Friday, 8 April 2011

Penultimate Retrochamps

Futuristic Retro Champions
The Captain's Rest,
8 April 2011

On iTunes: Love and Lemonade

Never would have thought it possible, simultaneously to be so very sad, yet so happy. Certainly not after just that single pint of fresh orange and lemonade! But the happiness comes as standard with FRC, about whose contagious brand of emotronic happy hardcore I've written before. It comes from their performance, their open and unapologetic optimism, bright melodies and infinite smiling.

Happiness comes too from stellar songwriting, which above all else about them, so deserves to be cherished. Pleasure comes from their sheer quality of vocal harmony, arrangement, execution and production. From ingenious lyrics that create empathy, joy and sublimation. The absolute nailing of the sound they're after, with the biggest, bossest Black & Decker nail bloody gun. So nailed that sometimes you will misfile it. This can lead to hallucinations.

For example last year, on first hearing their mighty single May The Forth, I recall thinking aye - that was really well bloody good. But later the same day, the chorus still in my head as I happened to put the song on again, stupid brain said wow, didn't realise they did covers - but that sure was one fantastic classic. Shut up, stupid brain! You're out of your depth. You've pulled this trick on me before, telling me the music from that Comet ad was another legendary 80s dance anthem, when actually it was just Badly Drawn Boy's All Possibilities (2002).

Hey I Thought This Was About FRC -
You Said Something About Sadness?

Ah yes, the sadness. Having known for this past half-year, that tonight's show would be their last ever appearance in Glasgow; tomorrow's in Edinburgh's Wee Red Bar, their last anywhere. It was a sign of the greatest affection that this loyal knot of fans, as the band took the stage tonight and a smiling Sita began "Oh well, here we are then, this is it", reacted with one voice: boo.

This warm welcome seemed entirely expected, and they brushed it off instantly. Seconds later, all were dancing to Epic New Song. Swiftly followed by Hi!, the first song they ever recorded. Oooh, meta - Retrochamps get nostalgic! A beaming Fergus Weir joined them on stage, providing chant vocals in Let's Make Out.

The gentle Isn't It Lovely showed another side of the band, who continued to inject variety into the night with everyone taking a turn at lead vocals. When Sita steps up to the mic, every inch the pop star, she owns it. Yet from Harry's showcase Speak To Me, through Carla's riotous DIY Love Song to Ceal's vocal debut Uh Oh (No Show) when she asks politely for a little more volume on her mic "just for this one song", the singing duties are passed round with that generosity, that freedom from ego, so often found in art school and music college bands, and so rarely elsewhere. Harry and Ceal even swapped guitar and bass duties toward the end.

The (New Order? Ladytron?)-styled gem You Make My Heart exhibits again that time warping magic, paradoxically at once both retro classic and brightly original. As for the peerless Jenna - like I said, Sita simply owns. She actually made eye contact with me as together we sang one of their funniest lines, "But you're so tall, and I'm Pieraccini!"

Packed into that tiny cellar, we sang all their words back to them. Poor Linda, squeezed in even closer to the deafening PA than I during May The Forth, sought in vain any conscious hint of irony as certain fans in the... mature category, not quite pulling box shapes like others half their age and size, would belt out - Watching you dance / has given me / a second chance to feel young again...

The one band member not accorded equal respect with everyone else was their beleaguered "one trick" drum machine, who showed some signs of giving out early on. Our fault, quipped Sita, running him five years on that one set of batteries. At the end of the night, I knew how he felt.

Setlist: Epic New Song, Hi!, Let's Make Out, Speak To Me, Strawberries And Vodka Shots, Count To Ten, Uh Oh (No Show), DIY Lovesong, Isn't It Lovely?, May the Forth, Jenna, You Make My Heart.

Band Wiki

Though on the night we did catch FRC's full set, we were as usual irredeemably late, missing out on the decks of Manda Rin and most of Little Eskimos. This was partly due to our driver (=me) mentally relocating The Captain's Rest, first to Bath Street, then even less helpfully to St Vincent Street, before finally giving up entirely and heading off randomly - not to mention fortunately - in the direction of Great Western Road.*

When we arrived, Carla's brother Murray Easton on the door recognised me as the band's shadow lurking, unofficial Wikipedia guy. And he must have told; for after the show, when I asked Sita to autograph my new copy of the 2CD Love And Lemonade, she mentioned that Wiki in the signing [pic]. Later too Carla and her boyfriend tried to say hello, while Linda and I raved back at them (in my case a little hoarsely) about the night's performance. Murray having left with his marker pen, I was unable to collect Carla's autograph. Desolation! We might just have to take a run through to Edinburgh tonight...

On the other hand, these perfectly retro mini-vinyl style CDs hid a beautiful sealed note from "Casio Carla" (actually she drives a big Yamaha) which, given the super-limited edition of just 75 copies, might have to do instead until we meet again. No you can't see it, it's mine. Murray did let slip a few details about the new band the girls are planning soon to form, but I'm keeping shtum about that too, at least until there's an official announcement. Their level of talent and originality is just shocking; it can't happen too soon. And that goes for you too, Harry Weeks!

More photos from the gig: by Linda Kerr.
Free to use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported licence.

* Wow, eight adverbs counting "first". Candidate for worst sentence ever written!

[Update: 9 Apr 2011]

Ultimate Retrochamps: The Disbanding

Ten o'clock on a soft Glasgow April evening. Forty miles to the east, FRC play the final tumultuous chord of their ultimate show (our last ever show ever!), and Saturday night curfew sounds in Edinburgh's Wee Red Bar. Meanwhile back here, forty miles in the west, a sad duty calls. Wikipedia won't update itself:
FRCs are were...
Current Members...
2006 - present 2011...
Farewell, you Futuristic Retro Champions. When you quit, you were still - in the words of Manda Rin - the best new band in Scotland.

[Update: 12 Apr 2011]

Check out Murray's account of that whole weekend:

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