London has quite a few underground public toilets. I quite like these: they’re handy when you need them, and sometimes have interesting architectural bits like wrought-iron gatework aboveground and coloured tiles below. Sure, they’re often unpleasant, since they’re most often used by bladdered pissheads, but it’s to be expected: they are toilets.
A couple of them have been converted to other uses, however. One such isGinglik, no longer a loo but a scruffy-cool subterranean bunker bar at the point of Shepherd’s Bush Green. Giving a new meaning to “watering hole”, Ginglik is small, dim, but funky.
I was there last night to catch a gig. Fancy that? The room where bands play is small and simple; it can’t hold more than 200 people, I think. It was part of a monthly west-London live music promotion night called Not In Kansas Anymore.
The first band was called Four Dead In Ohio. Unfortunately, they sounded very little like CSN&Y. They weren’t bad, but their droning rock wasn’t very interesting, either. The songs certainly didn’t sound as good live as they do on their MySpace. They’re just kids, though, so I’m sure they just need some time and practice.
During FDIO’s set I people-watched a bit. One guy caught my eye: a small fellow, with a sullen, brooding look, and a jumper with his hood up over his head. He paced in and out of the room from time to time, as though he were up to something. I kept my eye on him, just to be safe.
The next act up was called Dead Kids. They set up a couple of synths, a drummer, and a bassist, and started laying down a groove. I was eager to see what came next. Suddenly I noticed the sullen guy with the hoodie move through the crowd toward the low stage. He reached up, and grabbed a mic stand, and took it. I saw some people tense and look at him. Without a backward look, the guy grabbed the mic and jumped onto the stage and started singing. The band kept playing. Oh, the room thought: he’s actually their singer.
Without warning, Dead Kids exploded into a whirlwind of punk-rave fun. I was shocked and surprised and overjoyed. It was like a cockney Iggy Pop was fronting LCD Soundsystem. You felt like dancing while this nutty little guy starts ripping the shit out of the ceiling while shouting at us and sweating up a storm. It was far more dynamic and dangerous live than you can tell from those MySpace songs. I loved them. The singer was in the crowd, jumping around, climbing on people, making no sense, but making a glorious racket. The DJ had to run down and stop him when he actually broke some of the flimsy false-ceiling supports. That was proper rock.
But the main act were my current faves The Duke Spirit. I got to see them play from a distance of about 3 feet, which was super cool. They ripped the place up just as they did in November. Their garage-art sound is perfect for a converted underground toilet bar: tactile, fuzzy, and booty-shaking. They played a lot of songs from new album Neptune, released next week (but already heard by some of us at the listening party last weekend and through – ahem – other means). “Send A Little Love Token”, “Into The Fold”, and “This Ship Was Built To Last” sounded especially good. I’m seeing these guys once more soon, at Koko in Camden, and at the moment I’m just basking in how cool they are.
Note that the Guardian has reviewed Neptune (which I think is awesome) and while they seem to think it’s great and said it’s better than their first album, they only gave it three stars.