Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Explosions in the Sky/Four Tet - The Plug, Sheffield. October 31st 2005

The Plug has been open about a month, so it's my first visit, tho the venue (formerly The Unit) I've been to many a time. This time is strangely remiscent of the first time - we get inside, and go 'is this it?'. Back then (at a drum 'n' bass club five years or so ago) we simply didn't realise there were any doors out of the initial bar area and spent an hour surrounded by gurning 16 year olds before managing to find the main arena.

This time, I thought I knew better. The lack of drum kit told me there must be a different stage, but all the doors were barred! This was it!!

Until, suddenly, a side door somewhere was opened and everyone streamed through a narrow corridor to a pretty good sized hall. Bar at the side, easy trigging to work out how to get back therefrom, bogs readily available...looking good.

Still another half hour before Explosions in the Sky come on, but what the hell.

It's crowded as the band come on and start on their take on that quiet quiet LOUD LOUD guitar thing - very crowded, which seems to take EitS by surprise. The sounds rather crap unfortunately, way too much reverb during the quiet bits which makes them come over dull as hell. For the second track guitarist & bass player are sat down on the floor - we're trying to work out if they're just being hip, or doing something artistic, or are simply trying to gaffer tape down all over the show. Turns out its the latter. The sound doesnt improve really, until they get to the loud bits, which are magnificently loud, and all three frontfolk are throwing themselves against their guitars. At first it looks like they're just pissed off with the crap sound, and are hitting things annoyedly. But then there hands are rising in unison and being smashed down like hammers over and over again till the walls are shaking and everyones guitar straps have fallen off and they cant hold the instruments anymore. Fuck the crap sound, these guys are awesome.

And they get to play for over an hour too, very good news. The problem with bands like these is that I tend to have them on download and/or mp3, so I haven't really learnt what the tracks are actually called, or even what the album I'm playing is called, so god knows what they played. Maybe if I see another review I'll rapidly go away and copy it and pretend I knew all along. By the end of their set, they've won almost everyone over anyway, a stunning show that will be very hard to beat.

How can you top it? Kieran Hebden clearly has a simple plan - dont even try. A couple of laptops, a turntable, and that seems to be it on the stage now as he starts his peculiar set of electronica. What will we get tonight? The jazzy stuff, the folky stuff, the tuneful stuff? No, we get some wanker making whale fart noises and throwing 'crazy' sounds together to make....mmm, a fucking mess really. There is nothing positive about this kind of shit at all - it reminds me of the kind of thing that the Orb used to really piss everyone off with by playing in between the actual tracks. That and the kind of thing a precocious 14 year old would make after owning the relevant equipment for three months - after six they'd actually have made some fucking tunes. After twenty minutes there's a piece I recognise off Pause, its a pleasant twinkling folky tune. It lasts ninety seconds and its the whale farts back again.

After half an hour there's a steady stram of people leaving - I am very tempted to do the same. I haven't left a gig early in over twenty years, but nothing has been this utter shit. But Alison has half a pint left, and they are serving me a decent pint of guinness in an actual glass! So I make do with another pint and determine to give him another half hour. Which is actually more than he 'plays' for. Al goes for a pee as he walks off stage, so I wait for her to return before we leave, but as he returns for the encore, he chooses She Moves She - not only recognizable, but still retaining an element of its original beautiful tune! Here I can see just where it's going well and badly, its a fairly straight rendition of the track, the bleeps and the buzzing coming in just as it did on Rounds. But the mix is still poor, the harmonies aren't built up, and it just sounds a bit of a mess. If I didn't already know it, and know why I liked it, I doubt I'd be very impressed.

Two years I've been trying to see Four Tet, failed due to floods, shift swaps, gigs suddenly becoming DJ sets, and family bollocks. So aint it typical, when I finally manage it, they're crap.

Anyone else with tickets for this tour - get in good position for EitS, and then retire to the bar/another gig.


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