With a name like The Last Days Of Decadence, we should be in for a suitably messy night, right?
Unfortunately, tonight's venue doesn't quite turn out to be the noisesome bordello I was secretly hoping for. It's a tarted-up Shoreditch pub, basically - everything is squeaky clean and self-consciously 'designer'. I don't think I've ever seen so much highly polished wood veneer in one place.
Well, it's all down to the bands, then. My Toys Like Me are an incongruous bunch, and incongruous is good in my book. A tall, glacially self-assured female singer fronts a bunch of dressed-down muso-geezers. The lads generate an insistent bomp-and-thud rhythmic electropop, over which the singer lays an almost offhand, conversational vocal, in a voice that's half way between Marilyn Monroe at her most coquettish, and Lily Allen at her most knowingly ironic.
The vocals trip daintily over the thump and rumble of the music - the overall sound is just as incongruous as the band's appearance - and while there are about six different ways in which this odd combination shouldn't work, somehow it does. I suspect that if I listened to too much of My Toys Like Me in one sitting I might find myself suffering from musical indigestion - it would be a bit like eating meatballs topped with icing sugar - but, in the brief burst of a support slot, I rather like this bunch.
And now, the burlesque interlude. I've remarked elsewhere that burlesque interludes are becoming an increasingly common feature of London gigs, to the point where sooner or later I suspect it'll cease to be a neat addition to the usual indie go-around, and everyone will get a bit bored with the idea. We haven't reached that point yet, though, and in any case whether or not the burlesque interludes work comes down to the performances themselves in the end.
Tonight, a beaming young lady festooned with inflated condoms marches up and down the stge to the strains of 'Springtime For Hitler', and while I can't tell if there's anything conceptual going on here, or whether it's all a bit of a lark-about, it's all good questionable-taste fun. The audience whoops and cheers, and a video crew records the proceedings - allegedly for a film documenting Andrew Logan's Alternative Miss World events, although what this gig has to do with Alternative Miss World is a mystery. Anyway, it seems I get to play 'Man In Audience With Vodka-Based Drink'. Look out for me, just in case I don't end up on the cutting room floor.
Hooligan Night are an amiable bunch of delinquents. Apparently the band are playing a man down tonight: bassist and songwriter Nik Diezel is in South America, teaching kids to make interesting noises, which sounds like an honourable occupation to me.
So, it's a three-piece band for this gig, with a bit more on the sampler that would normally be the case. Keyboard-jockey Orlando Harrison, all drooged up in his bowler and white strides, takes care of the electronics, and doesn't even miss a beat when his keyboard stand threatens to slide into the audience - not, I would surmise, a problem that you'd be likely to experience in a less over-polished venue.
Drummer Paul Stone works minor miracles with merely a kick, a snare, and a couple of cymbals, while the whole minimalist caboodle is fronted to maximal effect by the divine Ruby Blues, a rock 'n' roll aerobics mistress in a purple zebra-stripe cat suit. She's engaging and witty and endlessly energetic, obviously born to front a band - but somewhere in her effervescence there's a certain undercurrent of don't-mess-with-me, too, which ensures we all behave ourselves even as the joint starts jumping.The sound packs a wallop - there's more oomph in that sampler, keyboard and two drums line-up than you'd expect - while the songs themselves are jaunty, swaggering things, striding along on that no-shit beat like Burlington Bertie sauntering up the Strand.
'Oh Soho' takes an old blues riff for a kickabout - I'd like to hear an enterprising DJ mix this one with 'Gasoline Man' by The Young Gods, by the way - and if the nimble ska workout 'City Calling' is perhaps a step too far in Lily Allen's direction (why does everyone want to step in Lily Allen's direction all of a sudden?) then 'Bamboo Hut' claws us back from the brink with an insanely catchy romp that gets this Shoreditch bar jumping like it's a hot night on the beach in Goa.
If this is what hooligans get up to during the hours of darkness, count me in.
Night's bassist, Nik Diezel's project - FairTunes,
community-based recording facilities in developing countries: Website
For more photos from this gig, find Hooligan Night by name here.