3/28/09: Animal Kingdom & Dutch Uncles @ Notting Hill Arts Club, London (65/100)

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Nothing wrong with a little free, Saturday afternoon indie rock at the Notting Hill Arts Club. By the name you might think this would be fancy club, but it’s not. It’s a dark and dingy, underground indie rock club with rundown bar, tables and booths, £5 Tropical Martinis and £ 2.3 house/mystery beers. Mystery meaning you’ll get something you’ve never heard of, and aren’t sure what that is until you get it. The stage is tiny, and has 60s era PA speakers hang in front, blocking the view of half the band. NHAC is DIY in the UK. My kind of place.

Every Saturday is a free Rough Trade show at NHAC, featuring rising local/UK bands. This week it was called the Clash Saturday Social, and co-hosted by Clash Magazine. We could only stay for the first two of three bands: Animal Kingdom, Dutch Uncles and It Hugs Back. Neither all that impressive, to be honest.

Animal Kingdom was a bit of a generic, UK-sounded band, ala Coldplay or U2 – but without the songwriting (and I hate Coldplay). They were all reverb and delay, keys and brooding vocals. And they continued what is becoming an indie rock cliché (I think): multiple members playing multiple instruments, in this case guitar, keys and glockenspiel.

I’m not trying to be critical just to be critical, Animal Kingdom wasn’t the worst band I’ve ever seen. But truthfully, the most impressive thing they did was getting all five of them on that tiny little stage. Plus, they had an animal named band. Not only that, they tried to own the entire kingdom of animal band names.

After they finished, the room cleared out as they broke down their gear. Sunshine finished her Tropical Martini, which she pretended to like, but tasted pretty much like pineapple juice. I grabbed another mysetery beer which didn’t taste like much of anything.

As I stood there, I noticed that in this young crowd, out of roughly 50 people, there were exactly four dudes with beards (including me). That’s 8% of the crowd – a percentage that would be unheard of back home. I guess NYC music fans are the only ones still hanging onto this trend. Again, yours truly included.

Then Dutch Uncles was on stage and ready to go. The first, most noticeable thing is their “style.” A bit pretentious, and obvious attempt at irony. The eccentric lead singer in his shirt that looks like a Bill Cosby sweater, but it’s a shirt, and it’s silk. The guitar player in his super tight oxford shirt and slacks. Very anti-rock ‘n roll.

They were also anti-genre, too apparently. Rather than try and sound like other bands from Manchester like The Fall or The Smiths or Joy Division – they just decided to sound like all of them, all at the same time. That’s the biggest knock on these guys: lack of focus. They could’ve easily been a dance rock band if they wanted to (ala Franz Ferdinand) – but would need better songs. Or a punk rock band, ala MC5, if they’d just decided to. Instead they want to do everything, all at once. Not realizing where their good bits are and throwing out the bad. Just don’t be fooled by the single “Steady Cam” on their myspace page.

And if you find yourself at the Notting Hill Arts Club, don’t be fooled by the tropical martini, either. Go for the mystery beer, instead.

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One Response to “3/28/09: Animal Kingdom & Dutch Uncles @ Notting Hill Arts Club, London (65/100)”

  1. I’m enjoying the dispatches from the UK a lot. If I could arrange my own photo over your gear, I might just count it as a show for my project…

    Say hi to your girlfriend…


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