|LostAlone/Mojo Fury - Bristol, Thekla - 20th May 2012|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Saturday, 26 May 2012 04:45|
The Thekla may have lost out to the Tunbridge Wells Forum in the recent NME search for the best small venue in Britain but, ever since I first allowed a tentative foot to leave dry land and enter its iconic shell, this Bristol venue has always been a personal favourite of mine.
There could be no excuse, then, when LostAlone, the band responsible for probably my favourite album of 2012 so far, named the Thekla as the venue for the first date of a short, five night run of UK headline dates.
Upon entering the former cargo ship moored in the Mud Dock area of Bristol's Floating Harbour I headed straight for the upstairs bar - a sanctuary in the past from bad heavy metal headline bands....no names mentioned, of course - only to pull open the door and find myself standing next to a member of support band Mojo Fury and a crowd of people staring straight at me: yes, tonight's gig is in the small bar, it has already started, and everyone entering after its early kick-off has to tramp the walk of shame past the band towards the bar.
Happily, Mojo Fury appeared to have, in the words of Karen Carpenter, only just begun and with a short, sharp set they manage to impress the hell out of me. Frontman Michael Mormecha looks like an alternative rock version of comedian Emo Philips and he leads his band through an inspired collection of dark, infectious tunes that, in their synth-heaviest moments, evoke thoughts of Nine Inch Nails in their sexiest, coolest, most easily accessible period. There is a rich vein of '80s sounding alternative pop pumping through the heart of some of their songs and they really do sound nothing like the band name would have you thinking. A great start for sure.
After one of the quickest changeovers in recent history - an unbelievable 9:45pm curfew the ridiculous reason - LostAlone hit the tiny stage with 'Sin And Sinners' and, almost immediately, frontman Steve Battelle is in the respectably-sized crowd physically pushing every member of the audience towards the front: it is an ice breaker, for sure. 'Unleash The Sands Of Time' follows and, like the majority of songs aired from that 2007 debut album 'Say No To The World', is a noisier cousin of the material from this year's incredible 'I'm A UFO In This City', immediately plundered for the fantastic 'Creatures' and new single 'Paradox On Earth'.
Battelle, embroiled in a bet with bass player Alan Williamson that he can't possibly keep his military pea coat on for the duration of the set (he does), excels in the role of frontman, although in an off-kilter fashion. His curious enthusiasm is instantly likeable and his between song banter, ranging from discussing the merits of his Han Solo effects pedal to asking each audience member individually where they have seen his band previously, fills the void between immense examples of songsmithery with good humour...except there isn't really time for talking due to the hands of time being severely against us.
The band tear through 'Music And Warm Bodies', 'Vesuvius' and 'Our Bodies Will Never be Found', and even wedge in an online request in the form of 'Genevieve' as Battelle throws himself around the tiny confines of the stage like a flesh and bone mash up of Johnny Thunders and Eric Sean Nally, he and his band mates recreating the band's trademark harmony vocals with ease.
Battelle does get serious for a moment as he introduces 'Put Pain To Paper', a song that he says he hates due the dark place where he was residing when he wrote it but, after scaling the heights of high quality during its four minute running time, reassures the smitten audience that, although he really does hate the song, he is happy that we all dig it: in a world of Axl Roses and Sharon Osbournes this honesty should be applauded.
'Blood Is Sharp' gives way to the massive riff that introduces 'Do You Get What You Pray For?' and, at this point, the set should end. Battelle informs us, however, that due to the early curfew the band will not only refuse to leave the stage only to suddenly reappear for an encore - he simply turns his back, the crowd cheers and, hey presto, it's the encore - but will also play "the slow stuff" outside after the gig. This night just got even more special.
Drummer Mark Gibson, with a defeated shake of the head, presses play on an iPod to his left as his frontman suggests the band attempt to play the new album's final track, 'The Downside Of Heaven Is The Upside Of Hell', which houses so many vocals at its finale that not even the three band members, every member of the audience and the magical technology of Apple, can even hope to recreate. They, we, give it a good run for its money, though. 'Love Will Eat You Alive', the enormous single, closes things in simply awe-inspiring fashion. Every year a certain song sticks with me, pretty much defining the year in my memory banks - 'Love Will Eat You Alive' will surely be the chosen one for 2012.
As Gibson walks, dripping all over the floor, to man the merch desk, Battelle pulls on his now-trademark bobble hat and a Marina and the Diamonds baseball shirt and, acoustic guitar and bottle of water in hand, takes the gig outside. He plays the magnificent 'Orchestra Of Breathing' alone, before his bandmates join him for another rendition of 'Paradox On Earth', this time with Williamson on guitar, before finishing with a request from the wide-eyed throng sitting, literally, on the dock of the bay. Passing the guitar back and forth as they try to work out how in the hell they are going to play it, the trio knock out a grin-inducing version of 'UFOria (The Dark)' before, finally, saying goodnight.
It's just after 10pm and I've seen a support band, a headline set, bought a t-shirt from a sweaty drummer, and marvelled at an impromptu acoustic set played out against the backdrop of a former cargo ship that is now one of the greatest venues in the United Kingdom....even if their idea of a curfew is pretty damn stupid.
Special nights like this don't come around too often, and when they do, sometimes, you just have to admit that you have never seen anything like it before, and may never see anything like it again. These gigs are of the kind that, no matter how hard your ageing memory tries, you simply cannot forget.
Could the band responsible for possibly the album of the year have just turned in the frontrunner for gig of the year too?
To pick up a copy of 'I'm A UFO In This City' - CLICK HERE