Last time I caught crazed Berlin psychobillies Mad Sin in London, the gig was at the Underworld, and the place was rammed to the rafters. The Underworld isn't London's biggest venue by any means, but you'd be surprised how seldom we see a band selling it out. That was a good result - but here comes a better one. Tonight, we've moved up a notch or two to the larger Islington Academy. Still not quite the Enormodome, but a distinct step in the direction of bigger things. And it's a sell-out again.
Is this evidence of some sort of psychobilly revival? Actually, probably not. It's more like Mad Sin themselves are winning over a bigger audience on every go-around among assorted 'billies, punks and rockers; the band has transcended the genre from which they sprang, and now they're building things up in their own right. Every tour, the crowds get bigger. Which is a pretty good position to be in, all things considered.
Being Mad Sin's support band is a pretty good position to be in, too. Deadline thrash out their cheery, punchy pop punk to a mosh-happy crowd which is obviously keen to have some good old punk rock fun. Sink a few beers, flail about down the front. That's your recipie for a good time right there. Singer Liz bounces around the stage in a flurry of tattoos, ripping out the vocals with true east London grit, and if the guitars sometimes get a little too metallic for my taste nobody in this crowd is inclined to make it an issue. We even get a few suspiciously metal-muso solos thrown in, incongruous punctuation to the otherwise full-on punkerisms. I like Deadline one of the best bunch of punk rock brawlers in London right now, I'd say but they need to watch that tendency to go a bit metal. No plank-wanking here, please.
Mad Sin are consumate showmen, and in vocalist Koefte deVille they have a crazily compelling fontman. He's a rambunctious man-mountain of a carnival barker, a rock 'n' roll Divine on overdrive, Meat Loaf's punkabilly brother sporting a quiff so solid and black you'd think it was carved out of obsidian. From first to last, he maintains a looming but entirely amiable presence up front, hollering and gesticulating in manic fashion as the band rumble and churn behind him.
As if unwilling to be upstaged, the other members of the band all have their own showboating routines. They throw extravagant rock 'n' roll shapes as if the expression OTT just doesn't appear in their vocabulary. With any other band, this kind of shameless showmanship might seem a little overblown, but in Mad Sin's world this is just the way it's done. Even when fireworks send a fountain of sparks out of the stand-up bass, it doesn't seem Spinal Tap-ish. It's just those Mad Sinners pushing the showboat out a bit more.
Mad Sin songs are, without exception, punked-up psychobilly rockers this is one band you can bet aren't going to say 'Hey - let's take things down a bit' and then go into a power ballad. It's all wild and sweaty and physical. Even Bob Marley's 'I Shot The Sherriff' gets unceremoniously made over into a punk rock hoedown.
Down the front, the mosh threatens to get a little out of hand someone's crossed that fine line between rumbustious fun and outright argy-bargy. Koefte deVille clocks the trouble, and is suddenly authoritative. 'Don't fight!' he scolds. 'Don't make me come down there!' He says no more, but then he doesn't have to. The prospect of mixing it in the mosh with the Mister Big of psychobilly is enough to nip the trouble in the bud. He seems like a nice guy, but you wouldn't want him to fall on you.
After the encores, the lights come up on the post-gig carnage. The floor is soaked with beer, there's not a stiff quiff in the house. Audience members, sated and bedraggled, stumble from the venue. Mad Sin's brand of punk rock showbiz has done its work again: you can see why their popularity is rising. This bunch of lunatic rockers delivers. Enormodome next time? They're getting there.