Monday, 15 September 2008

2nd September 2008: Faust + Shit & Shine at Cargo

Or: The gig where I was about a foot away from being scalped by a chainsaw.

I hadn't been to Cargo in Shoreditch before. After being given directions by a guy in a pub, I managed to make it there for Shit & Shine, but was told I might not get in. Their drummers had to set up on the floor of the venue and so they were only at half capacity for Shit & Shine's performance. This made my heart sink. I was there literally 5 minutes before they were due on, having run to the venue for fear of missing them. Now I was being told that I may not get in. I stormed my way towards the venue room practically barging my way through people in the vain hope I would make it in due to the fact that although the woman at the desk said "May not", her face did that tilting to one side with a slight squint of the eyes that means "Probably won't" in these situations. I got to the security guards and was pretty much expecting to be turned away, but I'd forgotten that ever so sweet golden rule. Put a bar between the front door and the live room and most people will go to get a drink before going into the live room itself. I got in with plenty of space, and breathed a sigh of relief.

See, I saw Shit & Shine at Audioscope at the Zodiac last year, and it was virtually the greatest single thing I have ever experienced in my whole life. So if I had missed them here, I would've probably cried.

This was a medley by Shit & Shine standards. They're known for pretty much just playing one riff over and over with minimal variation (and a scarcely used bridge/change), over a similarly relentless and repetitive drumloop seemingly played by as many drummers as each venue will physically allow (they recently played a gig in Dresden with 20!!) way beyond the point where it should've become boring, instead managing to form some kind of utterly mesmerising mantra that you NEVER want to end. This time though, they played about 3 riffs! They started out with a quick garage-rock style riff that made me wonder how they would create the same effect with, but excited to see how they would play this out. Masters of their craft they clearly are though coz after about 10 minutes when this riff started to show signs that it may have run it's course, it descended into feedback and the drums slowed down to that familiar Shit & Shine pulse, and then IN came the next riff, and I almost had an orgasm. For about 15-20 minutes this new riff throbbed and pulsated along in the typical S&S way, utterly engrossing and hypnotic it was too. Then, well not so much a riff maybe, as an extended outro winding things down to the unfortunate fact of a conclusion. It was never going to be as good as the first time, but it was still better than pretty much anything else in existence. Shit & Shine are the greatest live band ever.

Which immediately put Faust at a disadvantage. Seriously, I don't care who you are, there is no following that. But Faust had a go. I was excited about seeing Faust, don't get me wrong, I've wanted to see this legendary Krautrock band for years, but following Shit & Shine just isn't possible. ESPECIALLY, when yer opening gambit is an overlong combination of limp psychedelic soundscaping and piss-poor beatnik poetry. This would've probably been incredible if you were on acid 40 years ago, but sober and in the 21st century this is godawful. One man beating shells together while a woman goes on about how "10 months from now I'm still lying here" while the rest of the band plod out a lifeless jam in the background. Fuck, this was looking to be the biggest letdown since seeing Shack at Brookes in 2000. Luckily this seemed to be a false start, as Faust went on to provide an excellent set afterwards. They treated us to an oldie, followed by an improvisation that was infinitely superior to the opener, and included the drummer taking an angle grinder to some sheet metal. This was the first Faust trick to come out of the bag. Then they treated us to a new song, which was pleasingly very good. After this their set comprised of the old, the new, and the improv. At one point two of them started arguing on stage during a song, and it took a while for me to work out that this was part of their act. Unfortunately, writing this nearly 2 weeks after the gig itself, a lot of it has blurred and the things that stand out the most are the last 2 songs of the set (before the encore). The penultimate song was when I realised just how good but dangerous my position in the crowd. With 2 drummers pounding out a repetitive beat, the woman came out into the crowd to do a very bad painting of a face, while - I think it was - Jean-Herve Peron came out to raid a collection that was suddenly at the stage left side of the room. Peron pulled out - I think it was - a drill and started trying to kill a metal bin with it. Then out came a chainsaw. He turned it on, revved it up, and started swinging it around with a bit too much reckless abandon, coming about a foot close to scalping those of us closest to him at this point. This industrial show went on for a bit, ending with Peron carving the words "A NOSE" into a canvas, then getting up on stage to recite a poem about a friend of his who had "Such a grand nose!".
The final song was a rendition of probably their best song, "Krautrock", which was so good it caused at least half the audience to collectively orgasm. This was the Faust cum-shot. This is exactly what we had all been waiting for. That driving bassline, those motorik drums, it starting up again when it seemed like they were going to finish it, the addition of an improvising sax player, pure sex in German music form. The only criticism of it was that they should've done a Shit & Shine and kept if going for about 3 times the length, coz you just did not want this to end. But end it did, and the crowd went apeshit. You really couldn't have asked for too much more from them. The crowd however wanted an encore. They did come out for one, but I didn't stay for it for three reasons:
1) After "Krautrock", I personally didn't need anymore and thought that (first song and a dodgy part of another improvisation that centred around tearing paper aside) they had delivered a near-perfectly complete set that didn't really need any more.
2) I had a return train ticket back to Oxford and was worried that I would miss the last train. As it was I ran at least two-thirds of the on-foot parts of the journey back to Paddington and made my train with 1 minute to spare.
3) They had pulled out every classic trick in the Faust book. I was a little worried they might go one further and pull out the lesser known London Garage '98 trick and tear gas the crowd.

This is the best gig I have been to this year so far. Faust were mostly awesome. No-one beats Shit & Shine tho. Incredible. Best live band ever. I cannot stress that enough.

I think that's it for now.

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