November 08, 2013

Drumroll, Please…Presenting Bastille and Josh Record

             Out of the blue one evening, I received a message from a friend asking me to attend a concert with her, and not being one to turn down such an offer, I hardly hesitated in replying. Bastille and Josh Record would be performing, and while I was vaguely familiar with their music, I was more than vaguely familiar with the venue. Some might say I am cuckoo for Camden’s KOKO, which I have frequented on an assortment of nights out, including the not too long gone Halloween Ball that they hosted on November 1st. KOKO was formerly known as Camden Palace Theatre until its renovation as a live-music venue that also holds (very packed) club nights. Evidence of the old theatre lives on in its chandeliers, sumptuous red trimmings, directors’ boxes, and plush seating arrangements.

             My friend is a huge Bastille fan, so she was adamant about nabbing a first row standing placement and that we did (thanks to her six-hour devotion waiting outside before doors opened)! I aimed to prepare my ears for the noise that would ensue with giant speakers looming to the left of us. The speakers proved to add to the experience, reverberating through the crowd and matching the vibrations of the instruments on stage.

             Opening act Record graced us with fluid lyrics and wistful guitar riffs, which quickly had me bopping my head along. Record crooned soulfully with a longing in his voice and I am sure many from the audience that night, including myself, will be picking up a copy of his Bones EP later this month, an addition worthy of its precursor, The War EP. Record relied on his talent pure and simple without needing to overcomplicate his performance. Record himself was understated and emotionally stripped up there on stage, conveying himself as an open and honest artist. That proved to be more than enough to tide everyone over before Bastille were to grace us with their much-anticipated presence.

Bastille’s opening act, Josh Record
             Bastille utilizes the talents of Daniel Smith on percussion and lead vocals, Kyle Simmons on percussion, William Farquarson on bass guitar, and Chris Wood on drums. I had brushed up on my Bastille discography so as to be fully committed to the show, and before long, I was singing along with the best of them! The band was nothing short of energetic and how Smith managed to maintain pitch-perfect vocals while gliding and jumping effortlessly around the stage remains a mystery to me. The feel-good vibe emanated throughout the fast-paced act and Bastille manically played as if their lives depended on it, like puppets maneuvered on strings at the discretion of expert hands.

Bastille’s bassist William Farquarson (left), drummer Chris Wood (center), and lead singer and percussionist, Daniel Smith (right)
             While playing songs from their album, Bad Blood, that everyone cheered for and sneaking in a few from their mixtapes, Other People’s Heartache and Other People’s Heartache, Pt. 2, Bastille also busted out new material, one song going by the name of “Campus.” Smith waved the drumsticks around precariously, pointing at us, pointing at the sky, before landing with a dramatic thud on the drums. Smith’s quirky, jerky dance moves and undulations were surprisingly fitting and he later claimed that he couldn’t dance so we would have to help him out, but I begged to differ. He’s adopted a style that works for him and the band, which complements their fusion of fun pop and dance music.

             With a quick change into his hoodie, Smith dragged his microphone down to literally “work the crowd” and snaked around the attendees. His voice merely floated above us, it being nearly impossible to pinpoint him from where we were standing. The concert itself elapsed in what seemed like snapshots, aided of course by bursts of strobe lights. Smith’s live vocals rivaled the recorded versions of himself, demonstrating how incredibly satisfying and easy it is to watch a truly good band play when they’re in their element. During various moments of the night, I turned around to face the crowd and what I witnessed was a mob of people jumping up and down, jabbing their fingers in the air back at Smith, the disco ball illuminating the higher levels of onlookers peering down at the stage. Everyone was grinning and Bastille were grinning right there with us.

             Bastille ran off stage only to return and end with the widely popular “Pompeii,” which escalated to number two in the UK charts, and with good reason too. The night was a triumph full of riotous drums and electric personalities that didn’t end there for my friend and me. Exiting back outside, we occupied the back doors of KOKO where Bastille’s lime green (how inconspicuous!) tour bus lay in wait, to see if we could meet any of the band members. We were joined by many other eager fans, and as the members of Bastille piled out, it was a matter of who could grab their attention first before they made a quick getaway. There is no doubt they will have been plenty tired already and keen to retire for the night. 

Usually Bastille’s percussionist, Kyle Simmons tries his hand at the electric guitar 
             Record surfaced and broke the barriers separating the fans from the famous, appearing almost more star-struck by them than they were of him. He was genuinely willing to instill his undivided attention in everyone he spoke with. As he was whisked away, the question on everyone’s minds was when Smith would appear, the last member of Bastille who was yet to emerge and most likely the person everyone was waiting for, judging by the still substantial crowd. When Smith was eventually spotted, a guitar, an iPod, flyers, CD case inserts, and cameras were thrust in his direction. He took all of this in his stride and his soft-spoken manner didn’t match that of his larger-than-life stage persona, which was a sweet surprise. Smith made a point to connect with each individual, personally thanking everyone for coming to the show, as if he was the grateful one.

With Josh Record (left) and Bastille’s Daniel Smith (right)
             Pre-order Bastille’s double-CD album, All This Bad Blood, now before its release on November 25th and view their official website here. For Josh Record news, see here. His Bones EP is expected for November 24th. I cannot recommend KOKO enough, so browse the venue’s website here to see what’s lined up for the coming months.

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