Up first came the highly hyped John Wizards. Quite why they’re currently THE buzzed about band is, based on this performance, a puzzle and a half. Granted, there are some calypso beats and tropical rhythms of the highest calibre flowing out of these boys, but when the vocals join the fray they leave a lot to be desired. You’d rather he just shut up so you could get back to hearing those sweet West-African guitar licks.
Then came ample time for another 2 trips to the bar, with a fag break in between as Jagwar Ma took their sweet time getting up on stage. But just as the audience was about to make a break for the bar or smoking area one more time, Jono ma (beatmaker and general brains of the band) took the stage and started tinkering with what looked like an 80s sci-fi radio scanner, emitting a strange soundscape for his fellow band members to arrive on stage to.
With the introductions dispensed with the Aussie trio launched into ‘What Love’, but it may not have been the version many would expect. The bass was turned up to a chest caving level so that when the normally repetitive yet hypnotising song structure revealed itself it felt more like an assault. Paired with Gabriel Winterfield’s ill-advised and out of key vocal improvisations it didn’t make for a pleasant trip.
On record the band does have more than a few shades of baggie culture to them, yet still feel rooted among more contemporary psychedelia inspired bands. Live however, they shun all influences pre-1992 and this is where the crowd's age range is explained. All around us there were 90’s rave scene veterans having flashbacks to their youth, but surrounded by disapproving indie kids who didn’t want their over-priced pints spilled down their shirts.
And this would all be well and good, if the band themselves didn’t seem to be playing so far into this target audience’s hands that the music then suffered for it. Each song became an extended club classic as mixed by Bez. ‘Man I Need’ came off particularly badly despite being the most straightforward of their tracks - Winterfield was out of time, out of tune and seemed to somehow forget the words to the band’s biggest chorus.
There came a point when I debated trying to buy a pill or two off of one of the madchester vets just so I could ‘get’ the music, because they seemed to be having the times of their lives. But any gig that forces you to turn to inebriates or narcotics to enjoy it, probably isn’t worth your time or effort.
By Mikey Rush