Steve from Everything Indie Over 40 went to see Ned’s Atomic Dustbin play at KOKO on Friday 17th July. Here’s what he had to say…
After seeing Ned’s Atomic Dustbin at KOKO on Friday night, I decided on the bus home to write the first gig review for Everything Indie Over 40. Although gig reviews are very much in the “In Tray” I didn’t think EIO40 was mature enough yet to undertake something this challenging. I’ve never done one before, wasn’t sure what went into writing one and was undecided if gig reviews even fitted into the ethos of EIO40.
I was particularly worried that gig reviews required an attention to detail that would distract from simply enjoying the moment. Would I need to make a mental (or written) note of the set list and the running order? Would I need to comment on each song? Would anyone be interested if i did? I would need to be alert throughout and I just wasn’t sure I was up to approaching a gig differently to what I was used to, which was simply as a fan.
But then it occurred to me on the bus home from the Ned’s gig that by it’s very nature EIO40 is platform for music fans and so if we do a gig review then it should be from a fans perspective. I also wanted to go a bit further than just a review of the bands performance. Let’s put the gig in context. Add some background. Write it more as a blog than a review.
Gigs don’t start the moment the first note is played in the venue. There is a build up. A bit of pre-gig excitement. Drinks in the pub before. First impressions. Maybe readers would be more interested in a gig review if it was presented personally. So this is what I have tried to do.
I should declare at this point that Ned’s Atomic Dustbin is probably my most seen band live and so a cracking night was pretty much guaranteed from the off. In fact, Neds not bothering to turn up would have been the only way I could see the gig not being anything other than superb. They have always delivered so why would tonight be any different?
Not only are Ned’s my “most seen” but I have pretty much seen them every single time with the same two friends. Today would be no different. The same elements would be in place in July 2015 at KOKO as they were back in December 1991 at Brixton Academy. However the difference being that I didn’t wake up that day in 1991 needing to complete lengthy legal forms for an imminent house purchase. I would have to park being an indie kid for first part of the day at least.
Once I’d dispensed with the grown up stuff it was time to concentrate on the usual gig-going traditions. Whilst we may not be able to down the pints as vigorously as we used to, we did meet early enough in the evening at a pub in the square mile to get a few “liveners” in before hand. Certain gig rituals must remain sacrosanct. The 10:30 curfew of that nights gig and the fact that we wanted to catch the James Atkin support slot, also provided a bit of justification for an early start in the pub.
I’ve never been to KOKO before and didn’t know an awful lot about it, apart from the fact I’d walked past it a few times. My mate warned me that it was a level floor venue so suggested a balcony spot if we weren’t that fussed about being among the crowd. Two out of the three of us are vertically challenged enough to consider the comfort option.
I was in two minds about watching the gig from the comfort of the balcony. I’d been in the seats at a couple of gigs recently. The Charlatans and Public Service Broadcasting. Both had been at The Roundhouse (another level floor venue) and whilst I’d quite enjoyed the comfort factor, there just seemed to be something missing up there. Also, this was Ned’s. A band I had never failed to mosh to, even as recently as September last year at IndieDaze. We decided to take a view when we got inside.
My first impressions of KOKO were pretty positive. It was an ornate and polished venue inside with a distinct lack of grottiness. It was also of a sufficiently small size to rule out a balcony spot straight off. It seemed unlikely that we would suffer any sort of restrictive view standing downstairs.
None of us was in a merchandise buying mood at that point so we headed straight for the bar where I was delighted to see that the standard gig-nectar Red Stripe was available. I’m not actually sure I like Red Stripe to be honest. You get sucked into a ritual at a young age and it is difficult to shake it off. Drinking Red Stripe is one such gig ritual followed religiously to this day. KOKO was pretty empty at that point so until James Atkin was due on we passed the time chatting and T Shirt spotting and watching the place slowly get busier.
I was keen on seeing James Atkin for a number of reasons. I’d always had a soft spot for EMF and had seem them a few times back in the days of Schubert Dip and Stigma. It used to grate me that liking EMF was viewed as some sort of guilty pleasure. Some people just couldn’t get past “Unbelievable”. Probably the same way that some people judged Boo Radleys simply by “Wake Up Boo!”.
As far as I’m concerned all three EMF albums stand up and in the case of the last one “Cha Cha Cha” may have provided my favourite EMF song in “Bleeding You Dry”. They always put on a cracking show and have certainly contributed to some great gig memories.
In fact I had the pleasure of having a quick chat with James at the end of the night and in my usual tonguetied-ness or just talking shit that creeps in when I meet anyone of note, I regaled James about the night we met the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Mark Crossley at an EMF gig at the LA2 in 1995. You just never forget moments like that.
The other reason I was keen on seeing James perform was that our paths had crossed on Twitter a couple of times and he’d come across as a decent fellow. Plus I’d heard some songs from his recently released solo album (although I may not have given this impression when I spoke to James – sorry James. It was the Red Stripe, honest). Also, only 48 hours separates us in age with me being the older of the two. In the photo my mate took of us together we look like twins (as well as BFFs apparently).
Anyway, back to the gig. When James appeared on stage he was sporting a Gibson SG (I think), a Bjorn Borg style rim only tennis cap with green plastic visor and Stussy blazoned across his chest. He was joined by a lone female dressed in some sort of space age get-up and standing in front of a synth with “ACID” written on the front in masking tape. So, I was already transfixed and in the mood to be entertained.
Rather unexpectedly James kicked off the gig with Children from Schubert Dip, a song I’d know from anywhere considering it was played at my own wedding a few years before. So while James is strumming away over “long live the flesh” his colleague bops up and down like she’s partaken some of that stuff written on the front of her keyboards. All quite surreal really.
From memory James performed two other EMF songs, I Believe and Unbelievable (obvs) and naturally they had the crowd in a more responsive mood than the solo songs that came in between but that is without taking anything away from the new stuff which got a good reception. Although he wasn’t explicit about it, I got the impression from James during our little chat later that the inclusion of EMF songs was a conditional factor on his appearance (but I might be wrong).
Anyway, although KOKO was far from packed during James set there was enough of a crowd to create the right atmosphere and energy. All the songs performed were an enjoyable listen and the new stuff is worthy of investigation so I would recommend a head over to ITunes for a sample at least. It’s a lovely combination of electronica and James distinctive vocals, which works very well.
The end of James set provided another opportunity to get a round of Red Stripes in and enjoy the tunes being played over the speakers during the break. In the style of some sort of indie disco we were entertained with classics from Carter, Wonder Stuff, Power Of Dreams, Jesus Jones etc etc. I also discovered you no longer have to go to a Carter gig to witness a crowd chant “you fat bastard!”.
I’d consistently managed to work my way down to the front during Ned’s gigs and this was no exception. I’ve also never failed to receive a number of rabbit punches to the kidneys in the mosh pit or had a complete stranger grab me round the neck and give me a big cuddle during at least one of the songs. To an extent Ned’s delivered again on this customary experience although on this occasion it was delivered with a bit more comfort than usual.
We reckoned during the post-gig debrief on the tube after that KOKO was about 75% full. If that was the case then this may have explained why I seemed to be less battered and bruised than normal. The mosh pit was still there. People were still crowd surfing. There was the usual happy faces through it all which I’ve always thought was one of the best characteristics of a Ned’s mosh pit. No mindless bell-ends who would rather just steam into the crowd than actually enjoy the music, which I’ve experienced at other gigs.
Anyway, there seemed to be more personal space than usual and that meant that the people around you remained familiar faces. Not once did I find myself over the other side of the venue after a particularly violent bout of moshing and having new neighbours all of sudden. There was the usual sense of community spirit when there was a crowd surfer coming over the top. Everyone chipping in to get them to the front safely. I might even have heard a few “you OK up there?” Basically we were all having good time and with some of those elements that might have made it a bit uncomfortable in the past welcomingly absent.
So what about the Neds then? I won’t bore you with a warts and all run through of the set list. They pretty much did what was expected. They kicked off with Suave and Suffocated and then proceeded to roll out the hits and customary favourites. Happy and Grey Cell Green probably had the crowd at their most energetic. Putting aside the fundamentals, I found myself hoping for personal faves to appear.I wasn’t disappointed with the inclusion of You Don’t Want To Do That and Legoland. By the same token I was disappointed with the absence of Throwing Things and some of the Bite stuff.
Singer Jonn spent the whole gig bouncing around in that trademark way he cuts shapes and with a boundless energy that you wish you could bottle and sell over the counter. Bass players Mat and Alex seemed to be a bit more subdued than previous performances I’d seen. Rat continues to emit an enigmatic and mysterious persona and is looking more like Mr Munro from the Ottoline books by Chris Riddle every time I see him (if you’ve got kids you might know what I’m on about) and as usual I seemed to gravitate towards Rat for reasons I can’t really explain. All my photos of Rat taken at Neds gigs seemed to be from exactly the same spot. He’s wearing the same clobber as well.
As this was a gig whose purpose was to commemorate 25 years since the release of Kill Your Television, naturally we had to wait until the encore for it’s appearance. KYTV is what it is and produced no surprises apart from demonstrating the crowd still had enough in the tank to go mental. Obviously Ned’s couldn’t send the crowd home on that note and a one song encore is unheard of. I was secretly hoping they would exit on Titch as they have done in the past, but being told to wake up and smell what we’ve been shovelling was a fitting end.
No one song defines a band and that goes for Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. This may have been all about Kill Your Television but by finishing with Selfish Ned’s knew what their fans really wanted….an excuse to perform. Well, that’s what I think.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Steve’s review. We would love to hear about your own gig experiences whether they are recent or in the past. Please contact us if you would like to contribute