť. It's actually a set of some 16 songs, as my snaffled setlist informs me, but each one is as fresh as the last, and the party atmosphere never fades until the final crashes of â€śKeys To The Cityâ€ť eventually subside to leave a simple atonal wail of feedback. It's been as much fun as anyone could have without taking their clothes off, and after quibbling over Ł8 at the beginning of the night, I leave feeling fabulously enriched.