Saturday, 6 November 2010

LIVE REVIEW: Egyptian Hip Hop w/ Fiction & Connan Mockasin @ XOYO, 4th November

Something of a stranger to gigging alone, even my failure to find an enthusiastic friend amongst my phonebook couldn't keep me away from Shoreditch this evening. The opportunity to see Egyptian Hip Hop for the fourth time with two equally as exciting bands in support trumped the prospect of awkwardly cradling a cider in the corner between songs and a lonely tube ride home. Having chosen the correct exit of Old Street's six thousand, in a stroke of luck, I arrive at XOYO, beating Google's ETA (mental air punch for me) I buy one of the most expensive bottles of cider known to man at £3.80 and make a mental note to make it last. It's my first time at the new venue, nestled down an East London side street, deceptively cavenous, bathed in dry ice, band merch gaffa taped to the black walls. Like most large venues, it only really comes into its own once its filled up and it starts to do so once first support act and London locals, Fiction, take to the stage.

I missed Fiction supporting Maps and Atlases at nearby Cargo a few weeks ago (blame TFL), so having abused their Myspace player ever since, it is with considerable anticipation that I cling at the barrier like my 14 (16) year old self at my first McFly gig (don't judge me). Three quarters of the band dressed in customary suits of black, their faces illuminated only by the lights lining the circumference of the drums dividing the stage in two; their stage presence is formidable. The quartet are fast to unleash their jerky, tribal pop on the unsuspecting audience with set opener "Simulacrum". Pounding drums and chiming guitars juxtaposed against catchy "ooh aah"s and playful refrain "maybe I will get a tattoo, a badly drawn picture of you." Personal highlight is vaguely wacky number "Phyllis" when Mike and James take again to the drums, thrashing at them mercilessly until a proggy hook kicks in, even featuring a cheeky wub wub towards the end. It's difficult to draw any substantial comparisons with their contemporaries; the guitars are almost Foals-esque math-rock and the vocalist is a poor man's Brian Ferry (atleast according to my Mum who I ran this review past). But, vastly speaking, they genuinely do have a sound of their own.

The same can be said of second support act, Connan Mockasin, whom I will openly admit, I was not overly familiar with before this evening. A favourite of Erol Alkan whose label released his latest single "Please Turn Me Into The Snat", lead singer (you guessed it) Connan is not, contrary to popular rumour, a classically trained jazz musician or part-Kiwi, part-Londoner, but he is a total dude. Even minus this intriguing back story you're still left with the most psychedelic slow jams known to man that this man produces and he makes for a captivating live act. Baby-faced, platinum-mopped Connan takes to the stage with drummer and bassist in tow, opening with debut album track "It's Choade My Dear". The audience quickly fall under his spell as his striking falsetto whispers "please, take it off" and I see a few of the front row visibly swoon. Connan's sultry funk is, unfortunately, at the mercy of the sound system and he is victim of some harsh feedback during the course of his set. The distraction away from his general guitar-god-ness is minimal thankfully and the audience are suitably spellbound by the time he humbly bows his head and makes an exit.

By the time tonight's headliners take to the stage come 10:15, XOYO is almost full to the rafters and the four piece are greeted to warm applause (and even the rouge "woop") as they take up their instruments. As aforementioned, this is the fourth time I've seen them live and I won't lie and say that they are a flawless live act. They're not. They are still a little chaotic, there are a couple of bum notes here and there, they occasionally slip out of time. However, they are a young band (it's alright, I'm 18, I can say that without being patronising) with heaps of potential and they've gotten progressively better each time I've seen them. Tonight is no different. The quartet open their set with a storm of noise before breaking into slow number "Snakeboarding", prog-rock influences worn on their torn sleeves, throbbing bass line felt in the chest of anyone standing within 100 metres of the stage (everyone). These long, drawn out jams almost work better and feel more natural to the band than the more structured songs in their repertoire. "Middle Name Period" and "Floppy Ghost" are particular highlights, both driven by frisky rhythms and dreamy, layered synths. Crowd pleasers include disco spectacular "Moon Crooner", Alex Hewett's vocal delivered in his signature husky drawl (one particularly persistent fan screams for a repeat throughout the set) and set-closer "Wild Human Child", poppy melodies and heavy bassline again driving the track. Between-song banter is at a minimum, Alex only occasionally leering at the microphone to lazily introduce a song or to sign off at the end of their set with, "errr, t-shirts are over there". This is unimportant though when their music speaks such volumes. These boys will go far.

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