Idle Cranes, Aheadphonehome, Blue Carousel, Axxonn @ The Hangar (14.03.09)

This review has been sitting in draft form for about two weeks, so I figured I should finish it off and post it...

This was my first real Hangar experience of 2009, as I've been unable to attend any of the shows held there since last November (with the exception of seeing Re:Enactment play the Mr Maps EP Launch afterparty). While it may not have seemed like one of the venues strongest ever lineups on paper, there was still enough of interest to ensure I wouldn't be missing it. Plus it's The Hangar, so it was almost guaranteed to be an enjoyable night out.

First up was local two-piece laptop ambience act Axxonn. I've written about their live show fairly recently, and this show for the most part offered more of the same, only better. The band played a longer set and threw more variety in terms of melody and texture into the music, while the added volume they could utilise at The Hangar (especially in the low end) added an extra layer of physicality to their music. Laying in a beanbag on the floor of the venue, the sensation of the sound moving through the room was a very pleasurable one. It was almost enough to send one to sleep, if it wasn't for the continually shifting aural textures keeping the audience's interest. It's just a shame that only a handful of people turned up early enough to witness the band (luckily this wasn't the case when they played Ric's about a week later, where they played an even better set).

Blue Carousel are one of my favourite local pop bands, with the ability to bring good vibes to pretty much any location (and they do seem to have played a whole bunch of different venues). On this particular occasion they needed to dig deep into this wellspring of positivity, as the band had barely gotten into their third song when an overly enthusiastic / overly inebriated fan ended up trying to start a fight right in front of stage (luckily for him he was stopped before being successful in this attempt, as he was literally half the size of the person he had provoked). A fight at The Hangar? That has to be a first. After a brief break while people were calmed down / lead outside the band continued, but they were obviously shaken and kind of struggled to recover their momentum. Knowing what Blue Carousel are capable of I was a bit disappointed that they couldn't display their full quality on this particular night, but they seemed to win over the majority of the crowd regardless (most of whom I imagine would have been largely unfamiliar with their music).

I had seen Aheadphonehome just a few days earlier at the Troubadour, and I have to admit that I was left somewhat wanting after my first experience of the band as a live entity (I'm a bit of a fan of their more electronic full length release 'In The Static' from a few years back). Things seemed a bit too smooth and a little bit 'Adult Oriented Rock' for me; it seemed like the band were trying to mix ambience with ragged indie rock, but the ambience wasn't enveloping enough and the indie rock was too tempered. This Hangar show painted them in a different light: the vocals were further back in the mix, the guitars melded together much more effectively and the whole thing just seemed to gel a lot better, and as such held my interest throughout their set. I think the prior show may have been a case of a mix that wasn't flattering to the band's aesthetic. They're quite a new band in a live sense, so we'll see where they take things from here.

I hadn't seen Idles Cranes in quite a while, in fact I had no idea that they'd changed from a quartet to a trio. One of the guitarists has since switched to bass and they have a new drummer. The new lineup works much better - previously there had been a disconnect between what the band seemed to be attempted to create (hazy, distorted psychedelic rock) and what they were actually putting across. The new lineup (and I dare say some new songs with a stronger sense of direction) seems heavier, groovier and more intense. By the time Idle Cranes hit the stage the room was hot, humid and mildy oppressive, but with the entire audience standing right at the foot of the stage the atmosphere was totally conducive to this sort of suffocatingly loud, druggy rock'n'roll. Previously the band had struck me as a pretty decent psych-rock act, but after this Hangar set I was seriously impressed. They're now on my 'have to check these guys out again soon' list.