VICE Magazine & Red Bull Music Academy Knees Up @ Old Blue Last
09.02.2010 / Old Blue Last, London
Two Red Bull Reporters were chosen for the first assignment of Red Bull Music Academy 2010 in London: Natalie Meziani (writer) and Scott Webster (photographer) attended the first gig of the month-long series.
Red Bull Music Academy @ Old Blue Last - written report
Date: Tuesday 9th February 2010
Location: The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch, London.
Musicians: The Sound Of Lucrecia (Barcelona), May Roosevelt (Greece), Terri Genderbender (Mexico). Plus DJ set from Golden Silvers.
Three Colours Red.
Starting in 1999, the Red Bull Music Academy has annually gathered together an eclectic mix of the world’s most enthusiastic musical prodigies and thrown them all in one place to cultivate their talents. This year the event takes place in London, with 60 acts plucked from thousands of applications and encouraged to flourish in England’s capital. The Red Bull Music Academy will lend these globally invisible participants the power to become something more than little needles in a musical haystack. The opening night is hosted at Vice magazine’s very own scruffy-chic venue of The Old Blue Last, with DJ Kool Klap easing the crowd into a cheeky Parisian groove of misdemeanour. People are sporting an eccentric selection of attire, from togas to duffle coats to vintage Adidas shorts, and obviously there are practically more pairs of oversized glasses than there are bodies. The bar is stocked with Red Bull, everybody is swapping stories of their elaborate and exotic histories, there is laughter rising up to the ceiling and all the girls look like young boys.
The evening’s line-up has promised an all-girl event, and first to adorn the stage with her lovely haunting vocals is Columbia-born but Barcelona-based The Sound of Lucrecia. A dramatic brown fringe masks a porcelain face, baring the simple subtle attitude of red lipstick. Her mouth mumbles incoherent sentences, she wears jeans and pumps, casually strumming a guitar like your shy younger sister trying to play rock star in front of a room full of your closest friends. Lucrecia gradually builds up moody epic pop until it pushes gently against the walls, and then invites us into the moment by flashing a brief grin. She is dreamy rather than dreary, tender rather than slow, understated rather than understood. But she’s in her own world and we don’t need to be in it to catch the mellow taste of potential. She suspends seconds and minutes with a single chord, nerves melting as the Academy’s opening act blooms into a glittering white rose. I grab Lucrecia after her set for a brief chat. She tells me in an adorable Columbian accent that “The atmosphere is just...it’s just so calm, it’s really good. I’m having a very nice time. I loved performing.” Despite a few technical glitches with her laptop, The Sound of Lucrecia is both pragmatic and beautiful as an opening act to excite the crowd through her invisible stare. “You’ll see me walking on the walls”, she sings. I do hope so.
Following on is May Roosevelt, a dramatically vintage Greek theremin player in a red dress. Just to fill you in, a theramin is an electronic antenna which can detect the musician’s hand movements as they break its magnetic field, thus producing screaming electrical interference. And when I say screaming, I mean it really does sound like a wailing lady. May tells me how she discovered such a bizarre instrument simply “through an old friend...”, and now here she is performing a debilitating lullaby in Shoreditch. Another boyish haircut, another pair of lips covered in red, another girl on the fringes of insanity. May appears to be suffering from a bout of emotional constipation as she keeps her expression vacuous and her body frozen to a static spot, letting the instrumental performance do all the, er, talking. With pre-recorded backing beats and strings and pianos to accompany her, The Old Blue Last becomes flooded with grandeur. This is the sound of your soul after taking ecstasy, it is an electronic alien cemetery, I suddenly feel like I’m dying. A hundred pairs of captivated eyes all point towards the stage, mesmerised by May and her shrieking theramin.
Picture by Scott Webster - view more >>
A computer problem means that the third act Maldita Fan has to be postponed for an evening, and so make way for the finale... melodramatic Mexican lunatic Teri Gender Bender. She sets up the stage by tying daisies and ham (yes, ham) to her mic stand, duct tapes a blank white mask to her face and attacks the microphone with a feather duster. It feels wrong, like drinking red wine on a Thursday before noon. She jerks with her guitar and shouts louder than the speakers, stamping on a bass drum and declaring “I need a little rain on me ok!”. Having supported The Dead Weather (a Jack White side project), there are a few detectable similarities to the White Stripes with Teri’s boisterous garage-rock character. But she is far more disturbing than that. Taking the evening’s red lipstick theme one step further, she pours fake blood down her chin and fiercely screams power-pop reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane. And then suddenly she’s vocally morphed into Kate Bush, and then a drum machine, now she’s on the floor, dancing over our toes, running to the back of the room to kiss blood onto the windows. This girl is the devil. The drum beat rips through horrified and erratic vocals, a distressed glance, a synthesiser. She is the burnt remains of your gran’s wallpaper, she is madness, she is singing about Soviet Russia. The crowd hold their breath as she attempts to eat the microphone, proceeding to rip down half of her dress for a display of armpit hair. Possessed, with deli meat now on her head, every horror movie cliché in the book is being paraded across the stage. Sissy Spaceck eat your heart out.
Having ingested three stupendous parades of girl power, the room is allowed to socialise once more with a guest DJ set from Golden Silvers. The air crackles with inspiration as the participants dance on unfamiliar territory, each marking their spot with a hysterical footstep from another country as they wonder how the hell they’re going to out-perform Teri when their turn arrives.