Two moments really stood out during Gang Gang Dance’s performance at XOYO. The first came two songs in, when lead singer/percussionist Lizzie Bougatsis let go of her inhibitions, jumped down into the crowd and disappeared briefly, only to bob up smiling and busting some incredible moves. The whole of the XOYO basement instantly joined in, dancing with delerious abandon to the hypnotic House Jam from 2009’s Saint Dymphnya.
It’s not often that crowds will actually laugh and cheer let alone dance at indie-rock shows. Even head nodding can be frowned on, but that didn’t stop this crowd. So far, Gang Gang Dance have been treated with complete reverence by fans and the critics for their virtuosity, experimentation and coolness, so it comes as somewhat of a huge surprise that live they’re just a good old-fashioned party band. A post-modern B-52’s, albeit via Detroit techno and Afrobeat polyrhythms.
The majority of the set was pulled from the Gang Gang Dance’s latest album, Eye Contact, and despite being a relatively new release, the ease and humour with which the various members of the group tweaked, stretched and reinforced these numbers showcased how adept they are with manipulating their material to suit a given crowd. Every conceivable strain of dance music melded together and emanated with a boom from the speakers. The resulting vibe was continuous and genuinely uplifting.
At pivotal moments it felt like a Jamaican dancehall riot, and in others a teutonic rave or new age-free party. Gang Gang Dance seem to capture some primal force within their compressed beats, but it’s not minimalist or mathematic; it’s inherently chaotic and universal. Early vinyl releases were wild and fractured, with melodies phasing in and out, often incoherent.
Since switching labels – an early “rock” act for the venerable Warp Records, they’re now signed to the mighty 4AD – they’ve tightened and allowed their influences to be more noticeable. Keyboardist Brian Degraw, guitarist Josh Diamond and Drummer Jesse Lee are real beat aficionados and whilst Bougatsis gets the crowd up on their feet, it’s these guys who create and hold the mood.
The other pivotal moment came just after the show as the sweaty and frazzled crowd stumbled out into the neon and traffic of Old Street. A group of young mustachioed reprobates started voraciously laughing as they hurried away into the darkness in search of further adventures. Sometimes, once you’ve unlocked these rhythms and feelings that lay within, you don’t want to return to the real world, to mundanity; you want the party to go on and on and on.