Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Upset The Rhythm presents Abe Vigoda and Mika Miko, The Dome, London, 2/12/08

Apparently there is this youth club in Los Angeles where instead of playing ping-pong all the kids in flannel shirts dance to funky New York post-punk and instead of setting fire to bins they forge scene-defining bands. That would be 'The Smell' then. Substitute glamorous LA for winter in Tufnell Park, The Smell for The Dome and the kids in flannel shirts for, well, even more kids in flannel shirts and find yourself witnessing another stop on the, Upset The Rhythm promoted, 'Zeitgeist Bands From America You Wish You'd Heard Of First' tour.

If that sounds vitriolic, I apologise. Upset The Rhythm are just an amazing group of kids who over the years have developed a knack for coaxing some of the most amazing niche American artists across the pond to play gigs in some of the most interesting venues I'd never been to. Now they have brought over Abe Vigoda (see scatter-shot-spunk-tropic-aholics and other creative adjectives) and Mika Miko on the same bill. And I wish it had been me.

The three piece, Anavan, warmed up the church hall style venue with their odd brand of drummer/laptop led punk and gave the first and last offering of synth to the event.

Without ever looking like they were ready to play David Reichardt, Gerardo Guerrero, Michael Vidal and Juan Velazquez - the boys from Abe Vigoda - piped up. Crashing headlong into album opener 'Dead City/Waste Wilderness' it was clear that they've lovingly crafted a sound that bears no comparisons. Too uncontrollable to be compared to Vampire Weekend, too twee for No Age and, in fact, indefinable amongst their peers. Sadly something was lost at The Dome. The popping delayed guitar lost to the acoustics and all but drowning the stand out vocals of 'Bear Face' and 'The Garden'. Still the presence of Abe Vigoda's album, 'Skeleton', was clear and alive, laced together brilliantly by Guerrero's astonishing drumming and visually by the dexterity of Vidal, Reichardt and Velazquez. The performance was never going to be a verbatim reproduction of something so taught and precise, it pushed away the glistening jewel case to expose the pits and code of a band that perhaps had to reign in a ferocious beast to put on record. Vidal assumed the role of unleashing the beast back at the crowd until the climactic final throes of their set when Velazquez encouraged the feedback and delay crescendo we'd all hoped was coming.
It seemed fitting somehow that for the gig Velazquez had donned an Elastica t-shirt - the girl group with drummer boy Wire covers band who's lead singer, Justine Frischman, was part of the Britpop regency - before supporting Mika Miko. It would be a magic internet rumour if either of Mika Miko's lead singers, Jennifer Calvin or Jenna Thornhill, were dating No Age members - then fanzines could start referring to them as Jenna Miko and Randy No Age and music could become a soap opera again - but that said I don't know for sure they're not.

Anyway, Elastica wore their influences on their sleeve in much the same way as Mika Miko. A core diet of American hardcore bands manifested in an transatlantic new-wave punk (hold on, Elastica referred to themselves as the new-wave of new-wave, this is going too far) akin to the Bush Tetras and Au Pairs, often compared to the Slits - although the cod-reggae, dub housing of Ari Up's amazons is missing from Miko's bag. On stage the band are beautiful, full of awkward youthful posturing and androgynous charm. Michelle (guitar), Jessica (bass) and Seth (boy) provide a veteran turn as the backing band to ping-ponging vocalists who goad the fighting crowd and jerk through a collection of immaculate punk.

It can't be avoided mentioning that Jennifer's telephone microphone appears gimmicky but does add a characteristic layer to the girl's live performance. It could have been a melange of sloppy downtown LA via Hackney punk yet they slipped confident Ramones covers in with stand out songs like 'Business Cats' and as Jenna broke out the saxophone later on and exclaimed "45 minutes? This must be the longest gig we've ever done" it was obvious that Mika Miko are not a band to be cast aside by comparisons, derivatives and scenes. They really shone above a roster of apparently mature artists and might themselves mature into punk regency.

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