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Black Sky Thinking

Are Chrome Hoof The Best Live Band In The UK In 2009?
Luke Turner , February 16th, 2009 13:52

Live, the mighty Chrome Hoof follow in the footsteps of Parliament, Funkadelic and David Bowie, says Luke Turner. But in these strangely conservative times, are they literally too good for the mainstream?

The first time I encountered the full might of Chrome Hoof live was at the Medieval-themed Tapestry Festival. With the lights of the Welsh steelworks off to the south, their towers belching flame into the night sky, and the rising slopes of hills looming into the darkness to the north, the silver clad Chrome Hoof and their rampaging metallic goat were, encouraged by an excess of mead, a righteous and magical spectacle.

Yet their Hieronymus Bosch funk/rave/metal/disco/younameit is not merely apt for festivals where dressing up is the order of the day. They’ve had loyal support from Klaxons, were chosen by Jarvis Cocker to play his Meltdown event alongside Sunn o))), headlined last year’s Offset, and are soon to perform a live collaboration with Krautrock heroes Cluster – what wonder that combination might bring one can only guess.

Yet, you might argue, what lies behind their Bacofoil capes, glittering eye-makeup and metal farmyard bleater? Are Chrome Hoof all glittering artifice and gimmick? At tonight’s concert, supporting Simian Mobile Disco at KoKo, they prove that the answer to that question is a resounding no.

For Chrome Hoof are no anachronism. For all their neo-conceptual talk of time-travelling from distant planets, they’d have been as at home frying the minds of bong-blasted hippies and prog fiends in the early 70s as they would conjuring up an orgy in a disco a few years later. In today’s grab everything culture, they ought to make even more sense, a triumph of a blending of musical styles that never feels cobbled awkwardly together, but instead is delivered with mean and kicking proficiency by the multi-instrumental nutbars onstage.

The visual spectacle is a huge part of this, of course, but who wouldn’t rather see a bunch of people losing their minds in silver cowls, the Chrome Hoof goat reborn with sturdy silver breastplate and robotic flashing blue eyes, and Lola Olafisoye - surely the one of the most intense frontwomen we have now (in her warrior headgear and menacing glare) than your common-or-garden slacks and a shirt act that usually graces the Koko stage? Chrome Hoof exist as part of a glorious countercultural and theatrical heritage that stretches anywhere from Ziggy to Sun Ra to Parliament and Funkadelic.

Their brilliance is shown in the audience reaction - after all, the best groups are those that divide before they conquer. Those who stand with flat frowns on the balconies, perplexed at the wondrous happening unfolding in front of them, have clearly missed out, imaginations unripe for the 'Hoof's sensual harvest. It might be surprising that they're unwilling to make the very small leap from Simian Mobile Disco's more mechanical dance magic to this, but we live in strangely conservative times. There is an outbreak of girls dancing in that irritating loose-limbed hippy way beloved of camera operators at music festivals, but just this once the transgression may be forgiven. One balding fellow clutches his girlfriend in fear as Olafisoye glares into the crowd, green beams of light reflecting from her headress and screams "we have tasted your souls...". From the faces of the newly converted, it's clear that those souls were given in glorious and willing submission.

Click the image below to witness the glory of the 'Hoof for yourselves. All photos courtesy