There’s NOTHING like the euphoric roar of the crowd…
I’ve no idea if Jarvis Cocker was at the O2 Kentish Town Forum last night, to see the postponed from last year sold out show of Meute, an eleven member German marching techno band (no that’s not a typo), supported by fellow Germans ÄTNA, who despite only consisting of two, still managed to make a huge sound. Regardless if Jarvis was there or not, a large part of the population were currently going to be remembering their first time back at a live gig since covid coughed on the planet. Last night was mine, and it was INCREDIBLE!!!!!!
Delayed gratification clearly works wonders, and there was an eager glee in everyone’s eyes even waiting outside the venue. There was definitely an ‘out-out’ vibe as for the greater part, most folk hadn’t experienced a live gig in some time. But what a way to start.
Even from the very first moment of ÄTNA’s Demian Kappenstein (keyboards/drummer/producer) walked on with a quirky playful vibe, to beats, squelchy noises, bleeps, and multiple voice-over samples mentioning ‘big monstrous sound systems’, there was vast excitement in the air, giddily hugging every hypnotic bass beat.
ÄTNA are an avant-garde pop group, which is beautifully evident not only in the vast broad scope of influences, abilities and soundscape, but also equally important, visually, often seeming as if they’ve just been transported from the 80s. I doubt it was deliberate (hopefully it was), but tonight’s performance had a hint of ABBA about the white jumpsuit outfits, with the matching long straight hair, all in keeping with the celebration of the recent return of ABBA, but also just having a bloody good time. And, in the best way possible, made me consider a multiverse where the Pet Shop Boys merged with Sleaford Mods.
I’m HUGE fan of ÄTNA’s Inéz Schaefer’s (singer/keyboards) voice, a real hidden gem. Think Bjork, Sinéad O’Connor, Hannah Reid (London Grammar), Sia and a few others, whose tender vocals belies the powerhouse of knowledge, awareness, empathy, message and strength behind them. There are a number of tracks on their Made By Desire album (2020) that have a searing vulnerability, gossamer light, crystal clear, and hauntingly delicate air. Or seeing some videos of their earlier tracks, or live performances from a few years ago, show the different textures, range, variety and capacities of their performances, often with a hint of solemnity protected in technology.
Tonight wasn’t about being downtempo though, with Demien having jokingly announced themselves ‘we are officially the warm-up group’ (they are so much more than that as their recent collaboration track with Meute ‘Weirdo’ shows), and it was party time for the relatively short set. I mention the delicate vocals as unfortunately the celebration vibes that were out in force don’t really give the opportunity to hear the full range of Inéz’s capabilities over a booming bass beat, but it definitely means they have to be seen again with their own full set.
The plus side was a killer set, absolutely rising the audience to fever pitch in wanton enjoyment (Ruining My Brain providing my club ruined brain with flashbacks to early Underworld), celebration of the moment and in anticipation of the main act. Both incredibly playful, adept, warm and very funny artists, with beautifully broken English comments in bizarrely distinctly Nordic sounding English, despite their German origin, which made me love the entire universal experience all the more, it didn’t matter where anyone was from, we were ALL here to dance together as one, and my god did we dance.
I’ve always been a massive fan of fertile genre crossover, and have seen a myriad of various classical musicians, brass bands, orchestras covering dance tracks, and lapped them all up, a beat is a beat regardless of its origin. Meute have been around since 2015, and I’d noticed them on various live gigs online, but never fully jumped in. That changed over lockdownathon where the opportunity was there to spread the music net wider in the search for anything to soothe the absence of finding new bands to embrace at live events.
Having watched a few of their numerous full live gigs online, I was as eager as the rest of the audience last night, despite never having seen them. And to be honest, the videos do not do this band justice, at all. There’s not much room for actual marching to happen on stage, but there is a precise synchronised choreography that despite its apparent simplicity, is incredibly effect, not only in providing of extra movement with the dance, deep house tracks interpretations they perform, but they are effectively dancing as well, along with us, in as much as you can with a drum kit, marimba or massive brass instruments strapped to them, giving it their all, as did the entire audience.
I’ve always had an issue with the policy of support acts not getting the full capacity/volume of the sound system, and it was seriously apparent last night as Meute emerged as a tidal wave of sound, transforming a sound that once resided in German opera houses/beer halls, to the Berlin basements of throbbing techno, and it was utter banging bliss.
Given current times, there was clearly a policy at the venue that dancing wasn’t strictly permitted in the balcony seats, and that was politely enacted by the very polite and friendly staff, but hysterically changed in just a few moments when the staff member turned to help someone with a query, and then turned back around to see the entire balcony up dancing their hearts out, he knew it was beautiful, and it was right. That was maybe the second song into Meute playing, it stayed that way for their entire rapturous set.
They’ve been going for a relatively short time, but Meute are masters of their art, and performing for effectively 2 hours as everyone refused to let them leave, the audience being one of the best, most responsive I’ve ever seen, it only enhanced an already potent experience. Out of necessity they did multiple encores, with my favourite being an outstanding stripping down of the band to just the drummer, in complete control of the audience, and the slow addition of each member again, that ultimately built to a euphoria, which they were clearly swept up in too, which only made it more intense for the audience, who bounced the rhapsody back.
Ultimately the night was the return of sound, HUGE sound, the heart beating bass, the rush siren of brass, the laughter, and if smiles had a sound, you could hear that for miles. And all of this blended together, artists and audience, in tandem, as one, in the roar of the crowd. It was a night to be celebrated, and EVERYONE did, I can’t wait to be amongst these bands and this crowd again.