Gig review: Barbarossa, Mimosa, Flipron

Let’s be clear: I wanted to see Flipron. Somehow, I had got the idea that they were on first. They weren’t. They were headlining. So, y’know, good. More Flipron. But my companion in gigging and I got there assuming they’d be the first act on. And so we had to sit through two other bands in an overpriced Soho Media Hole, that made shitty cocktails.

It might have been bearable, but the other two bands were shit.

Actaully, no, it wouldn’t have been bearable. The crowd were self conciously cool, in that immensely slappable way. Fashionable (read: stupid looking) haircuts, trendy (overpriced and stupid-looking) clothes. Understand: I speak as a man with shoulder length hair that I dye ginger, a man who hasn’t worn much of anything that isn’t black in his adult life. I am aware that I am no position to throw stones. And still: I think those people looked stupid. I felt out of place, and not in that usual goth “I feel like everyone in here is judging me for a freak” way. I mean, I’m hardly a model of sartorial elegance, but at least basic black jeans and a jumper never looks outright stupid. Scruffy, maybe, but at least it’s relaxed, unpretentious, and comfortable. But I digress.

So, I’m sitting there, surrounded by media yahs, wondering when Nathan Barley was going to walk in, and on came the first band. And fleetingly, I thought “Well, things will pick up now.”

Wrong. Barbarossa: Earnest folky alt-country crap. Or: Painfully boring whiners. Suicide music. Two guys and a girl singing, and some bloke with a mandolin, or similarly tedious stringed folk instrument. There may have been a violin (thus making them one of about three bands ever with a fiddle in that I don’t like, which will give you some idea how dismal they were) but frankly, I was past caring.

I can think of no better summation of them than this: they closed with a song, the chorus of which ran something pretty like “I want to lay you down and love you with no one else around”, delivered in the same harmonised whine as everything else.

How do people listen to this anaemic crap? Have they had their testicles cut off, or something? How can you sing a song about shagging, and remove all evidence of hormones from it? What thought process says “yes, we shall sing about fucking, but we shall do it in an earest and passionless style, because then people will want to sleep with us”? I mean, I assume that’s why they formed the band. It’s not like seem to be having fun, and don’t have a unique voice, or a clear burning desire to Say Something To The World. That leaves “getting laid” as the only remaining motivation, doesn’t it? And god knows, seeming tediously earnest and passionless has never been the best route into the underwear of anyone I’ve ever met. What were they thinking?

And then the second “band”. Mimosa. A girl vocalist and a guy with an acoustic guitar. My first thought: “This looks like it could be bad.” I was right. It was. I present the chorus (and indeed opening lines of) their first number: “You smile and walk away/There’s nothing more to say/And now as time goes by/I seem to laugh and cry”. The mediocrity speaks for itself, I feel. The song turned out to be called “Are you listening to me?” Not if you give me any fucking choice in the matter, sunshine. Alex retreated under her coat. I went to get more drinks. It didn’t help.

For god’s sake, I used to date someone who played acoustic nights in shittier venues than that one. Open mic nights, where almost anyone could get up on stage. They were better than the shit I sat through last night. I mean, it helped that I liked her stuff, but even if I hadn’t it was honest, and there was vitality to it. Testicles Ovaries. Is that so much to ask of these people?

Another song started, this one called “Now I’m Boring”, and I can help but think “No, you started out boring, luv. Now you’re just pissing me off.”

There wass a sign on the wall by the door asking that the audience be quiet while the act was on. Following “Now I’m Boring” they had the brass neck to ask us to obey it. Now, fair enough, everyone inexplicably shut up for the first shower. But this pair were actually worse, and it was not lost on me that I’d handed over cash for this. I figure that I paid for the right to not listen, and attempt to do something fun instead if I want, and am not bugging anyone else (and since everyone else is talking, I think I can assume I safe). The only duty of art is to command the audience’s attention for as long as it’s asking. That they’re failing in this ought to tell them something, I feel.

And then after what seems like an age: Flipron.

(Interestingly, there was what seemed to be a complete audience change as they came on. Obviously, the audience always bulks up a bit as the headliner comes on, but it seemed like 90% of the audience watching the first two acts fucked off as soon as they were done. Suddenly, the audience were better dressed, and had much more sensible hair. It was quite a relief.)

It was worth sitting through the tedium. Better than I remembered, better than their CD, and with about 70% new material that’s at least as good as their old stuff. And they played for about an hour.

But best of all: they looked like they were having fun. They smiled. There was wit and personality there. They responded to the audience. Made jokes between themselves. The lead singer started a link: “This is a deeply personal song about a relationship…” and you could almost feel the audience sag, before he broke into a grin “Nah, just kidding. It’s a song about hell.”

And like all their stuff, it’s funny, entertaining, and betrays serious talent on the Flipron’s part – a song about being nice to Cerberus: “Throw him a stick and he chases the shadow” is going to stay with me. A perfect fit in a set full of lighthearted songs about being old, being dead, and being just slightly mad.

I am aware, as I draw this to a close, that I have spent rather more time and space being horrible about the crowd slating two acts that I didn’t like, rather than praising the one I did. Not, perhaps, in the best spirit of this sort of thing. But I’ve talked about Flipron before, and I’m sure I will again. I just felt it was important to warn you all about the other two horrors I had to sit through, so the same doesn’t happen to you. Is this what the young people are listening to these days? Etc…

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