Given my recent history of attending small, local gigs and/or occasionally just listening to my cat’s melodic purr whilst crying into a bowl of cereal, alone – the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour 2013 was a welcome change, to say the least. Despite being cumbersome, the sponsor-filled title of this annual event is in fact wholly appropriate for such a showbiz spectacle - which is evidently pumped fulla dolla and whose acts’ reception on the night is directly correlated with their ability to provide fitting music for a hair gel advert.
Indeed, the audience are much more ready for this gelly (lol), more popular indie-rock sound, than they are for the experimental side of this collection of bands, which might be loosely categorised as part of the ‘6music staple’. Openers Peace immediately prove popular, especially with their distinguishing trait ‘Bloodshake’, which does for them what 'Milkshake' did for Kelis. Having brought all the boys to the yard, next up are Palma Violets. Occasionally sounding like a more psychedelic version of the Jim Jones Revue, the band often loses the crowd’s grip, who mainly seem here for one thing: Miles Kane.
Who is Miles Kane I hear you ask? The Arctic Monkeys, I respond. Indeed, although the two directly cross paths in supergroup The Last Shadow Puppets, the similarities between the two are even more striking live. As was true of the Arctic Monkey’s own performance in Cardiff a few years back, Kane manages to whip up support from the audience like a one-man football team. A step-up in the lightshow accompanies the crowd’s chanting-back of the lyrics of major hits such as ‘Rearrange’ (an indie-rock version of Amadou and Mariam’s ‘Sabali’?). It’s hard not to enjoy the feeling of being in a hair gel advert, even though I’m more of a wax man myself.
The cultish fervour of Miles Kane is further elucidated against the reception of headliners Django Django - and I mean against. Putting on a band who sound like The Beach Boys playing SNES after Miles Kane is rather like putting horse meat in a beef burger; although most of the audience probably have little issue with horse meat per se and would actually quite like to try it, when they pay for beef, they want beef. The change in lighting for the band’s performance is the first sign of this contrast for those unfamiliar with the meats on offer tonight. The Great Hall is darkened into a small space, the band performing with horizontal lines of light shining across them as if they were being interrogated by their audience in a beachside studio in California (and at times it feels as if they are). ‘Hail Bop’ is an obvious opener, but we’ll leave the naming of songs played there, because Django Django couldn’t be further from the lyrically-driven bands which they accompany tonight. Whilst Miles Kane successfully ends with incomprehensible chants of ‘WOAAH AHHH” (from ‘Come Closer’), Django Django raise the bar by framing their vocals with some sort of acoustic kaleidoscope (which they must be hiding amidst the treasure-trove of contraptions they showcase throughout the set). This is apparently too confusing for some, who choose to throw bottles in an attempt to exorcise the demon. But the demon, which is always humble and speaks in a placid Northern Irish tongue, is able to at least tempt the religious zealots, altering the trajectories of their projectiles from stageward to a celebratory, vertical angle. Having seamlessly administered what may also be described as A Fistful of Dance Music, but perhaps to the wrong patients, lead vocalist Vincent Neff’s final words are ‘See you in the future!...Maybe!’. As this jolly-as-ever declaration continues to electronically echo for some 30 seconds after the band have left the stage, I realise exactly how I feel about the Shockwaves NME Unflattering Mismatch of Bands – but you can scratch the ‘maybe’ as far as Django Django goes.