Friday, 10 August 2012

Head Automatica at The Garage, Islington

During my first few months of university, back in 2004, a friend pushed a CD under my boyfriend's door. Scrawled across it was a hand written description – 'sleazy pop punk dance' – it was a copy of Head Automatica's first album, Decadence. It was a bit more up beat than my usual taste but it had a certain edge, thanks to the talents of Glassjaw's Daryl Palumbo.

I never fell in love with their second album, Popaganda, the way I did with the first, although some recent listens reminded me it has some great songs on it.  But Decadence, and Beating Heart Baby in particular, became the soundtrack to my first year of university and has held sentimental value ever since.

We had tickets to see Head Automatica that year but the tour was cancelled due to Palumbo's ongoing problems with Crohn's Disease. I was disappointed (especially as I never got my money back – a big problem when you're a student…) but I soon got over it. The band stopped releasing material and fell off my radar somewhat.

Fast forward eight years and I'll paint you a picture from Monday night. I'm at the Garage in Islington, beer in hand, waiting for Head Automatica to come on stage. The crowd is a real mixture and I think most people are like us, taking a trip down memory lane and excited about making up for missed opportunities many years before.

The lights go off and the band walk on stage. I barely notice Palumbo because I'm transfixed by the guy standing in front of the key board. He is wearing an anorak... with the hood up. Oh shit, this is not looking good. And it wasn't.

Don't get me wrong, I'm genuinely glad I went, but their performance did little to make up for my disappointment all those years ago. For starters they played a lot of new material, which is fine, but when you haven't released an album in six years you know the crowd are going to want some classics.

And the classics that we did get (Beating Heart Baby included), had been slowed down and lost their sleazy edge. Too much keyboard and not enough guitar – this was just annoying dance/electronica with a slightly weird new romantic twist. Why change all the songs the crowd know when you are mostly playing songs that they don't?! When you've been in a band as long as Palumbo has, surely you know how to work in the new material around the old stuff so that you don't lose a crowd's attention.

But that's exactly what they did and it soon became apparent that I wasn't the only disappointed person there. Almost everyone looked a little confused to be honest and one man started heckling during a quieter moment, which didn't go down particularly well with the band. They finished the set and left the stage – no encore and no thanks.

I didn't leave feeling as annoyed as you might expect, just a tad deflated and with an overwhelming urge to go home and listen to Decadence in all its original glory. Yet again I've learnt an important lesson at a gig, some things are just better left in the past.


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