May 31, 2013

The 1975: A Taste of Heaven in a Hellish Crowd

             A while ago, I published a post here about a band called The 1975 playing at The Borderline, with a capacity of 275 people.  Last night, I attended Heaven nightclub to see the same band play to a packed out crowd of 1,850 people.

             Arriving before doors opened at seven, my intention had been to stand comfortably in front of the stage with my friend once we made our way inside. Little did I know just how fervent people would be to claim the same position, so we settled for third, sometimes fourth, and by the end of the night, fifth and sixth row. Los Angeles band The Bots kick started the night and the sibling duo certainly looked their ripe ages of 18 and 14. I remember noise, a lot of noise. Lead singer and guitar player, Mikaiah Lei, jumped into the audience at one point, dragging the microphone chord to its limit and throwing his body around, falling into the laps of his listeners, myself included. Meanwhile, Anaiah threw water bottles at us and continued to make the drums pulsate. When Matthew Healy, frontman of The 1975, appeared in the sidelines to dance along, all eyes turned to him, urging him to command the stage instead. My feet were beginning to ache and my patience wear thin, but at least The Bots had charisma.

             After the din subsided, a man wearing a beanie who I initially thought was one of the stage crew, now stared out at us from behind a MacBook. Much to my delight, this man turned out to be DJ Bear//Face and he began remixing The 1975’s “Intro/Set 3.” My ears were flooded with electric beats and pounding bass and everyone started to sway. Swaying turned to grinding as Jeremih’s “Birthday Sex” got chopped and screwed. Bear//Face was surprisingly nonchalant and ridiculously good at his art form. All we could see were his hands skillfully moving around the keyboard, transfixed by how he did it with such ease. About two hours later, it was finally time for The 1975 to take center stage.

             Band members Adam Hann, George Daniel, and Ross MacDonald took their places, and Healy loomed over us, twirling his microphone in circles. All it took were the first few notes of “Head.Cars.Bending” to play and suddenly I was being pounced on from all angles. Let me just say that The 1975 are not really a mosh pit kind of band, but somehow I ended up being consumed in one. Through the course of the evening, I stopped fighting the flow and jumped and shoved like the best of them. What else can you really do? I like to call it “experience.” Luckily though, a plaid-shirted stranger came to my aid and he helped me fend off most of the people careening into me. We communicated a silent understanding through a few thumbs ups and mouthed “thank you’s.” This was certainly not the same band I had seen a few months earlier. This was certainly not the same crowd I had witnessed either! Replacing a fairly reserved, stationary bunch from The Borderline was a mob of overtly excited fans. Even Healy told the audience to calm down, to which I managed to scream out a rather hoarse, “Thank you!” That seemed to be my adopted phrase of the night.

             As Healy sang a song called “Girls” from The 1975’s upcoming album, he looked over and smiled and winked at his girlfriend, model Gemma Janes. He also conveyed genuine surprise at playing to such a large crowd and credited us all for making it possible. Healy snapped us with his camera, and I can say that although I might be a speck on that shot, I was there and proud to be included amongst the rest of the specks. Somewhere between a flurry of interchanging colored lights and trying not to succumb to the undulations of the crowd, the gig occurred and the gig ended. Crowd-pleaser and radio sensation “Chocolate” left my friend wishing they could have played it again so she could enjoy it. She had been instead concerning herself with attending to her smacked nose. Afterwards, it was time to indulge in some McDonald’s and recuperate. We took consolation in the fact that we had probably burned most of it off during the show already. Heaven, known typically for its gay scene, is located conveniently close to Charing Cross tube station. It didn’t take long then for us to go from Under the Arches on Villiers Street to the Golden Arches back where we live in Richmond.

             I have now been to three of The 1975’s shows. I was lucky enough the first two times to revel in quiet ambience and meet Healy, but with crowds as large as Heaven’s, a meet and greet is now near impossible. I guess you could say they’ve made it and I couldn’t think of a band more worthy of the recognition. I’m glad that I could be a part of their transition and watch it happen right in front of my eyes. In September, I will be attending another one of The 1975’s shows at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire with a capacity of 2,000 people. Maybe my moshing skills will be perfected by then. 

             The 1975’s latest EP, IV, dropped on May 20th and it has been confirmed that their debut album will be released in September. Check here for their website. If you’re interested in The Bots, have a look here, and if you’re in the mood for Bear//Face, listen here.

May 27, 2013

Andrew McMahon: Bring the Chapel Down

             As my friend and I arrived at Union Chapel, Islington on the evening of May 22nd, a crowd of worshipers had already gathered outside. Surprisingly, they were not your typical devotees of God, but with music as their religion, they were ready to sing the words of their savior. In this case, he came in the form of Andrew McMahon. 

             McMahon, a singer, songwriter, and pianist, was involved in bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin and also performs solo. After alighting from Highbury and Islington tube station, the chapel is impossible to miss with its looming steeple emerging from the surrounding trees. My friend and I decided to have a quick drink before the gig and we wound up at a quaint pub just oppositeIf there was ever a time to be reminded of why I loathe tequila so much, it was while sitting in The Library stealing a sip of my friend’s margarita. Just as the salt granules gritted and dissolved against my teeth, it was time to join our fellow worshipers at the sold out show. 

             The seating arrangements worked on a first come, first serve basis, with people filing into the available pews. My friend and I managed to grab a spot in the center a few rows from the back. The interior décor was nothing short of stunning, with the sun not yet set and still beaming in through the stain glass panels. When the pews were all occupied downstairs, people started making their way upstairs for a bird’s eye view. The chapel was transformed in a very surreal way, with clutch bags taking the place of Bibles and hymnals, and chips and drinks being sold in the aisles.

             Opening act Fort Hope were an appropriate choice to prelude McMahon’s set and played with minimal equipment. Lead singer Jon Gaskin incorporated original and cover material with a voice that echoed immense range and pitch. When McMahon took the stage, his yellow sweater mirrored the still radiating sun. With a raw and stripped down performance, McMahon was accompanied only by a piano. The venue contributed by affording the audience the acoustic reverberations. The atmosphere that encapsulated the crowd was one of reverence, a mood that even McMahon alluded to. He apologized in advance for any swearing in the chapel (it didn’t do him much good) and expressed his delight at being back in London.

             With McMahon being the only illumination in the chapel, all eyes were fixated on him and the intensity that flickered across his face. He borrowed songs from Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin, and his individual material, including songs from his recently released EP, “The Pop Underground.” It was easy to target the true fans just by listening. At certain intervals, the crowd’s voices almost merged with McMahon’s as they sang along in unison. One woman went so far as to break the norm and stand up for most of McMahon’s songs, while others started up the obligatory concert clapping. McMahon’s light-hearted demeanor and conversation shone through in his evidently breezy, natural interaction with the audience. 

             I will admit I did get a bit emotional during the gig, but with themes that are so relatable on a human level, it felt inhuman to not be affected. McMahon’s lyrics have the ability to make you truly feel something. He shared that “Rescued” is about that silence on the phone after you’ve broken up with someone and have nothing left to say. “Synesthesia’s” lyrics briefly discuss the success of the band Fun., friends of McMahon who he also opened for on tour. McMahon continued on to speculate, although cheerily, why he hadn’t received any music awards yet, and we all wondered the same.

             McMahon closed on “Konstantine,” a Something Corporate song coming in at an astounding nine minutes and 36 seconds long, but not feeling at all long enough. Now that’s what I call talent. Amen.

             View McMahon's official website here for tour dates and tickets, music, and more. 

May 21, 2013

A Surge of Serge DeNîmes: A Conversation With Oliver Proudlock

Photo courtesy of Sven Eselgroth for STYLE etc magazine
             While Oliver Proudlock is mostly recognized for starring in British reality television series, Made in Chelsea, his noteworthy fashion brand, Serge DeNîmes, deserves just as much limelight. Proudlock started the business in 2011, christening it Serge DeNîmes after a fabric called serge made in Nîmes, France. Today it it more commonly known as denim. Serge DeNîmes is based mainly around t-shirt and sweatshirt designs, but also branches out into beanies, hats, and jewelry. Due to the brand’s simplicity and versatility, it does not discriminate against the wearer, whether they be male or female. Indeed, the clothing line is very much unisex and exists to conform to the style of the individual. Serge DeNîmes combines all of the aspects that make me a strong advocate of fashion – minimalism, art, and statement. Not only is the brand stylish, but it is a unique revival of what it means to stand out from the crowd, something that all city-dwellers hanker after.  

             Armed with some questions for Proudlock, I was kindly given the opportunity to have them put through and answered by him. I would like to give a big thank you to Emily Austen and Oliver Proudlock for making this interview possible. 

Laura Rutkowski: What has been most rewarding about creating and maintaining your own clothing brand?

Oliver Proudlock: There is nothing more rewarding that has happened to me. 

LR: Describe your ideal piece of denim wear. 

OP: It would have to be my vintage Levi’s denim jacket. 

LR: A Serge DeNîmes pop-up store is set to open this summer. What are your hopes for the store and what can we expect?

OP: It is not yet 100 percent confirmed, but we hope to be opening a pop-up on Carnaby Street from mid-June to mid-July. We will be showcasing our exclusive summer collection, as well as stocking alongside some really cool brands that we have personally selected. Alongside this we will be hosting various creative events throughout the month. All in all, we will be pushing the three things that are so important and embedded within the Serge ethos: Music, Art, and Fashion.

LR: What is one item that everyone should own from the collection?

OP: I would say the Serge DeNîmes Block T-shirt in black or white.

Photo courtesy of Serge DeNîmes
LR: Currently, Serge DeNîmes can be bought online and from select stockists. Would you like to have a permanent address for the brand?

OP: At the moment we love to be stocked in selected, exclusive boutiques, as well as doing pop-up shops in various locations. I feel this keeps the brand fresh and exciting, but you never know, one day we may plan to open our own flagship store.

LR:  How would you sum up your style and the influence of fashion in your life?
OP: I would say my style is casual, eclectic, and urban. Fashion has always been an important part of my life. My mum was a designer, so it is in my blood. It is all around us and is an important form of expression and individuality.     

LR: What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs like yourself who want to start their own business?

OP: I would say take your time; patience is key. Nothing in life comes easy, so don’t feel disheartened if it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to be passionate and love what you do, and surround yourself with like-minded individuals who have your best interest at heart. All in all, don’t give up!

LR: What do you envision for the future of Serge DeNîmes?

OP: I hope to expand the brand into new products and eventually move into being a denim-based brand, as well as move the brand around the world, introducing it to the USA and the Asian market. Another major part of the brand is I want it to be a platform for up-and-coming creatives, so in years to come, I hope that this platform will be a recognized enterprise within the creative industry.

Photo courtesy of Serge DeNîmes
             I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for the Serge DeNîmes pop-up store this summer, hoping to check the brand’s black beanie and floral cross tee off my wardrobe wish list. London, rightfully one of the world’s fashion capitals, sees a constant influx of new trends, styles, and designers. Proudlock has contributed his own flavor to the endlessly evolving fashion world here in London, and for that, he’s done the city more than proud.

             View the official Serge DeNîmes website, which includes the online store, hereYou can also find inspiration on Proudlock’s style blog here, where not only he is spotlighted, but other male street style outfits as well.