A Communication
Hi-Fi Serious
Rival Schools
Mean Fiddler

A / RIVAL SCHOOLS London Astoria
Gig Review

We were stood in an otherwise extremely dodgy looking side street in London with a bunch of sugared-up teenagers, mostly all chatting and sometimes shouting amongst themselves. Suddenly heads begin to turn and you can hear subtle whispers of "Look, it's Jason Perry".

Not the most legendary name in rock, not yet anyway, but a name to make heads turn within A's very loyal and ever-growing fan-base. We also turn, and see Jason - A's spiky-haired, golf-visor wearing frontman - casually strolling up the side street, camcorder in hand, filming this growing throng of fans, here to see one of the UK's most prominent rock acts for a good few years. Text messages are sent to friends, and jokes are made about what people would do when he came back with his camera.

In a cunning move by Jason, he didn't come back down that side street. I'm sure everyone there were ready to pounce if he reappeared, so, around about 7:30pm; everyone began to shuffle, slowly, and disappointed they'd missed their chance to monkey on camera, towards the doors.

Once again we get upstairs and have our choice of tables, unbelievable this time especially, as we were way back in the queue. Obviously no-one was for sitting down tonight. So we were sat at a strategically chosen table, and fancied a couple of drinks…then the fun began.

So for a start Jodi came back from the bar, severely grumpy about not being able to get served. Despite her telling them over and over that she was 25, they wouldn't believe her. She went back, with some ID, but still they wouldn't believe her. Apparently they only accept birth certificates and driving licences as valid forms of ID - like they're the sort of things you'd take to a gig.
"Urine sample? Some choice strands of my DNA?"
"Didn't you hear me the first time? Birth-certificate-or-a-driving licence!"

So I went up to get the drinks, already a little annoyed that they refused to serve Jodi I said to the guy "A can of Bud and a JD and Coke"
"What?" he replied. I repeated myself, only a little louder. I should point out here that the music was quite loud in the place, which is what you'd expect.

So the guy is looking around for ages. He didn't seem to have any idea what was what, or possibly what he was actually doing there, and even had to not only get another bar guy to help him use the dispenser on the JD bottle, but prior to that ask him what JD was. It was all very Twilight Zone, like the guy had just stepped out of his shower and 'blipped' into this other dimension as a barman. Lost and confused, my request for drinks only served to baffle him further. Then he looks around for ages at all the beers, asks the bar woman something, then comes back to me "We don't sell Bud, sir."

"Ok, a Gin & Tonic then" I said
"What, sir?"
Now I was pretty fed up by this stage. Not only because they didn't serve a 25 year old, but because I had to repeat myself again, plus I'd been waiting, essentially for one drink, for about 2 minutes. So I repeated, in rather a loud/shouting voice

The guy sort of jumps and gets to it, just as he does so, the other bar guy comes right up to me with a stern expression "Alright, mate. There's not need to shout! He's new. Alright?!"
Well that was the final straw really. So I leant closer to this guy and shouted "I'm not shouting AT him! I'm raising my voice so he can hear me!" and the guy backs away sort of saying "Alright, alright"

"The Munchies were ok I suppose, but it was just Squeaker…he pissed me off"

Of course, I was shouting at that guy, but saying what I said made the other bar guy out to look stupid. What I really wanted to say of course was "Ohhh, he's new. I was just shouting because I thought he was really fucking stupid". So anyway, some other bar woman comes over then and starts trying to laugh it off with me. Pah!

So just towards the end of this farce the first support band come on stage. I have no idea who these guys were but they seemed like some local 6th form college bunch with the squeaky Americanised vocals and 'lets turn the amps up to 11' attitude to volume/distortion. So let's call them, er…'Squeaker And The Munchies'.

To be honest I've not got much to say about Squeaker and co. Obviously they must have something going on to get 2nd support to A, but I wasn't too impressed. Nothing really stood out about them. Well, the Munchies were ok I suppose, they had some good tunes, plenty of power and the potential is there, but it was just Squeaker…he pissed me off. Indirectly of course, but he didn't seem to be into the music that was being played and appeared a little too pretentious and cocky for his own good. Or maybe I was still grumpy about the bar thing? Who knows…who cares?

The Astoria must be getting more club nights every day of the week now, which is a good thing because it means the bands don't leave the crowd standing around getting bored in 'tension building' moments before coming onstage as they usually tend to. No, they now have to get on and get things underway when they're supposed to. So next up, without too much waiting (and after Squeaker and the Munchies had to clear off their own equipment…aww, bless 'em) were Rival Schools.

I hadn't listened to the Rival Schools album much I must admit, but I was interested to see how they'd perform live; and they were just like you'd expect - scruffy Nirvanaesque American alternative rock, nothing wrong with that. Singer/axe strummer Walter Schreifels certainly knew how to work the crowd and the stage; at one point sneakily propping his guitar up against the monitor and leaping into the unsuspecting crowd. A cunning plan you may think, but he ended up losing his Converse All-Stars…the best laid plans etc.

"And with the grace and style of a Manatee taking the Krypton Factor endurance test he clambers over us and jumps down"

One got thrown back however, but the huge grin on his face said he didn't mind too much. It was a pretty good show from Rival Schools, especially when the band was washed in red light during my personal favourite 'Good Things'. It was a good mixture of bouncy, rocking and mellow tracks, reminding me a lot of the early 90s alternative and grunge scene, when bands were more concerned with writing great songs from the heart, rather than trying to be as powerful/overproduced as possible for quick cash-ins.

So Rival Schools finished, and I'll take this moment to mention a couple of people who turned up just in front of us. I can't remember the exact point they decided to become a microcosmic part of our lives, but I think it was just before Rival Schools came on. There was a table on the level below and in front of ours at which sat a solitary guy. Probably, like me during my uni years, none of his mates liked the same music as him and he had to go alone. Probably eager for any sort of company, but even the loneliest and needy of people have a clearly marked line, not wholly visible to everyone, but common knowledge to most. This line has one flaw however, that being the induction of excessive amounts of alcohol can make the line invisible to the induced. And so enter Peggy and Sue.

Obviously I have no idea what their real names were, but it was a bloke and his girlfriend, well I presume she was his girlfriend, they certainly complimented each other well. So Sue was this woman…dressed in a leather jacket, short haircut and looked in her late 30s/early 40s; and Peggy was the guy; overweight, Oasis-esque jacket zipped right up and a bad attitude. Incidentally, I'm calling him Peggy because, well firstly it goes with Sue quite well (and she looked like a 'Sue') and secondly, the guy was a total prick and he deserves a girly name.

So these people were pissed, annoyingly pissed. And as they started talking to the guy sat on his own - well I say talking, but it was most likely slurring - you could tell that he just wanted to be left alone. During Rival Schools, Sue thought she'd stand right in front of our table, but, bless her soul, she stood far enough to the side of me that I could still see. I made the mistake of accidentally tapping her arm however when I tried to fish my hoodie from the side of me. She turned, I smiled and mouthed 'sorry', she smiled back. She continued to look round at certain intervals which all in all was pretty disconcerting, but caused Jodi to laugh at my worried looks - so it wasn't all bad. She did start smoking though, which pissed me off, but it did give one of my photographs a pretty cool effect., as seen below.

Anyway, during the wait for A to appear, Peggy pissed off somewhere; and is it so wrong that I hope he was throwing up the very pits of his stomach? I think lonely guy made a break for it while he could, and I can honestly say I don't blame him. Then a small pack of worried looking 15 year olds decided to stand right in front of our table. A couple of them looked round, I looked unimpressed, and they looked more worried. Jodi said I should give them more angry looks as they looked like a 'bunch of pussies' and they might move; this could have worked, but I'm not that nasty and they looked far too stupid to have got the idea. She's an evil one that Jodi, don't let that girly façade fool you.

While Jodi and I were happily talking about some nonsense or other I felt a strange, yet wholly unwanted presence lurking to the side of our table. From the corner of my beady eye I could see that Peggy had returned, but clearly to us yet not to him, to the wrong level. We stop talking for a moment and Peggy sees his chance - *slur*slur*slur* "…down there" and he points. It turns out he wanted to get down to the next level, and being the astounding brainbox he is, he decides that instead of just going back around, he'd rather climb over our table; and with the grace and style of a Manatee taking the Krypton Factor endurance test he clambers over us and jumps down to Sue, except now he's spotted Jodi and has other ideas.

He turns to me, all the time slurring "Who's this then?" motioning towards Jodi. Then he turns to her - "You look like Brittany"
Jodi: "Oh my God, kill me now"
Peggy: "What's wrong with Brittany?"
Jodi: "What's right with her?"
Peggy: "She got really big (makes 'huge tits' gesture with hands) … eyes"
Jodi: "By 'eyes' you mean 'breasts' don't you"
Peggy: "… yes"

"His voice is so high and strained, that I don't know about anyone else, but I couldn't understand a word"

I stopped listening by this point. At first it was funny, but now he was a pain in the ass. The next thing I can remember was him turning to me and saying "If I'm talking shit just tell me to stop". 'Well, you've caught me out there because I can't really turn back time' I was thinking. Eventually Sue dragged him away just as A came onto the stage. The dweeb gang were still in front of us and I couldn't be arsed trying to get them out of the way, so I had to go sit next to Jodi to see the show decently and get the lovely photographs you see on display.


A played a very powerful set against a stylish backdrop of a giant hand holding a set of headphones. The art was that rough inky style which graces the cover of their latest album 'Hi-Fi Serious'. Most of the time the stage was washed in blue light which made everything feel very cool and fresh - something like a Fox's Glacier Mint. For anyone that's seen them before they went through their usual set of songs from the first and second albums; plus obviously some tracks from the latest release thrown in too.

The show was just short of spectacular with fake snow being blown into the crowd during "I Love Lake Tahoe" persuading the dweeb gang to piss off downstairs to play in the foam. And the mirror balls and bubble machines were set off to make things look very pretty during 'A'. Apart from that the band weren't hugely entertaining onstage with everyone apart from Jason staying pretty still and not saying much at all. At least Jason made the effort in-between songs, but his voice is so high and strained, even when he talks, that I don't know about anyone else, but I couldn't understand a word, but this is mostly down to the Astoria's poor acoustics. I'm sure he meant well though.

As always A played a heavy, driven set, varying the tempo by shifting between a good mix of songs from their first album 'How Ace Are Buildings' like 'Cheeky Monkey', new tracks like 'Took It Away' and 'Starbucks' and classics from '...Monkey Kong' like 'Monkey Kong', 'A' and Jason's personal favourite 'Old Folks' the middle eight of which still leaves the hairs on the back of the neck standing.

As usual he tried to get the crowd running in a hardcore punk circle-pit for one of their faster songs, and just like the other two occasions I've seen them nobody seemed to know just what one was or how to do it, poor Jason. I wish they did know how to get one started because not only are they fun to watch, but I could only hope the dweeb gang were down there getting very, very hurt. Suffice to say everyone just sort of bounced and moshed a little.

About half-way through Peggy decided he's like to stand right in front of our table. Sue, being the caring lady that she is, tried to pull him over to her explaining that he was in out way. Peggy, being the total cock that he so obviously is, decided that he didn't want to stand next to his girlfriend, but right in our view anyway. Twat. Anyway, Sue tried pulling him out of the way again, and in a macho display of bravado he stomped off in a little mood. That was two down - things were getting better.

The rest of the show was fairly uneventful, just good powerful punky pop. Not that this is a bad thing, A are a great live band and put a lot into every performance, it's just that I've seen more entertaining bands and I know A could be more entertaining on stage. I suppose that's the dividing line though, they're there to play music and give everyone a good time, not to make people laugh like Blink 182 or The Bloodhound Gang. The snow and bubbles were a great treat though and made the whole event seem pretty special. There was one incident when an eager young chap tried to clamber onto the stage in excitement. He thought he'd just about made it, not realising that the security guy had a hold of his ankle, he went to take a big step forward and fell flat on his face - classic.

david twomey

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Hi-Fi Serious

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