The Rock Of Travolta, The Abiyoyo, Clockwork Radio, Cutback
Steven Morgan 14/11/2010
Sunday night? Sunday fucking night!? Seriously, it's freezing, it's late and Kentish Town is feeling like another country as I trek to the nearest Northern Line tube (damn you Victoria Line closure, you win this time and every time).
The fact is, I'm going to this gig for The Rock Of Travolta. I've only heard a little of their music, but what I have heard I've liked and any band with Shellac & Trail Of Dead comparisons give me an involuntary semi from the get go.
Upon arrival, it seems I'm not alone in my disdain for wintry Sundays as we appear to be the only people there who aren't playing in a band or promoting the night. Saying that though, our arrival time is notably early as I had factored 50 hours (approximately) to get to the place, including getting lost time and "shall we stop off for a quick one here on the way" time which turned out to be a little excessive.
I felt sorry for Cutback who played to a nearly empty room, empty enough that my self-consciousness kept me hidden in the bar area. I wondered if perhaps their name invoked depressing, recession based thoughts in those who had considered attending as the sounds that leaked from the double doors suggested a very polished take on power punk pop with emo leanings. A little too clear-cut for my tastes, and worrying me a little that the supports tonight may be a mismatched bodge rather than a complimentary feast of adrenalised post-rock.
These fears aren't helped by second band of the night, Clockwork Radio, with their journey through early 2000s popular guitar music, sticking predominantly to radio a-list friendly influences. Their music is pleasant enough, though aside from the singer's high pitched, commanding voice, there's little coherence between the songs to give the band any distinguishing sound of their own. The set starts promisingly enough with a folk prog take on Muse integrated with latter-day MGMT, and some of the more affable elements of Britpop with an abundance of bright guitars, but the sub-Chili Peppers funk of the penultimate song followed by an indulgent forgettable Phil Collins ballad closer suggests a po-faced indecisiveness as to who they really want to be.
The room fills out for The Abiyoyo who seem to have brought quite an entourage with them. With a cheeky swagger in their stage presence, the music begins with a gentle riff, immediately bringing to mind the melodic builds of Mogwai. Affable as they are, they also suffer from the lack of an imprint within their sound or complimentary musical interplay between the various members of the band. Their influences are displayed proudly on their sleeves with the high end guitarist in particular showing no shame whatsoever in his love of the delay ridden clean sound Explosions In The Sky have so perfectly defined as their own. It's only on the last song, a cover of a Philip Glass song that these shortcomings become so apparent. Nowhere else during the set do the band show such a confidence in the music they create and on no other track do you get swept away with the mood and tempo changes during its progression as opposed to feeling some sort of clinical detachment from the sounds being made which rarely amount to more than the sum of their parts.
Alas very few of The Abiyoyo entourage last long enough for the true treat of the evening. The Rock Of Travolta, whose current line-up numbers just five, create the sort of adrenalised instrumental rock that pumps raw adrenaline through you involuntarily, pleading with your self-consciousness to dance like a maniac. This is not Sunday night music, this is the soundtrack to a vitriolic cleansing of a Friday night to forget your woes of the working week amongst others with a collectively empathetic state of mind. Instead, the band power through their set as though their lives depend on it to a woefully underwhelming audience when if there were any justice in the world the majority of the sweat tonight would be flying from the flailing limbs in front of the stage as opposed to descending from it. Do you like 65DaysOfStatic? If yes then you should check this band out immediately and if not then please stop reading this right now dad. Masters of dynamics, the inclusion of the cello and synth elements aid a variation in the tempo and sound that only seems to make it all the more explosive when the giant unified onslaughts all kick in together. Even in my spacey Sunday night mindset, I can't help but get caught up in the unapologetic loudness of it all, giving you enjoyment on both animalistic and chin stoking levels which is a rare accomplishment that should be savoured.
With over ten years of existence it feels a shame to see a band of this calibre in an environment such as this. This is music that needs to be experienced live and on a suitable bill with an appropriate crowd, the effect of which could be truly devastating. Here's hoping they carry on regardless, and here's another to add to this list of those who worship at The Rock Of Travolta.