Kate Nash, one of my tips for 2007, tonight mixed it with the Nathan Barleys of achingly trendy Hoxton Square and proved she knows a thing or two about creating a memorable evening.
In the bowels of a maze-like restaurant, in a room at the back, Kate’s invite-only party was already swinging into action when we ambled in. Leggy ladies in tiny hats brandished trays of victoria sponge at the cool kids with their carefully messed up hairdos, supping from shapely bottles of Mexican beer. On stage, below a glowingly pink neon sign reading “Kate Nash” and in front of pink curtains and a glowing pink cat, the support acts were going through their motions. As with the set and our headliner, they were mostly girly.
This being a Kate Nash gig, musicians alone would be so-so. Here we had poetry readings. An assemblage of bright young things stuck their colours to the mast of Art with readings about breast feeding, placentas and shaving faces. Some of it was tolerable. In between the poets came a succession of guitar-wielding girls who were largely drowned out by the shouting-to-chat crowd. These unfortunate lambs to the slaughter weren’t Kate Nash, so obviously they needed no attention paid.
Kate, signed to Moshi Moshi for a double A side single – reason enough to throw a party and lavish cake upon its assembled throng – took to the stage with a shiny red hairdo that called to mind a young Belinda Carlisle, whose flirtation with fame was juddering to a close around the same time Kate was born. She takes a pew in front of her electric piano, a device beautified by a selection of coloured ducks, and launches into a short set notable for its lyrics and simple musical arrangements. Part of Kate’s charm is that she never pretends to be a virtuoso pianist or guitar hero and instead quietly gets on with singing her quirky-girly songs.
Lumped in with the Lily Allen and Jamie T middle-class street-poet-from-London contingent, Kate Nash actually has more obvious star quality about her than either of her contemporaries and seems more at home on stage than Allen was at this point in her journey to the nation’s consciousness. Her music is less accessible (or more adventurous, if you like) than Allen’s, but her knowingly ditzy lyrics are more comprehensible than Wimbledon’s Mr T usually musters.
Two songs in and we’re being treated to a track called Bullshit, addressed to that most Allenesque of audiences the ex-boyfriend. There’s a drummer to her right and a chap squatting in centre stage, tucked in to an orange hoodie, playing his knees. A Kate convert informs me that he used to play beats on a keyboard before the drummer turned up. Now he busies himself taking photos of the audience and, later, banging a tambourine with a drumstick. Even later still he’d metamorphosise into an electric guitarist, backing Kate’s acoustic guitar pluckings.
She announces “an angry song”, for journalists who write mean things about her (foolhardy creatures!) – another Allen trait. Behind her piano she gets all dramatic-angry and plays gaggles of low notes, but even now she’s smiling sweetly and clearly enjoying herself. It’s a mood impossible to resist. In front of her, during slow numbers – especially the single, Birds – it’s seemingly now passe to wave a lit mobile phone, as this audience has gone back to basics, brandishing lighters aloft like the communications revolution never happened.
Caroline’s A Victim closes the set and, as Allen does with her brother and subject of the song Alfie, Kate brings the Caroline of the song title onto the stage with her. The awkward-looking girl, one of the poetry readers from earlier on, gets to shake a plastic egg while being informed over a minimalist electo backing track that she’s a victim. Somehow, it was necessary to dig deep and feel for her. The song is the polar opposite of most of Kate’s set and as such is something of an anomaly; it’s the only electro track, and the only song with no discernible lyrical point to make. It sounds like a remix of itself.
Promptly at 11pm it’s all over bar the scrum to get to the toilets, and her audience leave knowing they’ve seen Kate before she gets beyond their reach. She’s not quite the finished product, but the building blocks are undeniably there. Rumours are that major labels are courting her – for sure, one way or another, there will be an album, and it will be bought. It’ll likely confound anyone who thinks Caroline’s A Victim is Kate Nash’s sound in its entirety.