Sunday 12th December
Evolutionary Arts Hackney (EartH)
Imagine a world where attending a gig requires you to arrive at the venue ninety minutes beforehand; queue two metres apart single-file in an orderly queue marked out by white-taped line spacers whilst wearing a face-mask, and waiting to be instructed to sit in an allocated area on specially marked out large platforms (where cinema seats would have been bolted in), again two metres distanced apart from another person or a couple. Where masks can only be removed once you are marshalled to your section; drinks can only be ordered from an attendant flitting around and no standing permitted, let alone dancing (more of that later).
This is the world of gigs in late 2020, and how rules are being applied in tier 2 restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic (we have since moved in to tier 4, so any kind of gig is not allowed now), this is probably also a glimpse of how venues, if they need to survive, will have to navigate the current situation and ease back to normality when permitted to do so.
The venue itself is the former art-deco Savoy Cinema, shabby from disuse, almost conveys the elegiac mood of the pandemic. After the ninety-minute wait, the understandably restless crowd (the poor drinks attendants overwhelmed by now) cheer the arrival of the main and only act of the evening, Warmduscher.
Spurred-on by their success as part of the Radio 6 Music festival line-up at the beginning of the year (pre-epidemic mayhem) and to very energetic crowds in Camden, if anything, part of the fascination was to see just how this would play out in such a staid environment. They have made three studio albums to date produced by Dan Carey, whom has a host of up-and-coming alternative bands, heavily touted by BBC Radio 6, under his belt.
Clam Baker is the charismatic, Stetson-donning, tracksuit deep-south evangelical preacher front man; the rest of the ensemble comprise of Lightnin’ Jack Everett (Jack Everett), Quicksand (Adam J Harmer), Mr. Salt Fingers Lovecraft (Ben Romans-Hopcraft) and The Witherer aka Little Whiskers (Quinn Whalley). By listing their alter-egos one can only get an idea of how deranged this outfit may seem, but they manage to pull it off and remain on the right side of caricature. It’s almost as if they have taken their influences from the Beastie Boys Post-Frat Rap period but indulged it a bit more with the help of hallucinogenics.
The Post-Punk label does not really encapsulate their seedy, funky disco sound, employing squalling electronica amongst Clam’s screeches interspersed with call-and-response vocals like James Brown, as evidenced on their stand-out single 'Midnight Dipper'. All the time this is held together with Punkish lead- guitar and a deeply funky rhythm section with the lyrical material being of the sleaziest, darkest kind. For 'Disco Peanuts' they introduce special guest Nuha Ruby Ra, a disco-diva transported from the 70's whose enrapturing vocals and infectious moves brought out the inevitable: members of the crowd could not contain themselves and pockets of the audience spontaneously broke out into dance only to be singled-out by laser waving security attendants and told to sit-down.
The gig lasts just under an hour to everyone’s disappointment, as it is back to Lockdown life as we are ushered out in in a row-by-row, coordinated manner recalling one of their elegantly funereal numbers, '1,000 Whispers', with its slowed-down tempo Doo-Wop.
Incidentally, Warmduscher translates as ‘warm-showerer’, a derogatory German expression akin to something like a wet-blanket, but again the name seems to suggest something more gross.
Ivan De Mello