Friday 6 August 2010

Futuristic Retro Champions single launch at Mono, 5th August 2010

Futuristic Retro Champions
with very special guests
Turner Prize winner Martin Creed and his band, 
Eugene Kelly, Hidden Masters and the Kings of Macumba

Well last night was pretty special as my sisters band Futuristic Retro Champions launched their debut single (following the release of 2 EP's) with a line-up that would put some festivals to shame. 

2010 has been a productive year to date for the FRC's and last night was an indication of how far they have come. It's always good to see familiar faces at gigs, but even better to see new ones and last night was once of these gigs, with just short of 200 people (although I did kind of lose count as I was on the door) coming into Mono.

With so many quality acts on the bill the entertainment started early-ish as the Hidden Masters sharp and harmonious 60's garage psych caused people to spill in from the sunshine offered by the Mono beer garden. 

I'd never heard of the Hidden Masters until my sister told me she had approached them to play, as their drummer John is on the same course at Glasgow School of Art. I picked up John and his drum kit in the West End of Glasgow earlier on and he is a lovely guy. John explained that they had gone from being a 5-piece to a 3-piece as two members had left for London. That didn't effect their sound.

The 3-piece quickly got into their stride, only after a mic problem for the bass player caused them to pause for the sound engineer to fix it. The band got better as they went on, incredibly tight with guitar sounds and harmonies echoing early Love. I wasn't the only one at Mono to be thoroughly impressed and the band must have sold a dozen of their 7-inch single 'Nobody Knows That We're Here' b/w 'Grey Walls Grey.' You can get it from these guys State Records.

Next up was Eugene Kelly of Captain America, Eugenius and The Vaselines fame. 

I felt quite emotional when Eugene strapped on his harmonica two songs in and played The Vaselines classic 'Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam', famously covered by Nirvana on their Unplugged album. It brought back memories of me going into the old Missing Records in Oswald Street and buying 'The Way Of The Vaselines: A Complete History' as a teenager (must have been 1994 after Unplugged)and feeling quite cool as the girl serving me looked impressed with my purchase.

Years later I remember going to play the album and it wasn't in the V section of my album collection - I used to have my albums stored in alphabetical order! They still are, kind of!

I discovered it in my sisters bedroom and was equally as impressed and pleased as the girl serving me in Mono had been years earlier. The Vaselines simple, clever and humorous lyrics and ear for pop clearly had an effect on Carla as a few years down the line she got in touch with Eugene to interview him for an essay she was writing on Pop Culture at Edinburgh School of Art and a few years after that her boyfriend Harry (also in FRC's) arranged for Eugene to play at Carla's 21st. Shortly after Futuristic Retro Champions formed.

All this flashed through my head in seconds as the familiar melody and lyrics filled Mono and Eugene rightly received a great reception when the song finished. 

Eugene played quite a few tracks from his excellent solo album 'Man Alive' including 'I'm Done With Drugs' and 'You're Having My Sex' and one of the highlights of the set for me was 'River Clyde Song' recorded as Eugenius.

I'm done with drugs and cigarettes
pornography and casual sex
I'm done with drink and late night fun
my hedonism's all been done

Because I have finally found you
and I want to build my world around you

I'm done with noise and all it brings.
Sonic Youth, The Rites of Spring.
I'll mend my ways I'll cut my hair
I'll even change the clothes I wear

Because I have finally found you
and I want to build my world around you

'I'm Done With Drugs' by Eugene Kelly

'Molly's Lips', another Vaselines classic also covered by Nirvana prompted another   huge cheer before Eugene ended with 'Dear John' with the great hook 'destroy a Starbucks today!'

And so it was on to Martin Creed and his band. The band haven't quite fully explained how they got to know Martin, I think they played at some art opening in London a few years ago and he enjoyed their set, but they have kept in touch and he came to see them play in London earlier this year.

As he is up in Edinburgh for the next while for his festival show, he asked the band if they had any gigs lined up that he could play with his band. With a single launch planned FRC's were more than happy to have his support and of course Martin ended up designing the sleeve for the single. Sometimes things just work out!

Martin and his band took to the stage around 9.20pm and after saying 'hello' he immediately said 'f**k off' and launched into a song called 'F**k Off'. I immediately thought 'well my Mum isn't going to like this one!

In true creative and artistic style though, Martin was looking to cause a reaction, to be playful and controversial. This is a theme encompassed in his art and he brought it to his music. The two highlights for me were a song where he went through the alphabet making melodies out of each letter over a driving 3-chord pop-punk beat and riff and his last song when he counted from 1-100. There were further moments of pop-punk, with contradicting lyrics, but the two songs above stood out.

And so it was time for the main act, Futuristic Retro Champions.

With Sita P looking every inch a pop star the band bounced into life opening with 'Kitten With A Loaded Gun' off their La Chunky EP before the same mic problem that has bothered Hidden Masters caused a break and a mic change, but this only seemed to improve the friendly positive vibe in the room, with the band sharing banter with the crowd.

Eager to press on after the delay the band launched into 'Epic New Song' with Sita already hitting the notes, the section towards the end with the line 'I wonder if you are feeling the same way as I do' was just perfect pop and it sent a nice tingle down my spine.

The band were clearly enjoying themselves, with Harry smiling as wide as the Clyde. Carla had the flu and was really struggling before the show, but for 45-minutes the pop buzz carried her through.

'Strawberries and Vodka Shot's' is 3-minutes of the finest pop around, it's funky bassline leads to the into, the instrumental refrain pinches the riff from Depeche Mode's 'Just Can't Get Enough' and the synths around the chorus are just pure summer.

New song 'Settle Down' is a break from the norm, an 80's style synth ballad that the band have yet to perfect live, but it grows as the song goes on and is a showcase for Sita's voice. 

Carla's flu meant that there was no place in the set for live favourite 'DIY Lovesong' but she did manage a brilliant acoustic version of 'Pulling Box Shapes' with Sita on glockenspiel.

There was fun on stage as Carla introduced the vocal debut of Ceal (bass) on new song 'No Show (Uh-Oh)', which may well be the next single. 

'Uh-oh, u-oh I don't know,  last night I ended up at the disco, I kissed a boy when I really didn't mean to..'

Despite it only being played for the second time (following the warm up gig at Pinup Nights the previous weekend) it is clear that this is a brilliant song with real potential.

Harry took lead vocals for the old FRC classic 'Speak To Me' that really got the crowd going before the band romped through 'You Make My Heart' from the FRC EP. One of the songs of the year for me (OK I am biased) with its New Order style bass cutting through and more soaring vocals and hooks.

The single 'May the Forth' also nods a head to New Order, a tale of friendship, a night out and wishing to be young again. 'Watching you dance, has given me a second chance, to feel young again, (you make me feel), young again.' The 'you make me feel' backing vocals are straight out of the 80's, brilliant melody and hook.

'Jenna' ,as always, prompted dancing, clapping and singing, before Harry and Ceal swapped bass and guitar to close the night with a glorious cover version of the Bananarama classic 'Robert De Niro's Waiting.'

The band retired triumphantly and Carla almost collapsed exhausted as I gave her a hug.

Not finished yet, the night ended to the samba beats of Kings of Macumba who prompted mass dancing, with some booty shaking that Beyonce would be proud of!

All of this was only £6! A brilliant night that everyone was raving about at the end. I'm exhausted jut writing this. Pics to follow!