Girls In Synthesis at The Old Blue Last

Support: Do Nothing| The Cool Greenhouse
November 14, 2019 at The Old Blue Last
Promoter: The Great Escape/DIY

6 pm. Made it! I’m in London, not an easy trip from rain-soaked Suffolk; flooding meant all trains on the Lowestoft to Ipswich line were cancelled. First casualty was the William Blake exhibition, as my train’s delay turned into cancellation I realise that no way am I going to get there! In fact. Girls In Synthesis is looking far from certain. Some friends decide to drive to Ipswich, they have tickets for the England match, ‘Do I want a lift?’ I certainly do! Ipswich had real moving trains!

7 pm. And eventually I meet up with a couple of friends at Liverpool Street; we set off down Bishopsgate towards Great Eastern Street and The Old Blue Last. A Pole, a Spaniard and a Brit. One of them puts on DIY punk gigs, the other has played in three bands I know of. You can’t measure the grass-roots cultural positives of being in the EU: the re-energising effects of fresh enthusiasms, new styles, the hybridities that come with the movement of people. I have far more in common with these two than I have with Boris Johnson.

7.30 pm. The Old Blue Last. Never been here before – nice place. Toilets? Easily spotted. The Great Escape Festival has put on a series of gigs to showcase some of the bands they have next May, Girls in Synthesis are on with The Cool Greenhouse and Do Nothing. It’s sold out. I spot someone I recognise from previous GIS gigs – very nice guy, the four of us stand chatting about music. New and old. We all mention bands the others haven’t heard of. How much good music is out there?

8 pm. The Cool Greenhouse are on and I’m starting to relax with the help of a couple of drinks. Intriguing band – a bit Bodega maybe? Art Rock perhaps? Their bandcamp page describes them as ‘lo-fi, repetitive post-punk with a social conscience’. They’ve had three releases since June ’18 and to me they seemed pretty good, which is mild praise compared to The Quietus who commented about EP Crap Cardboard Pet, “enthralling . . . oozes delight and is so very infectious in its charm” (1).

8.45 pm. Time to start positioning ourselves, it will probably get more difficult to move freely quite soon. What’s the word for a lot of photographers? Whatever it is, there are. Which shows good taste in my opinion.

8.55 pm. I think it may have been Mark Fisher who commented that late capitalism is like an ever open, moribund, shopping mall, devoid of purpose and community. Alienation, isolation, lack of meaning, anxiety, the individualisation of mental health issues as though they happen in a vacuum. One of the hallmarks of post modernity is meant to be the death of the meta-narrative: stories we told about where we are and where we are going. Marxism has one, capitalism used to have one. Now all neo-liberal capitalism can offer you is precarity, anxiety and the assurance that things could be worse.

9 pm. Girls In Synthesis take to the stage. The atmosphere changes to electric expectancy – we’re teetering on the edge of the rush! And then it happens: ‘Arterial Movements’, ‘Pressure, ‘Tainted’. John and Jim have long since given up the stage, positioning themselves and their mics within the audience, it’s a deeply sophisticated move that carries within it a symbol of solidarity, the praxis of intentional community, the preparedness to divest themselves of architectural power and to trust the crowd. This is the realisation of relational aesthetics – art as an ongoing collaboration with all the attendant risks. The whole area in front of the stage is now a wild celebration of solidarity, of community, of life. Like astronauts in stretched but constant communication with base, John, Jim and Nicole – who somehow holds it all together –  periodically catch each other’s eye, nod, synchronise watches. I don’t know what effective protest looks like at the moment, (Extinction Rebellion?) but this feels like part of it because it’s an affirmation of what makes us human; reminds us of what life is meant to be about: community, trust, hope. In these fucking awful times of brutal class-war, those three things enable us to keep going, and Girls In Synthesis help us to remember that and to invest in them. This band is important. They remind us that neoliberalism is construct not nature; it’s corrosive effects can be resisted.

9.35 pm.They’ve finished! What do you do now? Watch the last band? I can’t, I need to get a train – if it’s running! I talk to my friends, to someone I recognise from a previous gig, to the band. I dance around to something on the PA. I leave.

10.30 pm. I spend the journey home grinning.

Cashin, C. (2019) ‘The Cool Greenhouse: Crap Cardboard Pet’, The Quietus

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