Inner City Grit Presents - Labasheeda WaveZero Vagelein & Vonnegut - Paradiso, Amsterdam, 1/9/2012

After this a stroll through the Vondelpark, (where naked film students jumped into the park’s pond with gleeful abandon) pondering on a strange night, but in parts a very good one.


It’s a long time since we’ve been to the Paradiso, and it just doesn’t feel like our hang out any more. The feeling of alienation was increased by the evening we were going to: Inner City Grit are a label who seem to take a pride in finding the bands that slip through the cracks, or are awkward, and tonight we got three acts that could easily take the moniker of “misfit”, albeit for differing reasons. It was also weird that this (very underground) showcase seemed to be the only thing on; normally there’s some event on downstairs but this time the venue was ghostly…. Still, after getting a beer we made ourselves as comfortable as possible in the lovely old upstairs room.

First up were a three piece called Wavezero - three incredibly photogenic lads who stalked about the stage with a brooding purpose. Their sound was extraordinary; incredibly cold slabs of synth and treated vocals bludgeoned the crowd, and a no-nonsense rhythm section held things steady with a pretty metronomic beat, creating a sound not a million miles away from early Tubeway Army or 17 Seconds-era Cure. At times this gig really took off: the sound threatened to become much more than the sum of its already well-explored influences and the band projected pure angst at times. This angst was certainly no act and we’re thankful; there was always the nagging thought that things could quickly fall into a dreadful Editors-style pastiche. But luckily we skirted round this: it was too warped, too emotionally brittle and in many ways too amateur for any calculated and pompous declaiming; and the lack of any stagecraft only added to the band’s appeal. It’s a shame the lyrics were so pedestrian: maudlin and gnomic in a bad way, they never really escaped the grip of the music and often felt like an unnecessary encumbrance. Shame. But they were interesting, no doubt about it.

Following that we had Labasheeda, whose LPs we like but in a way that we still can’t fathom. We’ve found their music slightly sprawling and diffuse on their two LPs. Despite having some killer tracks that remind us of Real Ramona by Throwing Muses, there’s often no sense of space; their vibe can be too intense, too ditzy. Still there’s nothing like seeing a band live to work it all out.

The gig confirmed a couple of thoughts we’d had: when this band are good they are very, very good indeed, but they often undermine their power by seeming to have no sense of when to pace things or how to present things. We found out later that a lot of the indecision or determination to whip through a set literally stuffed with songs could have been down to a problem with the mics and the monitors. But the relentless nature of the gig could still have been tempered: the tracks were smashed through, with no real breaks and very few chances or the audience to show their appreciation. The best bits were when leader Saskia put her guitar aside and played her fiddle: then there was a sense that the band had something intoxicating; their energy and purpose felt channelled and their (sometimes overbearing) Throwing Muses vibe had a giddy, heady carefree element that allowed a renewed sense of vigour.

Feeling slightly battered by the intensity of it all we repaired to the back to take in Vagelein & Vonnegut who should not be at all upset if I describe them as a bunch of local kids. The girl singer looked extraordinary. Dressed like a Gothic doll or a punk Marie Antoinette, she bawled through her set; revealing this tremendous voice, a bit like an operatic Nina Hagen (with none of the squeaky bits) set over some driving guitar. The bass player and drummer could play but – frankly - paled in comparison with their singer. Highlights were when the crunching, Neu!75 style guitar informed the music, giving power to the girl’s giddy operatics. Then we realised they could be really something. Given such a stage presence, and such promising power-punk / glam-Goth sounds, they could have really gone for some kind of strung out cabaret, some snotty teen opera. As it was they seemed to be quite happy to indulge in some matey banter with their pals in the audience… and somehow it felt a bit wrong. It is understandable to shout out nice things to your friends from the stage of the Paradiso, we do understand. But this band could really do something with their music. Watch out.

After this a stroll through the Vondelpark, (where naked film students jumped into the park’s pond with gleeful abandon) pondering on a strange night, but in parts a very good one.