Sunday, October 23, 2011

Summer in London – part 2: a concert… by Oneida

We went to one concert while we where in London – the ever-popular Oneida, who were playing in the Lexington up in riot-torn Islington. And we met two of our pals there, scoffing some burritos beforehand in a charming local eatery. The support band at the concert were called Mugstar, and they are apparently from Birmingham. They played a kind of largely instrumental experimental rock music most notable to me for its ear-splitting volume (which may have resulted from their playing early, when the venue had not yet filled up that much). I thought they were interesting enough, but would maybe have liked them more if I had remembered to bring earplugs.

And so to the main event. For the benefit of readers who are unfamiliar with the O, I will briefly outline their modus operandi. They play largely instrumental music that maybe tends towards the stoner rock end of the musical spectrum but is perhaps a bit more interesting than that sounds*. They do use a fair amount of guitars, but the music is maybe a bit more led by drums and keyboards than would be usual. Before coming over to London, I was trying to describe the band to a PFW. I said something about how they tended to rock out. "Oh, like AC-DC?" he inquired. "Well, no, it's more like they rock out in a kind of nerdy indie way". Maybe that helps.

The other thing Oneida are famous for is appearing in an Onion article about some guy who ruins a concert for everybody else by enjoying himself**. The article satirises the unexcited nature of concert audiences for indie rock bands by referring to people standing around with their arms folded, having a great time. Well, there was a surprising amount of that carry on in the Lexington – maybe from London event people who wanted to check out the O or people who do not like surrendering to the rock. Whatever. Unfortunately I found myself stuck behind some really tall arms-folded guy, which was really harshing my buzz, so I had to push past him up to where people were getting down. Live the rock.

Oneida recently brought out Absolute II the third album in their linked triptych of releases collectively entitled Thank Your Parents. I think the current tour is partly to celebrate the triptych's completion, and they have done some shows where they played Thank Your Parents in its entirety (which takes a while – the middle album is a triple). They did not have time for that this time round, but they did open with the first of the three albums, Preteen Weaponry, played in its entirety. It is a brooding continuous work whose tracks flow into each other, and unlike a lot of other records it actually gains from the consecutive treatment. After that they played a succession of tunes, old and new. But, rather heroically, they did not play what I think of as the hit – 'Sheets of Easter' from Each One Teach One, the one with just two chords that runs over you like a train.

The line-up for this set saw Drummer Guy, Guitar Guy, and Keyboard Guy (whom I think of as the three core members of Oneida, whose names may be Kid Millions, Hanoi Jane, and Bobby Matador, though I am still a bit vague as to which is which) joined by a second guitarist and a second keyboardist (perhaps to fill in for Keyboard Guy if he were to get a bit too *relaxed*). I am a bit unsure as to whether the other two are permanent members or not. They did not seem as excitable as the main three, but the second guitarist in particular had an air of quiet confidence that made me think he might still be in the band after the tour ends. In terms of chops, it was the drummer that particularly impressed this time round. I don’t think I have paid him enough attention on previous outings, but here I was stunned by his amazing ability.

So, all in all a truly awesome gig. I was only disappointed that as this was the last date on their European tour they had no t-shirts left to sell me. Also saddening was that neither of our burrito buddies were able to stay to the concert's end. One had been blasted out of it by the volume and had another indiepop club night to go to nearby, while Oneida proved to not be the other's thing, leading to his slinking off home. But on the plus side, we bumped into an old Frank's APA pal, who had come down from Oxford for the gig. Woaaaaah!

*Reader's Voice: "But dude, what could be more interesting than stoner rock?"

** Reader's Voice: "Given that you mention that article every time Oneida come up, I kind of get the idea now".

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