Sam Taylor reviews Goose Island’s first London Block Party, headlined by Everything Everything.
Last Saturday Goose Island’s Block Party treated the capital to one final afternoon of live music before the winter months kick in, as over a thousand music-lovers and beer-connoisseurs alike gathered in Old Street’s Red Market.
Despite many taking advantage of the numerous bars and £4 pound pints (a whole pound cheaper than the London average!) Block Party was initially a chilled affair. It was up to self-proclaimed ‘hip-hop brass band’, Dat Brass, to get the crowd going. Donning braces, checked shirts and skinny chinos that didn’t quite reach their loafers, Dat Brass and Block Party were a natural fit.
The group made the most of the Red Market’s intimate space, shunning the main stage and instead bringing the music to the people, coaxing them off the bar-stalls and onto their feet. Their clever re-working of popular songs, ranging from Kanye West’s Gold Digger to a brilliant rendition of London Calling by The Clash, were enthusiastically received. While the ‘hip-hop’ elements were harder to hear (a problem that may be solved by swapping their cowbell for a snare) the energetic brass, as expected, was a winner. Special mentions go to their tuba player for orchestrating the group, and their saxophonist for his nifty solos and committed moves. Sound right up your street? Well, they pretty much are: the boys can often be found parading down Camden Town, blaring out Seven Nation Army to unsuspecting passers-by.
The other two support acts, Little White Things and Black Honey, were not quite as engaging. Of the two Black Honey fared better. Some dubious early shrieking aside, Izzy Phillips delivered a strong vocal performance to compliment capable if fairly standard indie-rock. Though Black Honey demonstrated more developed songwriting capabilities, ultimately both bands lacked enough spark to make them stand out.
Image: Goose Island
While I can imagine Little White Things translating better on record, in the flesh they were underwhelming. With their sound firmly rooted in synth-pop, the beats were too straight to get the crowd moving and most songs were crying out for a bass – two rhythm guitars seemed surplus to requirements. If Little White Things can pair three-part harmonies – arguably their strongest element – with a greater attention to groove, they will undoubtedly improve. Luckily, for a masterclass in exactly this pairing, all they needed to do was stick around for the headliners.
Art-pop technicians Everything Everything were the stars of the show and worth the £10 entrance fee alone. The Block Party was the final date of the band’s Get To Heaven Tour, their genius 2015 album, that they affectionately call their ‘horror Bible’. Opening on Blast Doors, lead-singer Jonathan Higgs immediately showcased his immeasurable talent – one minute semi-rapping, spewing vitriol, the next demonstrating unbelievable vocal acrobatics, dipping and diving in and out of falsetto.
Every member of the band is hugely impressive, with each of them in their own right warranting study for any aspiring drummer, bassist or guitarist. Mike Shearman (drums) and Jeremy Pritchard (bass) make up one of the best rhythm sections in the country – the large sections of the crowd jolting to Kemosabe and Don’t Try were a testament to this. Alex Robertshaw’s guitar-work too is exceptional; his chords are rich and his patterns layered and complex. His soloing style is also one of the most original in modern guitar music, and is even more electrifying live, especially as featured in the ridiculously catchy Spring / Sun / Winter / Dread.
As the set neared its conclusion Get To Heaven’s masterpiece, No Reptiles, left a lasting impression on the crowd. The song builds and builds, but never explodes, leaving you reeling in a crescendo that never was. Here Higgs displays his knack for melding dark imagery and surreal humour, with his vocal delivery just as striking as it is on record. To end, one of the band’s biggest hits to date, Distant Past, proved a fitting festival closer; its saccharine pop-chorus leaving fans manically jumping for joy.
For a cosy setting in the heart of Shoreditch, non-extortionate street-food stalls and bars, and, most importantly, a headline appearance from one of Britain’s best current bands, Goose Island’s Block Party was certainly value for money.
Featured Image: Everything Everything by Goose Island.