The band is The Dandy Warhols. The location is the Kentish Town Forum. The mission? To start a mosh pit. My friend, a die-hard punk fan who is also coming to see the gig remains sceptical. A band known for producing radio-friendly power pop hits to supplement their back catalogue of psychedelic stoner rock is – in theory at least – unlikely to attract the energetic and robust crowd required to partake in behaviour traditionally more suited to more aggressive forms of music.
We enter the venue halfway through the warm up act – an electro band called AKDK who are two drummers/synth players playing arbitrary combinations of either instrument in a largely improvised set. A little rough around the edges and somewhat downbeat, the music itself is decent but lacks the dynamism that characterises good warm up performances.
After a quick soundcheck, it is time for the main event. Courtney, Zia, Pete and Fathead stride onto the stage, each kitted in their own individual styles. There is the customary roar of anticipation as we await the first notes. Without delay the mesmeric ‘Be-In’ serenades a swaying crowd, slowly gathering in numbers. Although one of their lesser known songs, it is a perfect opener, gently building the atmosphere, priming us for what is to come. Second song of the night is the rousing ‘We Used to Be Friends’ followed without pause by the classic ‘Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth’, causing ripples of excitement to swirl through the crowd.
With over 140 songs in their arsenal, the Dandy Warhols have the same dilemma that afflicts most established bands, where their need to showcase new material must be balanced with the demands of fans to play the more popular songs. In this regard they achieve the ideal blend, following a string of crowd-pleasers with a selection from the new album This Machine. The band, and in particular singer Courtney interact minimally with the audience, but are always completely in tune with their adoring fans. A short toilet break for Zia causes Courtney to lead us through an acoustic sing-along of ‘Every Day Should be a Holiday’. The fact he messes up the chords on the first time only endears him to us more.
The original plan for moshing seems like it may not achieve fruition. Sizing up the audience it seems that everyone is either over 50 or has come as part of a couple. Squares of blue pepper the audience – the ever ubiquitous mobile phones used to create a snapshot of the moment – and my neighbour is on Facebook. As if savouring the intensity of the moment is insufficient without the cold proof of a picture, a status update.
A lone pocket of energy exists a few rows from the stage; a drunk breaking rhythmical convention to leap as high as he can in defiance of the beat of the music. Seizing our opportunity, we charge through the crowd to his vicinity, aided by a pack of eager 16-year olds looking to prove themselves amongst adults. There are around nine of us jostling in our impromptu mosh pit and while it is fun the lack of bodies in the pit is only serving to exhaust us within seconds.
And then, as if our minds have been read. The hush and the delicate synth intro. We know what is coming. B D A E. The four chords that signal the Dandies signature tune ‘Bohemian Like You’. As if a beast has been awoken from slumber; the entire standing section one large convulsing serpent. This momentum continues as the band segues into ‘Get Off’ and then the raucous ‘Horse Pills’. One of the band’s enduring talents has been their ability to transmit the mood of their lyrical content perfectly into their music and live it is no different; I have been immersed from the first chord.
The set is over, and as we are serenaded to the exit by Zia – the band believe encores to be fake – I feel an odd mixture of elation at having experienced such an exhilarating concert and disappointment at having it end so abruptly. What’s that quote about leaving them wanting more?