Ideal Surreal Karma Takedown

Posted November 25,
gif of vanity fairy stepping to the side under flashing green and purple lights. she rotates to make the skirt flare out

I’ve been wanting to do one of those three story Ideal Surreal gigs for a while. One long night of gig clashes. Must be a tough night, performing for a crowd who could leave for a different musician in less that a minute.

I got a picture of the set list. Middle floor was mostly person with guitar going by the little we saw of it. Lots of familiar names from the scene, curated by local organiser of gigs and chaos: Shaine O’Linski. Singer songwriters are not my thing so we basically bypass them all evening as the stairs are separated from the main room.

Our Quiet Friends

This overran which lead to the two acts I wanted to see playing at the same time. I’m not holding it against them. I’m holding that against the sound guy who called them “too good to stop.” Hi mate. They played rock that was kinda dreamy at times. I’m writing this too late and I just remember enjoying it and nodding along. But it was time to try something different.

Skinny Rodgers

Upstairs we find this chap who “took [his] name from a dead sailor.” He’s sweet enough to keep us interested, which is the challenge here. Then we head downstairs to see Bag of Cans!

Painted Heathers

Yeah, not who we were expecting. This was the time keeping. We came in at the start of their set.

This is the 5th time I’ve seen them so I wasn’t that worried about missing them. It this point I don’t even know what I think of ‘them. I’m dancing and ‘ooo-oooooh-ing’ along to Bullet from a Gun but I don’t think I like the song? But I like the riff? Same with Party for One. Maybe I like the music but not the words? I’m sure I’ll end up seeing them again so might be able to work it out.

Fuck. Typing that out has Bullet from a Gun in my head. They are catchy.

Vanity Fairy

We head upstairs and see a ghost. Her voice high and her dressing gown flowing. She moves slowly to increase the ethereal effect. The comparison to Kate Bush is obvious. Some mistook her for a tribute; I mistook her for a jellyfish. She sings floaty pop in floaty form. Casually mentioning He can be your Lady was played on Radio One recently. The backing track was much quieter live than on this recording.

It’s synth and disco and pop. She’s supposed to be playing Jurnet’s bar on December 14th and I’ve got that in my calendar.

Bag of Cans

Back in the basement in time for Bag of Cans, again. I’d seen then two weeks ago and was keen to show my friend. As announced online, the first song would feature the singer having his head shaved. His singing strained but was admirable. Can’t know how much of the stuttering was to do with the audio problems what would mar the whole set. When it’s over everyone moves back and the dancing can begin.

Guantanamo Baby still packs a punch without the surprise of the lyrics. A certain joy that may have been enoyed by the couple who entered the room went we were all crouched on the floor to shouts of “Who assasinated JFK?”

Birds of Hell

Full band tonight rather than Mr Birds of Hell on his own.

The drums for Astronomy Programs start. Then the echoed guitar. I’m already out of my body*. His voice sounds out of practice. This music means a lot to me. Someone in the crowd is smoking weed. The light rig flashes in our eyes. Not the worst spot as the sound cuts out later on opposite speaker.

Each time we see them it’s a new arrangement. There was more going on with the synths on Spidermans Let Himself Go. Maybe his is due to the variable line up in the full band. I like Birds of Hell as a solo act but some tracks are just more enjoyable when there is more going on*.

I haven’t seen them since February. It’s been a while for them, too. Six months since the last gig. Tracks start not just with tuning up but working out the hooks. But it doesn’t mater because the couple behind us are shouting along to I love Saturday night. I lean over to my friend and sing along to the distorted ‘I love you.’

The set list is a bit odd. The emotional Two Brothers followed by the tender surreal Los Yarmouth. Los Yarmouth may be my favourite of their songs. And one of the most representative of their output. Echoed words combining the mundane familiar with the dreamlike. Sampled singing in the background. Synth flourishes over pretty guitar.

Later the angry screed of Let’s Have the Windows Open is sandwiched between the danceable Supernaked and Do I Get to Ride on a Unicorn. Though Windows lacked the fire usually in Mr Birds of Hell’s voice.

gif of the floor covering in pedals under flashing rainbow lights

New song! Hole in the Road? Inspired by a poem his Dad wrote about roadworks but now it’s about brexit? It’s lovely and spooky. The bird song sample well placed and the mystery so delicious.

They try to end on Do you Want to Ride on a Unicorn. The encore is Hometown Rage. A calm introspective number to calm us down. Lost youth and soft guitar. People weren’t really calm but I respect the choice.

Are they any good? They drew a sizeable enthusiastic crowd and I got emo. I can’t say. I really like them.

The Black Sharks

My friend had to go home but I headed downstairs to find myself in an inter-generational dance party. Real fun band. Not my kind of thing but kept the audience lively and dancing.

Club Night

The bands were packing up and Karma was transitioning into just another venue on a Friday night. Some people stayed and danced with the club people.

I float around in a good mood then head home. I didn’t mind the rain.

*Because of history this music means a lot to me. This is stupid and I don’t care. They were at the first gig I went to in Norwich and I heard something beautiful during a bad time in my life
**The exception being Boa. One of my favourite tracks seems to work better as a loop pedal solo