Thursday May 15 2014
Well, this is the first time I've been to Oslo for a gig. And I didn't
even have to get on a boat.
This Oslo is a new designer bar with a gig venue above, conveniently located next to Hackney Central station in London's latest gentrification-is-coming-ready-or-not zone. Why the place is called Oslo is anyone's guess.
What's possibly more interesting for the rock 'n' roll
sociologists among us is the fact that a designer bar has been equipped
with a proper gig room - decent PA, not-bad lighting rig, the works.
The days when bands making loud noises on stage were regarded as, if not actually subversive, then definitely infra-dig, have gone.
Once, live music at the grass roots end of things was grudgingly accommodated in scruffy, ill-equipped back rooms of run-down pubs. Now, it's an essential part of the after-dark economy, with upmarket watering holes equipping themselves with rock 'n' roll kit as a vital element of their leisure market portfolio.
From the cruddy old Camden Falcon to squeaky clean Oslo, Hackney: the indie kids have grown up and become a key demographic for Britain's leisure industry.
Right now, that key demographic is standing at a polite
distance from the stage watching Scraps - aka Laura Hill, a celebriity chef
from Brisbane, apparently - do her solo-electronica thing amid a haze of
smoke and shifting LED beams.
There's not all that much to watch, it must be said: one person standing behind a keyboard is never going to make for an eye-catching show.
So it's all down to the music, then, which turns out to be fuzzy, ambient-ish electropop, the beats loping along like a stroll in the park on a muggy summer's day, while Laura's vocal drifts in and out like a breeze which might just bring rain.
It's sit-back-and-listen music, really, rather than stand-up-and-watch stuff, a low-key experience underlined by Laura's self-deprecating remarks between songs - which become downright self-flagellating at times. "I know I'm shit," she quips at one point, and although the crowd cracks some dutiful grins, the atmosphere does deflate like a pricked balloon at that moment.
It's all down to Las Kellies,
then, to give the evening a lift. Fortunately, there's such a punky-funky,
carnival feel to the band's music that it's hard not to be lifted. Here they
come, three girls, bass, drums, guitar or keyboard (but never both at once).
There are no backing tracks, no excess baggage, certainly no grandstanding.
They're friendly - the lead singer grins and greets us amiably - but there's
work to be done here, and no time for messing about.
Live, Las Kellies hit rather harder than they do on record: the punk element of the band's influence-mix is shunted to the fore, the guitar is more abrasive, the bass is more assertive, the drums stick the boot in like a bully on a football pitch.
But even at their most combative, Las Kellies are never merely crash-and-bash merchants. The dubby, spacey elements of their music, the sheer distance between the beats and the notes, mean that even when they're going for it like a machine - and they certainly are right now - the essential Las Kellies trance-dance is always going to get you.
'Boy, Sweet Boy' sounds a whole lot more militant tonight than it does on the Total Exposure album, and a staccato, nervy cover of The Ramones' 'Beat On The Brat' doesn't sound at all out of place. The guitar needles away like Keith Levene is digging everyone on the room in the ribs; the bass is nimble, agile, dancing lightly through the songs - while the bassist screws her eyes closed as if in her own personal trance.
The Kellies' killer grooves are served up with a certain lightness of touch, and at the risk of making a sweeping generalisation I'd say that's a function of Las Kellies being an all-female band. I can't imagine a bunch of blokes being quite so deft and rhythmic - a male guitarist, I'm sure, would eventually succumb to temptation and indulge in a few Johnny Thunders powerchords eventually.
But there are no powerchords in Las Kellies' music, and - a swift glance at the seething crowd confirms - no need for any, either. The key demographic has well and truly got its groove locked down tonight.
Las Kellies: Facebook
For more photos from this gig,
find Las Kellies by name here.