Far from fresh from the Camden Crawl Londonist decided to forgo any further sleep to catch up on a couple more gigs happening around town over the weekend: Lemon Jelly at the Brixton Academy on Friday and Mercury Rev With The Duke Spirit at the Hammersmith Apollo on Saturday.
Lemon Jelly's quirky dance samples are the soundtrack to a Sunday afternoon tea party in an English country garden: all buttered scones with cream and jam and a game of croquet in the background. Upstate New Yorkers Mercury Rev, on the other hand lead you off the path into the forest where beauty and danger lurk in the shadows and the woodland folk watch as darkness falls...
It's surprising then that the it's the Jelly who take to the stage with dark grinding guitars leaving the pill poppers gurning uncomfortably. Fred Deakin and Nick Franglen hop around the stage from banks of samplers to the occasional guitar but their presence rarely registers above the odd shout out to the Brixton massive... Instead they rely on the giant screen behind them and impressive bars of lights up and down the stage. Presentation has always been the Jelly's strong point so it's unfortunate that for much of the show the screens too often resemble little more than the tubes on a Windows 2000 screensaver, whilst the beefed up sound loses much of the subtlety. This is less of a gig more a club night with an expensive light show. Both Faithless and Massive Attack have proved you can take dance music succesfully to the concert stage with a live band but Lemon Jelly rely too much on a pre-programmed set and somewhat deflated we leave early no doubt missing the best bits after all.
So it's off to Hammersmith to finally catch up with The Duke Spirit's blend of Mazzy Star like melancholic melodies and machine gun riff guitars. A largely unappreciative audience don't prevent Leila Morse and co from putting on an energetic, stomping peformance and Londonist eagerly awaits the release of their debut album.
Mercury Rev provide the flipside to the Lemon Jelly show in so many ways. Behind a simple stage a huge screen is filled with wonderous images whilst the band is on incredible form with each of their haunting, psychadelic, widescreen tunes soaring into realms of beauty the band have been striving so long to achieve. The sound is imaculate and the band's presence although humble is felt by everyone. It's hard to pick out highlights from a strong set drawn from new material and old classics and that still finds the time to throw in a tune from Jonathan Donahue's days in the Flaming Lips. But if we had to, a haunting Tonight It Shows backed with black and white images of Margot Fonteyn is the perfect blend of song and visuals. The night rounds off with a surprise The Dark Is Rising that's so uplifting it near breaks your heart. Mad as hatters they may occasionally seem to be but tonight's show is about as sublime as I've ever seen.