Tuesday, September 18, 2007

the go! team & caribou @ abc, 9/14/07

well, this has just been the week for supercharged schoolyard funk and neo-psychedelic melodic effervescence, hasn't it? the week was bookended by two caribou sets, one as a headliner in a small club in glasgow, and the other as an opener in one of the biggest clubs in glasgow, and the release of the go! team's sophomore proof of youth, and a set as a headliner in one of the biggest clubs in glasgow. overkill much? ...perhaps.

abc is not only one of glasgow's biggest clubs, but also one of its most prestigious. it has two spaces, abc 1 and abc 2, where some of the finest names in independent rock have played - i myself have been three times, and saw the decemberists w. two gallants, slint, and the go! team w. caribou. tearknee has has seen the decemberists, guillemots, and art brut. definitely a respectable list. but for all that, abc is a pretty shitty venue. abc 1, that is. abc 2 is great, a tiny little shack of a room with a short ceiling and comfortable stage, a space that doesn't murder your ears or make the band feel like its drowning. tearknee and i agree that the best shows we've seen at abc have been at abc 2. abc 1 is another story entirely.

abc is quite proud of their main space, which holds up to 1250 people and features what they call "the best in house lighting and sound systems of any similarly sized venue in europe." well, if that is the case, then whoever is operating said light and sound is an idiot. besides being crushingly loud, abc 1 has the laziest and least-flattering lighting i have ever seen. you might think i'm being a little obsessive about lighting, but i have a reason: in my non-mammoth life, i'm a theatre tech and lighting designer, so i do know a bit about how lighting works. however, whoever does it for abc clearly doesn't. less than one week before the show, caribou headlined a show at the arches, a small space (the room we were in was max capacity 120), yet the lights were excellent, not only for caribou, but for their opener as well, an extremely unknown local artist. yet abc 1 couldn't be bothered to show even the basest courtesy to caribou, drowning them in hideous pink/blue light for the entirety of their set - all 40 minutes, saturated in repulsive light. i felt sincerely ashamed for caribou, but the indignity of their set didn't end there. you might recall how much i liked caribou's visuals when i saw them on monday, how fluidly they became an essential part of the show. despite the presence of an enormous screen behind the band, there were to be no caribou graphics - that honor was reserved for the go! team, and only the go! team. needless to say, that was extremely disappointing for me, who had seen how impressive caribou was in the right space, and just a tragedy for the rest of the crowd who missed out on their great multimedia display. too bad that wasn't the last of abc's sins.

abc is the type of venue that has club nights after live gigs, and insist that said gigs must be out by 10 pm, so their security literally kicks you out the door when the show is over. so, in their great wisdom, they deemed it a good idea for caribou to go on at 7.45, when doors had been at 7 pm. last time i had been to abc, we had arrived when doors opened, and waited over an hour for the opener, so we thought it was safe to do the same this time. not only did we arrive late to caribou's set, we missed the whole set of the first opener, the suzan. i suppose it was foolish of me to expect doors to be an hour before the show started (disregarding, of course, the fact that such is the practice of hundreds of venues), but i was not alone in my assumption. abc 1 was nearly empty when we arrived, as late as we were, but had at least quintupled in size by the time the go! team went on at 8.50. i assume the idea behind having caribou (a headliner in their own right) open for the go! team was to create excitement and buzz about caribou, who are relatively unknown compared to the go! team. yet by putting them on so early, abc swiftly defeated that goal, simply because so few people had arrived to hear their set. in addition, caribou is not a band i would normally associate with the younger crowd (there's a reason the arches show was 21+, after all), yet the promoter felt that caribou would be an appropriate opener at an underage show. it didn't really work out well.

deprived of their immaculate visuals, cursed with a lazy, colorblind light operator, and pushed on far too early to a meager, young crowd, caribou's performance reflected the clear obliviousness and lack of respect abc offered them. and though their set lacked the vibrancy and enthusiasm that monday's had, the blame for these shortcomings lies entirely at abc's feet. robbing caribou of anything approaching a regular stage presence, abc literally murdered any chance that caribou had at performing well. in a proper space with a proper crowd, caribou is excellent. on friday night, caribou was a victim.

the disgraceful way abc had treated caribou left me with a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach for the rest of the evening. even the strutting confidence and boundless enthusiasm of the go! team couldn't right that wrong. but it did cheer me up a whole lot.

hurtling on to abc 1's ginormous stage (seriously - you could put the whole polyphonic spree on stage and still find space for a good jackie chan fight), the go! team were psyched, pumped, and ready for action - unfortunately, the crowd wasn't. it took at least four songs for the team to get the crowd moving, in spite of ninja's constant entreaties to sing, dance, or visibly enjoy the music. in fact, despite front-loading their set with some of their best/most famous songs, the crowd seemed stiff and generally unresponsive to the go! team's charms at least until the set's midpoint. rattling through material drawn from both thunder, lightning, strike and proof of youth - including a detour to "a version of myself," a b-side from the new album, the go! team overpowered the crowd's initial standoffishness and had me worried about the integrity of abc's flooring by the show's end.

that's not to say that their set was without fault. as they had with caribou, abc 1 proved itself to be without a competent soundman or light operator, botching the team's mix and refusing to give them anything remotely approaching front light. ninja was nearly unintelligible throughout the show, while their piped-in samples often drowned out the live instrumentation - often, the only clear sound was that of ian parton's harmonica, which he played with hugely satisfying enthusiasm (how often do you see someone headbang with a harmonica in their face?). the lack of front light (and tired use of the same yellow light program in the back) meant that the go! team was only marginally illuminated, bathed in light similar to that which had so ruined caribou's set. the blue tinge infected the entire stage, a shade so boring and nauseous that it nearly ruined the show, not to mention the go! team's carefully assembled visual display. backed by a screen taller than my ceiling, the go! team's projections varied from the bizarre to the mundane, sometimes thematic (like monkeys riding bicycles) but generally not, and were always entertaining.

on the whole, the go! team were great, throwing themselves into the performance and firing up a mostly dead crowd to one that screamed itself hoarse and danced till it got stitches. their set was played at breakneck speed, racing from the mostly instrumental "flashlight fight" (sans chuck d) to the set ending "titanic vandalism," though the crowd was most excited for the final encore, "ladyflash." as always, one of the best parts of the show was ninja' inspired dance moves, ranging from the athletic to the laughable, and, while her repertoire seemed inexhaustible, she kept asking the crowd for some new moves for this tour, and they seemed happy to oblige (at least by the end of the set). i'm looking forward to their show at potterow in a week, where they (hopefully) won't be plagued by bad lighting and terrible sound.

caribou - "melody day"

the go! team - "huddle formation"

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