Smallgang, Bearsuit, Superman Revenge Squad, Susie Hug, BAANEEX

Owain Paciuszko 09/10/2010


After negotiating Euston Road in despair, with my mobile phone clutched tightly to my ear to blur out traffic noise, my girlfriend on the other end of the line at home (she would be meeting me at the venue later) directing me via Google maps, I finally found Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes tucked around a corner in a pleasant part of town. I was there early-ish to be somewhat helpful in aiding George and Janice of Damnably set-up their ambitious and exciting evening of music dedicated to John Peel and in aid of the DEC Charity.

Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes is a lovely venue, in so much as it has a certain Americana retro charm to the upstairs bowling lanes/stage, and downstairs there are a few large exposed pipes lending a hint of Terry Gilliam's Brazil to the atmosphere. Things were off to a shaky start with the news that the lanes had been booked out to people who wanted to go bowling, but, in the end - for a spectator and performer - this didn't affect things too much.

My base of operations for the evening was the downstairs lanes, mainly because my band was on that stage first and it became a natural encampment for us throughout the night. Once sound-checking was done I got to wear my DJ hat for a bit and play nothing but songs I've discovered as a result of writing for God is in the TV (and independent bands I've found during that time).

I'll decline to review BAANEEX because I'm in them, and the sound in the monitors was really bad for me, so even I don't know what we sounded like.

After a bit more DJing it was time for Indieoke, which is basically karaoke with indie tunes. I felt somewhat sorry for them as nobody was really up for indie-karaoke at four in the afternoon, but I didn't feel sorry enough for them to volunteer my vocal chords, plus we'd only just started on our pitchers of beer. Still, the Indieoke team did a reasonably valiant effort of failing to drum up enthusiasm by providing spirited renditions of Gay Bar by Electric Six, Connection by Elastica and Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.

Crumbling Ghost were up next and I remember them being average, if a little samey, but, I think by this point I'd consumed my weight in Bitburger (a flat, cheap beer). Former Utopia has managed to linger longer in the memory, probably helped by the fact that this is the third time I've seen them. The first time it was just guitarist George on his own; the second it was George and a drummer; this time they were joined by a bass player (Russell from Russell and the Wolf Choir) and they'd managed to iron out some of the kinks from the last set I saw them do, delivering a really great sounding collection of plugged-in acoustic noise-mongering. George's Bill Callahan-influence is apparent, but he lends a more fevered frenzy to tunes that the Smog front-man might keep as a subtle looping melody. One song, which I think had the lyrics 'You don't have to fuck me any more' was particularly good.

Cynicism began early as NITKOWSKI set up, and it continued throughout their dull as dogwater set, they perform a certain breed of angry-rock that - to me - just feels like a show where any genuine emotion and energy is buried beneath the uninspiring music that's supposed to be whipping them up into a trance or mania.

Around this point an incident occurred that probably didn't help by appreciation of NITKOWSKI, an incident that has become infamously known as 'Pizzagate' and it puts an unfortunate slight on my favourable recollection of the evening. Basically, and unsurprisingly, we ordered a pizza, it didn't arrive. We enquired at the till we ordered it at, with the person we ordered it from, where it was. We were told five minutes, we waited, it didn't arrive. We returned to the same till, to the same person, and were again told that it was coming but if we were upstairs at this till we would miss it; we said that there were more of us downstairs waiting for this aforementioned pizza and the attitude of the person serving us moved into an interesting form of customer service that I don't often encounter called; 'Why the fuck should I care?' Unfortunately when someone brings down the brick wall of apathy it's kind of hard to argue without seeming like a bigger and bigger arsehole, you can reiterate to them as much as you like that you have paid 22.50 for a pizza, you paid it about forty minutes ago and were told the pizza would take fifteen, you can keep saying “It's not there yet...” but when someone just basically shrugs, essentially says “I don't care” and acts as if you're making up a story, there's not much you can do without causing a scene.

Fortunately, once the story was reiterated to those downstairs, two different members of our hungry party returned to the bar area and asked a different member of staff at a different till point, who went into the kitchen immediately to find out what had happened to quickly discover that some opportunistic shit-bags had claimed our pizza for their own. Fortunately, this nice person got the kitchen to make us another pizza and would bring it down to us herself, so she could make sure the correct face was eating it.

So, despite the happy ending the attitude of that initial member of staff left a sour taste in my mouth, and the ridiculously thin pizza we eventually got didn't really help. Sure, it's impressive when the pizza comes down and it's about one metre in diameter, but it's not so impressive when it's about as thin as a sheet of A4 paper.

Anyway, food review aside, one act did suffer a little at the hands of the bowling balls and that was Susie Hug, her set was a delight, soft and enjoyable acoustic-pop with jazzy drumming and violin, but the occasional clatter of bowling pins and whoops from the teams occasionally marred an otherwise lovely set.

Smallgang were on next, another band I've seen thrice, and they still impress, their songs are ragged yet performance with a certain clockwork precision, howls of guitar noise over angular melodies, with two vocalists lending either an arch-Neil Hannon vibe on songs like Cockpit or a touch of Ian Curtis on others. I'm eagerly looking forward to their new album so I can put a few more names to some of the sounds that are still fluttering around my ears, but they were as dependable as ever.

There was so much more going on during the evening that it's a post-event regret that I didn't really explore a bit more, missing sets by the likes of Superman Revenge Squad and Bearsuit being particularly sore points. Smallgang were followed by the - hopefully - triumphant return of Indieoke, but by this point we were all very merry and, bizarrely, even more hungry once we'd eaten the pizza so ventured into the streets to find something to eat.

At the end of the evening Damnably, who organised the event, and all the other acts and promoters involved, had managed to raise 2500 for the DEC Charity.