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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Out on the Kentish Town

In the last week I've managed two very civilised nights out; firstly at the Pleasance Theatre to watch The Mighty Boosh test out new material on a receptive and wine softened audience, then yesterday I nipped next door to an MGMT gig, although it was really an excuse to check out the Kentish Town Forum that I hear so much about . . .

The Mighty Boosh played the first bitterly cold Thursday of Autumn, off the Cally Road at the Pleasance Theatre. A lovely space perfect for small audiences who all know someone, or want to know someone. With the emphasis on 'younger than ever', Julian's twin sons opened the show; cute and actually rather amusing. Standard Boosh banter warmed the crowd before they crowbarred in some slightly loose character sketches from various friends and oddballs.

So far so average. With the audience further mellowed by a bar break, the Boosh then sidled into the second half with some revamped songs which they performed live and gave a convoluted comedy back story. Sounds terrible but somehow they smashed it. The musical performance and acoustics were genuinely very good and sounded like they were about to get even better when the drummer informed us that something electrical had broken. Now I'm no musician, or indeed electrician, but I did expect this to be a minor glitch. Not so. A slightly awkward Noel improvised whilst Julian, the drummer and a very sensible looking technical man tampered with wires.

Whether any part of this was scripted to give them audience sympathy and breathing space, I can't say. However it was from this point that both Noel and Julian came into their own and demonstrated that yes, they do indeed have the new material/ ongoing ability to make money from comedy - although stand up seemed a little like hard work for Noel who was panting like a finance executive running for a bus. Still, it was good to see the Boosh back on the circuit, and all the more welcome that the cycle home was both short and downhill.

My next (civilised) venture out started with a very sweet tout who told his tout mate that we could have the tickets for cost price as we were only kids and the gig started five minutes ago. I'm twenty seven. Still, who's disagreeing? As we arrived the psychedelic graphics on screen burst into rainbows and MGMT started up Time to Pretend. This is easily my favourite song, of the three I know, and with the crowd singing along to 'this is our decision, to live fast and die young, we've got the vision now let's have some fun,' there really was a lovely, fuzzy, captured-a-shared-feeling-there, kind of moment. Regardless of the inevitable fact that most of the people in the forum that night probably do have jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute, this lyric resonated with them - ironic but there it is. More than anything it taps into that often unfulfilled desire, usually quashed with rent and reason, to just press play and roll.

Although the band do have a bevy of decent songs, I'm afraid to report that through much of the new album stuff I was far more taken with the visuals; rainbows, sweets, decrepit temples and aliens. I'd like to suggest that this is because I'm a very visual person, rather than the music was dull. The acoustics were also a tad grinding; whilst I actively enjoy the sensation of bass reverberating in my chest, this was more overwhelming than I'd expect from an MGMT gig, and at one point the lyrics were drowned out by the instruments - until the sound man presumably had a panic and fixed it.

I have to say that as with most old theatres and art deco cinemas, I loved the venue itself. Uninspiring from the outside, this grade II listed building is big and impressive with gilt reliefs of horses and chariots chasing around the big red dome in the ceiling. Apparently back in the day The Forum had a Compton organ, a five ton safety curtain and a tea room upstairs! Oh how times have changed. Still, it was nice to see a throw back to Kentish Town's heydey when it reportedly had nine cinemas. Nine!

Like the better known C Town down the road, Kentish Town has hangouts a plenty, and what it lacks in tourists and lack lustre goths, it more than makes up for with its harem of nutters. My week was peppered with pickled cactus fries outside in the shisha garden at GuanaBana, and far more outlandish nights downstairs at Shebeen, usually a Drink of the Week to start, punctuated by a myriad of whiskys, mescal, gin and of course, the inevitable poitin. It's all going down in Kentish Town.

 (above image has been shamelessly stolen from Google . . . )