21st January 2011
After gaining tickets to this absurdly eclectic BBC staged new music event at The Forum ensured that we arrived down the the Forum, in plenty of time to catch all of tonight’s acts. Seeing as there were far too many bands to be healthy on a single nights line-up its somewhat of a surprise that we had support dj’s spinning the discs before proceedings kicked off. BBC Heavyweight new music champion Zane Lowe was the first of such mix masters who did a decent job of kicking up an early evening dance party.
All of tonight’s bands are being championed right now, with the first band Funeral Party having just released their debut album which has generated it’s fair share of buzz and pre-spectacle. Sadly as with most bands tagged Next Big Things… (there are over 50 more currently on a NME Gig series, btw) they fell somewhat short. From where I was standing, their guitar riff based dancy electro-punk with indie ambitions barely got started. Vocals were remarkably weak and with fewer hooks than I dare recall, this set really didn’t do justice to their quite impressive collection of studio singles. A few glimpses of brilliance were scattered here as there as their funky disco melodies had feet a tappin’ & grooves a bustin’, but they were over far too soon.
During the stage roundabout, the DJ Double Act of Nero took to the balcony and pumped out some fast rhymes and hedonistic house tunes. Some more successful than others this was most definitely a great antidote to the mid-changeover bores.
The tempo slowed and an air of calm descended as Jamie Woon took centre stage. His soulful grooves were pleasant enough, but carried no real enigma or special ingredient which would propel him to stardom. Yes, he had a decent voice, Yes he was so laid back it was a wonder he could even stand up…but his lack of character and slow delivery left us all a bit laboured. Good job we were all stood up, else we wouldn’t have heard him for the snores. He would probably say tonight wasnt the right crowd, he’d be right. In a jazz club, this would have been …niiiicccceeee!
Our next guest DJ was BBC Radio One’s Nick Grimshaw. Now I have no idea how this man makes a living from being a DJ. Seriously anyone who thinks that a crowd waiting for new music would want to hear a pop mash-up with an Adele song thrown in to the mix is barking up the wrong tree. In fact Nick was in the wrong forest altogether! A glee club member dress sense, an ever greatening ego and a bravado laced persona did little to improve his status in out eyes either.
It was will great relieve then, that the tables stopped turning and the small family of Marshalls (2 Amps powering no less than 8 Cabinets!) who had assembled on stage were powered up by the electo-noise poppers Sleigh Bells. For a double act, they really are chalk and cheese these two. vocalist Alexis Krauss is a sweet sounding with an almost childlike twang to her voice bringing sugary melodies to the massive sound generated by guitarist Derek Miller. Miller has his guitar set to over-over-overdrive as he picks out some shrilling guitar licks which cut through the air with all the grace of a drunken elephant. It is this polar collaboration which is both the strength and the downfall of their live performance. Swinging from jovial poppy vocals to crashing waves of noise was alluring and impressive. But It was all to easy to drown out the vocals with the intense guitar racket, and leave the general onlooker wondering if Alexis had lost her voice, or was it we who had lost our hearing? Still this was a good performance, packed with innovative edgy pop music.
It’s a long shot to call White Lies new music, but we were all glad they were here to soak us all in gloriously rousing gloom rock. This is a band of huge contradictions (happy sad music anyone?)which is why I enjoyed them more than I probably should. I’m not generally one for sad, doom impending depressing lyrics a la Joy Division, The Smiths et al… But tonight their electro fused soaring indie rock was by far the most accomplished set. All dressed in “we’ve just left a wake” suits they set about producing the most anthemic indie rock of the night. Throwing in some older gems helped proceedings, although newer material was too shabby either.
This downbeat set closed out the night. One, which to our ears did not herald the start of a new music revolution, but gave a decent leg up the ladder to moderate success.