A few weekends ago, I was on photography duty near Manor House. My destination, the Finsbury, was darker than usual, but I still managed to walk in and find myself a lost boy. He wasn’t a Pan archetype, but rather someone inspired to dress like Kiefer Sutherland channelling eighties era Robert Smith.
The singer’s clothes were casual, fashioned from dishevelled linen, which allowed him to assume an identity that his gothic brethren would have been proud of.
“I don’t wanna be myself, but everyone else is taken.”
In nigh on wall-to-wall darkness, an early evening-crowd stood, patiently waiting for a mild level of inebriation to make them step out of pitch-black shadows into the gaze of a broken lighting rig.
Wax’s frontman, sensing our reticence, tried to coax us into action.
I watched him repeatedly disembark, from the stage into a sparsely populated expanse, so he could fall on bended knees and deliver angst-ridden lyrics to an audience whose curiosity was unwavering despite not being sufficiently piqued for a pit invasion.
This is why opening slots are a lottery for those that fill them.
I watched his face contort, skin continually stretch, around an elongated jaw straining for mileage. A pair of bulging eyes kept rolling back, temporarily nestling in darkened sockets, while a sweaty palm was reversed and held fast against an intensely clenched forehead.
“Thanks for being in here and not watching the Germans…”
I found myself laughing at a perfect moment of unintended banter when Wax’s frontman asked us whether we were all right or not. The music fans, myself included, responded with an enthusiastic “Yes!” while everyone who was watching the football shouted “No!”
To be honest, I think we have an issue in London with venues not knowing if they want to be sports broadcasters or host live bands. Me, personally, I’m with the latter! I’ve been to too many shows where musicians can barely be heard above excessively loud HD televisions. There are also problems with some bars being too close to performers, causing casual drinkers to end up filling spaces that could be used for people wanting to get their groove on.
As the set, I’d been forced into covering with a pen rather than my Nikon due to poor lighting, gradually began moving towards its final moments, I found myself increasingly mesmerised by Wax’s antics. These included, but weren’t limited to, them using a Countdown sample, their bassist throwing out some Twin Peak’s style gloominess, the playing of a Ganga sample until it caused a playful shake of their singer’s head, and him singing on the other side of a set of doors which he then humorously peeped back through in an attempt to see if he’d be welcomed back.
Next up was an impressive act, the Covasettes, who brought a legion of fans that many titans of our industry would kill to obtain. “Pretend it’s Wembley,” I heard one of them whisper to a member of the band who seemed slightly apprehensive about an average turnout. “And it’s full,” he added, in a slightly louder voice, seconds before everything turned anarchic.
The crowd kept launching into each other, in a manner that made me believe they’d inevitably leave themselves bereft of energy for anything else that evening, so they could either mosh in unison or take hold of each other’s faces and scream recited words into them.
I found myself sitting, mouth ajar, wearing a smile that kept widening because of awe that left my jaw on the floor. A place where you had to tread with some care after it got soaked with beverages spilt from loftily held glasses and one vessel that was accidentally shattered in an innocent act of exuberance. They didn’t care about the damage, of course, preferring instead to simply kick aside any fallen debris from sight or mind.
“Covasettes….la la la!!!”
Headliners, Old Swing, brought their own lights which would have been a good thing had they not flashed them at a speed where some might have thought it prudent to warn people about epileptic fits. Seriously! At one point, it felt like we were either at a rave or in an establishment lit by the emergency services.
A fellow photographer, who’d spent hours fighting against elements beyond our control, walked over and encouraged me to resume my photographic duties. I smiled and replied that it was too late for me because reviews usually require images of every band on the bill.
Old Swing, whose sound was a tad reminiscent of Empire of the Sun due to some dream-like harmonisation from their singer, played a set that was so comfortable it made me drift off into my own memories.
Imagine, if you will, a feeling of being possessed by an innate sense of familiarity with something you’ve never heard before.
That was my evening.