Tonight could, in many ways, be taken as both a history lesson and a celebration of the type of pop music Britain does best, served up by two of the most exciting bands of the new decade. The Big Pink and Esben And The Witch owe more than they probably should to the heroes of the past and to some of their contemporaries, but their ability to plunder from music history, give it back as they go and produce something fantastic from the mix is a perfect demonstration of their myriad talents.
Esben And The Witch are on first. The Brighton trio don’t have a huge amount in common with the headliners-to-come except their record label – 4AD – but if ever a band was formed just so that 4AD could sign them, it would look and sound just like them.
Ethereal, wild-haired girl singer Rachel Davies, low heartbeat-rhythm drums and booming synths are backed by horror film lighting as they spew out lyrics about strange Masonic voices and silver bullets. They are every inch the Frankenstein’s monster of the best memories of the prettier, fairytale end of 1980s Goth (think This Mortal Coil or All About Eve) mixed with Florence And The Machine. This is, in case you’re in any doubt, a very good thing, and long may it continue.
They’re the perfect warm up for the night’s main act, who equally mix and match musical influences from past decades with the best the new century has turned out so far. The Big Pink come to the Forum with an impressive heritage: frontman Robbie Furze is a former collaborator of Atari Teenage Riot‘s Alec Empire, while Milo Cordell was responsible, via his Merok record label, for some of the earliest releases by Klaxons. This gives the first clue to the rich vein they’re mining.
Punk swagger, filtered through acid rock electronic swirls and the same psychedelics beloved of Stone Roses, Oasis and Kasabian, they drag these sounds kicking and screaming through the same influences as Klaxons to produce something anthemic and huge, which is surely destined for venues much bigger than this. Backed by an epilepsy-inducing light show and boneshaking acoustics, Furze looks and acts like a rock star, with charisma to match his chords.
With just the one album behind them, the set is inevitably short and largely predictable, but the songs are delivered with gusto and personality, the performance of Count Backwards From Ten standing out from the crowd. As anyone in the room could probably have predicted, they finish on a triumphal run-through of Dominos – and best of all, they do finish; no contrived encores for these lads tonight, just a fantastic set that does anything but leave the audience feeling short changed. Like the band themselves, the set list will only grow bigger and better. Catch them in the smaller venues while you still can.