Saturday, 23 October 2010

Abe Vigoda @ Cargo, 13th October 2010

Bit late posting this one, my bad.

With support from Echo Lake and Naked on the Vague

Even though we don’t get to the venue until pretty late (a frequent personal trend I’m afraid!) we arrive in time to see the first band, so either they’re all running late or it’s just cool to be late on. Either way, first support Echo Lake take the stage to a depressingly quiet Cargo, the venue only being about a quarter full. Even more unfortunate is that the venue doesn’t get any busier for headliners Abe Vigoda. But I’ll come back to that. Echo Lake play an enjoyable, catchy form of poppy shoegaze, with sweet female vocals and memorable synth lines coupled with fuzzy guitars. They’ve got a big sound that flourishes when combined with Cargo’s excellent sound system. These local London kids could be on to something big.

Next up are Naked on the Vague, a four-piece playing their own brand of shoegaze. Unfortunately, they’re awful. I rarely describe a band that harshly, but these guys have a lot of problems. Firstly, the female lead vocals have way too much delay and reverb on them, turning the singer’s voice into a low drone. They may well have been going for this kind of sound, but some uninspired guitar work, a simply terrible bass player (wearing a single leather glove?) and that they even fall out of time with each other renders them pretty unlistenable. According to the audience reaction though, this opinion went no further than myself and my accompanying friend. Their keyboard broke mid-set leaving them standing around dumbly while the singer tried to fix it, a couple of things were mumbled to the audience but the lack of charisma was jarring. Their drummer was pretty good though, so at least they had some redeeming qualities.

Abe Vigoda take to the stage shortly after, but as I mentioned, the venue is still sadly under-attended. Taking it in their stride though, they introduce themselves and quickly belt into material from their new album, playing excellent new single Throwing Shade as their second track. Right from the opening, we see the difference their new drummer makes. Their old drummer fused the band’s reverb-heavy noise punk with tropical rhythms, making them one of the most original and intriguing bands to emerge from California in recent years. New sticksman Dane Chadwick has the tropical beats down but is also heavily into his electronics & drum machines, making for an absurdly talented addition to the band. During Throwing Shade he sets the drum machine going, then comes out from behind his kit, picks up a guitar to play the extra guitar parts, then half-way through scurries back behind his kit to switch over to live drums seamlessly. Very impressive!

The rest of the band don't disappoint either. The guitarist/keyboard player switches between instruments frequently mid-song while leaping about the stage and the singer/guitarist jolts up and down to the rhythms, except with his mouth acting as if its glued to the microphone!

With the addition of Chadwick, the band have moved into a new direction, evidenced here and on new album 'Crush'. The calypso rhythms, jangly, reverb-soaked guitars and fuzzy vocals are all still present but the electronic beats and lush keyboards push the songs to new, soaring heights, with the band establishing an extremely unique sound on top of one that was already very much their own. With the exception of a brief keyboard glitch (“I still don't know how this thing works!”) the band play the songs with an intensity and confidence earned over years of touring and simply having infectious, original songs to play.

Requests for older material is strangely met with an apology and “It's just not really what we're about anymore”, rather unusual a response, for a band to deny their previous material in such a way. They're not spiteful about it, just very matter of fact, and it's about half-way through the gig that the band start to look tired.

They play a relatively short set, and when yells for an encore start to erupt the majority of the band aren't keen, stating their exhaustion as an explanation. It takes the singer to persuade them to play one last song, which they do reluctantly, but you can see on their faces that the tour has really worn them down. They clearly love what they're doing, the new songs are fantastic and they play them superbly, but a heavy tour playing to semi-empty rooms must begin to take it's toll on a band who I suspect are living rather hand-to-mouth. Keep going though guys, because you're right on the cusp of hitting it big.

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