Gig Review: British India @ Corner Hotel, 12th June

This was my second time seeing British India at the Corner Hotel, and from the moment they walked onto the stage surrounded by smoke and dimmed lighting, with lead singer Declan in his trademark hoodie and the atmosphere in the venue at an absolute fever pitch, I knew I was in for a great night.

Rewind a bit.

I arrived at the sold out (or very close to) Corner Hotel in time to see the whole set from openers Big Scary. They are one of my favourite Victorian bands going around at the moment, and this opening set did nothing to dissuade me from this. It was a clinically professional set that was still buzzing with energy, and it slowly won over ever single person in that venue, most of whom would not have heard of Big Scary, aka duo Tom and Jo, before.

They’re an interesting entity, Big Scary. Is there such a genre as grunge pop? They really do have two sides to their music- they are perfectly capable of belting out an enthusiastic and heavy rock song, but then they also seem perfectly at home with a keyboard instead of a guitar playing love ballads. They displayed both of these sides of their music perfectly at the Corner Hotel.

Tom was a charismatic frontman, thanking the crowd (which despite being exceptionally noisy at the start of their set gradually respected the musicians on the stage) and British India, who apparently gave Big Scary their big break as a support act. However the show was undoubtably stolen by drummer Jo, who is quite simply the coolest girl in Australian music at the moment. Just like when I last saw Big Scary live she was an absolute beast on the drumkit, bouncing up and down and looking like her drumsticks were constantly close to death.

She is a remarkably good drummer, and when she got going, despite having only two people on the stage, Big Scary seemed both big and slightly scary.

Apple Song was brilliant, as those in the crowd familiar with Big Scary joyfully screamed the inspired lyrics of “We are fucking up our lives, but we are having a good time”. Polly also provided an early sing along, and it was impossible not to to be impressed by the sheer performance that the two musicians were putting on, winning over what seemed like a quite disinterested crowd at first.

Tom swapped his guitar for a keyboard, and Big Scary played the sublime Falling Away, one of my favourite songs so far this year. It was a really magical moment, and it was great to see that the majority of the crowd respected the moment and quietened at least temporarily. It is such a wonderful song, and it is a credit to Big Scary that it is this song that spearheaded their otherwise very rock n’ roll set.

“They say it’s good for the heart, they say it’s good for the mind, they say the people we love, we leave behind.”

I can’t overstate how impressed I was with Big Scary, yet again. They are probably my favourite Victorian band at the moment, and the days of being able to see them as a support act are definitely numbered.

There’s no doubting who the main attraction of the night  for most people was however, and the crowd started to really push towards the front as the arrival of British India was imminent. Fifteen minutes of pushing and chanting “This ain’t no fucking disco” later the moment arrived, and the guys walked onto stage, looking as ‘Don’t Give A Fuck’ as always.

This is in part the contradiction of British India. They are so attractive as a band because it seems like everything they do comes so easily and effortlessly, with a healthy dose of not caring what anybody thinks. But yet their music is carefully crafted and very professional indeed, and this juxtaposition is perhaps the most evident of all in their latest album, ‘Avalanche’, which walks the fine line between effortless and professional.

Not that I think any of this mattered much to people in The Corner Hotel last night. Everybody was unmistakably just there to let loose and have a great Saturday night, and British India provided the perfect soundtrack.

My song order may definitely be a bit off here- it was very very easy to get carried away in the atmosphere of energy and excitement. I know You Will Die And I Will Take Over was the first of many British India big singles played, and got the mosh started very nicely indeed as everybody absolutely screamed along with Declan: “And I can’t say I’m pleased to meet you, can’t say I’m pleased to meet you”.

Run The Red Light lifted the mosh to a frantic level, as a coupe of crowdsurfers moved dangerously around the small room, much to the bemusement and seeming disapproval of the band. All I know is that I couldn’t hear my own screaming voice amongst the mess as the crowd took over lead vocal duties to sing “And any time that your walls start coming down, I’ll be there in the front seat yelling ‘Run the red light, run the red light, run it!'”.

God Is Dead, Meet The Kids and Tie Up My Hands ensured the energy remained at a fever pitch. It’s a real credit to British India that getting into their live performance and screaming at the top of your voice really comes naturally when you’re in the crowd. It seemed absurd not to be going crazy. I’m not the biggest fan of their recorded stuff, but live they are one hell of a lot of sweaty fun.

The underground may be mainstream and the mainstream may be a lie, but in the Corner Hotel it seemed like we were in a world all of our own.

Last time I saw them at The Corner British India were launching the single Vanilla. At the time it seemed like a really good song, however no-one in the crowd really knew it so it kind of passed unnoticed amongst their bigger hits. Last night however, Vanilla was probably the highlight of their set, as that euphoric chorus got every single person singing “I can’t breathe underwater, I can’t stand in the air”.

The crowd started chanting “This ain’t no fucking disco” loudly of our own accord, however it wasn’t quite time for British India’s trademark finish to the set. Instead, with Declan announcing that “British India have long ago given up any hope of being cool”, the boys broke into none other than a cover of Beastie Boys’ Fight For Your Right (To Party). And boy did it go off.

I Said I’m Sorry kept the energy in the room, with the great line of “I’m b-grade, underweight, but excited to be here”, which perhaps sums up British India best of all- they may not be the most technically talented musicians in the world, but they make honest, energetic, and fun music, and have a live show that should be envied by many much bigger bands. Last night you got the impression they really were excited to be there, and it showed in their performance. “You’ve been a great crowd,” said Declan, “and we know because we’ve had our fair share of bad ones”.

Black And White Radio finished the main set (I think) and finally gave the crowd the chance to chant “This ain’t no fucking disco” along with Declan, which apparently we had been waiting to do the whole set. The mosh reached a whole new level. “You guys have been much better than last night,” said Declan, knowing exactly what the crowd wanted to hear, “and last night wasn’t exactly bad”.

A brief encore later the boys returned only to play yet another cover, this time a great rendition of Nirvana’s Lithium. It was a big surprise (I had forgotten I heard them play it at Groovin’ The Moo), and worked very nicely indeed. This was followed by Russian Roulette, which saw the gig finish with a bang.

In a smokey and sweaty haze, the gig was over. Crowdsurfers stumbled disorientated around the room, and everyone was thoroughly satisfied with the night.  British India had the crowd in the palm of their hands, and once again it was the contradiction of British India that made the gig special- natural and carefree but yet also professional and slick.

Throw in a stunning set from one of my favourite Australian bands at the moment, Big Scary, and you have one hell of a gig. British India has to be the most fun you can have out in the city on a Saturday night for $25.

There still exists no better band in Australia at effortlessly whipping up a crowd into an absolute frenzy than British India.

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3 Responses to “Gig Review: British India @ Corner Hotel, 12th June”

  1. Great review!

  2. I was there. Very accurate review. Great gig :)

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