LIVE REVIEW: Boat Show releases untameable energy at album launch
A badly fitting Mambo shirt replete with decades of fading, jesus sandals, dungarees, countless asymmetrical haircuts/dye jobs and what I would describe as a 1970’s era school gym uniform. There is something about a crowd like that, which puts you in a good mood. The eclecticism, the obvious choice of comfort over style (no offence) plus the presence of A4 posters outlining the venue’s zero tolerance for harassment or intimidation made me think I was with the right kind of crowd for the right kind of show; Boat Show’s much anticipated album launch at Mojos.
After the pool table was shimmied off to the side, the night could start. Xanthea as the first act, performing as a stripped-down duo, with just herself (Xanthea O'Connor) on piano and an accompanying violin, they played a series of melancholic and earnest tunes. The violin sounded like it would perfectly underscore a Ken Burns documentary on the American Civil War (they might not like that comparison but for me that’s high praise). Their set was lapped up by a very supportive crowd. It’s often rare to hear such solemn music at Mojos but it was greatly appreciated by all.
Next up for the outside stage was Oosterbanger. I had seen Oosterbanger (Ellen Oosterbaan) before at Mojos. Seated in the same spot outside, with the same guitar, same board of pedals and nothing else. She astounded me with her ability to bring so much gravity, noise and energy to a solo performance. It made me wonder what she could do with an entire band - to be completely honest I wondered if I could be in said hypothetical band (I have no shame). It was only seeing her play again that I realised how entirely redundant a band would be. Her distorted droning guitar fills the space perfectly, leaving enough room for her dynamic vocals to pierce through. A band would be overkill and at danger of being overshadowed completely, (forever the John Oates to her magnificent Daryl Hall.)
The next band needs some sort of consumer warning to preface their shows. If you ever find yourself at a Bikini Cops performance, be prepared. You must be sure to leave time before the set to go to the bathroom or stock up on drinks. If you don’t - and like me, get a round of beers mid-set - you will miss out on at least 3 songs. Short, sweet and sweaty punk tunes are smashed out by these boys in quick succession. If the gauge of a good punk band is how many songs they can pack into a half-hour set (which, in my opinion it is) Bikini Cop must be up there with the best of them.
For a drastic change in style, up next was Reef Prince. Reef Prince is Doctopus' front man Stephen Bellair, earnestly and energetically rapping over beats sampled from a wide array of hip-hop hall of famers (with the occasional help of Nicholas Allbrook). To say I didn’t question it would be a lie, Migos meets Mojos is interesting to say the least, but to say I didn’t enjoy it would be absolutely ludicrous. It was fun, very well done and I‘m just happy that it’s a thing that actually exists in this world.
The first time I saw Nicholas Allbrook was with POND at Southbound in 2014. His shirt was in tatters and he staggered and swayed on stage while speaking almost incoherently, I was in awe. The performance I saw this night though was decidedly different. A more sensual and sensitive Nick took the stage and gave an intimate performance, spending large stretches of time performing off stage amongst the crowd. His voice was smoother than I’d heard from him and the songs were often downbeat and soulful.
Almost every aspect of the show was remarkably different to the first time I saw him and the many times since that. One of the only things that did remain a constant was the dumb look of amazement plastered on my face.
“That was a rock song and here is another rock song”. Those were the words of Doctopus front-man Stephen Bellair mid way through their set and that could pretty much sum it up. It was grungy, It was garage-y and it was good. Doctopus have been around the track a little bit and because of that they definitely benefit from the experience. They know how to let the reigns go a little, keep it loose and fun and then bring it right back in. They’re professionals at what they do - sure the guitarist used a rope for a guitar strap like a hillbilly banjo player but they’re professionals nonetheless.
Finally we come to the main event, Boat Show. I have never been to an actual boat show (because who has?) but I had been to a couple Boat Show gigs prior to their album launch and in my arrogance thought I knew what I was getting into. I already had a tired old spiel ready about punk and defiance and yadda yadda yadda but from their first song I knew that just wouldn’t cut it.
Boat Show’s debut album ‘Groundbreaking Masterpiece’ was released last week and if you haven’t given it a listen do yourself a favour and get onto it. It’s packed with crunchy guitars, catchy riffs and hard punching drums. Even more impressive are the vocals and lyrics of singer Ali Flintoff, sometimes bold and aggressive, sometimes funny and tongue-in-cheek but always potent and often very trenchant in their aim. Boat Show manages to accomplish the difficult task of translating a great album into a great live show. They captured their untameable energy on the album and then released it into the wild onstage.
What’s more, they made it fun, whether it was George’s choice of attire (a sleeveless dress is actually very practical for a drummer) or their brief rendition of ‘All Star’ by Smash Mouth (somehow both a high and low point for me), it all combined for an entertaining set. With their effortless performing chops, natural energy and musical prowess Boat Show evade boilerplate interpretations and labels, they don’t need them and I feel uneasy trying to project any tired trope onto them. Boat Show set their own standard and run their own show, and believe me, it’s a damn good show.