[buy the fanzine | robots on the web | mail us]
the guy who invented fire
Windsor for the Derby/ ML @ Sanctuary Cafe, Cella, Brighton
(6th January 2003)
Some places are built for great gigs and some have great gigs thrust upon them. Unfortunately the Sanctuary Cafe in Brighton falls rather heavily into the latter category. You are more likely to eat a tofu and nut paté sandwich in the basement (or Cella as they so wittily call it) than hear cool new music. This venue bizarrely only allows two musicians on stage at any time and doesn't allow them to play at any volume approaching audible. And what have we got tonight, ML, a new hardcore electronica project which prides itself on the military technology used to make the bass rip apart your speaker cones, followed by Windsor for the Derby, a four, yes four, piece band with a real drum-kit, presumably real drummer and real amplified electric guitars. This is not going to be an easy ride for our American friends, who are on their first UK date of their European tour, and it looks dangerously like a blind one...
As I arrived early I was lucky to witness the tortured moment when the band where politely informed that only two of them would be allowed on stage at a time, and oh could they keep the volume down. Windsor having just flown in from the continent seemed completely and utterly blown away. No doubt they had heard of England as a quaint little place with bizarre oldy-worldy habits and customs, but man, come on, what the fuck is this? Their expressions said it all, first disbelief, then amazement, denial, and then fear. Fuck these Brits are for real, they are for fucking real. They are asking us to somehow rewrite our set for two people and to play in semi-silence.
After a series of negotiations with the cafe they up the number to three. Now this is real crazy for the Americans. They can have three of their four-piece. Like yeah that makes much more sense. So who do we lose? The drummer, the singer, a guitarist. Er.. right. They storm off and call an impromptu Windsor meeting. They are not very impressed. Meanwhile ML is soundchecking the loud tortured sounds of lonely analogue keyboards being impaled on digital bit crunchers. This is clearly not helping the tension in the room.
It looks dangerously like the Windsors are not going to play ball with this particularly English googly. All eyes focus on the band as the promoter goes off to convince the owner to compromise, maybe only two of them will play at once, perhaps they can stand on each others shoulders, maybe they will play alternate parts, god knows there must be a way through this. And after a long and painful wait the cafe relents, and suddenly its all on again. Hurrah for the English sense of fair play, a fair chance and chips 'n nut-paté. The band sound check, loud and strong, the cafe informs them that there may be four of them but they must be as quiet as mice... this is going to be a strange gig...
Its dark and fucking freezing in the Cella. If they'd had any sense they would have named it the Freeza. The only ones who look even the slightest bit comfortable are the Fat Cat DJs who seem to be having great fun swapping esoteric Mongolian nose-flute electronica, and then playing it for two fucking hours. Great. Bit of a tip boys, sometimes its nice to actually play something that not only the illuminati have heard. It is not selling out if more than five people have heard of the band.
Following the usual Fat Cat obscuronica the first band ML, otherwise known as David Meme vaults onto the stage, he is a brighton based musician who seems to hatch new band identities with every passing day. He kicks off with a gentle sweet electronica number presumably to butter up the cafe owners who seemed to have deposited secret police in the audience to watch for on-stage volume transgressions. And then by track 3, my ears catch the slightest twist of the volume knob, a movement of the bass EQ... With each passing track it is more like listening to a band than a radio playing faintly in another room. And yet there are stirrings across the room, the volume police are straining...
ML is definitely to be played loud, the louder the better, and as he cheekily ups the sound so is the potential for a coup d'electronica. And as we come to 'Heavy Artillery', a particularly aptly named track, we feel the subsonic sounds of the foundations moving as the volume control seems to have edged much further. And suddenly the volume police pounce, and ML is all smiles, oh yes he seems to be saying, a slight accident, his hand motions downwards, yes, I imagine him saying, I'll turn it straight down, but he doesn't. And it seems to get louder... And I like it, this is it, my kind of electronica, loud, hard and you want to move to it. And yes this was his last one so he didn't give a fuck.
After a suitably dignified Fat Cat filled pause the Windsors take to the stage. The look like a band, there are four of them which is strange for a four piece at the Sanctuary - one expects the cafe's band mutilation technique is more often successful. Although the stage was built for singer-songwriters and their bongo-player, they somehow all manage to squeeze on. And they are looking good, and I mean cool, even the bearded one, Dan Matz, who looks like a dad who had to fill in whilst one of the guitarists was ill. They tell us that they have to play quiet and apologise but there's a cheeky smile shared across the band and I for one don't believe anything Texans say (even the nice ones).
With their first number the whole audience leans forward as one to strain to hear the song which even through this adversity sounds strangely lush and beautiful. And then to our collective horror the volume police pounce. This is not making any sense at all and Jason McNeely throws down the guitar in disgust and for a nasty few seconds we think its all over. But with pained faces the volumes go down and they carry on, it seems that our American friends can still learn a few tricks from the Brits.
Windsor for the Derby were majestic, soaring, moving and loud. Yes LOUD. They too apply the trick of starting quiet and little by little edging that volume control up past 2, then 3, far past 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and oh yes, the big 11. It was slow, it was invisible and the volume police only caught on by the last track by which time Windsor were waking up the dead. And that was it. The band were off, the volume police were celebrating a semi-success, but they were caught off-guard by the clamour of the audience. The cries from the crowd were almost heart-breaking, they wanted more, they shouted more and they wanted louder, and then suddenly the Windsors were back on, and they promised a quiet track, despite the audience calls for it to be louder and turned up. And they did it again, the cheeky monkeys, louder and louder, and louder and LOUDER and they were fantastic, they triumphed against adversity and petty British cafe rules and they were truly fucking excellent.
To be honest its not often I leave a gig feeling like I have fought a war with the bands but tonight we were all together against the rules, against music at a volume your Dad would like, against all that is anodyne, dying and lifeless and we won. We fucking won.
(Trine Bjørkman Andreassen)
Read the rest of Robots and Electronic Brains