Thursday, 29 October 2009

770 SCARCE, Coy Tosa, London Luminaire, Saturday 17 October 2009

I very nearly didn't bother going to what will be undisputably my No. 1 Gig of 2009 - a general horror of London shows (mainly for the travel) combined with a clash of Evan visit weekends nearly put paid to this one. But when Evan rescheduled his birthday party for this weekend, I took the opportunity. Glad I did!

Hit the road just after 6, hoping for a fairly easy Saturday night trundle up the Smoke. All seemed well until I hit nose to tail traffic going past Heston, first gear all the way to Chiswick, then an "event" at Neasden Temple which rendered the 3-lane North Circular choc-a-block from Wembley onwards. Eventually parked outside the venue at 1/4 to 9. Easy to find, impossible to get to...!

Hit the venue, a new 1st floor room with a wide space and a step just before the stage, as support Coy Tosa were on. Obviously early 90's US alt-rock fans, their sound was held in thrall to the likes of Pavement, Superchunk etc. Quite good really but sounding oddly dated.

Took a little wander around this fine little venue before taking a spot for the showing of a Scarce "documentary", tracking the history of this band from inception, brink of stardom, brink of disaster with singer Chick Graning's near-fatal brain aneurysm, dissolution and eventual reincarnation in current no-strings, no-pressure, "see what happens and enjoy the ride" format. A fine documentary with a few surplus characters, although it was totally cool to see the likes of Kristen Hersh on the subject of Scarce.

The time stretched to 10.30 as final set-up prep was made for the entrance of Scarce, and I took a position down the front, just behind the step for a good view and, incidentally, just behind Debbie Smith of Echobelly and Curve fame!

Scarce hit the stage at 20 to 11, white clad, stomping through a sleazy new number before "Glamourizing Cigarettes" burst into anthemic life, followed by the even more soaring, singalong yet personal and strangely affecting "Days Like These". After the slight return of the Heather Nova support a year ago, a "Scarce sampler" if you will, this was the band in full-on mode, taking no prisoners and having a whale of a time in the process. I don't know what it's about, this thing with bands from New England, but once onstage they're TRANSFORMED, transcending their material and the sum of their parts with breathtaking passion. Scarce, tonight, were the "force of nature" Boston scribe Brett Milano alluded to - their music, primal, raw Stooge-y rock'n'roll with a somehow accessible "pop" twist, took flight. Maybe because of the poor sound, they seemed to be even more committed to get their music across; maybe the reaction of the devoted, who'd waited 10 long years to see this band again, galvanised their efforts; either way this was as raw, ragged, passionate, committed and downright magnificent a set as I've seen in ages. Joe, pounding with might and energy; Chick, the coolest rock star on the planet, a rejuvenation and revelation; and Joyce, stomping, kinetic and attention-grabbing.

For "Freakshadow" the audience, as one, raised their arms to sing, "I wouldn't miss... a minute of this!" before a raise-the-roof ovation which even startled the band and moved Joyce to say, "we love you so much, London, we may even move here!"

After a swift set, a 4-song encore highlighted the Pixies-ish slow stomp of "All Sideways" and a pleading "Sense Of Quickness", before an amphetamine-fast "Hope" ended a truly brilliant set. Ironic really, as hope is what this band provides, after their trials and tribulations, to still be this good.

This however took us to 1/4 to 12, so after a quick chat with roadie and Joyce's husband Matt, I hit the road for a difficult journey back, thanks to a hold-up at Ealing prompting a U-turn. Elated, however, at the rejuvenating powers of rock'n'roll, made manifest in this band. Scarce, you can have it now... Best Gig of 2009. By a country mile!

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