Cut Off Your Hands + more @ Kings Arms, Auckland – 1st June
The Kings Arms is a strange little place, opposite a swingers club just out of the city centre, it’s scummy but cosy, rough but friendly, and has a garden out the back with remarkable acoustics. There were eight bands on in the night, and either by divine providence or too much poker we (that’s me, Ellie, Matt and Sam, for future reference) unfortunately missed the first three bands. I would’ve been quite interested to see what Ladybird were like in a live context, but still we had five bands to go and as we entered Phony Bone were taking to the stage…
Phony Bone peddle indie in the obscurest sense of the word, at times they were going for Brakes’ warbling vocals mixed with humour and country, other times going for Pavement’s pure leftfield-ness and occasional is-it-a-tune? isn’t-it-in-tune? dynamics and for a song-and-a-half hitting Snow Patrol squarely on the chin. So to be fair, it was a bit of a mess, an occasionally entertaining mess (introducing one of numbers with with “this song is about our really low self-esteem, please like it” was a nice touch), but a mess none-the-less. Matt seemed severely disappointed that the bassist was intent on only playing two (maybe two-and-a-half) notes per song. Babydoll on their MySpace pretty much sums them up, which you might find enjoyable.
By the end of the set, I’d eloped to the back of the room with Matt to challenge two Kiwis to a game of pool on the obligatory slanted table. It was such a shocking game that White Birds and Lemons had already set up outside on the ‘other’ stage and were a few songs mid-set by the time we’d polished them off and followed Sam and Ellie to the garden area. It was a damn shame because they were damn good. Their MySpace declares ‘Blues/Folk Rock/Experimental’ but live they came across more like early-Muse, when Matt Bellamy had more of a Jeff Buckley/Thom Yorke complex and wasn’t concentrating on trying to be bigger than space itself. Starry Eyes streaming from their MySpace does follow this template rather well with a more bluesy, Jimi Hendrix central riff before taking a left turn through heavier territory. Live they were somehow tighter, a louder, overall more thrilling sound playing a better counterpart to the quieter moments. It’s hard to believe that lead singer Scott Frantz was capable of pulling everything off, but there he was, note perfect and then rocking out with the rest of them. A pleasant surprise indeed.
No mp3’s as of yet, their first mini-album should be out soon, and you can hear three tracks over at their MySpace.
We sort of unwittingly stayed outside for The Whipping Cats set, the breath of fresh air feeling a bit better than the dank indoors. Still from what we could hear, between the occasional heavy shouting, they stirred up some harmonica-blurting, old-school-blues and I’m sorry for not paying more attention. Then again, I’d be lying if I said we weren’t actually waiting for Motocade to set up outside and grab some good spots when the time came. That time did soon come, each band only given half-an-hour to entertain with a pit stop barely breaking a minute was allowed before the next band started playing. As it were, Motocade began to a half empty floor, but by the end of the second song, everyone was there, bouncing along like the week before, under a scarily full moon directly in the centre of the sky. It helped that the set was a fairly trimmed down version of the one we’d witnessed earlier, the two new songs still going down well and everyone well and truly buzzing. I can’t say much more than that, other than Matt’s obsession with getting a good view of the drummer. I didn’t want to ask why…
And before we knew it, it was time for the final band, Cut Off Your Hands! We scooted around to the front of the indoor stage while the band, replete in black polo neck jumpers and tight black jeans (we discussed this, and decided it’s the not the most fitting costume choice for the band), got their shit together and then… just… exploded.
Seriously, I’ve been electrocuted by a microphone before, but if there ever was a sane way to describe what singer Nick was doing during the opening song, I’m sure electricity would have something to do with it. As the rhythm section dominated pretty much everything sonically (despite the drummer breaking his sticks), Nick lost the microphone, found the microphone, jumped off the stage, rolled back on the stage via the crowd, lost the microphone again, twitched about on the floor for a bit, found the microphone again and generally went absolutely nuts for every driving beat and strum. By the second song he’d left the stage completely and climbed onto the top of the bar (goodness knows how) leaving a drunken idiot to take his mic to the stage, before he himself jumped off after shattering a glass bottle in front of us. It was insane, but at the same time completely brilliant (although saying that, Sam was still shaking bits of glass off as we left the place :S)
Everything you hear in the mp3’s below does relatively little to describe the intensity of everything else. Still Fond turned everyone not on stage into a twitching throng and other favourites You And I and Expectations just destroyed any preconceptions you might make about them. If you’re looking for a reference point, imagine the Futureheads with aforementioned electric shock to the rear and a good dose of Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s (he of The Hives) staring intensity, and you might get close to this old performance. Then times that by ten in every way possible. This was live and loud and very very good.
The new Blue on Blue EP should be available soon in the UK as well as here. With Bernard Butler on production duties, it’s a relatively clean affair, but it shifts the punk leanings of the live show towards a more ear-friendly indie club floor-filler pop tune of the times. I’ve ripped the lead track from their MySpace, and you can also hear Oh Girl over there right now. Like right now… click!
A small request to anyone who was there… do you have any photos? I’d love to have been able to take some but I was busy bouncing around. And as you may have seen from my Motocade ‘live’ photo previously, it was a bit shit. More live reviews to come that I can make it to before I leave, hopefully it’s The Coshercot Honeys next…