Friday, July 22, 2011

dirty beaches @ the victoria in dalston, london - 19 july 2011

The Victoria in Dalston is easily one of my favorite music venues in the world. Seriously. It's a pub with a bar and a pool table and that's nice and all. But the space where the stage is reminded me of going to house parties as an undergrad to see a friend of a friend's band play in the living room. It was narrow and crowded and without a lot of pretense.

The walls had a textured seashell pattern in white for the top half, moulding, and then white wooden panels to the floor. The building is obviously a converted house. The bathroom consisted of a sink with a door connected to the single toilet. Like the Saturday afternoon before your buddy's party, someone has hauled a pair of second-hand couches and an arm chair into the venue. Concrete floors make for easy cleanup.

The one thing the Victoria has that your buddy's place probably didn't is a stage. Well, it was little more than a platform, really. If the band leaves their stuff near the entrance to the green room, you literally can't open the door or even get backstage. The only way up to the platform is from a single long step at the front unless you want to scramble.

Tuesday's show was all 60s garage rock. Though I went to see Dirty Beaches, I was impressed with the quality of both openers Mickey Gloss and Thee Ludds.[1] Mickey Gloss, self-described as playing "static lullabies full of absurd rants and transient fairy tales," woefully remains unsigned but you can pick up their self-produced LP Indelible Ballad of the Tainted Fur for the very reasonable price of £3 at their shows.[2] They're definitely worth a listen and I'm glad I made it out in time to see them. Thee Ludds were also loads of fun. Thankfully, they're on the Hodad label and you can pick up their 7" split with The No Brainers at Rough Trade.

Dirty Beaches, for those who don't know, is the stage name of Taiwanese-Canadian musician Alex Zhang Huntai.[2][3] He opened with 'Sweet 17', leaping into the audience and flogging his guitar. He made apologies for bumping into a young lady. The set closed with 'Lord Knows Best,' a sweet tune that's been circulating the blogosphere thanks to some attention in January from hipster tastemaker Urban Outfitters. Although he Alex didn't plan an encore, the enthusiasm of the crowd encouraged him to do a cover of 70s no wave act DNA, something he said he's wanted to experiment with for awhile.

Verdict - best night of rock and/or roll I've had so far in London. I can't think of the last time I've had so much fun at a show that didn't involve LCD Soundsystem or Ghostland Observatory.

[1] Yes, I know myspace is dead, but the pages let you enjoy the sounds of both bands for free.
[2] I'm particularly fond of 'Touch My Soul'.
[3] Currently Alex calls Vancouver home. His LP Badlands was a longlist nominee for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize. The winner will be announced 19 September. I'm pretty sure Arcade Fire will win for The Suburbs though my dark horse vote would have to go to The Weeknd's House of Balloons, which is as clean and perfect an R&B record as I've heard in a long, long time.
[4] Like a lot of small venue shows, we were treated to seeing Alex standing in the nearly empty room to watch openers Mickey Gloss. One of the many, many reasons I'd rather see a show at a tiny dive than all the pyrotechnics and production that a stadium show can provide.

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