Sex Cult Rock ‘n Rollby Angela Weickl, images by Kate Kempen / 07.09.2010
The stage is stacked with television sets like an analog graveyard. They project fuzzy imagery that blinks and flickers. One set only manages snow. As the ethereally dressed Magic of Pegasus float onto the stage, I find myself stuck in a ‘70s music video – and part of me wishes David Bowie would jump out from behind one of the TVs. Instead we get Graeme Newlove and his sex dwarf-hippie cult. As the techno beats break he has a frenzied tambourine slamming fit and the bar area empties. The bewildered crowd flocks to the stage.
Whatever you’ve heard about this band doesn’t prepare you for the spectacle they deliver. A 15 minute burst of mania, part Soft Cell on crack, part Jesus Christ Superstar. Foaming from the mouth like a rabid mental patient, Newlove elates the crowd with a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” as his 3 back-up singers harmonize for our choral pleasure. The audience is either awestruck or disgusted. One particularly vocal dude exclaims: “It’s like a bad acid trip!”
The Runs have been around for less than a year and managed to implant themselves in a few tasty line-ups – including an opening slot for Fokofpolisiekar. But when your name evokes diarrhea, aren’t you destined to be shit?
Tonight seems to be a struggle for them on stage. Each Runs member is trying to enforce the law and drive the band in their own desired direction, culminating in a giant fuck-up. The bassist is a converted lead guitarist and steals the show outright. The lead guitarist looks like George Harrison but plays like Jimmy Page and the drummer is a forceful timekeeper holding it all together as the aforementioned struggle spawns.
But the slow clap of the evening is awarded to lead singer Gabriel Shmabriel, dressed in a ghastly floral button down shirt. Caressing the sexy old school mic his physical performance is Bono-esque while vocally mimicking Scott Weiland and Chris Cornell with a drizzling of Frank Black to cement the confusion. In a final act of alienation, Shmabriel summons the spirit of Pete Townshend and smashes his guitar, a move he pulls every time they play, giving him about as much Rock n Roll street-cred as Milli Vanilli. How the fuck can you afford to smash your guitar after every gig?
This band can’t decide if they are Them Crooked Vultures, Sound Garden or The Who. Currently their parts are greater than the sum and if they could manage to play the same song at the same time there may just be a glimmer of hope. But for tonight, thank Beelzebub it’s over…
The first thing you notice about The Plastics post-Shark launch, post awe inspiring Gordon Raphael experience is that they’ve got their swagger back. Past shows were boring because they were bored. Not anymore. The news songs sound nothing like that ill-fated Arctic Monkeys cloned “Kiss the Plastics” EP. The combination of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club nostalgia, with the surfer simplicity of The Drums and toe-tapping quirkiness of Vampire Weekend has us smiling. Pascal’s voice has matured while his on stage cockiness has been replaced by charming confidence. High-fives all round!
In the afterglow a couple “lang-arms” to Blitzkrieg Bop while barefoot Hippies prance and twirl across the beer sodden dance floor, this acid trip is far from over…
All images © Kate Kempen.