Live Music + Gig Reviews

Parakeet + Young Buffalo + Prom @ Madame JoJo’s, London

12 August 2014

Parakeet It’s raining outside. Not just raining but mid-August electric storm raining. Outside the characters of Soho are sheltering in neon-lit doorways, dashing into pubs and using free newspapers as makeshift umbrellas. Which makes the steamy, red velvety cosiness of Madame JoJo’s even more appealing than usual.

Tonight’s line-up – which marks club night and promoter White Heat’s 11th birthday – are all very different but somehow in tune with one another, and transport the small but enthusiastic crowd somewhere a long way from the unseasonal streets above us. Prom are first up and the early birds are in for a treat. Think Nick Cave but darker, with more fuzz, sleaze and anger, and utterly intoxicating. The Londoners’ final song is a revelation; their singer looks set to punch someone or have a huge hissy fit. Her teeth are gritted, her words barely able to make their way out. She’s tiny, but for the 20 short minutes they were on stage, she was a giant. We can’t wait to see them again.

Young Buffalo – from Oxford, Mississippi – are doing the rounds over here, having played at Dalston’s Birthdays last night. Pitched somewhere between Let’s Wrestle – in appearance as well as sound – with their lo-fi harmonies and laid back, slacker guitars, and Vampire Weekend’s chirpy, furious afro-pop, they’ve got an almost retro sound to them (can early noughties be retro yet?), merging the sounds they no doubt came of age to. New single Sykia is a highlight; a rush of clunky surf guitars and ‘woahs’. It’s irresistibly catchy and by the end of it everyone’s grinning as much as their drummer, who eschews the rest of the band’s moody stage persona, instead beaming his way through the set.

Headliners Parakeet bring together two of the country’s most hyped lo-fi, guitar bands of recent years; Mariko Doi, bassist with Yuck, and James Thomas of The History Of Apple Pie. Tonight’s set showcases how far they’ve moved on in the short months they’ve been working together. No longer just a side project, Parakeet are merging into a band in their own right. New EP Pink Noise marks a shift away from their previous material which relied heavily on the shoegaze/grunge revival championed by their respective bands. Now they’re firmly rooted in summer, with a dreamy pop sound that still nods towards the fuzzier sounds we’re used to, and it’s all the more interesting for it.

They’re backed by a changing squad of musicians, Doi and Thomas being the only permanent band members. Tonight Max Bloom hovers stage right on bass…about as far to the right as he can possibly balance without toppling off the stage – perhaps relishing the opportunity to duck out of the limelight, having taken over frontman duties in his day job when Daniel Blumberg left Yuck last year Mariko is happy to be the centre of attention, however, and seizes the opportunity to showcase a startlingly, crystal clear voice which adds a glossy edge to the bed of spacey, woozing guitars that form their base.

We await their album – which is apparently imminent – with baited breath, because if tonight’s anything to go by, it’ll be pretty special; like the clear sky emerging outside, they feel fresh and untainted, a band just getting going and finding their way.

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Parakeet + Young Buffalo + Prom @ Madame JoJo’s, London