It’s a big ol’ Rescue Rooms/I’m Not From London gig tonight featuring Soft Girls and Boys Club, Revenge of Calculon and 94 Gunships. There’s a sign for merch and a compere and everything, it seems more like a pop-up event than a general gig, this alongside a general atmosphere of D.I.Y. Brechtian uncertainty that seems to be floating around the space (especially as Revenge of Calculon are in the building) invades the air like a dangerous sea breeze. Kicking the night off in suitably slacker, psychedelic style is the Nottingham based five piece Soft Girls and Boys Club. Signed to Phlexx Records, they deem themselves a psych rock/dream pop band and those musical elements light up the room as they come across tonight. I’m not gonna lie, this is right up my street, I’m an absolute sucker for a bit of dream-pop psych so it’s not hard for me to fall in love with these at the first soundwave. They remind me a little bit of one of my favourite (and also criminally underrated) British bands of this genre, Gross Magic, in the way that they play around with effects pedals in a sort of shroomy way. Riffs are drawn out but just keep getting better and better when they’re played in a slightly different way. The song 22:22 is my personal favourite of the night, it’s a gem of slacker, pop-punk-esque dream psych that’s just primed for the end credits of Twin Peaks Season Four, should Lynch decide to keep on ending the episodes in new seasons with new bands (and, err, “The” Nine Inch Nails). Funnily enough, I’d actually throw Soft Girls and Boys Club in with 90’s alt-bands like Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols, Beck and Kula Shaker in terms of the easy success they might have enjoyed during the pre-internet migration.
The set flows perfectly and it seems like the band follow the rules of playing to the understanding of synesthesia rather than any external factor, hence why they don’t shy away from enhancing simple aspects of songs. I could listen to them all day, I really could. The only disappointing part of the performance is when it has to end after half an hour. They’re not an overtly imposing band performance wise and as a result it’s damn easy to get into a comfortable groove that you’re reluctant to switch off when the time comes. The Soft Girls and Boys Club vibe is addictive and it’s definitely a club I’d sign up to.
After a brief intermission from the faux-fur pimped out compere, Revenge of Calculon take to the stage next. For those who may have so far managed to miss this act, Revenge of Calculon are an impressive synth/bass duo who regularly don lucha libre masks and 90’s tracksuits as part of their act. Concerns that this might be a bit gimmicky are put aside as soon as they strike up the first song, belting out a blend of funk and science-fiction madness. Revenge of Calculon are a joy to watch live; it is easy to see that they are used to playing smaller venues, and could not possibly lose their D.I.Y. core values even if they tried. They make good use of the bigger stage at Rescue Rooms, as the bassist jumps around, sporadically climbing onto a chair, adding his own brand of free movement to the mix. They are an act that needs to be seen as representative of one those brilliant cultural moments at the time of their functioning, and one that would surely go down a treat at festivals like Boomtown (where they even have a Barrio section they could play at) or smaller stages at Glastonbury. It’s very easy to imagine their recordings being picked up by film directors and scriptwriters who are looking for music to accompany a comedy/horror/sci-fi script; they’d fit in well with The Mighty Boosh lot for sure. About three quarters of the way in during the set, they introduce a collaborator called Motormouf who adds vocals over the song Atari Safari as well as sticking around for a couple of others. It’s a bloody brilliant collaboration and this song is the stand out track of the night, interspersed with arcade video game samples (presumably from the Atari), the song is akin to some of DJ Yoda’s releases and left-field hip hop/rap like the Beastie Boys. Having to don one of the band’s mandatory lucha libre masks, he laments how the band manage to wear these the whole time although he is also wearing a long, faux fur coat which might be a factor in adding to the sweatiness of this stage get up. Eventually he reveals his identity to be the compere of the night in a swift “aha! Twas’ I all along” moment, which isn’t hard to guess seeing as he never changed out of the coat he was wearing earlier. Another half hour set, which doesn’t seem long enough for Revenge of Calculon. I look forward to catching them play as a headlining act sometime.
Gunships must really know their audience as it’s clear from the numbers that seem to multiply during the intermission that most people are here to see them tonight. Signed to Wire and Wool records they play a brand of folk/blues-rock that will appeal to fans of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Tom Waits. With two EPs under their belt, much of the audience seem to be familiar with many of the songs already; they sing along and stomp their feet in time to the pounding beat of the kick drum, steady tambourine shakes and rhythmic lyrics. Additional use of a keyboard adds warmth to the songs and the guitarist makes good use of the tremolo bar to invoke a suitably western/country style. They play for the whole hour they have been allocated much to everyone’s delight and complete an encore due to popular demand in which they play the fan favourite track Dig a Hole. Many drinks are spilled or put to the side so that people can dance more freely to this one. As I turn around, I notice a roomful of people all mouthing the lyrics. It’s quite the sing along to end the night.
Photos and text by Kate Haresnape.