That's the eclectic line-up of bands I saw on a whim at the Oxford Art Factory not 24 hours ago. The subterranean venue was surprisingly cool given the 38-46^C temperatures reported around the city during the day and the capacity crowd.
Afrirampo was a twosome of avant-garde rock chicks from Japan sporting bright red outfits, matching facepaint and bare feet. They played electric guitar, drums and ocarina, and at one point were both pounding the skins with their own sticks – the "official" drummer standing atop the kit and really winding up, taiko style. Their whispered, spoken, sung, screamed and screeched lyrics were incomprehensible to me, although they did attempt to explain a choon about the light from dead stars as a metaphor for the human condition. No joke. Bookending the set were tolerably brief bursts of cabaret that involved the gals pretending to be a hungry koala, then, if I interpreted it correctly, a kangaroo that was mistaken for a koala.
American stoner rock trio Dead Meadow, a traditional guitar/bass/drums combo, swigged beers and passed a bottle of Jim Beam back and forth between trippy-yet-hard-riffin' tracks with strange, sorta husky vocals. Deceptively talented musicians, they blew my pickled mind with ease and had me seeing octarine. The highest compliment I can pay these champs – besides referring to them as champs – is to say their number "What Needs Must Be" had a touch of Blue Oyster Cult about it (and for those who don't know, BOC is my absolute favourite group).
Headline act Fuck Buttons consisted of a pair of youthful UK noise boffins who erected a wall of sound, layer by layer, using keyboards, a drum machine, a MacBook, an original Game Boy, a Fisher-Price(?) children’s karaoke machine that produced quite a shrieking, a suitcase of wired-together electronic junk and Turing knows what else. Word on the information superhighway had led me to expect a whole-body buzz, but unlike past gigs where I felt my internal organs were vibrating dangerously, that wasn't the case. Which is not to say the blokes weren't excellent. They've got a unique knack for creating a new type of music that gradually overwhelms the listener. You will close your eyes, you will bob your head to the beat and you will be effing disappointed when it abruptly ceases. At the press of a button.
Incidental crud... As usual, the advertised program (8pm-11.30) was nonsense. The reality was: doors opened 8.15pm, Afrirampo went from 8.30-9.15, Dead Meadow 9.45-10.30 and Fuck Buttons 11-midnight. No-one did an encore. There was a staff member diligently checking wrist stamps as you re-entered the auditorium from the loo, suggesting pesky kids have been sneaking in the back way. (Why do I picture the Famous Five negotiating a secret passage by torchlight?) In my opinion, any of these outfits would be worth catching at the All Tomorrow's Parties events. However, I'd be worried about the effectiveness of Fuck Buttons in an unenclosed area. Afrirampo also benefited from the intimate venue, which allowed the ladies to jump in and out of the crowd while remaining in view. Dead Meadow should be fine in any setting, provided there's enough ampage.