Powerplant / Legss / Folly Group – Old Blue Last, 11 March 2020

Powerplant / Legss / Folly Group – Old Blue Last, 11 March 2020

Impenetrable poetry with Legss, coal-powered punk and inspirations of self-doubt

Last night I saw Powerplant, Legss and Folly Group at the Old Blue Last.

Ahead of arrival, I sat in the window of the Shoreditch High Street Pret, drinking coffee and writing six (very) short stories.

I mention this, because prior to the gig I was elated with my imagined artistic credentials. Afterwards, I wasn’t.

Legss’ impenetrably poetic performance forced me to reassess my recent literary output. It helped me conclude that I’m still wanting.

It’s one hell of a thing when a band inspires that sort of retrospection.

English Literature Students Must Know Legss

I’ll start by setting the scene.

Upstairs, the Old Blue Last was rammed with English Literature students from Queen Mary. Considering Coronavirus achieved pandemic status earlier that afternoon, it was an impressive turnout. It also made me notice that the air was acrid, and the usual East London scents weren’t in attendance.

Before the first band, the crowd muttered of assignments due, lecture attendance, summer aspirations, and how often they’d been to Printworks.

Pints were swilled with youthful enthusiasm. Maybe gulped is better.

Someone even wandered around the crowd, shouting to his friends, “You know what we should do, we should buy some drugs.” Yet to realise that everyone does drugs and it’s not really worth screaming about.

It was cool to be present with a student audience though, however obnoxious they may have been. At least they actually seemed to be excited about something.

Folly Group

First up were Folly Group, an experimental, four piece electronic, punk (?) band from London.

Interestingly, they had two percussionists.

Maracas shook, pulse tubes chimed, the vocalist braaped, and the guitarist and bassist shifted scales up and down with reckless abandon.

Each song employed contrasting tempos, but the only one I recognised was Butt Not Rifle (probably because it’s the only one on Folly Group’s Soundcloud and the only one I know). 

The set was interesting, but it was hard to distinguish between songs. So I guess that means some of it lacked distinction.

Legss

Before Legss took the stage, I unknowingly stood behind a young man with a mullet and a clam-shell necklace. Who knew he’d be the drummer?

Get your Legss out

Legss kicked off their set with a poem that was hard to navigate, but made the night’s keywords easily identifiable (yes, Folly Group and Powerplant got a mention). 

The baseball cap adorned singer references the mundane against the literary and the group acknowledged that this was Legss main draw. Stories of the banal, and yet not so banal, spoken in a way that reminds you of how Pete Doherty rambles, but with better references and way, way more bite.

It was strange that the frontman’s manc accent (??) didn’t translate into his performance. Unless it was a concept thing about how poetry should only be spoken proper. Either way, it made for strange listening against the ‘banter’ between sets.

His lyrics bewildered, but intrigued, that may not really make that much sense when they’re drilled down, but they were the sort of thing that could inspire you to fear and question your own ability to write prose.

I’m focussing too much on the singer. It sounds like I’ve got a crush.

Instrumentally, Legss were an expected post-punk affair. One lead into a song sounded almost exactly like Slint’s Good Morning, Captain. Perhaps it was.

Everything worked, perhaps because it’s easier to weave bizzare concepts with words than experimental sounds.

Legss were bold, pretentious and very different.

I really liked Legss, but perhaps that’s down to me wanting to be bold, pretentious and very different.

You should really go and see them.

Powerplant

With a fill of Legss, I considered leaving before Powerplant started, but having wedged myself in the corner and suddenly surrounded by students, I was forced to stay. 

Can you see his bowl cut from here?

Powerplant played explosive, proto-punk with some electronic elements. 

The frontman had an almost Johnny Ramone bowl cut. He also kept requesting more guitar, which is in form with a Powerplant. Did you know that a coal firing power station can take up to six months to prep (clean)?

I’d heard Powerplant’s recordings before and found them flat. Not so live.

In stark contrast to Legss, it wasn’t like they were really doing anything that new, but they did play well constructed, muscular punk. While listening through all of their latest album, People In The Sun, can get samey very quickly, it was actually really electric live.

The crowd liked it too.

But I think most of them had only gone to throw beers, get soggy and inappropriately touch their friends.

Perhaps punk and metal gigs are some of the last bastions of sexual harassment.

I wouldn’t know. I was standing in the corner.

The Wants / Happy Couple – Lexington, 27 February 2020

Why Want The Wants? Because it’s your chance to surrender to a life punctuated by comically small beanies, song deficits and trips to the bathroom with all of your favourite guys.

Apparently I’m not talented enough to capture how much The Wants are into Twin Peaks

This Wednesday, I saw The Wants at the Lexington. They’re a New York post-punk band, who are apparently “Led by [an] elusive duality of personas, which oscillate between earnestly romantic and unsettlingly deadpan.” Two-thirds of the band are also in art rock five-piece, Bodega, which explains some of the current buzz about them. Perhaps that’s why they’re able to describe themselves with such style

The Wants are currently promoting the upcoming release of their debut album, Container, out on 13 March 2020. Wednesday’s show was supported by Happy Couple.

They Want The Wants

I didn’t pay to see the show. My girlfriend had an extra ticket. 

I wasn’t her first choice of company. She’d planned to go with a friend. Apparently, sometimes they both treat the process of buying gig tickets as a seduction raffle. In this case, the prize was a chance to bag The Wants’ unconventionally handsome, Madison Velding-VanDam. However, when the aforementioned friend discovered that DIIV, an apparently prettier band, were playing the same night, she took the plunge and my girlfriend was left treading water with me. 

I hadn’t listened to anything released by The Wants prior to the gig, so I went in cold. 

However, having now listened to everything they’ve got on Spotify (on repeat); the Motor, Fear My Society, Clearly A Crisis and Container; I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re actually pretty cool, albeit, there’s not a whole lot to go on.

While I was listening to The Wants, my flatmate compared them to Butthole Surfers. Considering his playlists are dominated by Adele and Billie Eilish, it isn’t the worst comparison. But I’d say they’re more like Talking Heads, with an engine running on ambient techno and a quirk suppressor (they’d take it off, but these days, the environment’s a big issue).

Canned Curiosity

Before the show had even started, the merchandise stand became a talking point. 

Instead of stacks of 12” LPs and cassettes, the shop window was piled high with cans of tinned food, unlabelled. Despite the obvious guess being that this was to help attendees self-isolate in the event they contracted Coronavirus at the gig, it turned out to be a cool way to add physicality to preordering The Wants upcoming album Container.

What better preorder incentive than a little apocalypse cuisine?

I was severely disappointed to learn that all of the cans contained peas. Word of advice The Wants, next consider the possibility of a couple of cans of Fray Bentos.

Who’s The Happy Couple?

First to play were female-fronted, three-piece Happy Couple. They kicked it off with a frenetic, bass-driven, noise rock set. 

So, when are you guys moving in together?

Happy Couple offered a selection of songs that were a tauter, more accessible, take on Kim Gordon-led efforts from Sonic Youth’s major label era. While there’s often a tendency for noise rock to sound a bit samey, Happy Couple delivered plenty of diversity. Altogether, a pretty sound support.

What About The Wants?

Headliners, The Wants ran through a limited catalogue with a certain poise. 

The set was short. Really short. Departure time was 22:00, even with the encore. Similarly, every song ended impressively abruptly, as if it was a theme.

Live, The Motor was slick. It was also charming to see frontman, Madison Velding-VanDam so VanDam-elated, making considerable use of the confined space. On the night, his onstage antics seemed to be taking cues from a certain David Bryne’s brand of bizarre. 

But I want to see The Wants!

While his enthusiasm did nothing to propagate the promise of deadpan, it worked, with the exception of Fear My Society. It sounded a bit like someone reciting keywords from a Medium article, losing a bit of its otherwise stirring atmosphere of the recording. That’s to say, I was initially turned off the song during the gig, but arrived at liking it.

I shouldn’t forget that my girlfriend thought the show’s highlight was bassist Heather Elle’s Wednesday Adams dress. Given that I know even less about dresses than I do about music, I’ll refrain from providing an opinion.

Conformity of Cool

Forgetting The Wants, one of the most striking things about the gig was the conformity of the crowd. 

It was like walking down Broadway Market on a Saturday.

A sea of tea-pot-cosy inspired hats, more mullets than I care to mention, the heavy stench of that scent every girl in east London wears (you know the one I’m talking about), leather trousers, moustaches and those dangly cross earrings. I guess it happens with fad, but this really seems to be a uniform.

“I’m more of an All Day Breakfast Kinda Guy. Can’t you tell? That’s why my teapot-warmer, I mean beanie, is brown and I have moustache to disguise my disfigured upper lip.”

Now, while I’ll admit I wasn’t there because I adore The Wants, it felt like I wasn’t the only one. Despite the evident draw of the band, it was as if the majority of the crowd were there because this could, for all intents and purposes, be perceived as a Bodega side-project, making attendance less of a risk (in terms of maximising cool time) than another band may be.

Standing in the crowd, it felt at times like everyone was auditioning for a leading role in the next Churchill advert, ominously nodding their heads to songs they weren’t familiar with.

I don’t write this to be judgemental, or maybe I do. But there wasn’t the vibe that people were there to see a band they liked. I’m guilty of this too, but I think the atmosphere suffered.

Perhaps that’s why there were so many boys going to the bathroom in threes. 

You know, so they could complement each other on their facial grooming techniques while washing their hands.