We have a merch stall piled high with cassettes and CDRs. We have bell-covered drums, cymbals ready to be bowed, set up where the audience will be standing. We even have an ugly DJ queuing up some bollocks from an ’80s Bollywood film (hi there). This is the awkward underground shambling stagewards and it’s brilliant and you’re all invited. How realistic it is to expect more than the usual handful of mouthbreathers to attend these type of events I don’t know; what’s clear is how inclusive and friendly everyone is tonight, drunk on twitchy weird noises that everyone in the world should be into (they might just be drunk). Mars To Stay get an attentive response to their ultra-quiet sketches for guitar and drums, their brief set navigating cloudy, dreamy terrain, like Galaxie 500 wrapped in 6ft cotton wool. They’ve vocals like shy ghosts, drums deep and distant, and a keyboard cameo from Alex of Islet / Them Squirrels / a million more. A fragile treat.
More proof of group thrills come as Team Sports start, with cellist onstage, laptop/gizmo twiddler a few metres away in the floor corner, drummer separated again in a different corner. The idea is for the audience to be in the space between them, and a stray drum stool gets plonked down there after one song as further temptation. It’s quite a sight, heads twisting from one player to the next, one member always coaxing some noise out into the air. Jimmy Ottley (ex-Truckers Of Husk) alternately pulses and thrums his cello violently, Ian Watson’s electronic tones flesh out foreboding, but you have to keep one eye on Matt Lovett’s drumming, all permanently moving slaps and skitters, nervously refusing to mark time. They sound like a gathering storm, crackling with fierce energy, and are one of the best things I’ve seen in donkeys’ years. The man in the nice cardigan, sitting on the stray drum stool, agrees with me.
Back on stage (the sellout), Campbell Kneale, er, kneels down to prod at glowing red buttons and inch dials over. Kneeling seems appropriate – the New Zealander behind Our Love Will Destroy The World (and before that Birchville Cat Motel and Black Boned Angel) spends the set rocking back and forth, quivering and gaping upward, lost in the thick fug he’s worshipping. Noise wankery of a pretty high order in other words, as dense lumps of bass get meshed together, slowly rhythmic crunches of sound wash over you, and an electric guitar is clawed at randomly. It’s one 25 minute stretch of colour that lingers over the same motif throughout but somehow maintains interest throughout, like a slow motion blaze in a fireworks factory. Wide eyed and charming, that’s the spirit tonight. “Woo, bit of a trippy one, eh?” Kneale will later say, bumping into the merch table. Too right.