No other band more personifies the eccentric, creative, interactive and, let’s face it, slightly bonkers world of twitter. The two-man alt-electronica combo of mJ and Dennis advertise themselves as “preparing for the worst by evacuating earth and heading To The Moon”. They greet each new follower on twitter with salutes, and regularly report in on their mission status. They make Muse look like Internet amateurs. Which is the reason I was there rather than down the road (er, the fact The Hours were headlining admittedly played its part, after I’d stood through their self-important twaddle when they supported Kasabian’s recent UK tour) at a do that had, from what I could see, about 8 corporate sponsors. Yes, Twestival was for charity, and I hope it was a success, but it’s not very twitter!
It’s not the first time I’d met the musical side of twitter – the previous Thursday about 10 of us had swapped usernames at an InLight concert. But it’s the first time I’d met a band I’d come across there, and what I discovered just reinforced my opinions of the twitterverse. I’d interviewed mJ and Dennis a couple of months ago for my regular blog column, and they were (there WILL be puns) out of this world, on another planet even. So I was delighted to be told, on arrival, having flashed my twitter boarding pass for a pound off, that I could find mJ “up there, trying on his space suit”.
Dennis, against a backdrop of a 1950s rocket console, was opening the evening with a DJ set that was perfectly spacey and trippy, with the occasional whir and roar that sounded like an engine launching. mJ, meanwhile, was on the balcony with his girlfriend, sewing felt and calico and bits of tubing together. It looked like his girlfriend’s mate was on the stage, doing some kind of performance ritual. It transpired she was trying to fit a fluorescent lighting strip to the floor to make the stage look even more like a spaceship.
Dennis’ set merged seamlessly into Rabid Gravy’s. I must confess, I was actually rather nervous about meeting someone who calls himself Rabid Gravy (I just couldn’t get school dinners out of my head!), and whose avatar is a dog with red eyeballs munching on a syringe. More worryingly still, Mr Gravy (no relation to Woodstock’s Wavy, I believe) bore more than a passing resemblance to the dog in question. It was hard to tell which of them had been cooked up in a Photoshop session. Which is probably appropriate for a cybergig.
Once I got over the sample of nails scratching an electronic blackboard, Rabid Gravy’s music blew me away. It was quite clear this was something different. Something very serious (he even, albeit in a DM, used the word prog when I tweeted him the next day). And VERY good. He played two sequences of about 15 minutes each. The first was, on the surface, light, built around an electro-glockenspiel sound that had elements of the music from Heidi, and felt decidedly Alpine throughout (I’m sure at times it was mimicking the sound of human yodelling). The second was an altogether different beast, like a Steve Reich take on an East Berlin Stasi torture brothel. It was dark, distant, full of screams rising from oubliettes and interrupted noises, shot through with decadent Salon Kitty eroticism. Taken together, it felt like Gravy had taken us on a musical tour of the dark side of 20th century Europe.
Needing some air, I went out to chat with mJ and Dennis before their set. I asked them why Twittergig was, in their opinion, better than the Twestival. “Well,” said mJ, “they won’t be beset by technical difficulties! And they won’t be fighting on through challenging hair!”
When we went back inside, I asked to be introduced to a guy who’d been intriguing me. He was about 6 foot, dressed in a black polo neck with a shock of white hair, clearly intended to make him look (with uncanny success) like a pre-pubescent Andy Warhol. He turned out to be a steampunk jeweller called Pete.
By now it was time for the star (er, planet, er, spheroid lunar body) turn. The whole place felt like the inside of a spaceship, or a substance-distorted encounter with a Rocky Horror troupe on a dark night in, again, East Berlin. Hmm, there’s a theme emerging. To the Moon emerged garbed in lab-coat and space-suit respectively, and launched (damnit with the puns!) into a set that was, in its way, as experimental as anything from Mr Gravy. The interstellar theme permeates the lyrics and electronic but it’s suffused with enough cross-genre references (yes, that IS Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds at the start of A Halo, although he denied it when I asked him!) to keep anyone satisfied. Combine it with a trippy filmic backdrop and the effect is enough to wrap every one of your senses in a gigtacular spacepod and allow you, for one night only, to transcend the dull confines of your usual events.
Back to why twittergig 9/10 outshines any twestival, and in mJ’s words, “it’s like a gig, only there’s not a guitar amp or a drum kit in the building!” No, but there IS a spaceship, a bunch of buggered lighting, and a steampunk jeweler called Pete.