Monday, 15 June 2009

Crystal Stilts / The Bats / Comet Gain – 22 May 2009, ICA

Ian WatsON is DJing. He plays stuff like The Shop Assistants, Pocketbooks, The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, and, ooh! ‘Psycho’ by The Sonics. Good. I like the ICA despite the alleged dodgy sound. Being in the auditorium is like being a mouse in a black shoe-box. Above us, spread out across a large stage replete with flashy lights and lawks! dry ice, it is The Rolling Stones! no it’s Comet Gain!! It’s kind of eye-goggling seeing them in such ‘professional’ environs. As Rachel says (waving her ‘S&M’ black leather maracas) ‘We are contemporary art’

She’s right. When they’re good Comet Gain are the best, the only pop grupe. Tonight they’re pretty good: Say Yes, Love Without Lies, Why I Try To Look So Bad. They are The Velvet Underground doing ‘What Goes On’ and Love doing ‘Seven And Seven Is’.

Kaye’s tee-shirt has fluffy, flouncy sleeves that look like angel wings. She’s a sublime pop kid. David keeps his jokes to himself, but still cackles openly at the amusements inside his head. He tells us about how Comet Gain went to America and played with Crystal Stilts who had better hair, but Comet Gain had better jokes and were better at drinking. Near the end of an ecstatic pop thrills set, Jon Slade sidles off backstage. He reappears in order to, er, jump offstage and join Helen Shrag in the audience.

The Bats play a short, sweet sunshine set before annoyingly rushing off to play another set in a pub right near our flat, whilst we’re still back in the ICA. The Bats, who I never really listened to in olden times, are fab. Like Mamas and Papas* sliced through with the darkness of good eighties no wave. Darkly shimmering guitars, cosy jangle with an icy bite. And one of their guitarists is a woman - SHOCK!

Crystal Stilts seem a tad lacklustre and complain about the sound all night – unable to hit the right peak of reverb. Frankie is playing boring old sitting down drums, wot a swizz! She does have a teeny tambourine taped to the tom though. With singer Brad not being one for cheery chats with the crowd and guitarist JB skulking by his amp, breaking strings and not really being much of a presence, organist Kyle (also to be seen larking in The Ladybug Transistor) takes over proceedings, both sonically as rockingly mournful notes ripple through the songs, and in communing with the crowd.

Ooh, he’s a card, telling us about playing in Italy where "they didn’t understand a word", and offering his admittedly excellent tee-shirt (a dog saying "Kevin") for sale at the bargainous price of £80. Feck offers the quids. The price rises to £100. Feck heckles ‘Wankers’. Kyle respondes ‘Sexy wankers’ and the whole shebang ends with in a smash hit pop blur.

* Did you see that BBC 4 ‘documentary about The Mamas and Papas? Gah! ‘twas a ridiculous whitewash that probably broke all kinds of torture laws by playing ‘California Dreamin’ over and over and OVER. There was no mention of the crazy, messed up marriages/affairs/kicking out of Michelle Phillips/drug frenzies etc.

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