Friday, March 10, 2006

Red Sparowes, Made Out Of Babies and Una Corda @ Medicine Bar, Birmingham

Originally posted here

And so it was off to the Custard Factory arts complex in Digbeth, Birmingham, for a Capsule gig. And a very good gig it was too.

Una Corda - Andy GFirst up were local boys Una Corda who I've seen a couple of time already. They appear to be on something of a step-up in the wacky world of post-rock, doing a fair number of support slots for Capsule and with their first London gig on Friday / tonight (at the Camden Underworld with the same lineup as here should you be in the area and fancy it) which is good and in many ways deserved as they've got a good thing going on.

The set was a little scrappy but not in a bad way and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves a lot. Bassist Paul (in green) was bouncing around with glee towards the end and this is one of the things that marks them apart from the usual crop of intelli-metal instrumental bands who just stand there all dull-like - Una Corda actually have a personality, both in their music and their stage presence. Musically they were very enjoyable with some new pieces and I suspect that, while this genre is not a massive one, they're on the cusp of going somewhere within it. But of course I'm biassed. I live with one of them.

Made out of BabiesIn the middle were Made out of Babies who I'd describe as a bit like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs but more metal, less art-rock. Standard four-piece with guitar and bass on the sides and a diminutive female singer pacing around the middle. Which made a change, having someone interesting looking to photograph at a rock gig, so I did.

It was very refreshing to see a band who, while their music was of-a-type, actually had some kind of "act". And even though the whole neurotic girl thing wasn't 100% convincing there was enough conviction and passion behind it from the whole band to draw me right in. Very good stuff and a keen example for other four-piece bands of how to do the stage thing. Me liked a lot.

And then the headliners, Red Sparowes who, as I said before, I wasn't expecting a lot from. I'm a stranger in this scene, to be sure, but I'd got the impression that in the world of soaring post-rock the Brits don't take it too seriously while the Yanks take it very seriously indeed. Pelican, another American post-rock band seen last December were technically brilliant but didn't do anything for me really. Red Sparrows, on the other hand, were somewhat fantastic.

Red SparowesAfter I took the photo shown here I was tapped on the should and told the band didn't want any flash photography, which was fair enough (and I only tend to use it when I see others doing so) but they were playing with the lights completely off and just a film projection above their heads. So that's knocked the photos on the head then, I figured, and went to the back to take in the show. Initially I wasn't overly impressed as the music did the complicated quiet-loud thing but then something clicked and I found myself getting into it. And then I found myself getting tired as my legs gave way and I needed to lean against the wall. Eventually I was sitting on the floor nodding my head to the music, and it's not like I'd had a busy day - got up at noon, went shopping, made a curry, went to gig - but I was really knackered. I've got no idea what it was that did this. Yes, they were loud, but it wasn't like I was being beaten by the sonics in an aggressive way - more that it was punching me subtly from the inside. Or something. By the end I was utterly drained though I had no sense of what it was that had drained me. I was, in effect, a boiled frog, albeit a happy one.

The playing in the dark with projection thing was an interesting move, acknowledging, perhaps, that the band on stage were utterly uninteresting to look at. For the last couple of tracks I moved to the front with a good view of the stage from the side and the guys were just milling around, swapping instruments and twiddling with effects peddles (and something that looked like a high-tech zither). They were more like lab technicians than rock musicians and while the live performance was utterly necessary it wasn't necessary to see them do it. That said, I'm getting more and more jaded with the projections you tend to get at gigs. The general theme here was decay with old newsreels of buildings being demolished, post-war cities in ruins and curious medical experiments. If the Belsen photos had cropped up I wouldn't have been surprised and thankfully they didn't but it was all kinda uninspired and I preferred to shut my eyes and really experience them in the dark than be distracted by the magic lantern show. It's a very tricky line to tread between doing something meaningful but chilched and plunging into tedious irony and very few people manage it, possibly because while the music has been refined over many years the film show is often done as a extra, often by someone not intrinsically connected with the band so it doesn't quite mesh. However, like I say, I'm naturally cynical about these things - maybe most people appreciate them, who knows.

So all in all an excellent gig that left me happy, tired and not that bothered that I'd only got a few photos.

Capsule have a shedload of gigs scheduled for April and in theory I'd like to go to them all. Maybe I will. April shall be Capsule month. At the very least I'll be looking to see KK.Null on April 8th cos I'm a sucker for Japanese experimental noise and Noise Noise Allore! (previous gig review) supporting some foreigners on April 16th.


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