Wednesday, 14 October 2009

World International John Peel-Day, 10 October 2009 - Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes

A girl dressed in a vaguely ‘alternative’ style is jerking about on the dance floor like a loon. Two boys are rolling on the icky carpet, enjoying a spot of fake wrestling. The soundtrack is ‘Never Stop’ by Echo And The Bunnymen. I sip my triple vodka (gifted by the barman as an apology for the extended wait to be served), gaze at the ridiculous scene before me and realise I know all the words to this song. I’m in the student union bar circa 1983. No I’m not, it just looks that way. This is World International John Peel-Day at Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes and at the moment it looks exactly like the kind of scene our beloved JP would have beheld when ferrying his ‘Roadshow’ around the nation.
The plan here is for ‘a united front of disparate London promoters and d.j.s to celebrate groundbreaking music and the man we owe our passion for music to.’ It’s a sweet act of remembrance, plus proceeds go to charity. Throughout the evening I hear loads of songs that I initially taped off Peel’s show, then went on to cherish on vinyl (yay! to Rocker playing The Groove Farm’s ‘Nancy Sinatra’). Home-taping didn’t kill music did it? Wonder if illegal downloading will?

We chance upon Kogumaza in the middle of some colossal effects-drenched drone-wibble. A girl plays sparse drumbeats, whilst two blokes (who apparently have played with Glenn Branca’s orchestra, so they should know what’s what) coax out hypnotic wails and sighs and shudders from their guitars. ‘Tis fab. In the audience, a funny little man dances non-stop crazy style. Another funny man sits mournfully peering through a be-feathered mask – the kind you’d wear to a burlesque ball. This isn’t a burlesque ball by a long shot.

Downstairs in the Karaoke room (people hire this room out to do karaoke in??!) Allo Darlin are tinkering with songs not destined for their ‘full band’ set. Even though the full band is here. Elizabeth Darling plays (Darren Hayman’s) ukulele and sings wistfully. The rest of the band add guitar bits and gentle drumbeats and it’s all very lovely indeed. Then I have a coughing fit (probably ‘cos I’m sitting on the gruesome carpet) until tears course down my cheeks and it looks like I’m unbearably moved by the beauty of it all.

Maggie8 feature a banjo, a trumpet and a man out of Hood and play jovial, exhilarating psychy pop but with ululating Indian swirls and skittering English folk elements stirred in. Another interesting find.This is great, there’s not a dud band here tonight.

Beatnik Filmstars say that John Peel is the only person who ever paid any attention to their band. There must be dozens, nay hundreds of bands that could say that. Sniff! The BFs are entertaining and personable and play a lot of songs that are apparently about death. The last time I saw them they were kind of high speed and garagey. This time they are country-tinged and melancholy (that’ll be the death songs). Until they play a rousing version of T.Rex’s ‘Deborah’, a joyful thing.

Amelia from Tender Trap says she feels sorry for the people who came here to bowl (there are plenty of ‘normal’ punters in, who’ve come here for crazy Saturday night bowling lane based kicks) and have to put up with the bands making a racket. It certainly is a funny old set-up, bowlers somewhat rudely walk across the side of the stage as bands are mid-song. Later, Golden Animals reverse the situation when Tommy plants himself across the front of a lane to crank out some scritchy guitar noise, temporarily halting a game.

Amelia is wearing another excellent dress with a pattern reminiscent of those Spacemen 3 circles. Tender Trap are shiny and poptastic, buzzing through a clutch of songs that include fab newies that are sounding better on every outing they get (e.g. single ‘Fireworks’), and oldie faves like ‘Talking Backwards’ that make us jiggle excitedly. They are fizzbombs for the ears (a lot better than chewing-gum for the eyes), Elizabeth Allo Darlin providing a sparky guitar-waving, harmony-belting foil to Amelia and her joyous vocals whilst Katrina knocks it all into place with bolshy stand-up drumming.

Downstairs, Golden Animals play a mesmerising set of sublime garage cranks and psychedelic nose-dives. Behind them, Saturday night bowlers revel and a screen shows ‘The Big Lebowski’ – it’s kind of odd, but props to the band for soldiering on, weaving mystical desert mojo in the middle of Bloomsbury.

Lasties, it’s Allo Darlin playing a proper band set. They are chirpy ‘n’ cheery and play the kind of winsomely heartachey tunes you’d expect to hear in a quirky indie flick. Elizabeth – on her third set of the night – is still full of energy, jumping up and down with her ukulele, her voice kind of like Camera Obscura’s Traceyanne. Her band, culled from various indie places, e.g. Darren Hayman’s band, seem to be enjoying themselves too, bunny-hopping through a set that warms the cockles.

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