Sometimes I get the impression that the Hoxton Square Bar And Kitchen is a little unenthusiastic about the bands in its back room. Tonight, at any rate, the bouncer on the door gives me a long cold stare as I mooch past him in my scruffy leather jacket. Well, hello and good evening to you too, mate.
This venue, which on the face of it is a self-consciously edgy watering hole for East London hipsters, also plays slightly reluctant host to a variety of contemporary rock 'n' roll noises, presumably as a way of increasing its cool-quotient by a few points. But rock 'n' roll accommodates many sins. Maybe there are those who fear that allowing Selfish Cunt to let rip on stage tonight might lower the trendy tone somewhat. Well, we can only hope.
Red light, red heat. Opening up the evening under stage lighting as red as an overheated electric fire that's been left on all night, An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump brew up a bass-heavy rumble, like a storm moving in over the city. They're dynamic and physical - all that thumping of drums and thwacking of bass strings (the band's only instrumentation is three drums and two basses) creates a sound that shoves its way into the crowd like a gatecrasher, and insists you pay attention. And yet, the three Birds are as self-contained and impassive as ice cubes, notwithstanding the heat and the light. They're tribal punk soul divas, remaining aloof even as they churn and grind.
The controlled thunder of 'Saints Don't Cry' - a high school hop anthem from way south of the border - and the reinvented, reshaped and mutated yankpunk of Sonic Youth's '100 Percent' demonstrate how the band pull their disparate elements together and forge them into rough-edged ingots of sound. Now that's cool.
All angles and sticky-out bits, Electricity In Our Homes sound like they make their music out of Meccano. Incongruously - because you'd expect this kind of chopped-up, sliced-and-diced sound to be generated by earnest post-rock eggheads - the band members look enderaringly respectable. You could take this band home to meet mum and be sure that they wouldn't disgrace themselves by demanding Jack Daniels and pissing in the sink. They look almost supernaturally un-rock 'n' roll.
But, musically, their angles and tangents do the right thing in the end. If at times Electricity In Our Homes get a little too angular for comfort - this band can make the Gang Of Four sound like Guns 'n' Roses with one well-placed downstroke on the guitar - well, that only serves to underline that comfortable rock moves just aren't what they're about in the first place. Mind you, by the end of the set I'm starting to wonder if I should've brought along a geometry set.
In the context of their support bands, Selfish Cunt are very much the rock 'n' roll traditionalists tonight. Their music has no truck with angles and tangents: it's more like a truck driving straight at your head, with the brakes disconnected and a leering lunatic at the wheel.
Their set is a roaring blast of baleful noise, shunted along by drums that don't take no for an answer, and ripped to gleeful shreds by rampant, punkzoid guitar. Vocalist Martin Tomlinson stalks and pirouettes his way through this sonic splurge, here stepping lightly over a bassline, there kicking a kick-drum beat into touch. He's wearing leggings that have seen better days, and a yellow jumper bearing the legend 'Love Child', which, somehow, makes perfect sense. He strikes parodic vogueing moves as he yelps and screeches the vocals, while the back-projection flings up images of Laura Bush, smiling in a way that becomes downright sinister the longer the image stays on the screen. Selfish Cunt's visuals are just as much of a riot as the music.
And speaking of riots, there's one kicking off right now in the moshpit. Selfish Cunt are one of only a few current bands to routinely generate a sprawling, brawling, steaming, freaking, honest-to-goodness mosh down the front at their gigs. I've been to punk gigs, metal gigs, gigs by supposedly wild 'n' crazy bands of all kinds, only to find that the audiences react with incongruous restraint - but tonight everyone pitches in with a wild-eyed gusto that only just stays on the right side of scary. Which is just the way it should be, of course, as any connoisseur of moshpit activity will tell you.
In a weird twist, most of the moshers appear to be stylishly-dressed girls, who somehow manage to hurl themselves into the fray without so much as dislodging an eyelash. One of them, I notice, as she flails past in a flurry of limbs, has the words 'CUNT OFF' neatly tattooed across her knuckles.
It's a bit like being lynched by a posse of Hell's Angels, who have all been dressed for the occasion by Mary Quant - and the sort of thing that I suspect could only happen at a Selfish Cunt gig. The band acts as a catalyst as much as anything: for the duration of their set, normality ceases to apply.
Later, I'm told that Kate Moss was present at the gig, and while I didn't catch sight of Kate in the swirling mosh-o-rama myself, I can well believe she'd pitch in.
Which brings me to an odd little postscript to this show. The following day, Kate Moss appears in one of the London newspapers, sporting a mysterious bump on her nose. The paper speculates inconclusively as to how she got it - but you know what? It looks like a moshpit injury to me.
Selfish Cunt: MySpace
Electricity In Our Homes: MySpace
An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump: MySpace
more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.