Toupe + True Swamp Neglect + Betika - The Consortium - December 2005

There’s an expectant atmosphere in The Consortium tonight, especially since this gig was almost over before it even began. The night was meant to take place at Mr Smiths but, due to its unfortunate and unexpected closure as of last Monday, Going My Way (the organisers behind the show) have been frantically searching for a replacement venue. Luckily The Consortium stepped in to save the day. Resplendent in their shirts and ties and stepping onstage like an office-worker orchestra, 7-piece Betika attempt to find space for themselves among an array of various instruments. After a team-building huddle, they kick straight into first song ‘25’. Vibrant and achingly melodic, it’s the perfect start to the evening, reflected by the great reception it gets from the crowd. They follow this up with the polka-tinged ‘Castle’ showing that they are not afraid to think outside the standard pop/rock box. Each song is lushly instrumented and thoughtfully arranged adding xylophones, flutes and trumpets (among others) to the mix. Deep bass lines and solid drumming allow their infectious melodies to really shine through. Betika deservedly leave tonight with far more friends than when they arrived. My only complaint, however, is that they graciously cut their set short to allow the other bands longer. Five minutes into True Swamp Neglect and I’m wondering why they bothered. Put simply, this band are a shambles. Formless and tiresome, they rattle off song after song of long-winded shoe-gazing dirge, utterly killing the mood that Betika established. With their out of tune guitars and vocals, TSN do little to impress anyone other than friends and family. Technical problems are frustrating for any musician but, as any band will tell you, you have to make the best of it. When the TSN drummer stops a song to complain about his monitor, then continues to complain loudly in between songs for the rest of their set, it seems not only unprofessional but also excruciatingly arrogant. So to Toupe from Southampton, onto whose shoulders it falls to finish the night in style. I’ve heard great things about this band - their virtuosity and their live show; Toupe, so the rumour goes, are “the shit”. Although, I’m wondering how half an hour of what is essentially slap-bassed funk (see what I did there?) will hold up. First song ‘Fuckin’ is enough to allay anyone’s fears; salacious, innuendo ridden and tight as you like, it’s clear that these guys are the shit. Chaotic and wild, yet utterly precise, their reputation is totally deserved. Buzzing with energy, not a single person in the room is still during their set and by the time the band are called on for an encore the rest of the night might as well not have happened. Despite one or two problems, all in all tonight feels like an affirmation of local talent. Towards the close of Toupe’s set we are presented with a semi-tragic spectacle; at the side of the stage stands a member of TSN, mouth agape, transfixed by a band streets ahead of his own. It tells us one thing: we witnessed magic tonight.

Image top left: Betika by Steve Beck.
Image bottom right: Toupe drummer.