I went to two gigs this week, there couldn’t have been more of a contrast.

On Sunday I went to a gig that my friend Toby was playing. It was an acoustic affair in a student house, they’d decked out their basement with a big old mattress and cushions, and pinned some fairy lights on the wall with a white sheet for projections. The first act was a guy with a spanish guitar and a guy with a xylophone. They sang about board games and giant robot cats, and they had a shadow puppet show of a tragic love story between an octopus and a squirrel. Then there was Toby’s band, who are usually a straight up punk band, this being the only time they’ve ever played acoustically. The singer had to be stopped from performing a Take That song. Then there was a Boards of Canada type guy (also in Toby’s band) with animated projections, and an american guy called Brook something whose name I didn’t catch who did Herman Dune type songs with funny stories about living in New York inbetween. Someone had a go at crowdsurfing across the seated people on the mattress, and it was the most sedate crowdsurfing ever. The whole thing was charming and fun, cost nothing but a donation for the bands and the drink you brought with you, and was entertaining throughout. (Though going in the kitchen gave me a shudder of students days ..)

The other gig was the Joy Formidable at Audio. Vicky had a spare ticket, so I went along. Audio is a band venue along the seafront, there’s a swish cocktail place upstairs and a band room/nightclub downstairs. Most band venues are kind of dives, but this place is slick. The drinks are expensive (most things were £3.80 and had a lot of ice to drink) and there isn’t much atmosphere. It’s one of those places that has a good sound system, and a decent lighting setup, but somehow manages to suck all life from the stage, even though everything’s technically set up right. The Joy Formidable are always a good live prospect, but the support bands were a real let down. Airship were like a limp Jesus & Mary Chain, made up of blandly handsome boys from central art student casting. Baddies were like Green Day do Talking Heads. Both bands were tight, and talented musicians, but there was absolutely no spark, and I felt like I was hearing lesser versions of songs by other people. The Joy Formidable were good, but the non-atmosphere of the place didn’t do much for them, I enjoyed them much more the other times I’d seen them. The crowd was also strangely full of little bald middle aged men. I guess they are in love with the singer.