Wednesday, April 04, 2007

London Calling 30 & 31 March 2007

Last weekend was my long awaited first taste of the twice annual festival of up-and-coming British (and British influenced) bands, London Calling in Paradiso, Amsterdam.

I started out on the balcony, in a perfect position, 2 metres in front of the bar, directly in front of the stage. And when bands played on the second stage they rolled down a screen and showed the live feed from the cameras there. So when it was a band we weren't that bothered about, or the small stage was packed out, we could sit back and enjoy our beers with a great view of the action.

Our Lunar Activities started off proceedings, without leaving any great impression on me. Then came The Wombats, one of the bands I was most looking forward to. Unfortunately they were programmed a bit too early in the proceedings, the hall was less than half full as people were still arriving, which didn't help the acoustics there, which are dodgy at the best of times. The band then proceeded to play a set made up mainly of new songs and only a few off their brilliant debut album Girls, Boys and Marsupials. No Metro Song! No Party in a Forest! No Derail & Crash! Boo! The crowd (including me) responded in a predictably muted manner.

The Wombats

Kate Nash then came on the small stage, and again I watched on the screen. She did a nice acoustic version of Caroline's a Victim, but otherwise after about four songs they all started to sound the same to me. The Twang were up next on the main stage, and they came on with an impressive swagger. They made a decent effort, but the songs weren't quite strong enough to win over the crowd or me.

The Twang

My Luminaries on the second stage were not my cup of tea at all - big washes of sound with a very earnest singer. The Long Blondes followed on the main stage. It was good to hear their songs live, but their sound was another victim of the main hall's poor acoustics, and possibly the fact that bassist and female guitarist looked as if they would rather be anywhere than there.

The Long Blondes

At this point (after my third pint of Kalimocho) I decided I had to get my feet moving and went off to the small stage to watch a band I felt were going to be the surprise hit of the festival. Isn't it lovely when you're right? we are the PHYSICS were exactly what the crowd had been waiting for - wonky, punky, stop-start pop, a great, tongue-in-cheek theatrical stage presence, geeky clothes and none of them over 21. Boom. The place went bonkers, moshing like idiots, stage invasion, stage diving, you name it, with yours truly the oldest mosher in town right in the thick of it.

we are the PHYSICS (with stage diver Joep)

After that, the Pigeon Detectives came on the main stage. They were headlining and were a little bit full of themselves, but they also put on a great show and got the crowd going. The singer stage dived twice, which is always a good way of getting the crowd on your side, and he treated the equipment with a healthy disrespect, trashing or disconnecting at least 3 mics during the show. Once again I got myself right down the front - in my book you either watch at a safe distance, like on the balcony, or you get right up into the moshpit. Halfway back is nowhere.

Pigeon Detectives (love the top photo!)

The last three gigs were billed as the afterparty, but they were more like an afterthought in my book. I stayed virtually till the end but regretted doing so. Maybe I was just too tired...

Moke kicked things off on the main stage. I'd seen their Noel Gallagher lookalike singer when he was with Supersub, many years ago, and he is still peddling the same sub-(hah)-Weller crap as he was then. Meuk more like (Dutch joke, sorry).

The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club were first up on the small stage, and they were excellent, but were on a bit too early to get the hungover crowd dancing.

The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club

The next acts came and went without making much impression on me. Good Books had one good song (the one I knew of course) and the rest blended into a Keane with guitars stew. The Strange Death of Liberal England held my attention for a while, but their shoegazing meanderings felt out of place at London Calling. Air Traffic were then the other extreme, riffs and hooks honed to perfection and poised to unleash themselves on the charts. I did enjoy some bits of The Kissaway Trail, and certainly wouldn't write them off as emo as some other reviewers have done. They reminded me more of a band like Aberdeen City, very widescreen and a touch ethereal.

The Enemy did a very good job of filling the main stage, even though there were only 3 of them. They had the sound and the confidence to dominate the big stage, and mostly the tunes to match, although none of them particularly lodged in my consciousness.

The Enemy

Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man were the leftfield hit of the evening. Some super tunes and an off-the-wall front man to sing them. They pushed all the right buttons and were almost as big a hit as We are the PHYSICS in the same slot the night before.

Finally the moment I'd been waiting for all evening, when Switches took to the main stage stage. I'd seen them on telly recently and they'd looked horribly full of themselves, so I feared the worst, but I was pleasantly surprised. They got the crowd going, played a tight set and, for me, were the hit of the evening.


Screendump from film on :P

I missed the afterparty this time in order to catch the last train home and thus be able to get up in time to order a ticket to Glastonbury the next morning. Which I did! :)

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