We Start Fires, (We Are) Performance, The Frantics

Tom Blackburn 10/10/2007

Looking around Camden's Barfly, it hits you just how odd tonight's crowd is. The obligatory scenesters are in attendance, but also to be seen are tubby, middle-aged Paul Morley look-alikes shaking their beer bellies alongside braying Tim Nice-But-Dim types who look like they got a bit confused taking the Tube back from the Square Mile.

And just about all of them stay by the downstairs bar whilst the first support act, local boys The Frantic, do their thing upstairs. And that's fair enough, really - whilst The Frantic knock out perfectly serviceable post-Libertines garage rock in an accomplished fashion, there's nothing to set them apart from the legions of similar bands currently underwhelming audiences in venues nationwide. Passable, but totally run-of-the-mill.

Once the openers are out of the way, the number of sharp fringes in the venue swells dramatically and it becomes pretty clear that tonight's headliners aren't actually the main draw. That honour goes to the night's second support act, Mancunian electro-rock quartet (We Are) Performance, who've generated a respectable buzz amongst the Skins crowd with the release of their self-titled debut.

I try my hardest not to judge bands on their appearance no matter how stylised it might be, but I must admit that when I first laid eyes on (We Are) Performance, I was (metaphorically speaking) ready to tear them a new arsehole. Annoying parentheses aside, not since New Young Pony Club has a band tried so hard to be sohotrightnow, with their intricately arranged fringes, leather jackets and pencil-thin jeans.

Luckily for both the band and myself, then, they're actually great fun. Frontman Joe Stretch (real name? I'd like to think so) is a demented, raging bundle of energy on stage, bouncing from one side of the stage of the other, snarling and spitting his vocals at the assembled crowd. The band behind him are solid rather than showy, but their New Order-influenced pop goes down well.

The Barfly seems to be ever so slightly quieter once (We Are) Performance leave the stage, so it's down to Darlington's finest - well, only - rock export, the John Peel-approved We Start Fires, to get the remaining audience on side. And they do so in fine fashion, playing a selection of sassy numbers from their long-awaited (if slightly patchy) debut album.

Influenced by Elastica and the Breeders in roughly equal measure, We Start Fires' playful exterior masks a biting aggression that really comes out in their live performances. “Magazine” gets a particularly venomous airing, as does the slinky “Let's Get Our Hands Dirty”. Recent single “Play You”, meanwhile, is a giddy pop whirlwind, its relentless guitar accompanied by dizzying synths.

There's no time for an encore, but everyone leaves looking perfectly satisfied, and so they should. The night may have got off to a mediocre start, but (We Are) Performance and We Start Fires were both on top, energetic form. Anyone who likes their electro-rock sleek and stylish and their indie rock mischievous and melodic should spend an evening in their company.