Moon Mama, Monster Island, Former Utopia

Owain Paciuszko 09/12/2009

Tucked neatly away just around the corner from Limehouse DLR, in amongst studio space and galleries, is the delightfully dingey Jamboree. Half a hall with a makeshift bar and stage, four different types of key instruments in each corner, the hazy glow of a few dim lights and the flicker of candles and a large fridge full of Efes. When I squeeze through the door there are a few people dotted around, one asleep on a sofa, and a off-beat but welcoming atmosphere. One chap I chatted to compared it to a lot of indie spots in America, the kind of cobbled together club that fits a niche in some middle-of-nowhere town.

First act was Former Utopia, aka George the organiser of this Damnably evening. With a voice that ranged from endearing to embittered, he reminded me of Cardiff based singer-songwriter Broken Leaf in the care and craft of his lyrics and tunes and a certain humble attitude to his performance. He even tried a bit of 'one man acoustic loudness' (copyright Oxygen Thief) at the audience's request.

Up next were Manchester's Monster Island, who were the reason I'd sought out the gig, managed to surprise me by sounding almost exactly like they do on their records. The three piece won the audience over with their addictive, grumbling riffs, impressive, striding drum patterns and wry, arch and wordy lyrics. Particular stand-outs included the caterwauling of Hothouse and the ambling, jazzy meander of The Blues Empire. It was a reassuring set for me, after being knocked out by their recent album The Anchor and their earlier release Sunken Public Squares, it was kind of relief to see/hear that they can be just as assured and memorable live.

The final act of the evening had already been hyped up to me by the aforementioned 'chap', he had told me of her other group Afrirampo who would be playing at ATP, he told me how she was one of the most amazing drummers he had ever seen, that seeing Afriramp live topped all other gigs he'd been to. So, there was a lot of expectation from him. For me, I was wary... even though, through further discussion, it was gleaned that he had damn good taste in music.

Anyway, Moon Mama took to the stage, she was initially wearing an over-sized Betty Boop coat and then changed into a ruffled 'pirate' shirt. She read a number of English sentences from a piece of paper before playing some strange and twee numbers on electric guitar, singing in Japanese and occasionally breaking into squeaks, squawks and howls. It was endearing and bizarre, but after a little while was starting to drag... it was at this point that she donned sunglasses, picked up a little spinning drum and began calling out for Ken to join her on the stage and cooing that we were about to be taken on a journey to her 'miracle world'. Ken began adding various percussive quirks and theremin-like woops. Things were getting almost worryingly cutesy surreal. But then, she - Pikachu - picked up her guitar again and began shredding on it violently, applying a loop pedal so that the heavy-riffage repeated as she put down the guitar and moved behind her drum-kit where she suddenly launched into a frenetic, incredible drum solo. Then her bandmate from Afriramp, Oni, took to the guitar and began adding further noise to the mix and I was quite awestruck.

However, things returned to the stripped-down, psych-folk of before, and only briefly wandered back towards the truly inspired occasionally. Nevertheless, it was a quite staggering set, and managed to mix sentiment, humour and impressive technical accomplishment with skill.

In all, a diverse and fun line-up that has definitely book-marked Damnably as a DIY events group to follow.