Optional Down

Optional Down
Live (Dead!Dead!Dead! / Touriste)

My first time at this London venue was almost a short lived affair as getting past the stringent door staff was an adventure, but once inside the place was exactly as expected – a tiny little place with wooden beams everywhere, a stage at one end, and a bar that runs the length of the ‘crowd area’. Put it this way, it’s the kind of venue that you imagine bands struggling to get into one year and then pretending they never did the next when they’ve become too big for their boots.

First band on are the fantastically named Dead!Dead!Dead, who walk on the stage sporting the ‘geek style’ look reminiscent of late 90s bands Wilt and Weezer. However they produce a much more eclectic sound as they burst into their first song full of energy and obscure Thunderbirds-style dancing. The drums are solid, the guitars crisp and sharp, and the harmonies are well executed, even throwing in some interesting counterpoints that play off well against each other.

Their front man is also a guy with a fantastic sense of humour, dealing with technical difficulties and hecklers with a level of wit lacking in most stand-up comedians these days. The music itself is short on hooks, not a great deal of commercial value, but they strike me as a band that could well produce a ‘complete’ album, as opposed to a collection of singles – they come across as a mix of dEUS and Franz Ferdinand, leaning heavily on the dEUS side with their quirky personality and intelligent use of two vocalists. With a new EP out soon and a tour so wide its even taking in Ireland and Jersey, I’m looking forward to seeing how they fare.

Next up are Touriste who at first sight, appear to be another in a long line of acoustic fronted indie bands. But I am in for a very pleasant surprise as vocalist Sammie Harris spends the set jumping between his guitar and a keyboard playing a collection of songs built well around his delicate voice.

The music is less of the Coldplay style I was expecting and sits much closer in line with 80s era U2 with shades of The Who. In fact, on occasions in the set I feel I am witnessing the birth of a new 80s teen movie soundtrack as his voice shows a remarkable similarity to Waterboys founder Mike Scott.

The drummer and bassist are solid but unspectacular and lead guitarist Robert Wilks is full of fantastic ideas but is also not afraid to keep things simple, and this is exactly what is needed as the songs are allowed to shine in this simplicity, and shine brightly they do with well sculpted hooks. Together, Touriste produce a sound that could do very well for themselves in the current climate, so keep an eye out.

The headlining act on the night are Optional Down and they come completely out of left field. After a night of very ‘Indie’ influenced music they take the stage and rip straight into a set of songs completely devoid of any punk rock sensibilities or obsessions with image. The crowd seem genuinely scared or embarrassed and more than half of them filter out (bad form ladies and gentlemen, very bad form indeed!) but I for one, and quite a few others, am pleased to see a band so genuinely in love with what they are doing and absolutely loving every minute on stage.

The music itself is also uplifting, with each song built around a huge chorus that demands to be sung and a lead guitarist who is astounding once he gets over having to play the first few songs with a broken strap.

The highlight of the set for me was a track called ‘Rising’ that appears to be a hit in waiting, perfectly showing off their Alice In Chains/Stone Temple Pilots sound, with vocals that could give David Coverdale a run for his money. However I do have my criticisms – three quarters of the way through the set their singer appears to lose his voice in quite a drastic way, and at one point a tambourine comes out which is a hard thing to pull off unless you’re Steven Tyler. These are things that will be ironed out though I’m sure and I spend my train journey home listening to their CD with a big cheesy rock grin on my face.

Guest article from Nik S.

Written by Guest Writers on

Between 2003 and 2009, [the-mag] had regular contributors from music correspondents covering their local scene. You'll find them all in the guest writers section. The specific writer is mentioned at the bottom of each article.

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