Last Monday saw the launch of a brand new weekly student night –Tins on Toast – at the Purple Turtle in Camden. To soften the multiple blows of crippling debt, no job prospects and the promise that after three years spent poring over Heidegger’s exploration of hermeneutical phenomenology, sustained solely by a diet of Tesco Value vodka and Kick, and things on toast – presumably things that come in tins – they will be rewarded with the opportunity to move back into their mum’s house for at least another decade, where they will advance from canned goods to crack cocaine, members of the lost generation were mollified by an intimate (read: low budget) gig by indie rockers Tribes.
Having thoroughly enjoyed their energetic performance at Secret Garden Party last summer, I was keen to see how they had progressed over the last few months, so embarked upon a covert undercover operation, successfully infiltrating the local student community by retaking all my A-Levels, signing up to a course in Acturial Science and having a meaningful J.D. Salinger quote inked onto my wrist, thus securing my ticket to the event.
Usually a four-piece comprising of Johnny Lloyd (lead vocals, guitar), Dan White (guitar, backing vocals), Jim Cratchley (bass, backing vocals) and Miguel Demelo, (drums), it appeared that Demelo’s invitation had regrettably fallen prey to the perils of the notoriously unreliable British postal system, as he was notably absent for this pared-down acoustic set. Shame.
Best known for their anthemic hit of the summer “We Were Children”, which was hailed by Zane Lowe as the “Hottest Record in the World”, the band have just released their first album, “Baby” and, after performing at the NME Awards Tour with Two Door Cinema Club, Azealia Banks and Metronomy, are due to commence their own UK and Ireland tour.
I expected their Tins on Toast gig to reflect this excitement but was surprised to find the whole affair distinctly laidback, to the point of being sadly lacklustre, and was left wondering if perhaps Tribes were conserving their energy for the bigger and better shows they have lined up. It wasn’t a bad performance per se – Lloyd’s powerful, gravelly voice was superb, and White and Cratchley’s backing vocals showcased impressive talent too – but they lacked the animation, enthusiasm and energy that could have made this a great gig.
The band’s trademark song was, of course, received very well, as was their follow-up track, “Sappho”, along with newer material, and the acoustic set demonstrated their versatility, allowing their voices to take centre stage. The relaxed atmosphere was verging on lethargic though: possibly a clever – albeit unlikely – strategy to match the student vibe. The band seemed fatigued and nonchalant, and the performance was manifestly lazy. There was minimal interaction with the audience too which was quite a let down, as the small space could have lent itself well to a bit of banter.
Also disappointing was the noticeable shortness of the set: after about twenty minutes the band trudged tiredly off stage, mumbling a simple “thanks”, and, with no sign of an encore, XFM’s Steve Harris had his work cut out taking to the decks to enliven an audience which looked ready to doze off.
All in all, it felt remarkably like the early hours of the morning following a tremendous house party when things are winding down, with the Tribes boys indulging in a sleepy sing-song in front of the various waifs and strays still packed into their living room, waiting for the tubes to start running again to transport them home to their halls of residence.