As grand mission statements go, "Don't let the monkey shit on you" might appear to be of limited use, apposite only to zookeepers and Blue Peter presenters. The fact that a pair of modest, reserved posh boys like Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe manage to get several thousand Bristolians chanting this advice by the end of their show at the western leg of the Grolsch Summer Set (er, geddit?) is a testimony to the power of their music, if not their skill with a soundbite. Well, at least it would be, except that the actual lyric goes, "Don't let the wall cave in on you". Such are the hazards of playing outdoor gigs with muffled, council-restricted sound systems.
Basement Jaxx's third (and finest) album, Kish Kash, is the only out-and-out dance record represented on this year's Mercury Music Prize shortlist, and deservedly so. But one of the problems afflicting dance acts who make albums like Kish Kash with its Royal Variety Show-like list of guest vocalists (see also Death in Vegas, and to some degree The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers) is that it's almost impossible to replicate it live, because of the logistics involved in assembling so many artists in one place. In the inevitable absence of the guest stars, what on earth do you do? Well, one thing you do is miraculously get the guest stars to show up. Some of them. As Lisa Kekaula, flamethrower-lunged singer with The Bellrays strides out in a sawn-off wedding dress straight out of the Folies Bergere, and hollers "Tell me tell me... is life just a playground?", it appears that the Jaxx may have pulled off something extraordinary, and you wonder who else is lurking backstage. "Good Luck" is an extraordinary expression of the righteous fury of a woman scorned, and the schadenfreude of a woman avenged, and an unbeatably dramatic way to lift the excitement levels at the start of a show.
But what of Dizzee Rascal? JC Chasez? Siouxsie Sioux? (The duo remarkably managed to persuade the ice queen of post-punk to rap on the album's title track.) Alas, no. They're replaced by soundalikes, and in some cases lookalikes (a PVC-clad, frightwigged dominatrix, 20 years Sioux's junior).
There are a couple of reasons why this show doesn't go off with the disappointing phut of a flat bottle of pop. The first is Basement Jaxx's uncanny mastery of the simple formula: Pop equals Fizz plus Juice. And juice is precisely what B-Jaxx have brought back to the arid dance scene of late. The frabjously funkadelic "Right Here's the Spot", the Prince-like "Plug It In", the sweet Neptunes pastiche "Hot 'N Cold" and the deliriously bizarre (bazaar?) and eastern "Lucky Star" all positively squelch like a fruit in a funky juicer.
The second is that Ratcliffe and Buxton have been decent enough to invest some of their revenue back into putting on a proper light show, rather than shoving it all up their noses or into an anonymous Jersey-based bank account. What with the underlit colonnades of the Lloyds TSB building behind the stage, and the corporate colours of the booze company sponsoring the event, there's a lot of green light in the air, and the Jaxx's illuminations clash with it horribly/brilliantly: an eye-boggling display of spectacular, hypnotic neon and LCD, dot matrices and video screens, predominantly in red, black and white.
Another welcome and unanticipated aspect to the show is that, when it comes to bootleggy playfulness, Basement Jaxx could give 2 Many DJs a run for their Euros. Unless you've been a clubland hermit in the last three years, you'll already have heard the 2 Many DJs bootleg of Basement Jaxx's wondrous "Romeo" vs The Clash's "Magnificent Seven". Rather than humourlessly send XL's lawyers after the Belgian culprits, they opt to acknowledge its brilliance by performing what is effectively a cover of the bootleg tonight, with their singer delivering the melody over Paul Simonon's bassline. In addition, Simon and Felix mash up The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" into 50 Cent's "In Da Club" into The Pointer Sisters' "Automatic", doing naughty things to Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance" and Kelis's "Milkshake", a reminder that their hearts and, er, roots are in Rooty, their occasional Brixton word-of-mouth party night.
The end result is that, when the set climaxes with "Where's Your Head At", the West Country crowd are sufficiently beside themselves to chant the aforementioned chorus about chimpanzee crap. (Or not.)
If Pete Doherty wasn't such a fundamentally nice (and not-untalented) chap underneath it all - and by now, you surely know what "it all" means - I'd be tempted to apply a crack about being defecated upon by a simian to him.
Guerilla gigging is all the rage right now. The musical cousin of flashmobbing, it involves a band pitching up unannounced at an unconventional venue (the back of a flatbed truck, the roof of the Cabinet War Rooms etc) and performing to a mixture of amazed locals and internet-watching, clued-in cognoscenti. It's being universally, and correctly, written up as an exciting and refreshing development. However, as Camden Town finds out on Monday night, it comes with an unpleasant flipside: artists not turning up to shows they have announced.
The mini-tour visiting the Barfly is billed as Pete Doherty (Acoustic), supported by Selfish Cunt and Dot Allison. I arrive too late to find out whether or not Dot plays, but Mr Cunt is notable by his absence. Instead, we're treated to a mediocre psychedelic rock band called Mad Action, a smartly-dressed pair of Smashing Pumpkins soundalikes called Phoenix something-or-other, and an unnamed busker in a white trilby who looks like a cross between Joe Dolce and Greg Rusedski who sings Laurel and Hardy's "Trail of the Lonesome Pine" until a hail of drinks and chants of "Pete! Pete! Pete!" show him he's not wanted.
As the clock ticks towards curfew, and a purple spotlight glowers over a solitary, unattended microphone, the atmosphere turns ugly. It's worth stating at this point that I like Pete Doherty, and I find his band The Libertines very exciting to watch. It's also worth stating that there's something incredibly ghoulish afoot, with every new twist in the saga of Doherty's run-ins with the law and rehab (an English, male Courtney Love) being drooled over by those who take pleasure in watching him repeatedly crashing in the same car.
And then it happens. An announcement comes over the PA to the effect that Pete will not be appearing, purportedly because the security staff "wouldn't let his guitar tech in" (although an eye-witness report has it that Doherty tried to bring dozens of gatecrasher fans with him) and he got peeved and buggered off. Suddenly, it becomes clear why they've been serving us pints in plastic glasses.
The following night, at the Scala, Pete again fails to appear for his advertised gig. To compensate, Doherty reportedly invites a handful of fans to his flat (it's all right for some), and arranges an extra outdoor show on the Saturday. As I fumble for a trite concluding guerilla/gorilla gag to round off this column, I overhear several angry Libertines fans quoting the band's own lyrics. "What a waster," they mutter in disgust.Reuse content