Omeara is a sprawling arts venue near London Bridge. The building was renovated just over a year ago by Mumford and Sons‘ Ben Lovett (although I suspect he got some builders to help him).
The main hall, which is currently hosting a series of sold-out gigs, is a throwback to days gone past. It looks like the ballroom of The Titanic (except there are no fish and it’s a bit dryer). The walls are brown and encrusted and a chandelier dangles forlornly. It’s the sort of venue where Victorian magicians would have chopped ladies in half and produced rabbits from a puff of smoke.
I was expecting something intriguing and Free Money and Starcrawler didn’t disappoint.
Having arrived Omeara half an hour after doors opened, I was surprised to see that the front of the stage was already occupied by a line of old blokes. The ratio of photographers to band members was obviously going to be a lot higher than usual.
From my space at the side of the stage, I had a chat with a guy who sported a very long Nikon lens. He told me he hadn’t seen Free Money before.
- Me – “I saw them at The Borderline supporting Yonaka just before Christmas. The lead singer reminded me of Steve Jones and Joe Strummer.”
- Him – “I used to shoot The Clash in the late ’70s”….
As my kids would say, “I was rinsed”. Moving on.
Free Money are a four-piece playing solid indie rock. They’re lively and belt out their tunes with a passion. The last time I saw them, they broke two guitars, but this time it was only one string. Maybe they’ve toned their performance down a bit or have a guitar tech waiting in the wings.
Fave of the set for me was “I Want In”, which they put out as a single last summer. The beret/trench coat/neckerchief/US Boy Scout shirt combo of their lead singer summed up their performance – cheeky, unexpected, stylish, and just a little bit foppish.
They’re on the up and one to keep an eye on in 2018.
I missed Los Angeles-based Starcrawler last year when they played the Sebright Arms. I think I may have been asleep at home and woke up to be told it was a great gig.
One thing is for sure – no one, including the 15 old men with cameras, were going to have a snooze when Starcrawler got on stage.
The four-piece occupies a space between the graveyard and the emergency room. They play kick-ass rock ‘n roll, and they were here tonight to do some serious butt kicking. Indeed, at one point, Arrow de Wilde, their waif like singer, evacuated one of her nostrils towards The Clash’s photographer. She also chose to gob on some of the other lensmen in an attempt to let the real fans get to the front of the tiny stage. I felt like I was back in 1977.
OK, I admit I was there with my camera, too, but I was there with the blessing of the promoter RockFeedBack and I stood at/was pushed to the side, hence no pix of drummer Austin Smith. I was also given an accidental back massage by one fan who wanted to jump up and down behind me. I’m not sure he was being deliberately generous.
On with the show
Flame-haired Arrow is just a little bit scary. She came on and sang the first song dressed in a straight-jacket. Before singing their penultimate track with fake blood pouring from her mouth, she writhed on the floor as if being electrocuted (or something slightly more sensual). Arrow then gave us a perfectly executed crab (that gymnastic move). I don’t think I’ve seen a crowd collectively go “oooo” before.
The performance and the music was high-octane and high-energy. Henri Cash knows how to sport a rock pose. Resplendent in a cowboy shirt, he smirked whilst blasting out dirty guitar riffs. Bass player Tim Franco stood impassively at the side, doing what bass players do best – playing their instrument.
For me “Ants” is their standout track, which also involved some crowd singalong. Starcrawler are frantic and you can’t take your eyes off the performance. It’s a bit like watching a controlled demolition of a high-rise building or watching a high-speed car chase on an IMAX screen. You know something explosive is about to happen, and there’s just a small chance it could end in tears.
They’ll be back in London in June, supporting the Foo Fighters. Maybe they’ll saw Arrow in half or fire her from a cannon next time. And for my next trick….
Starcrawler’s eponymous debut LP was released on 19th January on Rough Trade.
Marcus Jamieson-Pond is a regular gig reviewer for The Revue. His other write ups can be found here. To see full sets of photos from this gig and more than 275 other bands, visit www.jampondphotography.com.
Thanks to Elliot at RockFeedback for inviting us to cover this gig.
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