I’d always known it but being here has confirmed it: Europeans LOVE bad dance music. I heard Robbie Williams’ “Angels” for the second time recently. This time I was prepared enough to sing along and record it. But after a month of dancing to repetitious beats with vocoders singing over them, I’m supremely thankful for every 50 Cent song that gets played. But I have an entirely different kind of thanks for my friends for getting me out to shows. Last week, Lorenzo got me out to the Clash of the Titans semi-finals (a battle of the bands) and last night Cody convinced me to see The King Khan & BBQ Show.
Clash of the Titans
We were mistaken about the starting time and consequently missed Natureboy, a jazz-hip-hop act. We did, however, arrive just in time to see Leslie Grows, an Interpol-esque act with Franz Ferdinand angular-guitar riff tendencies. Too bad I didn’t discover them when I was 17. I would have been all over this shit. But based on music alone, they were my favourite band of the night. They did lack all sort of stage presence but they’re cute, so you know.
It’s silly to assume that the only rap music is only made in English but it just never occurred to me that there was Dutch hip-hop. But that changed after I saw Reflexy. They were the clear crowd favourite and the room emptied out after they did their set. This made it confusing when they didn’t end up winning top honours at the end of the night (though they will advance to the finals.) I didn’t understand a word but was entertained because of showmanship, partly because of sheer amazement. The Youtube video is giving my layout grief, so click here to see it.
Top honours went to Alura, a metal band fronted by a fey-punk girl. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy them as much as I did but, well, I did. For lack of a better comparison, they were like Evanescence except metal rather than nu-rock. And the co-ordinated guitar riffs weren’t cheesy at all. Apart from Reflexy’s popularity with the crowd, I can’t say I’m surprised that they won.
And then came I Wish I Knew. So the singer walked on stage and I felt my heart go a-flutter. “We’re in for a twee-old time,” I thought gleefully. Sadly, it was not to be. Their music was weird blend of shoegaze, post-rock and, dare I say it, screamo? The unfortunate part is I am a fan of shoegaze but this was just boring and not in the realm of ethereal. The lead singer’s outfit was widely talked about but ultimately misleading.
Now we come to King Khan & The BBQ Show. I had been forewarned, nay promised, that these guys would put on a weird but good show and they delivered. Granted it was mainly their attire that was weird, otherwise it was good old-fashioned rock show. King Khan came out decked in a Nazi helmet and vest, only to change into a sparkly gold cocktail dress mid-way through the set. BBQ rocked a Chinese silk shirt and a turban that covered his eyes and unravelled on his face as he played his mini-guitar and baby drum set. His socks were neatly tucked into his sneakers a few feet away from his drum set, as he prefers to drum barefoot.
This duo from Montreal play no nonsense garage rock with healthy amount of surf rock influence thrown in. As Canadians (and the sole people dancing) we got a few shout-outs from the band. If you thought Toronto was bad with people standing still with their arms crossed, well you ain’t seen nothing yet. Everyone there probably had more to drink than I did but they were all incredibly reserved. It was the same thing during the Clash of the Titans (with the exception of Reflexy.) Applause here is also slightly delayed after the end of the song, consistently producing moments of awkward silence. If a brown man dancing around with his man-boobs hanging out of his Value Village dress can’t make you loosen up, what can?
DB Studio, the venue where both of these shows took place, is super close to my house and, to borrow the words of Lorenzo, “located in a postindustrial middle of nowhere.” It reminds me of Lee’s back home and for two nights I was hundreds of kilometers closer to home than I had been since I arrived. I found myself actually feeling physically relieved after going to Clash of the Titans. It had been so long since I had heard live music (both in Utrecht and in Toronto) and it reminded of how much I missed it.