What an amazing night our 49th celebration was! Congratulations to the lucky winners who won iPod shuffles, spa coupons, CDs and of course the iPod classic. Thanks to all the kind sponsors for this possibility. HUGE HUGE thanks to the four bands who created a fantastic Underground night! MASSIVE thanks to the audience who waved and cheered and applauded all four bands. Thanks to the amazing Underground team for recording, videoing, photographing and more that night. And of course thanks to The Cavern for allowing us to continue to host our shows there.
love Chris B xx
Take Bad with the Good
They do. We did
Take Bad with the Good (there’s only one ‘the’) kicked off Underground 49 to a crowd in numbers that aren’t usually present until at least the third band. An energetic start featured scrunched-up faces and jerky rhythms against solid drums, all of which went down well. The opening number changed gear a couple of times, while singer Larn maintained focus with a frankly passionate delivery incorporating everything from sky-punches to own-body hugs.
While 150 percent energy is always welcome, TBWTG’s ambitious arrangements are let down by their musicianship. Larn, for all his attitude, was probably most to blame, missing too many top notes. The two-guitars-bass-and-drums combination struck the right chord, but although each of the individual musicians seemed to know what they’re doing, the whole band was kind of loose, and not in a good way.
TBWTG’s strengths were revealed in the simpler moments. Song two began straightforward and compelling, with a driving rhythm and an excellent squeaky, squeeling guitar solo. Trying a little less hard helped the vocal too.
But this was just the beginning. Unless the rest of the audience and I missed a very quick transition, this turned out to be their final song, and a very long one it was too. About as many words as this review, and possibly even less coherent (I’ve since been told that this was actually three songs). I began to lose the plot around the fifteenth change in tempo, but just in time the song finally came together for an intense crescendo.
Not violent or funny
Violent Jokes are altogether a different kettle of fish. Indeed, so different that they might not have been fish at all. Two tall white blokes and a singer with a stripey dress and a great haircut (or wig), for starters.
Their first number paired warm electric piano with subdued, grungy guitars over tight bass and very carefully programmed drums. The sound was polished and precise, and satisfyingly tight in comparison to your everyday guitar band. Then singer Shadow Kim started to sing and took the whole thing up a level of class. If not dumbstruck, the now-packed Underground was rendered pleasantly surprised.
An excellent set progressed to reveal new dimensions with each song of the three-piece’s repertoire. Simon Griffin’s bass became tighter and funkier, synth and sampler noises more interesting and Shadow displaying a voice of real quality, capable of variations in volume and tone that were completely in harmony with the less-than-obvious backing, courtesy of Griffin and guitar and synth player Claudio Canzonetta. She showed she knows how to hold a room too, giving then withholding eye contact and arms doing all manner of snakelike extensions.
While the Cavern is a great venue for live music, Shadow has me wishing the ceiling was a bit lower, the atmosphere a bit more smoky, and myself much closer to the stage. A siren indeed. The third song SUN: Suckers at United Nations upped the intensity another notch, to the extent that a slightly silly snippet of sampled speech at the end almost worked. I’ll bet every English-speaking member of the crowd remembers the line “addicted to petroleum.”
By song four, a second technical hitch of the set (mercifully quicker than the first) simply added a moment of teasing suspense until the band selected the right drum loop, and the bass player set a thumping tempo. I couldn’t believe no-one was dancing. Ending the performance was the charmingly titled Me as a Wolf With Dolby Surround, was another finely crafted and perfectly paced, cosmopolitan dance number, bringing to mind strangely dressed eighties people in a dimly-lit Munich basement. I can’t think of a higher compliment than that.
Flying V and Wah-wah
You know when you see that shape of guitar and those haircuts, chances are it’s not going to be quiet. And the Underground wasn’t disappointed. Very Ape stormed into their set, with good, solid, honest guitar-driven rock, fronted by singer Yoshito Urase – think Axl Rose in Ian Brown’s body. After Violent Jokes, Very Ape displayed an almost complete and rather refreshing absence of musical texture, not counting the wah-wah pedal, of course.
A tight five-song set progressed at a clip, combining bluesy rock and metal with impassioned vocals and accomplished guitar. Best of all were guitar solos from Atsushi Teramoto that seemed to merge with rhythm playing, and rhythm playing interwoven with increasingly funky bass from Koya. Credit to the Cavern lights guy, too, for a well-timed burst of strobe lights.
The band was demonstrably having fun and in their element in a venue like the Cavern, yet still the music was a little anonymous. You could imagine hearing these songs anywhere from a roadhouse in the Midwest to working men’s club in Middlesborough.
It took until the closing number Rebirth – Die Off to add something of an authentic and original note, with what was to me by far the strongest in a solid set from Very Ape. Built on tumbling drums and energetic bass, there was a real Asian heavy rock feel to it. Slightly a shame it took four songs to get to this level, but get there we did, finishing with a wall of noise and a standing-up drummer. Very ape.
Not Radiohead, still great.
I’ve seen Audiotraffic before at an Underground, and had been a little disappointed by the band treating a friends-and-family size crowd to something of a half-hearted practice session. Perhaps it was the size of the audience this time, or just that the band had decided to put on their serious trousers. Either way, Audiotraffic rocked.
The first thing that was evident was the sheer quality of the presentation, with singer/guitarist/frontman Adrian having a voice of power and quality unrivalled by anyone else on stage tonight, even Shadow. For me, he’s not quite as good-looking, but several of the women in the audience would probably violently (or jokingly) disagree with me on that. Seriously, the guy has presence, and the whole band has poise.
One thing about being in a band in 2007 is that you’ve essentially 50 years of rock’n’roll music to draw on for influences and inspiration. When I was a lad, it was more like 25, which explains why my pre-university band couldn’t match anything at Underground 49. For talented guys like Audiotraffic, however, the weight of expectation increases accordingly.
My problem (certainly not Audiotraffic’s), is that I want every band with two guitars and a compelling idea to be as good as Radiohead. I’m bound to be disappointed, of course, and the moment came in the first number, with guitar solo that seemed just tacked-on to an otherwise solid song. Luckily the Underground crowd didn’t seem to share any of my hang-ups.
Much of the set was a blur, but a good blur of interesting songs well-played. One sure sign of the singer’s quality was that you could actually hear the words being sung. Bonus too that most of them weren’t too banal – although the slower song mid show had its moments.
High point was the excellent decision to throw in a cover version of the Police’s Message in a Bottle, complete with Stingesque “ee-oohs” and some great backing vocals by drummer Ferdie.
In an evening of great set-closing numbers, Audiotraffic kept up the trend, with a light song called Lost City (could they mean Hong Kong?) played tough, and climaxing with real power. The loudest applause was well deserved.
Above photos © Copyright 2007 by Willem Van Der Merwe
Poster by Sheli