Wednesday, 11 September 2013


Well. Last night I went to see The Orwells live at Madame JoJo's, a venue in Soho, London. There were actually three bands playing. I didn't see the last band (whoops/oh well) because, well, The Orwells were quite good and we decided to leave on a high. Which is always a good thing, I think. Judge for yourselves though.

The first band that played were called Polterghost - a London post-punky trio. Each track had a similar vibe, and that was Nirvana-esque riffs that oozed grunge, some shreddy guitar solos dotted here and there, alongside palm-muted guitars with some high-pitched vocals - almost a little like Smashing Pumpkings. The drums pounded out the rhythm. Perhaps a little "teen" sounding for my liking, and not a commanding stage presence, but nice enough. Their track 'Holy Smoke' should give you a good idea of their sound.

But then The Orwells bowled onstage. Not only did they move around as if completely possessed by the music they were playing, but they played the music in a ballsy, aggressive way. Lead-vocalist Mario Cuomo towered over his bandmates, looking almost too big for the stage, in cream skinny jeans, a red Chicago Bulls vest and sporting a luscious mop of wavy blonde hair that he used to his advantage the whole time: playing with it, letting it cover his face, whipping it around. Oddly sexual.

They opened with 'Mallrats', which set the tone for the rest of the show: its maddening yet tongue-in-cheek "lalalalala" screamed out alongside crushing distortion and crashing drums. They went onto smash through their set, going through the addictive 'Other Voices' and stopping by for slow-dance numbers 'Blood Bubbles' and 'Halloween All Year', yet with the wholly crazed vocals from Cuomo still on top form. My friend suggested that he looked like he needed an exorcism, and I said that playing live probably was the exorcism. However, I wholly doubt there's anything like that needed. I mean, in some ways, yeah he was going crazy - falling offstage at one point and generally screaming out the lyrics with a hardcore rockabilly drawl as if his life depended on it. It's just angry stuff - and I loved it.

Of course, they played recent hit 'Who Needs You' from their new EP of the same name - it sounds even better live. They also went through a perhaps extended version of their psychedelic song 'Head', which in its second half repeats the same majorly distorted riff over and over - at this point they were pretty much all in a frenzy onstage. It's good to see that kind of thing. People getting into their music, I mean. What better way to show that your music's likeable by liking playing it so much that it makes you go into a bit of a trance? Mm-hm.

They ended with a cover of The Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' - it was a raucous affair. Truly raucous. Raunchy. The lyrics were roared out, the guitars totally abused - huge noise. I suppose you could equate it to their performance of the same song at another place, but the stage was smaller at Madame JoJo's; maybe they felt claustrophobic or something, because they seemed to be even more mental.

Overall, what more can I say? I suppose that it was really good is a start. It WAS damn good. I thought the recordings were good enough, but the energy that they drew from playing live to people in a room is clearly something that can't be captured in essence. Also, to see them like actually playing was amazing.

They had a very punk dynamic, the bassist Grant Brinner grooving modestly to the rhythm and at one point taking the cord out of guitarist Matt O'Keefe's microphone, who later knelt on the floor and pulled the mic stand down to him, relentless drumming from Henry Brinner, frenzied bent-double playing from other guitarist Dominic Corso, and general madness from Mario Cuomo. He stood out, dancing, pulling at his clothes, moonwalking (probably?) at one point, and as I said earlier, falling off the stage, then falling off the stage again trying to pull himself back onto it. They all scream pent-up aggression and youthful frustration - a feeling that's easy to summon up in yourself after seeing these guys freak out so much themselves. Basically really fun to watch. And really nice to have seen them at such a small intimate venue, cause I think they're only gonna get bigger from here on in.

Afterwards we were so punk, threw straws around in McDonald's, got the guy who served us to give us a free cheeseburger each, and I sold two cigarettes for £5. Imagine that. Our slowly diminishing yet endless youth. Go see The Orwells if you get a chance - you won't regret it.

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