Maybe it’s the pricey tickets. Maybe it’s the slightly outre nature of the acts on offer. Either way, the black, marine-ply main floor and upper-level balconies of the Turbine Room have a lot of empty spaces as Room 40’s Frankly! mini-festival kicks off. For the adventurous few, the mish-mash line-up offers gems: the cutely twee guitar pop and cheesey flash animations of Hong Kong-based The Pancakes disarms the crowd; the oh-so-earnest Jamie Stewart pulls fans of Xiu Xiu in close to coo over every electronic blib, strangled guitar chord and moaned note.
Tenniscoats‘ husband-and-wife duo recently wowed all with their transcendental folk-minimalism on the top floor of this very venue. I doubted they could better that gig. I was wrong. With the aid of fellow-countrywoman Nikaido Kazumi, Saya and Ueno Takashi turn their sights from their usual melange of poignant Gymnopedie-styled ambience to a more whimsical world of bright echoing guitar notes and playful layers of soprano glossolalia. In some ways, it’s a paradoxical performance — one moment all serious faces and concentration, the next full of child-like joy and impish bunny hops. Should avante acts involve getting down among the crowd like you’re a Wiggles performer and getting everyone to wave their arms back and forth We Are The World-style? When it’s this beautiful and this much fun, who cares?
After, the brash hook-laden punk-pop of I Heart Hiroshima seems vanilla by comparison. Which is completely unfair — it’s rather fine vanilla, delivered with energy and gusto. A little too much gusto on Susie Patten’s part, though — Matthew Somers is left hunched and gasping for breath over his guitar at the end of at least one tune. Shakeytown is brilliant; I’m disappointed to find that The Rip is not yet for sale at the merch desk.
I would have preferred a full band affair from Peaches rather than a DJ set, and my detachment reflects this as I observe proceedings from an upper-level balcony. There has to be some sort of irony in the fact that she is essentially laying down metal rhythms in a pumping electronic manner so bright young things who would never be seen dead at a metal gig can groove away instead of headbanging in time. There are more similarities in musical genres than most people will admit. Still, it’s good fun without being brilliant. Late on, she abandons the decidedly un-visual CD swapping and knob twirling for a microphone and belts out a few tunes — including Fuck The Pain Away — with an aggression that is as spiky as her hair.