Thursday, January 12, 2006

Superthriller + Black Wire - 11/01/2006, Brussels

Got off at the Gare du Nord and took some streets in the Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode district, which I'd never even really been to before, to get to the Botanique. Discovered that there's a second, smaller (more hardcore?) red-light street a few blocks away from the one along the train tracks. Seeing a woman sitting, in her lingerie, in a red-and-blue illuminated window, reading a book to pass the time, never loses its comedy value.

What was I doing at a small-venue (the Botanique's Rotonde is round and, as they say, intimate) pop/rock concert? Good question. It was cheap and I was bored? I think it might even have been my first time, ever. Black Wire opened. They don't have a drummer, but they do have pre-recorded drum tracks. This was rendered even more bizarre by the presence of a drumset on stage behind them. It was kind of cool visually, though. Their stage presence consisted mainly of being thin, wearing skinny black pants and one bizarre piece of clothing each: the singer had on both red suspenders and a black belt, the bassist had horizontal black and white stripes, which inevitably made me think of Mime Marceau. I don't have too many specific reference points in the current 80s post-punk revival that new acquaintance (and seeming expert) J said Black Wire were part of the sub-strata of, but they sounded to me like a less poppy/hookish Franz Ferdinand. Less poppy/hookish mainly because of lack of songcraft, rather than desire, in my opinion. The save-the-best-for-last song of the short set made their "we'd be dancey if we could" ambitions clear. A few nice one-liners ("That song was top of the charts in the UK for 6 years) and casual acceptance of people randomly giving the singer badges. Afterwards, he could only recall two of the badges (Art Brut and The Ramones), but had no idea why they were given to him in the first place.

Superthriller were billed as 3 girls and 3 boys. I don't know where they got that from, as it turned out to be all-male, albeit with one cross-dresser. Now that's more confusing than Greg Sandow's oft-repeated 4-horns-on-the-programme-but-5-on-stage example. Very fun band and fairly funky, they also dug back into the 80s and sounded a bit like Amp Fiddler. Extremely funny, many laugh-out-loud moments. The cross-dresser in question was wearing a black wig, make-up, a trenchcoat and pink women's underwear. The percussionist was a total 80s jogger, short shorts and all. He also danced sort of like the guy who tours with Beck, but not self-concious indie nerd doing self-conciously pseudo- hip-hop moves. The very good white-boy-with-pinched-voice-soul-singer traded in his Lonsdale zipper jacket for an orthodox Jew's hat, bangs and black coat for a song called "New York."

My main problem with both bands was that everything seemed really circumscribed, musically. There was no room for Black Wire to really go crazy or for Superthriller to sustain an irresistable groove for a long time. Which may be why I don't go to pop/rock concerts very often (if at all). Still, if anyone knows what "For those using the handkerchief method, red denotes cross-dressing and not military uniforms" means, please let me know.

After the concert and post-concert chat with E and new acquaintances female J, male J and ?, I walked to the Beurs to see Slang. I opted for the sex shop-lined Boulevard Adolphe Max rather than the high street shop Rue Neuve because I've not often gone down there at night and was curious to see what went on there. Not much apparently. A group of guys got turned away from from a cinema, but I didn't catch the reason: had the film already started (and once you miss the beginning, what's the point, right?)? was the place closed? The street has been gentrifying, of late: a Beate Uhse shop has opened up, there seem to be fewer and fewer really seedy places. I mentioned this to IVN and she replied that new "women-friendly" places were opening in Waterloo and other areas of Brussels. I have no idea why/how she knows so much about the sex-shop business.

Later, on Boulevard Anspach, a few blocks above the Bourse, there was a lull in the traffic, I looked around the near-empty streets and just as I thought "It's ten-to-eleven on a wednesday night and the city is dead," birds started to sing, loudly. A fitting acompaniment at 4 AM, but before 11 PM, in the centre of the city? Nightbirds, I guess. Surprisingly, there was a queue to get into the Beurs's café. I could either stay for an hour and catch the last train, or leave right away and get the penultimate train. I couldn't be bothered to wait in line. All in all, maybe 25 minutes of sustained brisk walking, which never did anyone any harm.