Live Music + Gig Reviews

AU @ Cafe OTO, London

16 September 2009

In deepest Dalston, East London is a venue called Cafe OTO that openedlast year. Tonight it played host to AU (pronounced “ay-you”),an experimental pop collective from Portland, Oregon, who could befavourably compared to the likes of Animal Collective.

AU is primarilythe work of multi-instrumentalist Luke Wyland, with a little help fromhis friends. On this occasion he’s touring with a chap called DanaValatka on drums (and at various points, a glockenspiel and a multitudeof glass bells). Together, they make for a fantastic live musicalpartnership.

And tonight they did not disappoint. Wyland and Valatka threw themselves into the gig, appearing to really enjoy the experience of playing live. It was a little unfortunate that the crowd were seated around tables in front of them -the atmosphere would have been better if the management had cleared thearea and got people to stand up and jump around a bit. Despiteencouragement from the compere, only a few people obliged.

The restrained audience contrasted with AU’s slightly unhinged,physically demanding performance – they were having to towelthemselves down after most songs – and there was a fair amount ofvariety. Their opener was a rather gentle affair, for one thing. RRvs. D, arguably one of the greatest tracks from their most recent albumVerbs, was especially good live. On the album it features an exuberantorchestra, which is a bit difficult to replicate with two people. Wylandchose to replace it with a melodica, which is simple but effective.

For their encore of Are Animals, they laid down some ground-rules.Specifically, that they would only play if everyone stood up and crowdedaround them. This worked really well, particularly during the bit wherehe directed everyone to scream at the top of their voices, which we dulydid. Very cathartic, that.

One member of the audience also decided tobeat the hell out of a cymbal which Valatka had knocked off his kitthrough very forceful drumming, earlier in the set. Afterwards it washard not to crack a smile and head off to check when they’re next intown.

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More on AU
AU – Both Lights
AU @ Cafe OTO, London