Vera Bremerton with Monsterlune Freakshow
Yokai Demon Drummers
Resistance Gallery, London
Sunday February 9 2014
The Resistance Gallery resists becoming a gig venue
- although it would make a pretty good one.
This Bethnal Green railway arch hosts everything from weird art to Mexican wrestling (also something of a weird art, as it happens). But bands...not so much.
Psydoll, however, being nothing if not a weird art project themselves, get under the wire without even bending down. Tonight they're the top attraction at a mini-carnival of bizarre etertainment, more or less with a Japanese theme.
The Yokai Demon Drummers definitely have a Japanese theme, although as
far as I can see they're not actually Japanese. They're a British taiko
drum squad - possibly the only British taiko drum squad. Stern
chaps station themselves behind an array of heavy-duty percussion with
which they proceed to make a thunderous noise.
It's exhilarating stuff, only slightly softened by the lead drummer's affable, friendly remarks between the rampaging percussive outbursts. I half expected him to yell at us like a warlike Samurai rallying the troops - but we just don't do that shouty stuff in Blighty, eh, chaps?
A small surprise, incidentally: the set contains
a cover of Faith & The
Muse's 'Bushido' - a further strand of cross-fertilisation there, for anyone
who cares to join the international dots.
Vera Bremerton stalks the stage in the company of monsters. She's half art-house horror movie queen, half cabaret torch singer, and her studied, arch delivery of precision-crafted melodramatic ballads would be a fine show in itself.
But this is the Resistance Gallery, where weird art is never far away. A supporting cast of bemasked and oddly-costumed figures gather on stage, striking attitudes and throwing shapes in dreamlike slo-mo. This is the Monsterlune Freakshow, a performnce-art collective whose main purpose in life, it seems, is to keep it surreal.
The combination of Vera Bremerton's quasi-operatic
vocal swoops, and the monsters' crazily erratic physical swoops certainly
commands attention. It's like watching a Buñuel film acted out by the
cast of the Rocky Horror Show. You're never sure quite what's going on,
but you can't stop watching the tableau unfold.
Well, I don't know about you, but what I think the evening's entertainment needs right now is an interlude of Japanese rope bondage.
Fortunately, Miumi-u is on hand, with an entire rope locker's worth of kit, and Gestalta, her a willing (and serenely smiling) assistant.
With a curiously endearing air of tender deliberation, Miumi-u wraps Gestalta in a web of elegant ropework and hauls her off the ground.
It's all done gently, diligently,
and with a lightness of touch that is genuinely charming. You wouldn't
believe that witnessing someone get tied up could be such a heartwarming
But that's enough of the heartwarming stuff. Now it's time to bring on the robots.
The Psydoll concept - that they're animatronic automatons from high-tech Tokyo - doesn't require quite such a drastic suspension of disbelief as you might expect. Nekoi (vocals, keyboard, a kawaii kunoichi) and Ucchi (guitar, goggles, an anime Biggles) do look suitably otherworldly, as they launch into their barrelling technopop anthems.
Psydoll songs are fast, nimble, catchy things,
their essential poptasticness breaking through the band's conceptual overlay
and their generous helpings of freaky shredathon guitar.
If this is robot pop, it's a lot of fun - but just as the show is getting into its stride a slight crisis erupts as one of the PA speakers bursts into flames.
I'm a big fan of pyrotechnics in a rock 'n' roll context, but its always best to keep this stuff under controlled conditions, don't you think?
A swift burst from a fire extinguisher, and the offending speaker is manhandled out of the venue - no damage done (except to the speaker), and the show goes on. But now, with only half the PA in operation, we're only getting half the sound, and Psydoll have to work hard to make an impact.
'My Birthday' and 'Rose Rose Rose' have all their clattering, cacophonous catchiness intact, but the half-volume sound can't help but take the edge off. Still, the crowd enter into the spirit of it, and against the odds the Psydoll robo-show rolls somewhat haphazardly to close with much supportive applause.
I suppose this neatly illustrates my opening remarks: the Resistance Gallery isn't a gig venue, and the in-house PA isn't able to cope with a band being put through it at typical gig volume. My guess (if you'd like a bit of instant techie analysis) is that the amp was being cranked up to the point where the signal clipped...and clipped signals fry speakers.
Well, it all added to the excitement of the night, I suppose - but I'm sure Psydoll would say this would never happen with Japanese robot technology.
Vera Bremerton: Facebook
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