Friends, Planets and Silence

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Mag 19 2009, 1:30

I recently realized, when one of my best friends moved to London, that I could now go see my favorite bands without too much effort. And my March trip for This Town Needs Guns and Emilíana Torrini definitely left me wanting more. Looking for an appropriate time for a repeat appearance, I came upon adjacent dates for Kyte - the Leicester-based post-rock band who released 2008's best album - and Johnny Foreigner - my most recent favorite in the UK math pop scene. And coincidentally, Swedish screamo outfit Suis La Lune were to give one of their rare performances - the first one in a major Swedish city since 2006, I believe - in Stockholm the next day. It was all too good to miss! And I couldn't have scripted it better, each night proving more memorable than the one before.

This extended weekend of musical indulgence got an early start with Wednesday's Goo Nite club at the Buffalo Bar in Islington. A Last.fm event recommendation, it featured three British post-rock acts, all previously unknown to me. So only catching half of The FM Flash's set and having to leave before Worriedaboutsatan didn't bother me, since I was mostly interested in Kontakte and their wonderful new song The Ocean Between You and Me. Fortunately, they let it round off their agreeable seven-song set, giving me what I had come for, although perhaps not a lot more.

The following evening, I revisited the London suburb Kingston-upon-Thames and McClusky's, the fairly large venue where Banquet Records' club New Slang holds fort. Missing (or rather skipping) Youves, I arrived midway through Super Tennis' set. Playing noisy math pop with appropriate amounts of shouts and yelps, they reminded me a bit of the hyper-energetic Algernon Cadwallader. I managed to catch a few gems, including both songs from their Pushinsky / Billy Ocean split single. The music was really good, but I think their wonderful live dynamic alone would have made the set enjoyable.

Like I mistakenly thought would be the case with This Town Needs Guns, I think New Slang is one of the best places in the world to see Johnny Foreigner, who sort of seem to be the house band there, making their sixth or seventh appearance. And the band seemed to be almost as excited as the crowd, blazing out of the gate with their new single Feels Like Summer, which also provides the name for their current tour. Singer/guitarist Alexei Berrow's energy is undeniable, and was proven beyond all doubt by the flood of sweat he managed to generate during the first few songs alone, but bassist Kelly Southern and drummer Junior Elvis weren't far behind.

The band then went on to play us a a whole bunch of new songs, a few older ones, and four from their awesome debut album Waited Up 'Til It Was Light - the ones best received by the crowd, including me. Bounding back on stage following our extended closing applause, they claimed that the show would be the only one on the tour at which they would be called back for an encore, so they made the most of it, choosing to play my favorite song of theirs (just ahead of Salt, Peppa and Spinderella): Our Bipolar Friends. Needless to say, I was thrilled, and enjoyed every last minute of it thoroughly.

On a side note, as part of a longer feature on UK music webzine Drowned In Sound, Kelly recorded a brief video clip, where she had us yell: "Hello, Drowned in Sound! JoFo had fun!". It was included in part 3 of their '09 tour diary, and I think I am that blurry figure in the middle of the third row at 2:39.

Setlist: (from Kelly's paper version)
01. Feels Like Summer
02. Yes! You Talk Too Fast
03. Camp Kelly Calm
04. Kingston Called, They Want Their Lost Youth Back
05. Eyes Wide Terrified
06. Choose Yr Side And Shut Up!
07. I'llchoosemysideandshutup, Alright
08. Salt, Peppa and Spinderella
09. Criminals
10. Suicide Pact, Yeh?
11. The Coast Was Always Clear
---
12. Our Bipolar Friends

On Friday, I took the opportunity to visit my friend Fredrik at Last.HQ, where he just wrapped up his thesis project. We also stopped by the local pub, The Marie Lloyd, where members of the Last.fm team usually go after work at the end of the week, and I got to chat a bit with Matt and Tim, two other staffers, before it was time to head off towards Barden's Boudoir in Stoke Newington and the main event of my London visit.

Breathy vocals were definitely the theme of the evening, yet again hosted by Goo Nite, featuring not only Kyte's Nick Moon but also singer/songwriter William Fitzsimmons. But while the vocal style isn't too surprising for Kyte's choir-boy-like frontman, when the savagely bearded American opens his mouth, I couldn't help but find it both amazing and mildly amusing. After speaking with William a little after his set, I can't really say that he is one of the oddest people I have ever met, as his offical bio claims. Sure, the beard is indeed odd and he has an interesting background, but he is really very nice and outgoing in that typically American way.

As he is one of the artists I have listened to the most in the last six months, I was delighted when I found out that he would be opening for Kyte. And he seemed to be in as good a mood as I was, talking a lot between songs, joking good-heartedly about various politically incorrect topics such as supporter violence and child abuse. And who could really blame him for being high-spirited: at several points during his set, I had to look around in disbelief at the amount of applause the fairly small crowd was generating.

He played a rather short but diverse set, including two songs from last year's The Sparrow And The Crow, two from 2006's Goodnight, one from 2005's Until When We Are Ghosts, and an Iron & Wine cover. This last pick surprised me a little until I stumbled upon his profile here at Last.fm. To shed some light on his lyrics, he introduced Funeral Dress as being "about missing somebody after they're no longer here" and Just Not Each Other as being "about hope". Me, I really hope I get to see William play again soon, and with him mentioning a possible Scandinavian visit on his upcoming European summer festival tour, I might not have to wait very long.

Setlist:
01. It's Not True
02. Everything Has Changed
03. Faded From the Winter (by Iron & Wine)
04. Funeral Dress
05. Just Not Each Other
06. If You Would Come Back Home

Next on the bill was Vessels, yet another British post-rock band. Backed by cinematic projections of canyons and skies, they put on a very impressive show. Especially captivating were two piano-driven tracks: the ambient/electronic Yuki, followed by the energizing Two Words and a Gesture. Almost as good was Altered Beast, the somber opening track from their lone album White Fields And Open Devices. I was quite content with their performance, but Vessels also left me pleased that the lineup order differed from the one shown on the poster - they would have been a tough act for William Fitzsimmons to follow.

Not only faced with that challenge, but also with living up to my extremely high expectations, Kyte started preparing for their moment in the limelight. Talking to their bassist Ben before the show, I voiced my desire to hear my three favorite Kyte songs: Planet, Boundaries and The Air Of Sunset. Disappointingly, he said they were only planning to perform one of the three (Boundaries), but then added that I may well be able to convince them to play one of the others, as they try not to stick too rigidly to predetermined setlists. I quickly decided to root for Planet, using the time before the show to better the odds, also requesting it from the remaining three band members. I also spoke a bit with Robert, founder of the record label Erased Tapes, proud home of not only Kyte but among others also Ólafur Arnalds, Codes in the Clouds and The British Expeditionary Force.

Once Kyte guitarist/programmer Tom Lowe let the opening notes of Boundaries ring out, I was torn between the joy of hearing one of my absolute favorite songs played and the urge to check my phone - I have been using its wonderful intro as my ringtone for about six months now. The next aural treats offered were the synthesizer-heavy Secular Ventures, and the middle duo Bridges in the Sky and Solsbury Hill from the Two Sparks, Two Stars EP released late last year. No songs from their new album Science For The Living - which has yet to be released outside Japan - were played. But as this was the first time I saw the band live, I really didn't mind at all that they focused on older material, positive that I will get several more chances to hear them play songs like Designed For Damage and No-One Is Angry Just Afraid. For them to play my before-mentioned favorite The Air Of Sunset, which for some inexplicable reason is still unreleased, or the wonderful Carnival of Spies from their debut EP Switch Motion To The Sky, I will probably have to request them specifically. But that night, I was very grateful for them to fulfill my request for Planet. They apparently hadn't played it in quite a while - confusing me, since it is one of their most popular songs - but it still sounded great. From there, I just drifted euphorically through the two set-closers Ghosts and These Tales Of Our Stay, both solid tracks from their first album. Before heading out, I bought some nice mementos from the drummer Scott, in the form of a CD and a t-shirt that the whole band then signed. Round two of my London concert series was a thundering success!

Setlist:
01. Boundaries
02. Secular Ventures
03. Solsbury Hill
04. Bridges in the Sky
05. Planet
06. Ghosts
07. These Tales Of Our Stay

Already feeling pretty content with my little mini-festival, I arrived at Smedjan in Stockholm after my flight back to Sweden. But being a little sleep-deprived, I couldn't quite appreciate the second opening act Pesanteur who played their very first concert ever. Their friends seemed to like it though, and appeared to give their last song, a cover of Indian Summer's Angry Son, extra credit for nostalgia.

Suis La Lune then took the stage to do their sound check, and it was when Henning played a riff from American Football's Stay Home that I suddenly realized what a treat I was in for. Since I had only seen one screamo band perform previously - the even more post-rock-inspired Belgian The Black Heart Rebellion at Underjorden in Gothenburg - I wasn't really sure what to expect, but the energy that Suis exuded soon permeated the room completely, bringing me out of my daze. The immediacy and urgency of their performance had me awestruck and gasping for air, not only because of the cramped and poorly ventilated venue. The enormous intensity added another dimension to every single one of their songs, perhaps most noticeably to the older ones, which suffer a bit from poor recording quality.

I can't claim to be disappointed with the song picks, since I got a whole bunch of my favorites, including My Mind Is A Birdcage, Utter Silence Is Fragile, and three out of four songs on their recent stellar EP Heir. But at their yet-to-be-booked first Gothenburg show ever in the hopefully not-so-distant future, I would love to also get to hear the title track from their debut album: Quiet, Pull the Strings!, and my absolute favorite Suis song: Fingers. Voice. Heart. Shake. Shake. Shake.

For some reason, I thought they would have a hard time recreating their intricate dynamics in the live setting, but I couldn't have been more wrong. For a band that only plays live sporadically (although the members tour a fair amount with their respective side projects, such as Mixtapes & Cellmates and Björn Kleinhenz) and claimed to rarely have time to practice (due to being geographically dispersed, I suppose), they are an astoundingly potent live act. The only evidence of their lack of rehearsals was the recurring debates about what song to play next, but that just added to the intimacy of the show. The band also displayed a genuinely positive attitude, Henning showing his appreciation for the organizers and the other bands, which he also requested us to support. Kalle, on his part, brought to our attention the demise of the Gothenburg-based distro Release The Bats (although the label will live on).

Suis La Lune don't get anywhere near the amount of attention they deserve. But after that night, they are in my book undoubtedly Sweden's best live band (topping the amazing Immanu El), and one of the best I have ever had the pleasure of seeing play. It felt like everybody there knew that we were experiencing something unusually authentic. That, and the exhilaration I felt afterwards, reminded me of last summer's Sigur Rós concert in Slottsskogen and of why I go to so much trouble to see concerts such as this one.

Setlist:
01. With Wings of Feathers and Glue
02. September Gave Us Awkwardness, October Gave Me Nothing
03. Utter Silence Is Fragile
04. This Heart Easily Tears (video)
05. A Letter - A Void
06. Can't Believe I Spelled It Out For You
07. Let the Bastards Come
08. (Untitled new song) (video)
09. Parts of Emily
10. My Mind Is A Birdcage

Commenti

  • aerach

    The Kyte gig was cool - my 5th time to see them now and the first time as a foursome - when did that happen? Thanks for requesting Planet though! I remember you doing so you were a few places to my left at the front.

    Mag 21 2009, 23:37
  • iliketoknitfool

    thanks for the kind words! also really like your writing!

    Mag 22 2009, 19:35
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