Gig Review – Second Hand Marching Band, Benni Hemm Hemm, Applesofenergy, Meursault

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Stereo, Glasgow – November 29th 2009

Sunday night saw a wonderful little line up put together by From A Stolen Sea and I was fortunate enough to be invited along to review things. So it was that wrapped up nice and warm I headed down to Stereo to catch some bands and indulge myself in a couple of drinks with the good Mr. Peenko.

The Second Hand Marching Band kicked off the night, and were as fun as always. I’ve seen them quite a few times now and it says something for them that each time I can hear a little something that I’ve not noticed before, a bit like when like a film, but are rewarded with bits you’ve missed upon rewatching. I’m always quite surprised and equally impressed that a band this size, despite the air of impending chaos, are really pretty tight on stage. Part of the fun of seeing them is you feel that you are just one bum note away from catastrophe, but the bum note never comes. It’s always a pleasure seeing the Second Hand Marching Band, they never fail to put a smile on my face.

Benni Hemm Hemm were entirely new to me. Their website claims that the band has around 300 members, which is quite frankly just showing off. Rather than trying to pack 300 people on stage frontman Benedikt H. Hermannsson instead brought along a stripped back line up, and teamed up with some Second Hand Marching Band members for his set. Starting off with a song which was, I’m told, sung backwards in Icelandic (and if it turns out it wasn’t, I was lied to) is an interesting way to set out your stall. Despite my initial doubts, and a struggle to stop thinking of Denace The Menace due to Benedit’s red & black stripey jumper, Benni Hemm Hemm won me over pretty quickly. If you can imagine something like Belle and Sebastian, The Flaming Lips and Sigur Ros (of course) put through a blender you wouldn’t be too far off. Let’s hope the 300 people thing didn’t give the Second Hand Marching Band any ideas though.

theapplesofenergy was a bit of a reviewer’s nightmare, in a really good way. Considering that Steven Gribbin’s experimental project is the main reason I got invited along, I’ll clearly need to try to work my way through the nightmare a bit better than that though!
After the multiple members of the preceding two bands it must have felt a bit lonely up there as Steven took to the stage on his own, but his one man show didn’t need any help from others. theapplesofenergy music goes for the kind of ambient, experimental soundscape style of music that I wouldn’t generally seek out on my own, usually I’d need a nudge to get me to listen. Having been given that nudge a little while ago I’m very glad I got it. The style of music is most likely quite divisive love it or hate it material, but after the performance of last night I’m planting my flag firmly in the love it category. I’m aware I’m glossing over the actual music here, but that’s simply because it isn’t something I can accurately describe in text. Steven mixes guitars, drums and electronics, and mixes up musical styles too. There are tones and echos of numerous different bands in theapplesofenergy sound, but none that ever force their way to the forefront, leaving theapplesofenergy to sound like, simply put, theapplesofenergy, not anyone else.

Finally the evening draws to a close with Meursault. This is my first experience of the band live, lie so many other bands something has always gotten in the way of me catching them before. Glad I finally put that right. Sometimes I find myself admiring more than enjoying Meursault on record, not often, but just sometimes. I’m never sure why, I like their songs and think they are a fantastic band, I just occasionally have an odd disconnect with the recorded product. I’m pleased to say that I had no such issues with their set in Stereo though. In fact let’s not mince words, I didn’t just enjoy it, I was blown away by how good they were. You probably don’t need me to tell you that Meursault are a great band, that Phillip Quire, the one member of the band I have seen before as Debutant, is a wonderful guitarist, or that Neil Pennycook has a spine tingling, booming foghorn of a voice, but I will anyway. Tonight everything combines perfectly as the hushed crowd gathers round to watch and listen to a band that are surely set for great things. Beautiful, wonderful stuff.

After that it’s back on with the coat and a return to the freezing weather, Only this time the bitter cold is fought off by the warmth inside me that comes from seeing four cracking acts.