Live Review from Underground 117
1. The Late Night Streetcar Line
2. Dr Fu Manchu
3. Absolute Friends
4. Getaway Car
5. Baby Run
6. Rock The Shack
7. Unconditional Love
In a very varied night – genre and quality-wise – opening act League of Gentlemen set the gold standard and delivered an act that was difficult to follow. Leading the trio, singer and guitarist Philip Emond was a sharp and charismatic front man, who would leap off the stage mid-performance to play among the audience. The band’s self-described “pop ‘n’ roll” proved an infectious, optimistic blend of sun-soaked Californian rock and more pensive indie ballads. A quick flick of a busy pedalboard saw angular indie riffs transformed into beefy, All-American chords.
The most energetic performance of the evening, first song The Late Night Streetcar Line could have been a nineties kids’ TV show intro, opening in a burst of frenzied revving. The joyful energy fed into older track Dr Fu Manchu, a bluesy melding of Jack White’s guitar shrieks, funk bass, and Prince vocals. “I’m coming to your funky rescue,” crooned Emond, dedicating the track to the “Purple One”.
The fleeting, quickly-picked strings of Getaway Car hinted at sadness, with Emond’s voice taking on a mournful Chris Martin quality. Last track Unconditional Love showed off each member at their best – Gavin Ho’s intricate basslines sparkled amid crisp guitar-work, catchy vocal hooks and Patrick Neundorfer’s sunny, cymbal-led beats. The tight and professional-sounding group deserved a higher billing, but met their first-act slot with gusto and set spirits high for the whole night.
– El Jay
EDITOR (aka Chris B): Please note, League of Gentlemen stepped in at the last minute to replace LOGO who could not perform (LOGO had asked for opening slot for the showcase). Thank you LOG!
Live review from Underground Rogue Show:
1. Charming Life
2. Love Falls
4. Dr. Fu Manchu
5. Sweet Honey
6. Outta My Head
7. Party Time Wasted [Encore]
The third band up was the evidently quite popular-with-the-crowd League of Gentlemen. They began with big and brash drums in Charming Life, and the gunshot rhythm was paired with a riff in the vein of Satisfaction, with a similar whiplash quality to the classic song. Indeed, there are several things that the band appears to do that gives them a very classic, late 60s British Invasion-like sound. The vocals have a nasal, slightly shouty quality, like a mix of Johnny Thunders and Julian Casablancas, more typical of punk than rock ‘n’ roll, which combines rather well with the other elements of the music. The one thing that stands out, however, is the aggressive, verbose and juicy-sounding lead guitars, which wind rev happily rev out in front of the music when given a chance. There’s a lot of Hendrix in this mix (including the ascending-descending tune from Hey Joe towards the end of Dr. Fu Manchu), clearly, but filtered through the garage revival sound; a mix of fast and delicate solos, yoyoing between sweet and playful tones, and choosing conciseness over elaboration by not being too long. Add to this the grandiose, Zeppelin sort of musical attitude, and it’s lively stuff. Julia was more like a 50s rock number, with some very sweet guitars indeed, almost South Asian in feel (to me), something like that of Bilal Maqsood of Strings. Party Time Wasted was much more poppy in feel, sounding almost like a Blondie cover of a Hendrix song, but with a funky Meters-esque vibe.
All of which is good, but the result is a bit predictable; certainly, it’s not a musician’s fault which era of music they’re born into, but it’s hard (if not impossible) not to view them through the lens of what has come before. The major issue I have with them is that it was the first time I’d heard them, but it almost felt like I’d heard some of the songs before. Don’t get me wrong, the individual components were quite uniform in their considerable quality, but when it came together it was quite radio-rock and formulaic (Sweet Honey and Outta My Head in particular)… In particular, I often felt that they would benefit by experimenting with their song structure a bit, as their set of talents would be apropos of such an endeavour. But, they definitely seem to know what they want to do, and if this night was any judge, they’re very good with getting crowds moving [not many bands have played encores at The Underground], and with such a combination the identity of sound tends to follow in due course. So far, they’re a solid band with some interesting tunes, and good candidates for growing into a highlight of the scene, so they’re to be looked out for.
— Shashwati Kala