Thursday, November 15, 2007

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

A Banksy painting near Chalk Farm station

I got a late invite to take up a spare ticket from my friend Jack, to see the American garage band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Roundhouse between Chalk Farm and Camden stations. The building originally housed a steam-engine turntable shed until becoming an important band venue in the 1960s. It lay fallow from 1983 through to 2006, reopening with the Fuerzabruta show. Without knowing this in advance, I wore a T-shirt from that show's recent Edinburgh Fringe Festival run.

In the foyers and vomitoria, the concrete and steel extensions to the original structure reminded me of any number of libraries from the 1960s or 70s, but once inside the main auditorium, the Victorian ironwork and inverted radio-telescope ceiling give it a unique character.

The band were new to me, although they have a sizeable following, at least 4 albums, and lineage from the Brian Jonestown Massacre, a band I knew mainly from the documentary film Dig!. Mis-hearing Jack, I thought the band came from Taunton in Somerset, and made some terrible joke about expecting The Wurzels to do an opening set as Black Amish Motor Cider Co-op or such. I couldn't understand why the BMRC had no west country accents until much later when I realised that Jack had said Toronto, although as I read it now, they are actually West Coast USA with a drummer from Devon UK.

BRMC's influences are felt in every song, but to such an extent that they don't seem to have an identifiable sound, and each song sounds like it's been directly lifted from some other song. There was a curious unplugged interlude when one of the guitarists slipped into a faux acoustic Dylan set where the audience seemed to be totally uncaring. Looking around at the thousands of people standing in the arena, suddenly chatting, playing with their cell-phones or playing straight-boy nipple semaphore across the floor, it seemed like I was in a huge 21st century cocktail party where the music is just a little too annoying for everyone.

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