ELECTRIC SIX + SCARE TAXI – THE CON CLUB, LEWES 15.05.19
I got a tingle of excitement when I heard that Detroit’s Electric Six were bringing their sleazy fusion of rock and dance music to Sussex for two gigs this year. They play Brighton’s Concorde 2 on Friday 29th November, (grab your tickets HERE) but first up is a chance to see them in the relatively intimate setting of Lewes Con Club courtesy of local promoters The Big Blue Shed.
Like many others, I hooked up to Electric Six back in 2003, when their album ‘Fire’ went gold and spawned three chart hit singles: ‘Danger! High Voltage’, ‘Gay Bar’ and ‘Dance Commander’. They seemed to have something for everyone: the funky popping rhythms and falsetto vocals of disco combined with dirty rock guitar, insistent and catchy melodic hooks, and a maverick attitude channeled through provocative lyrics about the seedier side of life. It wasn’t exactly serious or deeply meaningful, but it sure was a lot of fun.
Public taste can be a fickle thing though, and while the band has never quite repeated that initial success, Electric Six have hardly been resting on their laurels in the years since then. Having made a few line-up changes, they have released no fewer than thirteen more studio albums, plus live recordings and collections of cover versions and rarities. They have an awesome back catalogue, and I can’t wait to see them live.
Support tonight is from another band I want to see, Brighton three-piece Scare Taxi. A recent review described them as ‘trash rock’, a tag they seem to have adopted. From what I’ve heard their music is not easy to pigeonhole: a glam-tinged punky garage rock utilising a variety of guitar styles. I can’t wait to check it out.
The room is pretty full as they take the stage. It’s an excellent turn out for a Wednesday night. To the left, the spiky haired guitarist has the air of someone utterly convinced he is a rock star. This is less surprising when you learn he is Alexander Boag, former frontman of 1990’s chart hopefuls These Animal Men. Boag’s former youthful swagger has now been replaced with the casual ease of the experienced performer. He’s retained the hair dye and eye liner though. The opening number is sufficient to demonstrate that he has all the moves on stage, and all the chops on his black Telecaster guitar. By the second number, the catchy ‘Get Up Get Off’, he is doing a James Brown style toe heel shuffle sideways across the stage in his white winklepickers. To the right, bassist Tara ‘Guitara‘ Harley is wringing plenty of punch and twang from her Jazz bass, the mid range EQ’d right out. She and Boag alternate on lead vocals. Newly recruited drummer ‘MAN’ (Mark Allsop Nelson) sits between them, sensible of haircut and solid on the beat, firing off sharp precise fills and throwing in plenty of interesting accents for emphasis.
This is quality stuff, catchy and hook laden but with satisfying musical variations and interesting interplay between the instruments. Boag has every rock pose and move you could imagine, and his guitar work is superb, varying between jangly tremolo, trebly stabs, swirling phase, chiming licks, and delicious sliding descends. On the excellent number ‘The Revelator’, the blend of twanging Telecaster lead and growling bass is gorgeously reminiscent of The Stranglers at their finest. “Is your life your best shot?” the lyric enquiries, poignantly. Their set ends with a cover of ‘Tainted Love’, which is fun but not really necessary given the quality of their original material. They add a twist with some unexpected stops and extra fills. Like the preceding set, it‘s sharp and tight, and delivered with style and panache. This is definitely an act to watch out for.
Scare Taxi setlist:
‘For Our Sisters For Our Brothers’, ‘Get Up Get Off’, ‘Anna’, ‘Great Things On My Mind’, ‘Lunacy’, ‘The Revelator’, ‘Fly’, ‘If It Bothers You?’, ‘Kicking Down Doors’, ‘Tainted Love’.
More information on Scare Taxi: www.facebook.com/ScareTaxi
Between bands the room quickly transitions from full to rammed. Electric Six have pulled an impressive crowd, and the punters around me are having a whole lot of fun dancing and fooling around to a video playlist of indie and alternative classics projected onto a screen on stage.
As the band comes on, it’s clear this is going to be a hot and lively affair. Prolific output and regular touring over the years have maintained a loyal and enthusiastic fan base. There’s a great atmosphere in the room, and I’m pleased to see a range of ages here. Indeed, a large knot of young people has formed in the middle of the crowd, and they are dancing right from the start.
Vocalist and founder member Dick Valentine is very much the focus of attention. His hair, often slicked back, is worn down and relaxed tonight, and he sports a stylish chalk stripe jacket. He is charismatic, charming and funny, with witty banter between songs.
As the name suggests, the band is a powerful six piece. Two guitarists flank the stage: Johnny Na$hinal (spelled with a dollar sign) in a white suit, and Da Vé, looking splendidly kitsch and sparkly in a sequined jacket with gold shoes and guitar. The keyboards of Tait Nucleus? (with a question mark) are central to the sound, but on this rather restricted stage he’s tucked away at the side behind one of the guitar stacks, earnestly working his synth magic. The rhythm section is Rob Lower on bass and drummer Hyperkube Bonanza. They throb out a solid and insistent dance beat, but still find time for a bit of showing off.
The first section of songs is well received, with plenty of dancing and clapping along, but the show really explodes with ‘Down At McDonnelzzz’, which has pretty much the whole crowd bouncing in unison and flinging their hands in the air after each refrain of “My people need a place to go!”
Dick Valentine muses whether Electric Six are still cool after all these years? No-one here seems overly bothered, as they are all having too much fun dancing. When Johnny Na$hinal starts the familiar opening guitar figure to ‘Gay Bar’, the crowd is instantly whipped into a swirling maelstrom of joyous chaos.
The set grooves on, a sweaty romp through the band’s extensive catalogue. ‘Bite Me’ concludes with Tait’s keyboards providing a convincing approximation of a spaceship landing. Dick Valentine has an eye on the tour itinerary, and the next stop sets up a running joke. Introducing ‘Infected Girls’ he offers, “Get in the van with Electric Six. Come with us and start a new life in Swindon.”
As if there hadn’t been enough already, the next batch of songs is introduced as “the dance section”. Appropriately enough, it begins with ‘Improper Dancing’, one of the funkier numbers from the ‘Fire’ album. The crowd goes wild. Two fans at the front have donned animal masks. During the gap in the “Stop! …. Continue!” figure, the band fits in a whole extra song with a similar beat: ‘(Who The Hell Just) Call My Phone?’
Dick Valentine is feeling the love and looks genuinely delighted. Reflecting on the band’s 17 year history, he describes it as “a beautiful purgatory, and you’re all invited.”
Da Vé provides the opening guitar figure for the original breakthrough hit ‘Danger! High Voltage’, and the mayhem starts up again. The young folk in the middle of the room seem to have adopted some alarming looking reverse moshing, involving dragging rather than pushing.
We’re getting towards the end of the set now. It concludes with the insanely catchy ‘I Buy The Drugs’, and there is no question of not playing an encore. Dick Valentine promises that the band will come amongst us and listen to our stories, “…then tell them to the people of Swindon, to give them hope.”
The first of the two songs they return with is ‘Daddy’s Boy’, from the most recent album ‘Bride Of The Devil’. For a band usually fixated on hedonism, this is quite political, and it’s a cracking piece of work. The gist is that the whole world is the plaything of the privileged, and for those who have been passed over or ‘f*cked over’, that’s why. The final song is ‘Dance Commander’, and I don’t know much about it because I’m right down the front, bouncing along with everyone else.
What an audience, and what a show! The music business can sometimes seem obsessed with youth and novelty, but tonight has vividly illustrated that seasoned performers with a good enough repertoire of songs can still generate plenty of excitement, many years into their career.Electric Six live at The Con Club, Lewes 15.05.19 (pic Ian Bourn Photography)
Electric Six setlist:
‘Bride of the Devil’, ‘Rock’n’roll Evacuation’, ‘Slow Motion Man’, ‘How Dare You?’, ‘Down at McDonnelzzz’, ‘The New Shampoo’, ’Gay Bar’, ‘Slice Of You’, ‘Psychic Visions’, ‘Bite Me’, ‘Infected Girls’, ‘Future Is In The Future’, ‘Improper Dancing/(Who The Hell Just) Call My Phone?’, ‘Danger! High Voltage’, ‘Synthesizer’, ‘Dance Epidemic’, ‘I Buy The Drugs’, (encore) ‘Daddy’s Boy’, ‘Dance Commander’
Electric Six official website: www.electricsix.com
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