Bent USA/Zwartenblauw

The Garage, London - 26 April, 2002


"Realising I might be on the receiving end of a crack of leather, I prayed for invisibility"

[Beethoven meets The Cure] Tonight's gig featured a five-band strong line up. However, I was technically only here to meet someone and pick up some merchandise (and no, I don't mean illicit substances), and never planned to stop for the entire evening. I was knackered having only returned from Japan a couple of days before, with jet lag still messing with my biorhythms - causing me to unexpectedly slip into a dangerously comatose state with little or no warning. (Just as well my job doesn't entail operating heavy machinery.) Still, I was here, I had a delicious bottle of Staropramen in my hands and it was a Friday, so figured I'd watch as much as I could stay awake for. Which, as you can see, extended no further than two bands.

A bit of Beethoven as performed by boisterous computers and a live guitarist was certainly one of the more unusual and attention-grabbing openers I'd heard in a while. Zwartenblauw's curious sound combined with the shy guitarist's non-stage presence hinted possibly at a peculiarly rewarding time. Disappointingly, with the appearance of the fetishistic lead singer and the emergance of their second, self-penned, track we were into the far more conventional darkwave pidgeon hole. I wasn't sure if the singer was male or female for at least a song or two. (My interest in this matter demonstrating my lack of interest in their music.) However, as the figure gradually stripped off more clothing with each new song, (and I recalled something someone had said to me earlier about the singer of one band, being known for whipping members of the audience when their reaction was anything less than adequate), I determined this was a female I was listening to.

[Whip crack away...] If only she'd spent as much time rehearsing as she had on perfecting her make-up and her striptease act, then she might not have so frequently forgotten when to sing, causing her to teeter across stage to get a steer from her colleague (who didn't seem to help much). I ventured into the gaping open space before the stage to grab a couple of photos. Knowing her reputation, and realising I might be on the receving end of an embarassing crack of leather, I prayed for invisibility. I was momentarily startled when she lept of the stage and began prowling around the dancefloor - whip in hand. But his was merely part of the act and I was, thankfully, ignored. I got my photos and quickly sat down for the remainder of their set.

I'd seen Bent USA's name several times before, but had never actually seen them. I had no idea what to expect which, in hindsight, was probably just as well. If someone had mentioned nu-metal, Slipknot or goth rock to me beforehand I would have already been heading for the tube station. They hadn't and (sadly) I wasn't. The first song featured lots and lots of outrageously naughty swearing, which, I imagine many of the kids in attendance repeated at home later that weekend much to the disgust of their middle class parents. Parents be warned, Bent USA's music must surely come with a Parental Advisory Warning label. These anarchists could, quite possibly, corrupt your children. One guitarist even had a face mask on so as to hide his true identity (possibly out of embarassment).

However, it was the singer who stole the show, making Jerry Lewis's patented spastic act look ludicrously tame. This guy was so moved by his band's music that he couldn't help tear his tights in all the rolling around chaos he brought to the stage. Still, there was one track with chugging guitars that I found quite appealing. But suddenly, the jet lag monster attacked and I could feel myself rapidly slipping into uncontrollable body mode. I made a crawl for the tube and the train, struggling not to fall asleep past my home station many miles away, only later realising that I didn't get any photos of this memorable performance.

I took away at least two valuable lessons from tonight's gig. One - never fight jet lag - listen to your body or you will live to regret it. And two - it is sometimes best to know at least something about a band more than their name before venturing out to a gig in north London on a cold Friday evening when your eyelids are feeling heavy.

Rob Dyer


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