Bearsuit - The Buffalo Bar, Islington - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Bearsuit - The Buffalo Bar, Islington

by Mark Young Rating: Release Date:

Though its a crown they've taken almost by default, Bearsuit are worthy of their position as Norwich's premier art-rock-disco-indie ensemble. Unlike the overwhelming majority of their counterparts from East Anglia, over the last 10 years the band have firmly ingratiated themselves onto the national scene too; for many members of the twee scene they loosely belong to, they are considered darlings of Camera Obscura proportions.

If any testament were required to their quality and innovation, the fact that they featured three times in the top five of the late, great John Peel's Festive 50 provides it. For that reason, it's difficult to see why Wednesday the 20th of October's gig at the Buffalo Bar in Islington was not better attended. The basement venue is a veritable Arcadia for small, intimate gigs and says it can host 150. By rough estimation, the crowd this night will have numbered little more than a third of that. To add to things, this was the not only the start of a new nationwide tour but a new single launch party. As front man Iain Ross said: "It's not really a party, is it. More like a gathering."

Although this did not seem to faze the band, with every member dutifully animal attired and exuding energy throughout, in truth, the band has probably played better gigs. The new material is louder, brasher and, if possible, busier than their previous work but, tonight, it was these songs that seemed to almost lose a sense of purpose at times and more than once it seemed that the individually intriguing arrangements were disjointed as one. The new songs will almost certainly sound fantastic recorded and it's worth wagering on another night they'll sound great live too; here, though, the sparkles of pixie dust and Eskimo kisses that have come to define the band were disappointingly absent in parts.

When things did all come together as planned, however, there were clear reminders of why this band has captured so much imagination in indie pop circles since they formed just over a decade ago. At their best, each member has a story to tell with their individual instruments and it's easy to make up your own narrative. The vocal harmonies are kooky and eclectic while the guitars, synthesiser keyboards and occasional melodicas sound like songbirds fed ecstasy. One of the better known hits from their repertoire, 'Foxy Boxer', was a ripe example of where it worked.

The drumming, it is worth noting, was fascinating throughout, with experimental, syncopated timescales which would probably not be attempted if they were written down. It was certainly the focal point tonight.

The tour continues throughout October, finishing in Cardiff on Halloween. That one, you'd wager, will be the best place in town to get your tail feathers out and your whiskers drawn on.

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Saw them in Chelmsford and they played really well, again though I expected a bigger crowd than they had.

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