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LIVE REPORT: GZA
Bryan Brussee , July 8th, 2015 10:48

Bryan Brussee reports from London's Roundhouse, on an evening curated by Mogwai featuring Mugstar, Lightning Bolt, Loop, Tortoise and GZA

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Photo courtesy of Maria Jefferis/shot2bits.net

"So what kind of people do you think are gonna be at this gig?" asks Kevin, my flatmate and plus one for the evening. "I don't know," I say. "Probably a bunch of record store clerks. Maybe some Black Flag Dads."

"So in the case of a balcony collapse, it'd be like that Onion article about the Yo La Tengo concert?"

"Probably."

We normally try to guess the crowd at shows, but the evening ahead at the Roundhouse, which features a lineup curated by Mogwai, is eclectic to say the least, and as such poses something of a challenge. In order, we will see Mugstar, Lightning Bolt, Loop, Tortoise and GZA. Four vaguely experimental rock bands (whatever that means when it seems like every rock band today has some kind of post-, kraut-, psych-, or noise- prefixed to their genre) and The Genius. Great bill, but a bit all over the place. Might cause trouble.

Indeed, there is a fumble at the doors. The plus one orders didn’t go through entirely (or at all) and as we wait for confirmation, we miss Mugstar. A shame, too, as Axis is is "one worth spinning on".

Sorted out, we make it in time for Lightning Bolt, the Rhode Island duo whipping up a furious tempest of drum and bass, Brian Gibson feeding his instrument through a pedal board, and the other Brian, he of the Chippendale variety, banging away on his kit and occasionally wailing into the microphone affixed to his confetti mask for an extra burst of noise. What his drumming lacks in technique it more than makes up for in sheer bravado. It's a bit frightening, but also danceable.

Loop deliver just as much. They've got deep grooves, blown-out riffs and a certain Robert Hampson who's tamed his former shag into a tight mod cut. Introduced by HAL 9000, no doubt a nod to the, ahem, cosmic nature of their audience, they launch into material mostly from their 1988 fan-favourite Fade Out but also, admirably, play two songs off their recent, and quite excellent, Array 1 EP, 'Precession' and 'Aphelion' that, live, drive with the ceaseless and all-consuming pull of a black hole. Light can escape from this one, though; the band is bathed simultaneously in red and blue, the effect not unlike watching a 3D movie without the paper glasses.

Looking around, there are exactly five pairs of unfurrowed brows. One set belongs to a man who could pass for Justin Vernon, except in place of the stoic, faux-mountain man demeanor, he's headbanging, and leaning back in ecstasy one hand hanging onto the railing the other waving back and forth, up and down. "Ride 'em, space cowboy" seems to be the message.

GZA closes out the night, stripping back all the nonsense that Tortoise previously cluttered the stage with to just a single DJ table. The Genius gamely opens with 'Liquid Swords', but there are problems, mostly with the venue's acoustics. Often GZA will tell the DJ behind him to stop the music so he can just spit, and spit he does, enunciating every syllable to this "white ass audience." These moments work. His call and response - WU, TANG - doesn't, and it's a bit disappointing. The crowd is dead. They don't know the words. They don't really dance, either. The phrase is "Wu-Tang Forever" not, "Wu-Tang, but it's alright if you'd rather keep your arms crossed in listless posturing."

Mogwai have taken a gamble with the show's bill, but this reviewer still thinks it was the right move. Rather than have one artist supported by a bunch of limp imitations, as is so often the case with shows that cater to a niche audience, they have crafted a set that runs from krautrock to noise rock to space rock to post-rock to hip hop. Eclectic, yes, but also strangely cohesive, with each artist putting their own spin on rhythm. It's a shame, then, that in a night dedicated to The Beat, the final one would pack more mush than punch.

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