Seeing the Subway Gods & Thoughts on Music

Last night Alison and I went to see Too Many Zooz at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town. We were, wonderfully, joined by a couple of university friends at the last minute who happened to be in town; then, as we were leaving, we bumped into another group of friends from drumming. We knew that one or two of them might be at the gig, but it was actually quite a few, so we ended up going out for a few more drinks with them (uni friends heading off to various temporary homes before it got too late for their hosts).

It was a really fun and slightly unexpected evening! The band were great; almost everything I've been hoping for since I first saw a viral video of them performing on the New York subway, with showmanship and musicianship both off the charts – it just ended too soon! It was also a really fun, low key evening out with a mixed group of new and old friends, many of whom we've never socialised with in that way before, which (for various reasons) left it feeling strangely like being back at university.

There were, however, a few interesting revelations throughout the evening. Firstly, I like to dance (regardless of whether I'm any good at it), but last night made me realise that it's been a long time since I've danced in a group. Growing up, this was 90% of how nights out ended, either at clubs or rock pubs (which is what happened): everyone facing each other in a rough circle, dancing and singing along to nostalgia. Since leaving uni, however, pretty much every night out has been to see live music, which means standing in vague lines, looking forward at the stage. There's a surprising amount of difference in how you can/feel like you should dance in those two scenarios, and it turns out it's been so long since I've taken part in the former that I'd all but forgotten how to. Despite that, it was a lot of fun and something I'm definitely be happy to do more.

The second big realisation, given that we did end up at a rock bar at two in the morning, is that my generation sucked at rock. The "DJ" (who was using the most ridiculous mix of digital decks and... CDs?) gave us a decent few hours of pop-rock's greatest hits, ranging from Blur and Nirvana to more classical bands like AC/DC and Fleetwood Mac. From that selection of artists, you can probably tell that this was rock-lite, not exactly true mosh-pit forming, head banging fare, but it also gave a surprisingly good overview of everything that could be classed as "rock" (and was popular) from the late 60s to the mid 00s. What that did was really highlight how truly terrible we treated rock in the late 90s and early 2000s! There's a lot that can be said about how each era of music has a tendency to repeat certain sounds and hook into specific instruments, melodies etc. but wow, that period of indie/alt-rock/pop-rock was truly lacking innovation. And the lyrics! The riffs! So incredibly dull, boring, and flat!

Don't get me wrong, I have a nostalgic love for bands like The Darkness, the Ramones, Green Day and Blink-182, but the songs that floated to the top and which seem to have gone down as the "classics" from that era are pretty rubbish when viewed objectively. Looking back to the 60s, 70s and even 80s gives a general feeling of inventiveness and differentiation amongst the much-loved picks of those periods, switching from classic, soaring rock like AC/DC to fast-paced, frantic ska with Madness (Baggy Trousers anyone!), to balladic folk-rock with The Chain from Fleetwood Mac. Then you get to the 90s, get Song 2 by Blur and Smells Like Teen Spirit from Nirvana and apparently just remix those two tracks for about 10 years. Anything that felt in anyway "innovative", such as I Believe in a Thing Called Love, were really just pale, popularised imitations of the past. Maybe I'm being a bit too harsh, but it really did strike me as hilarious how bad the music from those two decades, no matter how much I love it from growing up with it, were; I slightly pity the current generation, who will be looking back on these bands the way I got to look back on the likes of Led Zeppelin and Dio.

Oh, and then there's what a combination of hipster culture and those musical trends have done to dancing. We were in a bar full of men with giant beards, women in all leather, piercings, tattoos, and far too much rough-cut denim... and not a single person threw up a sign of the horns or had a good ol'fashioned head bang. Instead, we all danced the way I dance at an alt-J concert. Which is fine, and much nicer on your neck the following morning, but it also felt a little sad that I'd seen more moshing at a gig focused on a trumpet and a saxophone (albeit played immensely energetically) then at a bar called Aces and Eights.

At any rate, moaning aside, I had a thoroughly great evening seeing a band I love nail it whilst covered in light-bulbs, before being reminded just how much more fun an evening spent having a few casual pints in a good pub before heading to a rock night is than mindless rave-clubbing. So, all in all, definitely a win! Oh, and the Southampton Arms just north of the Forum is a fantastic pub that serves excellent beer and mouthwatering roast pork baps, so another massive win. 😂🐖🤘

(The Pineapple is also worth a look but I can't link to it as their website is apparently infected 😨)

EDIT: The first version of this article incorrectly stated that Too Many Zooz played "too many covers and not enough of their own music". Having spent the next few days listening to their entire discography through multiple times and watching a couple of videos I shot on the evening, this turned out to be total rubbish, so I've removed it 😉 [20/05/19]