My blog, my rules. This may be a new thing for this blog, or it may be a one-off. wait and see…
Last night I went to the Borderline in London (just off Tottenham Court Road) to see Make do and Mend, supported by Daylight and Chain of Flowers. First off, a word about the venue. It is a pleasant place to be. Small enough to be intimate, and actually approach the stage, sufficiently well-appointed that the sound quality was excellent, and excellent lines of sight, with the exception of the area behind a (structural?) pillar. -1 for the fact that the barlady blatantly ignored me in the bar queue. I guess my face had already conveyed my order of “just a tap water” to her, demoting me in the strict social hierarchy that exists in these scenarios.
ALso worth giving credit to the promoter (or whoever made the decisions) to enforce a 10:30pm curfew, which allowed me to get home before midnight, and a 15 minute stage change between bands who, more amazingly, were punctual in adhering to the stage times, and meant the waiting around was limited. so that was nice.
I had planned to arrive to this gig late, in an attempt to miss Chain of Flowers. No such luck. Thanks to the strict timetable in place, I managed to catch the second half of their set. I had listened to the songs on their facebook page, and I knew that they were not my thing. At all. Sorry guys if you’re reading this (which you’re not), but there’s no getting around this. I don’t wish to criticise any band for playing music – someone enjoys your output, even if it is only yourself, and I genuinely appreciate that being in a band involves effort. This all said, I will say a few words:
If you are going to form a British grunge/pop band, you need to be prepared for Idlewild comparisons. And here goes: Chain of Flowers were very reminiscent of Idlewild! However, where Roddy Woomble chooses to sing melodies, the lead vocalist for CoF instead elected for the off-key approach more associated with Joy division and the Smiths. I didn’t like it. It was difficult to gauge the crowd’s reaction, as the majority of check shirt-wearing people in the room were studiously gazing at their own shoes. Not necessarily a bad sign, given that this is how you are supposed to appreciate this type of tune.
Next up were Spanish pop punk band daylight. I was much more prepared to enjoy this sort of thing, even if the choreographed jumps and kicks were something of a guilty pleasure. When tuning up, the surprisingly Amercian-sounding members of the band all simultaneously asked for their guitars to be turned up in the mix. The drummer clearly took this as a challenge, and between them they tested the venue’s stacks to their limits. As they started, it soon became clear that this band were not Spanish, or pop-punk aficionados. They were in fact American rock band Daylight. This humble blogger had been caught out in his preparation for the gig, with disastrous consequences! As with the other supports, I’m sorry to say that Daylight failed to impress. Their rock/metal sounds kept descending into sludgy grunge, particularly when the rhythm guitarist took over singing duties. At one point, I was convinced I was listening to a Nirvana cover, except that I didn’t know the song. Any delicacy in their musicianship had been tidily removed by the volume brinkmanship that they had earlier engaged in. There were hints of some high-end tweaky bits, but it wasn’t obvious whether I was hearing notes played, or feedback from the on-stage mics. I doubt anyone not wearing earplugs (alright, grandpa!) even noticed. Ultimately, the set was not unlike Renee Zellweger’s filmography: not entirely without merit, but oddly forgettable. Note: it was also during this set that the only stage-dive took place. A young man took to the stage and prepared to fling himself back into the crowd. Although it was clear that crowd density was insufficient, committed, he went ahead anyway, and to his credit, got up quickly after acquainting himself with the pit floor. A lesser man would have stepped down, or not got up there in the first place, so kudos to you mystery jackass!
Finally, on came Make Do and Mend, the only band I was really interedted in seeing anyway. And I am happy to say I enjoyed their set. The band’s music is a type that seems to take on increased meaning when listened to first-hand in this setting. Hearing them shout the tortured vocals in person reminds you that this isn’t (necessarily) an exercise in generating teenage angst and album sales, this music has come from somewhere. The set was a great mix of the best songs off their two albums, and I can’t think of any top tunes that were missed off the list. The guys played tighter than a good analogy and the crowd responded as you would expect, having had the excitement raised to level: funereal by the previous bands.
The only criticism I would choose to make is that it was all over by 10:15pm. I got an early train, and saw a good 50 minutes of MDAM, but given the circumstances, the crowds’ chants of “One More Song” could easily have been answered. No big deal though.