ART BRUT with the DIABOLEROS at Lee's Palace, November 13. Tickets: $13. Attendance: 250. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
After reading the reviews of British "meta" (rock about rock) band Art Brut , I got to Lee's on Sunday expecting five smarmy jerks working a cheeky postmodern gimmick to death.
Relief set in when frontman Eddie Argos rolled out sporting a bowler and came across as affable and self-deprecatingly weird.
Making a clear reference from the jump, the five charged into AC/DC's Back In Black and the decent crowd was theirs. They slipped into the art-rock jangle of Formed A Band: "Formed a band, we formed a band! Look at us we formed a band!"
Three minutes in, Eddie was shoeless and his hat was on a mic stand. Sounding like a drunk Mark E. Smith, he sang a half-song about punk rock he claimed they'd written on the plane here.
Then he boldly improvised a Q&A with the audience. Someone requested Little Brother ("My little brother just discovered rock n roll!"), which they played.
The satire of self-important rock bands was satisfying, and the lyrics cleverly twisted. But the meta stuff was already getting to feel a bit empty.
Refreshingly, the band switched it up with Rusted Guns Of Milan, a shameless awkward-sex anthem that saw the frontman passionately wailing: "Don't tell your friends I promise it won't happen again." Argos was now at his most obnoxious and self-loathing. People couldn't get enough. The energy was peaking.
Then it happened.
After a small commotion, Argos announced that their bass amp was on fire. The room filled with the smell of burning plastic, and the momentum collapsed into a painfully tentative silence.
"Should we even play any more? Is this what happens at shows here? Why didn't anyone warn me?" quipped Argos, slightly shaken, as he improvised with nervous charm while someone from Lee's extinguished the fire.
"Actually, I caused that myself I've been sabotaging things. Sticking screwdrivers into sockets. I loosened those pedals, too. Wait till you see what happens to his guitar during the next song," he said, motioning to a bewildered Jasper Future , who looked like David Spade's long-lost little brother.
Everything worked after the lull, and Art Brut won people back with fan favourite Emily Kane and yet more rock songs about rock, which had lost their novelty by the time the amp exploded.