Friday, 25 March 2011


Midgar *****
Arcane Roots*****
We The Machines*****
The Transmitters*****
Camden Barfly 22nd March 2011

The Barfly. Tidy.
I always forget just how small the Barfly is. It's small. No, really small. A bit like your nan's front room without a fake flame effect electric fire and the bowl of mint imperials. But it's a great, great venue.

This evening it seems to be home to a flock of photographers. In fact, as I was tucking in to my first pint as an early arrival, the snappers outnumbered the punters. It was like the pavement outside Nobu. Couldn't work out why.

Anyway, first up were (The?) Transmitters. Well, just about. The bass, guitar and drums were milling about on stage for ages waiting for their front man. Then a diminutive wee girlie in a tight green mini-dress sauntered on to the diminutive wee stage. I know nothing about The Transmitters, but I'm led to believe that their singer, Roxanne Gregory is, or has been, a model. Pennies started dropping as the Papparazzi pit sprung into life thrusting their impressive lenses towards the diminutive wee girlie. She lapped it up.

Diminutive, rubbish to be honest.

But enough of all that, what about the band? Well, the band looked like a bunch of eighties era Red Wedge/Kane Gang session men. Pork pie hats and Epihone Sheratons 'n' all. And the diminutive wee girlie danced like an eighties refugee. Claire Grogan meets that comedy bloke that 'did' Irene Cara in that comedy dance programme. Comically.

Ok, I'm rambling. Let's cut to the chase. They were rubbish. Really, really rubbish. Yeah, they could play. The diminutive wee girlie could hold a tune in a high-pitched indie bird kind of stylee. But they were rubbish. There was nothing original here. At all. Been there. Seen it. Heard it. Definitely didn't by the t-shirt. Really disappointing derivative indie bollocks. Shame. And very odd to shoe-horn them into what was essentially a rock evening.

Mercifully, however, the set was cut dramatically short. The sound man piped up over the talkback after the first song informing a clearly flustered diminutive wee girlie that they only had one more. They appeared to have been half an hour late coming on stage so, thankfully, even after an amusing but heated altercation between the sound guy and a member of the band's crew/management, we only had to suffer for three painfully ennui-ridden dire dirges. Thank goodness for diminutive wee mercies.

Next up were a group of wholesome-looking young lads form Exeter, We The Machines.

Nice outfits boys.
Ok, we'll get the weirdness out of the way first. They were all wearing coordinated outfits. Black shirts, T-shirts and turtlenecks with white trousers. Not quite a sassy Hives thing. More cruise ship, six form band, Butlins or a barbershop quartet. But at least they made an effort.

The ceiling at The Barfly is notoriously low

Saying that, it didn't matter a sod what they were wearing. They started strong and got stronger. Intricate rhythms, time sigs and great playing throughout (broken strings, and some minor tuning issues notwithstanding), they were really rather good. Catchy refrains, chuggy de-tuned djenty guitars over ethereal arpeggios and lashings of energy. And some great vox. Both lead and back up harmonies. Thoroughly enjoyable. Even accounting for the Moseley Black shirt fashion faux-pas. 

It's great to see young guys making complex, accomplished and generally, well, such good music. 

So the ante had been well and truly upped. The crowd had swelled and nan's front room was now pretty much full. Next up was Biffy Clyro. No wait a minute...

A cheap, obvious and purely specious comparison based solely on the fact that 
Arcane Roots's front man has a beard, wears a vest, has a couple of tattoos and looks a bit like Simon from the Biff. Oh, and he holds his guitar up high.

'Mon the roots.
Enough of all that. What were we in for? They looked like they meant business. After the cheeky, mum-friendly Exeter 6 formers, this trio looked like the bad lads from behind the school. A bit scowly and definitely hard.

But they were bloody brilliant. Fantastic guitar work, crisp and technically tight-as-a-tick drumming all glued together with oxy-acetylene strength bass and topped with searing and soaring soprano Mars Volta-esque vocals with a generous smattering of rarrrrrr!

A wee smattering of Rarrrr.
I was genuinely taken aback. Startling ability married with originality and genuine raw-arsed rock energy. There were elements of Ruben, The Xcerts, Frank Zappa, At The Drive In and eve The White Stripes (if they'd been any good!). 

And it worked a treat.

A great mash up and melting pot of all sorts. And I loved it. Bought the album as soon as I got home from Bandcamp. Have a listen below. It's bloody brilliant.

They were going to be a hard act to follow. The house lights dimmed, dramatic wheezes, pops, hums and drones filled the room. The crowd all breathed in...boom.

Flock of Seagulls?
Oh yes, Midgar are destined for major stardom if there's any justice. They kicked off in fine style and rocked nan's front room to pieces. This lot are slick, tight, sickeningly talented, easy on the eye and damn, they rock and roll. And Andy Wilson-Taylor's voice is melodic, powerful, sensitive and distinctive. The laydees are going to love him.

Andy really loved being compared to fucking 30STM!
The set continued apace. A very stylish and short-haired Steve Sitkowski (of Outcry Collective fame) hopped up on stage to provide the raucous screaming for the ever impressive Lead your Children To The Sky (vid below). They aired a couple of new songs they banged out a couple of flawless versions of tunes they'd never played live before including the haunting Avalon.

Colour Me had the crowd joining in, The epic Vincent's Requiem hit the spot perfectly and The latest Single Karmic Retribution was a highlight with its Chopin-inspired piano backdrop and gut-grabbing guitar drops perfectly summing up the contrast and light and shade that has already become Midgar's signature.

The musicianship throughout was spellbinding, complex yet accessible and the tight, heavy, high gain, deep, dirty guitars seriously kicked buttocks. Hard. With a run up. And wearing heavy boots. 

They looked as though they enjoyed it. The crowd certainly loved it. And I'm sure more and more folk will be joining the love-in before too long.
Go on, Smile.
In short, they were totally fucking fabulous. Definitely a more youth-friendly band than the more muso-appealing Arcane Roots, and given a wider exposure will end up inevitably in the same breath as 30STM (sadly, as they're miles better). 

But I was seriously privileged to see them in such intimate surroundings. Shame I couldn't say the same about The Transmitters. Sigh.

The fantastic Xcerts coming up in a week or so.

More tunes soon. Bwoooar!

In the meantime, enjoy...Lead Your Children to The Sky...

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