Wednesday, 31 March 2010

527 AMERICAN HI-FI, Crackout, London Camden Underworld, Wednesday 29 August 2001

Back on the gigging trail so soon after Reading Festival! This one was due to be Bowling For Soup up at the Vic in Swindon, but as soon as the Hi-Fi named a follow-up headlining date for their triumphant Reading show, there was really no contest... Rachel was staying in London on a work thing anyway, so I drove up as Swindon Convoy Car 1, hitting Camden at 7.45 and meeting a work-frazzled Rach for a drink in a Camden bar (to the welcome strains of REM's "Disturbance At The Heron House"!), until Swindon Convoy Car 2 arrived.

The "sold out" signs had apparently gone up for this gig, which amazed us all on the strength of a few Radio 1 airplays for single "Flavor Of The Weak", and the dancefloor was already well full when we got in. Hit the bar for a drink, and interrupted the Hi-Fi guys wandering into the venue; good thing not too many people know what they look like at the moment! Introduced Jamie and Drew to the crew, and had a chat with the affable and laid-back Mr. Arentzen before they all disappeared backstage to ready themselves.

Caught a couple of numbers of support act, the painfully young Crackout. They were agitated and speedy, but I largely ignored them and chilled at the bar area, getting psyched up for the Hi-Fi! Wandered down at 9.15 to the crowded dancefloor, determined to be as near the front as possible. I was well up for this one and in a state of high excitement, accompanied by a more circumspect Rach.

The Hi-Fi dashed on at 9.30, guitarred up already as before, and introduced themselves as, "a rock'n'roll band from Boston, Massachusetts." And rock'n'roll they did, bursting into life with "Scar", and sending the packed dancefloor mental. The Hi-Fi formula is simple; catchy hooks and simply constructed pop songs played with balls-out guitar and speed. Kind of an updated Cheap Trick, or a cross between the pop flippancy of the Wannadies and the rockier stylings of Foo Fighters. What sets them apart, however (as always seems to be the case with Boston bands), is their ability to really turn it on "live". Despite a serious guitar lead problem causing Jamie to swap guitars and plugs around with increasing agitation until it got sorted - in the process becoming more animated than I'd ever seen him! - and also causing the Hi-Fi to whack through a couple of numbers sans lead guitar, they sounded brilliant, and played with passion and gusto. "Fuck the USA," Stacy said at one point to a frenzied audience, "you guys are the best!". Get used to it, guys, there's more where that came from!

Encores included a superb and totally appropriate rendition of Redd Kross' classic powerpop toon "Lady In The Front Row", after which Rach and I emerged once again, soaking and elated.

Hung around for awhile afterwards but eventually left before the band emerged as I was soaked and increasingly chilly. Home via Rach's hotel, and in at 1.30, still buzzing from the Hi-Fi!

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