I’m From Barcelona: ULU, London, Wednesday, January 24

I’m From Barcelona: ULU, London, Wednesday, January 24

They’re not from Barcelona, and they’d prefer it if you brought your own kazoo

Audience participation: the sport of magicians, flagging comedians and televangelists. But which one is Emanuel Lundgren, creative engine behind I’m From Barcelona’s 29-Swede quasi-novelty orchestra? It seems he’s a bit of all three, really.

You see, audience participation forms the centre of an IFB scripture that bases itself around the often dangerous notion of ‘fun’. The only way to truly come to know indie-pop, this lot believe, is through ‘fun’. They do ‘fun’ by pogoing like a nine-year-old, singing along to songs about stamp collecting and building treehouses, and by wearing Rainbow Brite leggings and achingly kooky glasses. “Man, having this much fun should be illegal,” Lundgren goads, after stage-diving through the opening track.

But somehow it works – witnessing this audience’s shrieking response to Emanuel’s vision, you’d think they were all pregnant with his polygamous love children.

An aura of celebration sweeps the hall a hailstorm of balloons, confetti and soap bubbles, like an ever-so-slightly grown-up McDonald’s playpen. Jolly? This guy makes Wayne Coyne look like Kurt Cobain. Twee? They make Belle & Sebastian look like Idi Amin’s henchmen re-attaching women’s limbs in unconventional formations.

Midway through, a dozen true believers are plucked from the crowd. All have brought their own kazoos in preparation for this onstage invitation. Ten minutes later, the situation is reversed: the band invade the pit while Emanuel does his sensitive solo bit. Some cynics may notice that the absence of all those novelty-maracas-playing Barcelonians barely detracts from the strummy happy-clapper-core of the IFB sound. Never mind: those cynics are soon murdered, skinned and made into really cute backpacks. Probably.

After an encore that includes the none-more-whimsical ‘Watching The Life Aquatic’, (about… well, never mind) Emanuel announces, in his best Jesus-meets-Bjorn-Borg voice: “Let’s dance.” Shouting over the lost link between Spitting Image’s ‘The Chicken Song’ (ask your dad) and The Best Of Sash! (ask… no, don’t bother), he somehow prompts more followers to invade the stage, not flee it. So the band – and 50 or so audience members – bop along together, then the audience leave: inner children reawakened, souls lightly stirred, fun had. And what’s wrong with a bit of fun anyway?

Gavin Haynes