Fight Like Apes Live Review: Bristol 02 Academy 9th May 2011

Off to the cage we went, our affectionate name for the small room above the main 02 Academy where smaller bands play.  The stage is in effect a tiny area at one end of the room hemmed in by a metre high barrier.

Bands play in front of a maximum of apparently of 600 people, but if they were able to get 600 people in that small room I hope I am not there! It is truly a very small venue, and usually baking hot.  When you consider the Thekla only gets 450 on the entire boat I suggest this figure is a little high!

Initially the crowd was quite sparse when we arrived awaiting the support band, “I’ll Fight Fire With Fire”.  I knew nothing about the band prior to the gig and did not know what to expect as a support.  I perhaps expected a band in the indie ilk, but it became quickly evident that this was not the case.

They are currently unsigned and describe themselves as an alternative/powerpop/Hardcore band on their myspace site.  Could be interesting?  Sadly not.

They arrived with a bang, the music cranked up to what they would probably consider an ear blistering no 11.  It quickly became apparent that this was a run of the mill heavy rock band, big on noise and low on finesse.

They obviously have a lot of confidence and energy in their performance, but in reality the songs were weak and cliched. As a friend of mine said “I don’t mind people doing derivative, as long as they do it well”, sadly not only was this music derivative, but it was not done well either.

Personally, I cannot stand middle of the road heavy rock music, of the type you would hear a myriad of bands coming over from the US playing.  Derivative and frankly boring.  How this band did stand out though, was the way they were able to play derivative bland rock music, the type that has been heard for 20 years or more, and play it badly, in a fairly chaotic fashion with a singer that was excellent at singing flat.  An excellent achievement.

Even Big Jeff, at his customary front row pew, was strangely subdued (for him!) although the crowd were kind in their appreciation.

The highlight of the set was when the bass player broke his strap and ended up sitting on a chair at the front of the stage in a Val Doonican style, most amusing.

Perhaps I am being somewhat harsh, after all they have not been playing live long, and have a new EP out soon, but perhaps more bedroom practise would be in order, and perhaps a widening of their musical influences.

Having, survived fighting fire with fire we awaited Fight Like Apes, who were scheduled to arrive on stage at 9pm, and finally arrived at 9:20pm.

Their first album Fight Like Apes And The Mystery Medallion went down well with critics and fans alike in Ireland and mainland Britain, and had much publicity with people like Steve Lamacq singing their praises.

Their new album seems to have slipped under the radar of the main stream media and not had the publicity of previous releases.  It has done fantastically well when released in Ireland last summer, but has had less of an interest over here critically.

Nevertheless, they are undoubtedly one of the most interesting bands around, and one of the most unusual.

They arrived on stage to great support and a much bigger audience than the support band enjoyed.  They began slowly, with “You Are The Hat” and “Do You Karate” and began their rapport with the crowd early on.

Fight Like Apes are an unusual band in many ways.  They have an amazing charismatic singer in MayKay who commands the stage and engages with the crowd while playing keyboards.  She regularly jokes with the crowd through the set and the feeling that the band don’t take themselves too seriously is a welcome relief in a world where the miserablist indie band rules in the critics stable.

Their music is produced with two keyboards, a bass and drums with the enigmatic MayKay on vocals.  They produce some very individualistic music, spread between thoughtful, indie and punk music with some hilarious song titles.

As their set progressed they got better and better as they headed into their well known repertoire with “Lend Me Your Face” and “DigiFucker”.  Although by this time the stage was like an oven, the band had tremendous energy in delivering their set.  Jamie “Pockets” Fox, consistently gets in on the “interactions with the crowd” act, at one point walking into the crowd to bang metal poles with MayKay in a vaguely percussive way!

The set swung from new material from their album “The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner“, to their tried and tested material with the crowd singing along.

Before we knew it, the set was nearly over as they headed off stage before returning for a two song encore with “Waking Up With Robocop” and “Battlestations”.  They finally retired at 10:30pm in time for the curfew to kick in and for the rest of us to be kicked out!

Set List:

You Are A hat
Do You Karate
Poached Eggs
Hoo Ha Henry
Tie Me Up With Jackets
Lend Me Your face
DigiFucker
Push It
Jenny Kelly
Something Global
Thanks God You Weren’t Thirsty (Lightbulb)
Come On, Let’s Talk About Our Feelings
Jake Summers
Ice Cream Apple Fuck
Can Head
Snore Bore Whore

Encore:

Waking Up With Robocop
Battlestations

An excellent set, most enjoyable.  When you see a band like Fight Like Apes who genuinely bring something different to the party, it makes you realise just how despairing it is when listening to the chart or indeed bands like “I’ll Fight Fire With Fire”.

Can’t wait to catch them live again, an excellent gig.

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