I think this was part of the The Phantom Band (TPB) for nearly a year now. It’s been too long. However, the thought of checking out a new venue is almost as exciting. Somewhere in my mind I think the curry shop inferno that thankfully wrecked the Liquid Rooms is the reason that Electric Circus has surfaced; new/temporary premises. I very likely couldn’t be further from right. There’s a genuine feeling in here of a hot trendy club tolerating some live acts for the sake of doing something for the festival and coping with the crunch. As a result they have a PA system that I’m very sure is astounding for DJing through. But, for a live act, it’s too boxy and clipped, which I suspect is suffice (nay ideal) for a boutique band like Fangs (who played the night before) or for Peaches next album launch PAs, Irrespective of the sound deficiencies, the venue simply can’t accommodate something like the TPB. No, genuinely, they don’t fit on the stage. Six fellas (a few of them tall and lanky) trying to seriously rock on what looks like a japanese techno envelope. Hey, at least you can see the stage from pretty much anywhere n there. (That should read the “main room”, apparently, it’s been pointed out to me that they have ‘private’ booths and stuff like that snaking out from said room.) So, a distinct ‘meh’ on the venue, with the qualification; at least for this kinda stuff.
And, what a kinda stuff it is. We are treated to debut album Checkmate Savage, definitely the best homegrown album of the year and very possibly the best from anywhere (the few hotly anticipated ones still to come will really need to exceed expectation to catch this brooding beast), in it’s entirety. There is a sense restraint in those tracks. Not in the genteel Ps&Qs way but in the sense of straining against bounds. In the live are, the chains have slipped slightly and we get a slightly wilder howl as they struggle for something.
The slightly awkward band I saw last time round are gone, in their place are an affably swaggering group surefooted and assured that what they are bestowing on us is worth venturing out on this fittingly dank and dreary night. By the time they push the bounds of the tiny PA and smaller stage to give full reign to the Morricone-majesty of Burial Sounds we’re with them all the way. My, admittedly up on holiday and slightly worse for wear, colleague who is a stranger to the band just keeps mumbling that’s f***’n gorgeous thoughout Island. And, he’s right.
I may be straying into Pseuds-corner when I start to wax about this lot. But, they are that astounding. However, let that not be a reflection upon them. Where TPB are doing it right, so to speak, is by not succumbing into the obvious pitfalls their peers seem to love so much. There’s is an honest music with no taint of the pretension that’s near fatally lumbered My Latest Novel (c’mon, three years for that?). You can singalong, but without falling for the laddish football chantism that Frightened Rabbit seem to have adopted to conquer as big a market as possible. And, they are epic without the pomposity of Broken Records. Theirs is the motorik soundtrack to some european road movie through the lest picturesque corners of the west coast.
A gig that managed to do what music is meant to do, depite the contraints of the venue.