I went to go see Frightened Rabbit at Koko in Camden Town, and I was quite excited. However, this excitement was a bit dampened as the night wore on, and I shall explain in this little tale I shall tell.
First, may I say how puzzling it was to be forced to check my camera at the coat check and pay £2 to do so when I later saw loads of people running around and clicking away with their little pocket cams?
This was my first visit to Koko, and the interior of the space is lovely. Originally opened as the Camden Theatre and subject to a number of name changes since, the space has featured such famous names as Charlie Chaplin, The Sex Pistols and Madonna. It was a lovely space, but I was told by two separate people to get there early and to get a good spot in order to ensure I could see the stage. After paying over £4 for a lager (that I subsequently nursed through the two opening bands), I had a look around and plotted. After going to one part of the club only to find that the intended perch was roped off, I retreated back near the main bar area and planted myself against the railing with a good view of the stage, although a bit far, so I couldn’t see the finer details of things, which is just as well.
The first opening band was from Iceland, and I can’t remember their name, which again may be just as well. They began to play, and they were quite enthusiastic but… something seemed a bit amiss to me. It wasn’t their bassoon player, which is an instrument one doesn’t see very often at shows. After the fourth or fifth song, I realised: These guys remind me of Dave Matthews Band. Seriously, it was that type of earnest-but-really-bland music that seemed really out of place.
Upon this realisation, I started amusing myself in counting how many plaid shirts/dresses I could find in the audience. Because of where I was, I had a good view of everyone in the pit before the stage, as well as in the layer of Koko that was the entrance level. The highest number I got was 14.
The next opening band, Airship, was a bit better, thankfully. They were all right, despite looking a bit too hip. The music was actually pretty good, but the boys at the instruments all looked slightly a bit too pretty, like they all were variations of the typical skinny indie boy one could find in a number of metropolitan areas. Still, that being said, their set was pretty good.
During their set, the couple next to me were beginning to progress into hooliganism, with periodic heckles and drunken hoots. After the Airship set, especially during the long setting-up process for Frightened Rabbit’s sound check, the two were beginning to be a bit unruly. And god, that woman’s laugh was easily in the Top 20 Most Annoying Laughs in London. She sounded like she had some high-pitched evil anime laugh going on. “Oh-ho-ho-ho!”
Right, so Frightened Rabbit came on, amid cheers and hoots and shouts and whistles. If you want set lists, I’m not the person for you, because I wasn’t taking notes, and I was periodically distracted by wishing physical harm upon the couple next to me. Actually, it turned out I wasn’t the only one, because after about three songs I think an irate man gave the both of them a bit of a talking-to, and the next thing I knew, they left the spot next to me for some other place far away.
I will tell you that Frightened Rabbit seem to be a band to see in a more intimate setting. Before moving to London, I had found out that they were playing at The Social in Orlando, an area probably a third the size of Koko, and that just seems right. They produce a type of intimate, heart-yanking music that is just difficult to expand into a large performance. At one point in the evening, Scott Hutchison, the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, attempted to sing to the audience without the aid of a microphone or amp for his guitar, and despite the shushings from the audience, he was sadly inaudible, and he eventually said, “Aw, fuck it,” and went back to the mic.
Someone else on Last.fm commented that the show was disappointing, but I don’t think I was disappointed with Frightened Rabbit’s performance. I just think a number of factors aggravated what was otherwise a good show. Some of them were very personal for me, such as having to surrender my camera, dealing with the couple that was next to me for a good while and the fact I’m a cheap bastard who will complain about £4 lager. But there were other things, like the sound quality wasn’t very clear for any of the bands playing that night. And did anyone else see those women to the side of the stage? Were they Frightened Rabbit groupies? Frightened Rabbit has groupies? Frightened Rabbit has somewhat skeezy groupies?
All in all, though it wasn’t an ideal show, it was still a good show. Although they didn’t play one or two of my favourite songs of theirs, I still gasped in excitement a few times upon hearing the opening notes to other songs, such as “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” off their new album,The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, or “The Twist” off The Midnight Organ Fight. So, in the end, I was fairly satisfied at the end of the night as I stood in the queue to pick up my verboten camera and my coat and picked up a copy of The Winter of Mixed Drinks.
It was cold as I waited for the 29 at Mornington Crescent Station to whisk me off through the earlier part of a late night. Once Unknown Pleasures finished on my iPod, I set it to play Sing The Greys to get an extra Frightened Rabbit fix for the evening.