Wednesday, September 20, 2006

You! Me! Dancing!

LOS CAMPESINOS / PORCHLIGHT / SHAKE MY HAND / LITTLE MY (AND FRIENDS), 16TH SEPTEMBER 2006, CARDIFF DEMPSEY'S

About two thirds of the way through tonight's opening set, Little My throw in a cover of 'Monsterpussy' by The Vaselines. As if their love for the Glaswegian shamblers wasn't already apparent enough. Their number supplemented tonight by assorted additional musicians (which leads DJ / compere / promoter / all-round good egg Gary to label them a "Cardiff supergroup"), Little My specialise in very short, very chaotic songs which are as ragged around the edges as they are twee. The C86 revival starts here, kids... Bonus points for... the inventive use of a Guess Who? board as a percussion instrument.

Until as recently as three weeks ago, Shake My Hand went under the name of Yossarian. From what I can recall of their previous incarnation, the moniker change doesn't signal any shift in direction - or, in other words, the songs which were on their old MySpace site are now on their new one, and get an airing tonight. 'Invisible' is typical in that it features wryly amusing spoken word vocals over careful guitar work, but there's not much in their set that really grabs me and shakes me by the lapels. Members of Los Campesinos! in the crowd raise a smile, though, getting revenge on their friends by echoing their fawning shout of "We're here for you!" at the recent Broken Social Scene gig. Bonus points for... the free four track CD, featuring 'Indie Disco', 'Koala', 'Settled' and the aforementioned 'Invisible' complete with stylish handmade inlay.

In this company Porchlight are, unfortunately, fighting something of a losing battle. Not only are they evidently outsiders at what is a bit of a Cardiff indiepop love-in (which also means they don't have their own partisan crowd), but their guitar sound is stodgy and blunt. They don't do themselves too many favours by looking faintly bored, mind. It would be nice to say that what they lack in enthusiasm they make up for with the songs, but the likes of 'Hot Or Cold' and recent single 'Impress Me' don't, er, impress me much - solid enough, but no sense of distinctive identity. Bonus points for... er, how's about playing to an unfamiliar crowd?

But tonight isn't about Porchlight; nor is it about Little My or Shake My Hand. It's about Los Campesinos!.

After a week of touring (their first gigs outside beyond Cardiff and London, I gather), this is their homecoming show in every sense - it's taking place in their natural habitat, upstairs in Dempsey's as part of Cardiff's semi-legendary indie night Twisted By Design. And boy don't we just know it; the anticipation before they take to the stage and the excitement that ensues is palpable.

It might be a matter of time constraints (it's gone eleven by the time they appear), but it's interesting that the incongruous post-rock slowburner that formerly opened the set has been dropped, as I suggested it should be. Instead it's the chorus of "ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR" and we're launched giddily straight into the maelstrom.

The seven-strong student outfit might only have played a handful of gigs, but it's no wonder that the likes of NME, Moshi Moshi and countless MP3 blogs have been foaming at the mouth about them like a rabid Roy Hattersley. Quite simply, they are absurdly good fun, and much more than the sum of their parts: American indie riffage, British tweeness, pop singalongs, wicked humour (a song with an opening line about playing pass the parcel with human body parts, anyone?) and boundless energy.

Excitable frontman Gareth chastises us for "cheering the hits", but in truth nothing is received with anything less than fervour. 'Infinite Lives' and the wittily cutesy 'It Started With A Mix' are ace, closer 'Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks' is even better (climaxing with drummer Oliver standing on his kit and leading the crowd in the chant of "One blink for yes, two blinks for no...") but once again the irresistible 'You Me Dancing!' steals the show - how could it not, as the second musical tribute of the night to Twisted By Design (after Shake My Hand's 'Indie Disco')?

Of course, it's all over far too early. The only people left relatively unmoved by the preceding half an hour are the parents stood directly in front of me. I want to tap the bemused pair on the shoulder and say "Don't worry - they really are amazing"...

Bonus points for... being fucking great from start to finish.

*****

We didn't stay for the club night, which felt wrong after feeling all the love, but in our defence we were meeting others who wouldn't have been allowed into Dempsey's as the gig was sold out. What felt even more wrong was decamping to Callaghan's for the Uber Alles DJs. But one half (if not both) of the duo had been at the gig too, and it was an inspired decision on their part to wrap the night up by giving 'You Me Dancing!' a spin. No thanks to the over-officious doorman who insisted it be turned off before the conclusion, though...

Thanks to Gary and the bands for a top night.

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