review archive

Semifinalists – Bush Hall, 11th March 2006

One of the best things, like, ever, about going to gigs is when some random support band pops up and sweeps you off your feet when you’re really not expecting it. That astonished feeling of suddenly finding yourself utterly wrapped up in a band you’d never heard of five minutes ago is the bestest. And thus it occurs when Semifinalists appear before our very eyes as we’re kicking about Bush Hall waiting for the lovely Euros Childs to thrill us with his gnashing oddpop folkiness.

First off, Semifinalists win my approval by requesting that the slovenly crowd gets to its feet and shuffles forward, rather than lolling hippyskum-like on the floor. Amazingly folks amiably do as they’re told and the atmosphere in Bush Hall immediately skips up a notch. The band plays swooning join-the-dots-pop, snaffling the best elements from all your favourite sweetly psychedelic art-pop bands and pasting them down into their bumper multi-hued scrapbook of sound. They send your head spinning as you stand there with all your synapses zinging in recognition and confusion. Yum.
Semifinalists start off by making me think they’re some kind of cutie-pie take on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs; brattishly assaulting our senses with acid flash colouring book visuals, scratchy guitar, rumblethump drums and a boy with asymmetric hair singing and dancing spastically, solemnly balanced on tippy-toes. Then they get touchingly Mercury Rev/Galaxie 500 on us, thanks to the drummer’s extraordinary, plaintive voice. Sometimes they play fragile, teetering tunes a la Beat Happening, with the icey cool girl with tied up black hair tapping on a dinky keyboard; or they might go a bit MBV by way of The Radio Dept, e.g. on the delightful ‘You Said’. Or there’s ‘Your Heart’, a technicolour duet with tinges of upbeat poppy New Order.
And while you’re splashing about in this warm aural bubblebath, projected images flicker and dance across the trio who are cunningly dressed in white to allow for optimum displayage. There are horses, sea creatures, space stuff, x-rays; the subdued, shifting half-light makes it all even more magical. Transported and transfixed. Tonight Semifinalists are champions of the fucking world.
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