Monday, 15 March 2010

God Is An Astronaut - Institute of Contemporary Arts, London - 17/02/10

God Is An Astronaut were the first band I ever saw at a proper festival (ie. not counting Mathew Street Festivals). I'd already got them marked down as a band I should see from I think Alex and Tina, and they were playing in the first slot on the first day at the Oxegen festival, Dublin, in 2008.

The ICA in London is an interesting venue, as I sort of expected it to be from it's name, and it's by far the most intimate venue I've ever seen a proper band in, even more so than the Junction in Cambridge. I spent a fair portion of the gig literally within touching distance of the guitarist.

This gig was a while ago, and I've forgotten the name of the first support act. I remember them being OK, but nothing particularly special or memorable, as demonstrated by my lack of memory of them. The problem with the sort of music that GIAA and Mogwai and their support acts all have is that it's quite samey. It can be good, but at the same time a lot of it sounds fairly similar, and it's difficult to stand out.

The second support act, Butterfly Explosion, did stand out a bit. They had some vocals, for one, and also a girl on a keyboard. Their drummer was also pretty good. I thought they sounded really good, and I'm going to buy their album at some point. I would have bought it then and there, but I don't have the money, and currently it's only available to buy as a download, so I'll wait a week or two until the CD is released. Their songs had a decent energy to them, and I liked the way they built and climaxed. They were pretty heavy for certain portions, and it was a good sound. What I dislike about a lot of music in the instrumental rock sort of genre is that it tends to feel like it's building up to something that never actually comes. I remember seeing Battles at Oxegen, and it felt like so much of their music just built and built only to simply finish the song. Butterfly Explosion have some pretty epic finales to the song, and you get a proper climax at the end, which plenty of songs from other bands in the same genre just don't do. They just simmer out instead and leave you musically blue-balled.

So yeah, yet to hear Butterfly Explosion's music on CD, but from what I remember of their live set they're a really good band, and they should do well (or at least well for the relatively obscure genre they're in).

For a band a lot of people have never heard of, God Is An Astronaut have been around a while, and their live set was predictably pretty tight. They have good energy on the stage, and despite just being a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer, they manage to put on a pretty decent live show. The guitarist has an absolute crapload of effects pedals and stuff, which are well used, and pretty crucial given that the songs sometimes have multiple layers and loops of guitar.

The gig was good, the songs were mixed up a bit from the album versions, which was nice, and there was a lot of energy on-stage. My only disappointment was that they didn't have videos projected up behind them like they did at Oxegen. Not to say that I go to see a band live for the eye candy and not the music, but the videos they had behind them at Oxegen were probably the reason I really took notice of the band. They were awesome, and they added a hell of a lot to the live performances. I don't know why they didn't have them at the ICA, especially given that there was a projector on the ceiling, but I really hope they've not permanently dropped them from their live set. I expect the videos probably took a lot of work, but they really did make the live shows exceptional.

Still, it was a very good gig, and really nice to see one of my favourite bands so up-close. Given the tickets only cost a tenner (it cost me more just to get there), it was probably the best value for money I've ever gotten from seeing a band live. I hope their new album is as good as their last one, and I really hope I can see them on tour again, because even without the videos, they still make for a good show, which is especially impressive for a band who don't have any lyrics in their songs. There aren't any sing-along moments, and the crowd is a bit weird, but they still make for a really good display of musical talent.

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