One of the joys of going to smaller gigs again, and indeed seeing bands from a “scene” that I’ve not generally been involved in for some time, is that I am going to venues I never even knew were gig venues – and this gig was one of those. A pleasantly restored pub on Essex Road in Islington, that rather than being the usual fleapit for a small venue, was actually a well appointed pub, with the upstairs room full of comfy leather sofas and corner tables, meaning that it was something of a more refined gig than usual.
Despite the initially genteel nature of the venue, the sound at least was broadly pretty punchy, with no dramas over whether we could hear the bands or not. Although I wasn’t especially taken with openers We Walk on Ice, a multinational two-piece (female singer/guitarist, male drummer) who cleverly used many effects pedals to make it sound like there was an awful lot more of them onstage. Despite the technical prowess on show, though, for me they were rather bland and generic. I’m looking for more than this nowadays, y’know?
The night was billed, apparently, as a double-headliner, so I was expecting good-length sets from both bands, but for various reasons it didn’t appear to work like that. This was a rare chance to see both of the two “indie” bands in London that I’ve been really interested in over the past year or so, and perhaps unconsciously compare progress on both.
First up were Blindness, who I’ve now seen three times in 2012 and they simply seem to get better every time. Ok, so the sound wasn’t quite as awesome as last week, but oddly enough this time different songs shone through more. Star of the show this time was the languid, regret-tinged Sunday Morning, a song that I think is the newest in the set, and now I’ve heard it a few times recently, I’ve been won ’round to a song that at first seemed rather slight and throwaway.
It was also confirmed after the show that a new single is due soon, at last – and going on the strength of the current set being played (it was the same set as last week’s show in Putney), they aren’t short of choices for the it. There really isn’t a weak song being played now, as the band have honed their sound to a glistening sheen. One where the technology and musicianship helps to enhance an already strong songcraft – and yes, the influences still show, but as the songs become more familiar it isn’t important. The buzz continues to build, by the way – I counted no less than seven photographers down the front.
The evening was not quite so kind to Hold Kiss Kill, for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Their set was delayed considerably, and it seems shortened somewhat, by equipment issues as they took to the stage, and their set, when it did get started, never really seemed to click properly. Maybe it was just the venue not suiting their sound, as their punky, shoegaze effects seemed to echo through the room – destroying the wall-of-sound approach that their material demands. Add to that a near inaudible vocal, and this time it was really quite hard to get excited about the show at all.
Which is a shame, as when I saw them last they were much, much better than this. Maybe just put this down to a bad night?