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20th May 2007 at the Brixton Windmill, 23 Doves blog review
By 23 Daves

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Bricks to Brixton...
It was something of a relief to get out to the first music gig in some time last night, albeit one at the complete opposite end of the Victoria Line. It has to be said, Brixton is a lot less hassle to get to than (for example) Gypsy Hill or Crystal Palace or even Richmond, but the distance involved still does sometimes make me reluctant to go down to gigs there. This meant that, rather shamefully, last night marked the first time I'd ever bothered to set foot in The Windmill pub, which is inexcusable as it tranpires it's a really decent venue these days and not the scuffed-up old den of London yore.

In the end I was glad I made the effort, because there were at least two outstanding bands on the bill. The Sailplanes I've mentioned on here before, but no harm can possibly be done by reminding others of their existence once again. I'm sure it's in no way deliberate or staged, but visually I find them incredibly striking in a rather unorthodox way. Tim Sailplane always thrashes and hollers as if the gig is the most urgent thing in his life or indeed the last thing he will ever do, his spidery limbs flaying all over the place. Stacey stands alongside him looking dollishly pretty but periodically aggressive, seeming dispassionate and behind-her-fringe one moment and snarling the next. Their drummer seems somewhat cartoonish too, thumping and smacking the skins with merry abandon as her tied-up hair bobs up and down. That none of this seems remotely contrived, and their energy seems totally natural, is amazing. There are bands out there that would kill to even contrive an effect half as well.

In terms of tunes, although I'd heard rumours of a slight change of style it sounds much the same to me. Slapping Sonic Youth comparisons around is doubtless lazy, but there's a clear influence there, and the distorted treble noise the band produce is relentless and unforgiving but somehow incredibly energising and almost cleansing. Given the mood I'm presently in, it's fantastic for me to be able to watch a band who have the ability to make me smile so much.

The main reason I was at the Windmill on this occasion, however, was for the Hermit Crabs. One of their number (Fergie) is an old friend of Amanda's from Glasgow, and they're presently making some fairly convincing inroads into the music industry. They've had sessions produced by Norman Blake out of Teenage Fanclub, and some critical acclaim and goodwill coming from equally impressive places. This doesn't stop at least one of their number from seeming a bag of nerves about the prospect of a London gig, though, and I probably don't help matters much by telling him a jolly story about how a fight once started at The Windmill during a spoken word set of Niall O'Sullivan's, when a builder had a violent disagreement with a heckler about the worth of his work. It perhaps wasn't the best time to bring stories like that up, as the resulting expression on his face proved. Just make me a badge with "Tactless" written on it and force me to wear it for a month as punishment, why don't you?

He needn't have worried. There's no doubt that there's a clear "Scottish Twee" influence running through the middle of their work like a stick of rock, but it's done in a very stylish, considered manner. Melancholy vocals combine with jaunty melodies (and vice versa) and even with the irritating chatter towards the rear of the bar the band manage to transform the front end of the venue into a warm and welcome place. Perhaps their tales of Glasgow life seemed rather remote in the wilds of Brixton, but it was an honest and direct perspective and a real change from the scenester-ish posing of many London acts.

Obviously enough though, one berk has to ruin everything by standing right at the front and talking incredibly loudly throughout their set, competing directly against the PA. Amanda eventually challenges him to "shut the f__k up" in no uncertain terms, to which he seems terribly threatened and offended. I have no sympathy for him. I'm genuinely getting really tired of going to London gigs - and it is always London gigs, at no other town or city do people seem quite so ill-mannered - and having people loudly chat right at the front whilst acoustic bands are playing, or indeed any band that has any degree of subtlety about them whatsoever. If you want to talk, go to the bar at the back, or better still, go to another pub where paying customers haven't come to hear bands. It's really that simple. My patience is wearing wafer thin with you lot. More to the point, you're starting to embarrass me.