Wampire, TOPS & Oscar – Hackney Oslo – November 24th

A wintry, Monday night at the Hackney Oslo and excellent promoter, Bird On A Wire, has a triple pack to keep us entertained. It’s a disparate line-up and, apart from them both coming from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s difficult to see quite what Wampire and Tops are doing on the same bill. Numbers are made up but by no means diminished by London pop-tarts, Oscar.

Working in London on Mondays has been a bit of a treat in recent weeks. Rather than catch an early train back with the cacophony of commuters, I’ve dipped into the London gig scene. Like pretty much every other venue in this fine city, Hackney Oslo is a new one on me. You can’t fail to be impressed. Set in some converted railway arches just beyond Hackney Central overground, this is an impressive enterprise. I count posh burgers and beards in the smart downstairs space whilst drinking London Fields unfiltered lager (there’s a great range of well priced beers) before heading up a flight of stairs to the venue proper… Every town should have one of these!!

The first band to take to the stage, Oscar, are a new one to me. I warm to their brand of indie pop. Lead singer, Oscar Scheller, with clothing part tie-dye and part Mickey Mouse complements the other members of his band who have a penchant for check. If the Magnetic Fields were from London, they might sound like this. It’s a lo-fi, drums through the Casio quirky thing. “I’m Oscar – but we’re all Oscar“, says Oscar with an awkward and yet friendly charm. I resolve to find out more about them.

I’m mostly here to see Wampire. I blogged about them (here) a month or two ago and their records have since enjoyed spins galore. “This is the first show of our UK tour – how are you all doing?” says Rocky Tinder by way of introduction and we’re off. Psychedelic lights bounce around the walls as Wampire’s brand of beardy, stoner pop-rock infiltrates.

I allow myself to drift off. This is the sort of euphoric sound that you’d want to hear flat on your back, as the sun beats down, in a festival field. You don’t need drugs to alter your mental equilibrium. Simply ask Wampire to do the honours. “We’re feeling a bit jet lagged but we’re glad to be back in England“, they say with understated abandon before launching into recent single ‘The Amazing Heart Attack’. This is as pop perky as it gets – and it’s no bad thing for that.

There are a gaggle of girls standing next to me who appear to have little understanding of gig etiquette. Wampire are hardly a quiet band but still I am perplexed by the rudeness on show. “Oh my god, yes, it’s him”, observes one in a particularly loud North American drawl. They then proceed to consider with volume which member of Wampire they would want to shag. “We’re going to play a song about girls with bad attitude“, says Tinder. I’m pretty sure he didn’t hear the conversation.

With a shake of a Wizards Staff, Wampire’s set draws to a close. The loud girls push to the front. They must have been here to see TOPS. This is weedy and weak synth-pop from Canada. It might be better on record but live, it’s like a watching bad karaoke versions of Madonna records from the 1980’s. Lead singer, Jayne Penny, does her best to look alluring but actually just looks awkward. TOPS play a song that sounds like the bastard son of ‘Nothing compares to U’ if mixed with ‘Together in Electric Dreams’. I resist the urge to find the loud talkers and to shout in their ears and simply leave to catch a train home.

Wampire – Bazaar

My day job is taking me to London quite a bit over the next couple of months. I plan to make the most of this by getting along to some gigs of bands who aren’t touching the East Midlands when they tour.

One such band is Wampire. Eric Phipps and Rocky Tinder (what a fabulous name) met at school. They settled upon the name, Wampire, after hearing German goths mispronounciating Vampire.

I wondered with interest about their 2013 album, Curiosity, but they’ve truly raised the bar higher with their new release, Bazaar. Some reviewers call them psych-pop and there’s definitely elements of that yet I think this album takes them further into some of the punkier, rockier, soul stuff only hinted at before.

Indeed, this is an album that draws upon many influences and then fuzzes them together into a Wampire sound. A bazaar is a street of shops where goods and services are exchanged or sold and Wampire’s album, Bazaar, definitely meets that definition, offering up a range of styles to keep the listener curious.

They’ve just released a video to one of those Bazaar tunes that touches on soul. The muted sax that runs throughout Wizard Staff comes to the fore in this bizarre yet completely creative video. It’s worth watching if you’ve got any interest at all in wizards, private detectives, tandem bikes or roller skating.

I’ll be listening to Bazaar a whole lot more before I head off to their show at Oslo Hackney on November 24th.