New York’s famed funk/punk outfit Liquid Liquid were in town for their first ever UK gig: expect cerebral ecstasy, aural nourishment and existential bodily experiences they said. “Oooooone niiiiiiight only…” wailed the town criers and The Evening Standard sellers. The street were eerily quiet and tumbleweed blew whimsically across the barren landscape as the homage began.
Okay, okay, it’s all lies and superlatives. But you knew that. This melodrama I cultivated in my imagination was simply a way of getting across the excitement that I was greeted with when I said, “I’m going to the Barbican to see http://www.myspace.com/juniorboys" class="link" target="_blank">Junior Boys and Liquid Liquid, with an http://www.optimo.co.uk/" class="link" target="_blank">Optimo DJ set for afters” from most people. I was up for it too. But the question is: could middle aged men dressed in dodgy black suits and white Michael Jackson pumps really be able to mother funk my brain into believing it was 1982?
Milling around the foyer it looked like a beehive (no silly, not what Amy Winehouse has perched precariously on her head, with fag ends nestled in there for good measure), the atmosphere is excited and full of activity and so we treated ourselves to an overpriced beverage and made our way to the auditorium. Sitting down proper grown up gigs aren’t really my usual fair. I like bruised chins in the morning from getting stamped on and dirty finger nails. Which leads me to ask…How do you dance sitting down? Is head nodding purely the reserve of Rastafarian men or Trustafarian twats? Can you tap your feet without feeling like a corporate bank manager at a Simply Red gig? It is entertaining however, watching people slowly gather the courage as Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz does “hell to this, I came here to groove” says a very camp man, who is a Liquid Liquid aficionado to my left. Go girl!
“We’d like to make you a little more uncomfortable” were the opening lines from the Junior Boys and pretty much their last too. There’s to be no repartee with the crowd. Strictly business tonight. Musically they are on top form. We are treated to a sound that reconciles itself with their influences that is once up to date and dated. It’s intelligent electro pop, sometimes emotive. However now and again the vocals come a bit too close to Adam Levine of Maroon 5’s fame for my taste. I’m being pernickety but the similarity was at times uncanny.
A brief sojourn back to the foyer/beehive, more overpriced drinks and then back to it.
Liquid Liquid saunter in wearing their matching black suits. I am reminded of a scene in Aristocrats (animated Disney from 1970, still with me?) particularly the scene Everybody Wants To Be A Cat the when all the cats are jamming….For those that haven’t heard the high octane music that Liquid Liquid purvey, let me try to explain: the funk in funk/punk is the bass driven percussion peppered instrumental bit, with jarring vocals from the lead singer providing the punk element. They are famed for their love of Instruments of Percussion: including the cow bell, tambourine, waist high chime and the classic, underrated, triangle.
I found that the happy equilibrium of the funk/punk love orgy was sometimes disturbed as the lead singer wailed louder, more viscerally until sometimes I wanted to cover my ears. However hearing their two most famous tracks Cavern and Optimo live was worth the trip by itself, the latter sampled by Grandmaster Flash.
They brought along with them a die hard legion of fans who brought along a sense of excitement and occasion. The set drew to an end, four encores later Liquid Liquid saunter off, seeming quite humbled by the whole experience. In a most un-patronising tone I thought, aaw. Bless them.
Then came Optimo DJs 10 till late, as in 2am late? The girls and boys at the Barbican must’ve really gotten their knickers in a twist for this one. Again it got me to thinking. Can you really have a party in a foyer? And if you try, can you make it stop feeling like a naff wedding reception? The Optimo DJ injected some well needed decadent disco into the room, you half expected a Barry White Gravely Satin Sheet Sex voice to announce on the tannoy that we must all groove the night away.
Observing the mixed crowd, from Eastpak rucksack and chino wearing geeks next to new media ladies in puff ball skirts – everyone was letting their hair down, as the saying goes. It was all a bit odd and enjoyable. Spawned in Manhattan and together from only 1980 to 1983 Liquid Liquid certainly proved why their sound has lingered around the club scene for over two decades.