But it was never meant to be this way. Three hours earlier, this bleary-eyed scribe begrudgingly broke free from the TV to catch Aussie electro-mongrels The Presets on another rancid, rain-pishing night in Auld Reekie. In all honesty this wasn't my first choice, I was quite content to witness a certain Russian oligarch's play-thing being humped by the pass and move might of Barnsley, but photographers can be persuasive blighters and, well, sometimes you have to compromise in this word writing lark.
The initial signs were far from promising. Having dislodged myself from the bar and found my way to the pit's sparse confines, local miscreants Damn Shames ambled onstage armed with their gusty brand of glitch, rattle ‘n’ roll. A splurge of ankle-twisting guitars and incoherent vocals, the hoodie-clad trio are the sound of gutter-lurking post-punk preened and spruced into a tightly bound package that wails “pick me” in the direction of whichever gak-snorting talent spotter will listen.
There’s nothing particularly irksome about their rat-a-tat air-cutting - in-fact ‘Dancing In The Isles’’ cranky angled machine-gunnery borders on the exhilarating - yet as one jerking riff whip-cracks its way into another it’s hard to shake the notion that Damn Shames are nowt more than watered-down Foals plagiarists. That’s not to say they’re the Math Rock/Puzzle Pop/whatever the fuck you call it equivalent of The Paddingtons or, god forbid, The Others but until they convert their banal consistency into an epileptic shock of something half-way interesting they’re unlikely to emerge from the coat-tails of their more lavishly gifted contemporaries.
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Luckily, headliners The Presets are an altogether more engaging proposition and don’t tonight’s turbo-charged crowd know it. The sprawl of wiggling arse-cracks that greets Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes’s arrival makes a raspberry blowing mockery of the preconceived (and often correct) notion that The Capital’s gig-goers are a disinterested bunch of arm-crossing, head-nodding laggards. And in eight years of dwelling within the city’s cobbled pathways and Medieval tenements it's difficult to remember a gig as boisterously received as this.
Of course, much of this jubilancy revolves around the intoxicating rampage of sleaze-driven electronica exuding from stage (although, judging by the queue to the gents, less virginal vices may have been at work) and as every juddering beat pounds relentlessly from a fit-to-burst PA the unruly euphoria escalates notch by notch, spiralling into a riotous, discordant apex during the cranium-crunching stomp ‘Are You The One’.
On record the duo are a sporadic, and often drudging, assortment of bleeps and beats that lacks the consistency of kindred – more globally revered - spirits such as Justice and LCD Soundsystem but live, well, they’re relentless, snarling, sexy, fuckable. The pulsating drums and grinding, stuttered synths of ‘My People’ inject their way through the blood stream like a python eager to infiltrate inhibitions with a disarming aural venom, leaving the lascivious throb of ‘Down Down Down’ free to ravage the limp carcasses left behind. Even the newer, unknown, numbers have the crowd enraptured, with sharp bursts of electronica scatter-shot across layers of robotic, endorphin releasing melodies all terrifyingly met by Hamilton’s vocoderised snarl.
A wild-eyed flail of hyperactivity, the frontman is the undoubted focal point – so uncontrollably rampant is his skeleton it’s as if he’s been possessed by the barbaric aural concoctions writhing from above - but it’s the infinitely shier Moyes’ who steals the limelight during the punked-up freak-out of closer ‘I Go Hard, I Go Home’. Oscillating through the venue like a seething, enraged tornado, his savage skin-pummelling cocoons every shape-shifting limb within an unavoidable vortex of pounding, demonoid techno that brings this sonic siege to a deafening finale.
Having barely managed to reach the summit of the seemingly endless staircase that leads to the exit, this exhausted DiSser makes his way home via the piss-reeking safe-haven of the Number 31. Head-a-thumping and ears-a-ringing, something tells me the ramifications of tonight’s staggering set will be long-lived in the haggard bones of its survivors.
Damn Shames: 5/10
The Presets: 9/10
Photos: Loraine Ross
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