[A gig review in which I am not hyperbolic at all…]
I woke up on Saturday in pain. My front teeth felt loose. Both lips were swollen. My temple throbbed and my nose was very sore. A sharp pinch established it wasn’t broken. My tongue felt like I’d almost bitten it half off. A wonky glance in the mirror confirmed I had two black eyes, and that my limbs had a variety of cuts and bruises. I realised my mirror glance was wonky because my glasses were wonky, and found one screw just about to fall out and the nose-bridge twisted. I later found one shoelace ripped in half and the sole of the other shoe torn off the toe. Added to this, my ears were ringing and my throat felt like it’d been invaded by a sandpaper throat-ferret.
It had been a fucking good gig.
My friend James twisted on the floor beside me. He made a noise – hard to tell whether it was a snore, sleeptalking or a moan. He didn’t get up until 2pm.
Rewind: on Friday, James and I went to see a band called The Glitch Mob at a north London venue, the Forum in Kentish Town. It had been booked for Koko’s, but massive demand caused an upgrade.
Glitch Mob are a Los Angeles electronic music three-piece. They are variously described as ‘beat’, ‘glitch hop’, ‘synthpop’, ‘postrock’ and ‘industrial’, which probably doesn’t help you in the slightest. Simply put, they are melody-based aggressive dance music, with lots of loud noises. They’ve got two albums, ‘Drink the Sea’ and ‘Love Death Immortality’. They have a symbol which looks like a cross between a fascist emblem, an occult rune and the ‘Deathly Hallows’ in Harry Potter.
This is a gig review which doubles as an explanation of how happy I am that I was beaten up.
Crowds have moods, and the Forum crowd was in a good mood. We could tell this as soon as we got in, hours before the Glitch were scheduled to come on. The floor area was slowly filling up and there was a hubbub of chatter, a sort of expectation. The support acts were great, and unlike many gigs where they’re largely ignored, at least half the crowd got on the floor and threw some shapes. Here’s Opiuo’s photo at the end – you’d have thought he was headlining.
This bonhomie increased in pitch as we bunched in and waited for the main band to come on. You usually see people bored of waiting, people pushing back to get drinks, or disinterested faces dragged along by partners. Not here – here everyone was grinning. Everyone talked to each other about how psyched they were, which songs they hoped would be played, whether we’d seen them before. Everyone pointed at the back of the stage where a mountain of amorphous shapes his under a massive tarpaulin, waiting to be unleashed.
When the first soft notes of a remixed Drive It Like You Stole It kicked in, we reached fever pitch. James, his work mate and I burrowed to the front. The music was a deep pulse, shaking right through the packed crowd and driving those around us into pogoing ecstasy. There were edit, Boreta and Ooah, silhouetted and tall. Looking around, the crowd was more than diverse – here were goths, ravers, alt kids, a girl wearing a crash helmet festooned in band stickers and an enthusiast dwarf. At £15, the tickets were democratic for such a big concert, and it showed.
It didn’t last.
The crowd surged in all directions, an eddying sea of sweaty flesh, and I was soon pushed back from James. I tried a few times to dive back in, but it was impossible without manhandling people, so I allowed myself to be washed back a few meters, to calmer waters. Here be monsters.
Mosh pits traditionally form a bit behind the barrier. I was surrounded by sweaty dudes, tops off and muscles bulging and sweaty. In many gigs I’ve been to, this is where you start to worry. The fuckers can get so violent, so lost in the atmosphere, that you get seriously hurt. At bands like Metallica, Nine Inch Nails or Rage Against the Machine, there are wiry thugs who obviously want to start a fight. Even if you’re fine most of the gig, you miss out on half the music evading the most frenetic moshes or recovering from blows to the head.
Not today, though. Today, everyone had become harmonious. I like a good mosh, I just like to keep my limbs operational. Here was a moshpit of perfect gentlemenandwomen. No-one teaches you how to mosh, you just find yourself in a pit and run aroundheadbanging and shoving and pushing and being pushed and fucking loving it, but there’s a golden rule: if someone falls, you pick them up. This is the case even for the perilous bands above, but with Glitch Mob it was something else – anyone who slipped would be caught by a hundred hands and I barely saw anyone fully hit the floor before they were hoisted up again, grinning.
Equally good were the non-moshers. The people at the edge of a pit who don’t want to get involved usually form a wall, and shove you back into the middle if you careen too close. That’s fine if you’re going at it hammer and tongs, but with the energy in these places you want to retreat, exhausted, every few songs – and being punched back into the maelstrom suddenly becomes terrifying. But the Gitchfans seemed to be almost psychic in telling who was dancing and who wanted out. At one point in Skullclub I found myself in the eye of the storm, pandemonium all around. The body I’d been barrelled into was a teenager cowering with his arms up, repeatedly yelling ‘I’M GOING TO DIE’. I grabbed him, assured him he wasn’t, and dragged him to his mates, who literally said ‘Thank you’ as if we were at a bus stop, then watched as I dived back in.
The level of sync was better than that though. During the first chorus of my favourite song, it was all blood and guts, and I loved it. But for the drop and the final chorus, everyone decided in unison that this was a time for peaceful contemplation. They all stopped and all danced like responsible individuals at a nightclub, temporarily respecting personal space and throwing some excellent shapes. Then the mayhem kicked back in. I can’t really describe how much I enjoyed this 90 minutes, how little I cared about the odd flailing limb connecting. There was never any malice, everything was forgiven. At one point I lost my left shoe – a few seconds later it was back on my foot, and I wasn’t touched at all when I bent down to tie the laces. The level of euphoric enthusiasm people had for this band was infectious, like an unspoken fellowship. My friend tells me this is how she experiences religion: well I’ve found a happy church.
This level of awesome continued. The band’s set was made of giant drums that looked like space-age jet engines, laptops and massive touchpads that set off melodies and notes. The Mob careened through tracks old and young, dwelling on their Tron: Legacy soundtrack, finishing, then coming back for a roaring encore almost before the chants had risen. The band rounded it off with a homage to their British music influences, a round of selfies and a huge crowd hug. James gave one a high five. Back with me, everyone’s hands were up in an approximation of the iconic Glitch Mob symbol. Everyone around me was screaming and glowing – not just from the heat.
These are the ingredients of a great gig: the cheering was deafening and nobody died.
Here is a guy much more organised than me who took pictures and wrote a coherent review and stuff.