Words by Steve Crawford / Pics by Denise Wilson
Tonight’s support, Goat Girl, are a four piece South London band from an emerging DIY indie scene. Signed to Rough Trade last year, they’ve been getting great reviews whenever they play live. Songs that build slowly with quiet-loud sections, repeating guitar riffs with a twang played against a tribal, Cramps like drum beat. Spleen is vented in songs like ‘Creep’ and ‘Country Sleaze’ – delivered in nonchalant, laid back vocals from singer/guitarist Lottie. An album is due out later this year which possibly means Goat Girl will return to Birmingham at some point as a headline act?
After a comprehensive sound check from a roadie searching for the troublesome “mix 6” which has disappeared from the monitors, The Moonlandingz finally take to the stage. What we’re all wondering is what exactly will Valhalla Dale’s most infamous resident, Johnny Rocket (aka Lias Saoudi), be wearing this season? The wait is over as – heeeeeere’s Johnny – in (it has to be said disappointingly) normal brown shoes and trousers.
But it’s the topper-most half of the outfit that gets the fashionistas from Vogue scrambling for their notepads: cling film wrapped around a naked torso, worn coquettishly and daringly below the nipples, holding within pictures of a beaming Kriss Akabusi and two chocolate digestives. It takes some doing to make an entrance at the Hare and Hounds, lack of access to the stage via wings means performers have the indignity of wading through the throng from the back of the venue, but Johnny/Lias pulls it off with aplomb.
‘Vessels’, the first track off the debut album Interplanetary Class Classics, is the set opener and what’s immediately apparent is that The Moonlandingz like to crank it up when playing live. It’s LOUD. Somewhere in-between Saturn 5 rocket launch loud and Motorhead loud; the bass pummels and re-jigs internal organs and the fluid in the cranium starts to swirl and eddy. Looks like “mix 6” found its way back with a vengeance. Volume does mean a lot of the subtleties of the album are drowned out tonight, but then the recorded LP will always exist for such things. The band keeps up the pace with a “greatest hits” section as ‘Black Hanz’ and ‘Sweet Saturn Mine’ get belted out; pools of the audience bounce and semi-pogo along in the sold out, sweaty Hare and Hounds.
A lot is made of Lias Saoudi as a front-man, and rightly so. Adrian Flanagan considered him to be the best in Europe. Tonight as alter-ego Johnny Rocket he gives it his all in a delightful sleazy, louche and salacious performance, with a whiff of danger that never really becomes more than a threat – although at one point a mike stand is dropped into the crowd, nearly clattering into the photographers below. Refreshed by cans of draught Guinness which aren’t even poured into a glass, let alone left to settle (the man’s an animal) he doesn’t let up and keeps his foot on the pedal throughout.
But this isn’t just the Johnny Rocket show. Rebecca Taylor, glorious in fake fur coat, is more than a match for Johnny/Lias in the band-fronting stakes; it is very much duel effort fronting The Moonlandingz. The foil and counter-foil between Taylor and Johnny/Lias is nicely highlighted during the latest single, ‘The Strangle of Anna’, which sees them as a latter day Serge Gainsborough and Jane Birkin.
Joining in the carinivalesque on stage there’s some fine swagger and posturing from bass player Manfredo, whereas guitarist Mairead O’Conner is the epitome of serene tranquility. The calm at the eye of the storm she is totally unfazed by her wayward bandmates antics and holds a sure and steady course. Watching over it all from behind his keyboard is the band’s avuncular leader, Adrian Flanagan, in a gone-fishing hat and shades. The only member who really engages the crowd between songs (although I can’t make out what he says) Flanagan looks both amused and delighted at times with his creation, diving beneath a towel at one point to reappear moments later, possibly to confirm that this fictional band are indeed punching holes in reality tonight.
All tracks from Interplanetary Class Classics are played plus ‘Drop It Fauntleroy’ from the Black Hanz EP, but the band finish up with ‘Man In My Lyfe’ from The Eccentronic Research Council’s Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine… I’m Your Biggest Fan album – which is where all this began, giving birth to the fictional Johnny Rocket and his band The Moonlandingz.
As the final track fades Adrian Flanagan announces “That’s yer lot”. And so it is. No encore. The spectacle that is The Moonlandingz exit stage front, back through the cheering throng once again.
For more on The Moonlandingz, visit www.themoonlandingz.com
Form more on Goat Girl, visit www.facebook.com/goatgirlofficial