This is another extended version of a recently published review for the excellent Getintothis, as usual mainly adding more personal irrelevances.
It seemed like a while since my last gig, but it was only a month after another visit to The Kazimier to see Hookworms. I hope the threat to the Kaz and Nation, and that surrounding area, stays away as the Kaz has become probably my all-time favourite venue since moving to Liverpool, taking the role that The Leadmill played when I was a student in Sheffield, or the Borderline or Water Rats at times in London, as the perfect little place to see great bands.
I had time for a quick trip to the Dispensary for a pint of an American IPA and then a return visit to the bar (for another hoppy pint, Oakham’s Inferno), during which Simon Mignolet somehow managed to present Ludogorets Razgrad with the chance to open the lead against the mighty reds. I was hoping that my inability to watch the game would help in the team’s quest to actually find some form this season, and it (maybe) appears to have done that as we went on to draw 2-2 and have won both League games since. Fingers crossed…
I had to leave with the score level at 1-1 as I was very eager to see support act Shopping. In fact, when the show was announced it was them who I wanted to see, not really knowing anything about Merchandise at the time I decided to go to the gig and agreed to write a preview for Getintothis. I didn’t know all that much about Shopping, but had heard them a few times on Marc Riley’s show on BBC 6 Music. The scene was nicely set by a load of The Jesus And Mary Chain being played (after the Ride/MBV/Lush set at the last Kaz gig I went to, clearly we have a man of a certain age and taste behind the decks, after part of my own heart), and a pint of Liverpool Organic’s 24 Carat Gold.
Shopping are a London-based three piece, who seemed to have stepped right out of a slot midway down a 1981 Futurama festival bill. Or perhaps 1979, but oddly enough not 1980. Their funky, angular but tuneful post-punk sound is blended from the individual, primitive noises of Rachel Aggs on skittering guitar, bassist Billy Easter and drummer Andrew Milk, with Aggs and Milk sharing and trading vocal duties. Aggs brought back memories of singers like the late Poly Styrene and Siouxsie Sioux, while Milk’s deadpan style fitted lyrics about things like changing the system.
Their first number was a typically angular, post-punk instrumental, while they soon displayed their relaxed attitude when the drummer asked “how does this one start?”, only to find out that it was the bassist’s turn to begin a song whose lyrics included the so-simple-it’s-inspired “blah blah blah blah blah”.
Rarely have I seen a band looking so enthusiastically uncool in the traditional sense, but in such a don’t-care way that they actually looked great. Aggs and Milk were both wearing shorts, with the drummer sporting a Suburban Lawns t-shirt, an obscure American post-punk band who I have had to Google to even write that much about them. The bassist had an Elastica t-shirt on under her Fila sweatshirt, accompanied by DMs and turned-up black jeans. Back in school I’d have probably called her a “gam”, which seems to have a very different slang meaning these days to back then when it simply referred to someone being far from cool. But, she like the others was very cool in her un-coolness… My Beloved Wife will no doubt be thinking “hark at Gok” on reading this paragraph, due to my limited interest in my own personal style!
I tweeted the band after they had gone off, saying “that was the best support slot I’ve seen all year”, which pretty much sums up their excellent set. It was also lovely to then see all three members of the band enthusiastically enjoying the main act from right down the front.
Merchandise are a Florida-based five-piece made up of frontman and guitarist Carson Cox, pipe cleaner-legged guitarist David Vassalotti, Patrick Brady on bass, Chris Horn on second guitar and the wonderfully-named and -coiffed drummer Elsner Nino, who looked like a mad cross between Gene Simmons from Kiss and David Gest.
“After The End”, their third full-lengther and first for 4AD, came out last August, and the songs played from it really came to life on stage. They are a good fit for the label, bringing to mind some of the classic bands from Ivo Watts-Russell’s imprint, but much ballsier in person than that sounds. They started the gig with the opening two tracks from this release, the instrumental “Corridor” and then a harder-edged version of “Enemy”, which brings to mind 80’s indie greats such as Felt, with Cox’s baritone somewhat recalling Peter Astor from The Loft and The Weather Prophets, and a somewhat less stellar solo career.
There was limited banter from the stage, but they did dedicate successive songs to support act Shopping and Shakespeare, as well as wryly warning the somewhat thin crowd that “dancing is the prelude to sex”. Vassalotti’s guitar work had elements of Johnny Marr in it, but also hints of the somewhat less hip Peter Frampton. Highlights of the show included “Telephone” off the new release and the dark, jangly sounds of this year’s “Figured Out”, which was issued on a split 12” single. They also played the rocky “I Get Lost” off their first album “(Strange Songs) In The Dark”. Having never heard any Merchandise before deciding to go to this gig, I had rapidly devoured much of their stuff, but the debut remains elusive.
Their short but blistering set ended with the title track of their latest album, but they soon returned to encore with the excellent “Time” from second LP “Children Of Desire”, as Cox continued his love-in with Shopping by wearing their t-shirt.
Quite possibly the gig of the year, nicely rounded off by the DJ returning to his JAMC collection for the glorious “Just Like Honey”. If neither band played a song as good as that, that’s no reflection on what a top night it was.
I went for my indie hipster cool red Guided By Voices one. A poor band t-shirt turn out tonight, apart from on stage. Or possibly I was too busy enjoying the gig to notice.