Any regular on the live circuit in London – well anywhere for that matter – will know that there are continually new venues cropping up and then disappearing almost as quickly. Some landlord walks past a venue, sees a band playing to a crowd and thinks ‘that big space by the toilets isn’t doing anything in my pub’ and more sinisterly hears the ringing of his cash register and ‘hey presto’ you’ve got a live venue.
Or have you?
I mean, it’s really not as simple as sticking up a poster and telling the bands to get on with it. Upon arrival at the Oh Bar tonight the venue really doesn’t seem ready to join the live circuit. Even to my untrained eye you can see the engineer is in a total flap and the PA, if you can call four little speakers a PA, is hopelessly underpowered. There’s no stage lighting. Guess why? Yep, there’s no stage. In fact, having seen the Bazookas a few weeks ago and been utterly blown away, my tingling sense of anticipation has been deflated somewhat.
Nevertheless, there’s a healthy crowd and due to some sort of mix-up and much to everyone’s surprise headliners, The Bazookas are kicking the night off. Could they possibly be as good as I remembered them?
They answer in blistering fashion, opening with a three song opening salvo and receiving huge cheers from what is a big crowd, despite the monsoon lashing at the windows outside. It’s a mighty sound and the boys are giving it their all. Guitarist Jonny Awesome is all over the furniture, clambering around the venue and eventually is on the end of some divine judgement as he falls over on his arse, much to the crowd’s and his band’s amusement! This is rock n’ roll. The Bazookas have transported me from some second rate Wethersthingys to a theatre of rock n’ roll dreams. The singer is in particularly deranged form this evening, berating the weather (how British) and complaining bitterly that it couldn’t rain all day when the cricket was on (ooh very British again, I expected him to leave the gig and get into his Mini and drive back to the flat he shares with Hugh Grant in Notting Hill – which incidentally overlooks the Thames) and then embarks on a crowd pleasing bit of audience participation that felt so wonderfully barmy that you couldn’t help but want to get involved!
The middle of their set is apparently new material and show’s a definite jump up from what is already an impeccable standard. It’s noticeable too that people are walking by the venue and seeing the carnage taking place inside and they want a piece of the action. By the end of their set the place is packed and there’s no doubt that these boys are the real deal. Credibility points to me cos I saw ‘em first!
Next up is Danny from Afterglow. If ever you didn’t want a solo singer with an acoustic it’s right now. The atmosphere is utterly electric and poor Danny doesn’t even have Tom Cruise’s outlandish large hooter to fall back on in handling this Mission Impossible. To give Danny his credit, he’s got a lovely voice and has happily chosen a handful of covers that are easy on the ear. On a different night and on a bill that the promoters haven’t thrown together without having listened properly, he’d have been perfect.
And so to another odd twist in this rather strange bill. As Waster take to the stage you’re expecting an unholy noise. These guys are going to be hard. All dressed in Pantera style gear with long goatees and woolly hats, I’m saying a silent apology to my ears for the assault they’re about to receive. To top it all the singer is a proverbial man mountain. About 7 foot in either direction. As Withnail famously pondered, ‘Imagine the size of the f**ker’s balls!’
I’m knocked off my seat, then, when Waster get into gear and in fact their sound is pretty gentle. More Pixies than Pantera. It’s a shock to say the least, but a pleasant one, nevertheless. Obviously veterans to the live circuit, Waster have travelled all the way from York to be here tonight and their cold-nights-by-a-crackling-log-fire Northern timbre has everyone warming to them immediately. They don’t have the local partisan support but nevertheless are going down well with the friendly crowd. Occasionally, the set does veer towards the predicted harder sound, but it’s tempered by the huge singer’s surprisingly sweet voice. Give them credit, too, that in this age of ultra-hip Shoreditchite bands that they’re just doing their thing. It’s fair to say they’re never going to be on the cover of Smash Hits and probably don’t harbour ambitions to conquer the music world but are just happy going out and playing their guitars.
Against all the odds and no thanks to the skill-less promoters or the meagre venue it’s been a great night and it’s the bands that deserve the credit. I’m not keen on random venues trying to cash in on the sudden upturn of interest in the live scene and tonight is as transparent an example as I’ve seen but if we can get to see bands like The Bazookas and Waster for free I guess I’ll just have to be happy to be a cog in the machine!