Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip – Wedgewood Rooms 06/02/2014
Nothing. Nothing at all is going to stop me from getting to the Wedgewood Rooms tonight. Not even the treacherous winds of the Solent are going to dissuade me from this, I keep telling myself, as my ferry rocks back and forth like a ball-bearing in a Newton’s Cradle.
It’s Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip’s first tour together in more than 3 years following a sabbatical to work on solo projects and cultivating a prime follicle mass of facial hair. I’m always interested to see the pair. They rarely (READ: Never) do gigs outside of touring cycles, and they get better every-time I see them.
The Wedgewood Rooms is a snug fit for the duo. It’s one of the smallest rooms they’re playing on a tour that sees them accommodate a 3-night sold out run at Koko in Camden. An indicator if anymore were needed at the anticipation behind this tour.
When we arrive, Sarah Williams White is just beginning her set. I first became aquatinted with her over a year earlier when she opened for Dan Le Sac’s solo show at the same venue. She remains just as enigmatic and consummate a performer as I remember. Her songs of love and loss set over brooding synths are a rewarding listen to those with the attention span for it, but judging by the que at the bar, it would appear many don’t. I can’t help but feel that she’s a little lost in this crowd. Those up against the barrier are rightfully watching in enraptured awe, and in a venue half as small, it would be a benchmark set. Sadly though, in a crowd as rowdy as this, the volume would need to be cranked right up.
Sheer volume is not a problem faced by the next act on the card, Itch. It’s been a turbulent few years for the ex King Blues frontman. Allegations of a turbulent personal life have somewhat overshadowed a number of side projects that never quite gained traction. It’s this that may explain the initially somewhat muted response to a man once labelled as the saviour of UK punk, in a venue that he speaks about with great fondness. It’s my first encounter with Itch’s solo material, and like many others, I was expecting yet more sardonic and insightful lyrics over ska/folk inspired backings. To say his new material is a radical departure from that is putting it lightly. He’s traded in his old sound for a new direction that’s more familiar to fans of Major Lazer and Zomby. This new brand of glitched electronic beats are layed down by a DJ clad in an oversized prosthetic head of a baby. It’s a costume choice that feels more at home with Chris Cunningham-era Aphex Twin music videos, or as a backing dancer for Die Anterwoord. Itch’s still an eloquent voice though, and the flair for showmanship runs strong. When he senses the need to pick up the pace and take it up a notch, he leaps over the barrier, into a moshpit, and begins to lay down bars as bodies circle and crash into him. He clambers back onto the stage, and with the crowd now firmly in the palms of his hand, ends with an anthemic track he penned earlier that week about being sober for a full 12 months. After a muted arrival, he leaves to an ovation, and undoubtedly, his next headline tour will have a gained a few more fans next time it rolls into town.
Dan & Pip have had a whirlwind 6 months. After reforming live to play Camp Bestival, they’ve had a new album drop to much acclaim with two hit singles and a raft of plaudits and award nominations. Anticipation is high, and they’re eager to come out all guns blazing not to disappoint. The duo open with Stunner, to an arsenal of Dan’s broken beats as Pip’s caustic Lyrics fill the room. He prowls the stage like a man possessed as all manner of Technicolor strobes cut out his distinctive figure. Having just played 3 sold-out shows at Koko, with guest appearances from Billy Bragg, the duo are clearly still on an emotional high.
What follows 80 minutes of unrelenting energy. The only break arrives about half way, when an old leather coach is wheeled on stage, which pip collapses into, queuing the beginning of ‘Terminal’. One of their more slower, darker works. it starts to loose the ones at the back who came along to hear the hits, but any lackadaisical sense of boredom is blown away quickly with a succession of guest appearances. First from Sarah Williams White, taking over vocal duties from Kid-A on ‘Cauliflower Ears’ , and Itch for ‘Stiff Upper Lip’. Elsewhere in the setlist, Gold Teeth proves to be the surprisingly heavy hitter of the night. Leading to Moshpits on all sides, and those that aren’t moshing are pogoing so hard that there’s genuine concern for the ceiling tiles. The duo close on their latest single “You Will See Me”, and the crowd chant along religiously. Pip knows how to work a crowd, and the banter is priceless on stage. He’s a far more avuncular soul when paired of with Dan to banter with than he was Solo. His solo show contained hell-fire and brimstone, here you catch the levity and humor behind his witty lyrics. It’s a refreshing breather between the tracks.
An encore was inevitable. Opening with Dan’s live remix of Pip’s solo hit ‘Introdiction’, the crowd are enraptured and hanging on every word. The duo thank us for being the rowdiest and most responsive crowd on the tour so far, and wrap up proceedings with the traditional set closer ‘Letter from God to Man’, which sees Scroob clamber onto the barrier, and hold the mic over the crowd for them to sing along. Collapsing off stage left, Dan closes up proceedings by mashing up the track with his own deconstructed remix of ‘Voodoo People’ as the glitchy wall of noise plays out, he flails wildly at synths, drum machines and pads. He’s cutting up the original live infront of us, letting it’s synthetic 808 guts collapse on the floor before us. He’s backlit by a strobe, lasers above him. it’s dystopic, it’s terrifying, it chaotic and its perfect.
The duo are now set to tour Ireland for a couple of weeks, followed by a European tour in time to hit the summer festivals. If you get the chance to see the pair live, take it. It’s not a relaxed affair by any means, but I’d wager it’s the most fun you’ll have at a show this year. The energy and drive they bring is 10 times more anarchic and cathartic than any punk band i’ve seen in years.