The Colonies @ The Spread Eagle, Shoreditch - Friday 13th May 2005
Having had a Catholic upbringing, Londonist is absurdly superstitious (one of the reasons we've vowed not to inflict religion on our offspring) so getting us to venture outdoors on Friday 13th is normally a difficult affair. No such struggle this time, however, as The Colonies took to the stage in the salubrious surroundings of the Spread Eagle pub in Shoreditch.
The Spread Eagle is apparently, to use the polite term, a 'burlesque' bar. (Not that we know for sure, of course, as we would never be mixed up in activities which involve disrobed women that weren't Mrs Londonist.) This would explain the presence of a pole on the tiny stage and the leopard skin print wallpaper. The physics of the venue make for an intimate and busy, buzzy atmosphere and, let's face it, a rather cramped stage.
Into such unpromising circumstances step up The Colonies and they give good gig. That The Colonies handle rock well enough is evident enough from the songs familiar to Londonist - Beartrap, Green is for Go and Done Got Died being excellent examples; Green is for Go requires, and received, an especially tight performance - but the gig was the first time we had heard evidence of their lighter side. You Rang You Called, Shotgun Wedding and Blue Eyed Boy are the songs that feature Delphine Lopes on the trumpet or melodica, and whether through her direct influence or not, the songs certainly veer towards the poppy side of indie. Shotgun Wedding even reminds us of a Burt Bacharach song with its jaunty trumpet opening. Planes Drag Lines, a new song played sans Ms Lopes on stage, still keeps up a poppy angle with its 'ba-da ba-da' sing-along hook.
Kemlo is an able front man (those David Byrne comparisons seem especially well-deserved on this evidence) and he, with pertinent assistance (and one bad joke) from the willing bassist Matt Eyre, copes well with the sometimes slow response from the crowd. We put the slow response down to the The Colonies' pleasing ability to keep a song short and leave you wanting more, which takes the night's audience by surprise as they seem to be expecting at least another round of choruses from each song.
At a basic level, The Colonies sound is indie pop/rock with a jazz and blues touch, but to generalise is to be rather unfair - The Colonies have such variety in their songs they shouldn't be pigeonholed. Even at this stage of their careers, they have a sound that is distinctive in its own right in that it is confident enough to plough its own furrow and not pander to any 'scene'.
The Colonies represent something of an anomaly for Londonist. While other bands we write about are being picked up elsewhere, The Colonies seem to be Londonist's best kept secret. The size of audience to whom they're playing is in inverse proportion to the place they hold in our hearts; it's also in inverse proportion to the audience they deserve. While we took in the gig, it was clear that the potential we heard on the brilliant demo CD we keep banging on about, is more than potential: it is nascent greatness.
Whether that greatness comes to fruition depends on how quickly you lot pick up on this band, because Kemlo and crew are doing their fair share of the work (and we're also doing our best by plugging them whenever we can). It's time London's gig goers - that means you - reciprocate.