On Friday last (the 29th), we returned once again to the Fleece and Firkin, à la Bristol. This time we went mainly for the rather pleasant support, Zun Zun Egui first seen by us at Mr Geoffrey Barrow’s ‘Invada Invasion’ last September. The main act were The Ex, with Brass Unbound (and very unbound they were), who made something of a noise-fest, but still had some commendable points.. Gig research was not hugely needed for Zun Zun, but after delving into The Ex, I was a little (a lot) apprehensive (not looking forward to them). I had only their Myspace to work from, which I was not entirely overwhelmed by: it sounded more like they could not decide what genre to jump into, and tried to fit together styles that just would not go. That, and the fact they kept changing their style from song to song meant what I initially heard was so hit and miss, it didn’t look too good for the Ex.
After tea in the Watershed’s restaurant (mm cake.. Mm..), we made our assault on the Fleece, and inadvertently directed (not particularly well – all back streets in Brizzle look the same) a certain Andy Moor to the gig. Slightly confused as to why this stranger ran ahead, we later saw him “rocking out” on stage. I’m glad I didn’t extol the virtues of Zun Zun and tell him we were mainly going for them..
Anyway! Zun Zun Egui. They had such a lovely sedate quality to them that it wasn’t brilliant preparation for The Ex, but no matter. Oddly, what initially struck me was their clothing: Mr Bass had a very cosy looking jumper, a rather odd-shaped hat adorned the head of Lead “Vox” (what a horrible term), and all the male counterparts managed to get away with wearing the tshirt-jeans-jumper combination that males so frequent. Miss Keys, however, went in for a somewhat vibrant dress, which started me thinking – why do females in bands always look marvellous, and males can get away with looking like they’d just walked through a hedge backwards? Is this the typical image of the rockstar/penniless Bohemian artist/musician that we like?
Their set up on stage meant it looked like there was no obvious leader – but instead of this being detrimental to their performance, they worked incredibly well as a pack. Instead of having a mild tentative anxiety (as one can do for supports as they can frequently be both young and nervous) for them, you were confident they had each other’s wavelength in check, and many exchanged smiles and nods between band members created a quietly confident ambience – thus meaning it was awfully enjoyable. Miss Keys, in particular, put such concentration into her work that her expression didn’t change until a song ended and she could actually enjoy they performance they just gave. Only about six or seven songs were played, but Zun Zun are excellent value for money as their song lengths and “rockability” (rock durability – how long they can keep going) are pretty impressive. And long. They’re more “pieces” than songs I feel. And that’s not a bad thing. Similarly it’s not a bad thing that the lyrics were hardly ever in English – one could almost guarantee they would be good. They added to the influence-infused sound: but it felt more that they were giving an appreciation to all the different styles they liked, rather than that they couldn’t decide which one to be. A lovely performance from a charming band.
Now. The Ex. And Brass. Unbound. Kind of ouch, kind of wow, kind of “shhhhhhhhhhut the fuck up”, kind of “hm well they come together well don’t they”, kind of “I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON ANYMORE”. 10/10 for energy. Especially considering some had been going from the 70s/80s. But still – such noise! Sources have labelled them an “anarchist” band. What is that?! A band who’s roots are in anarchy? A band who tries not to be an actual band because they wish to cause chaos for the music world? It makes little or no sense. And is not cool. However. Let us put that aside..
My favourite in this band was again the only female (the drummer), especially considering that if she hadn’t been there, they would have been all over the bloody place. That, combined with the fact she delivered my favourite song by them (a pleasantly calming folk song), and that she seemed to really care about her craft made for an excellent musician. Go Miss Drums. Some excellent European on-stage banter came from the newest member (Mr de Boer), in the form of phrases such as “Thank you very much, you’re very kind” after a song loud enough to make one’s ears bleed. I found you couldn’t really categorise them – which frustrates me ten-fold – but you could say, I suppose, it was “rock with a brass section”. Now the Brass Unbound were a little irritating in that they were such brilliant musicians, but on more than one occasion didn’t exercise this to create the nicest sound. Instead they appeared to be having arguments with theirs instruments, whilst trying to the contest of who can make the most noise. Why must people do this?! It is not music! I’d rather listen to Mogwai with NO EARPLUGS than this drivel. Having said that, there were times when they came together as a group so well, you were thinking “YES Brass, again please” – which added up to a damn frustrating group. They really did add to what The Ex made, but still – why can’t they play nicely all the time? And don’t give me any of that improvised, “creative”, “going into a brass trance” stuff. It does not sound good.
All in all, The Ex and Brass Unbound were exceptionally hit and miss, and getting to the extremities of both good and bad. Zun Zun, however, were pretty flawless all the time, so they win this round…