The decorations are up. Crêpe-paper dragons, lanterns, garlands and parades illuminate the streets – Soho’s a carousel of buzzing colour. Admittedly all this is for Chinese New Year and not Tim Harrington, but inside the Astoria there’s a different kind of party going on. After over 12 years of assaulting the world’s stages, his chaos-making Rhode Islanders are playing their biggest-ever UK gig, headlining a Shockwaves NME Awards Show.
Someone doesn’t appear too happy to be here, though. Maybe it was their Irish TV show appearance with Sonia from EastEnders last night – but Gareth Los Campesinos! is off-colour. Despite his scowl however, the tunes, with all their fantastic, scrappy faults, are still ferocious. ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ sounds like Stephen Malkmus conducting the North Cheshire Youth Wind Orchestra with a nail gun while ‘And We Exhale…’ explodes as Gareth thrashes the paint off his xylophone. “This is an homage to stadium rockers of the past: WASP, Poison…,” deadpans Future Of The Left bassist Kelson Mathias before launching into the psychotic arena-thrill of ‘Small Bones, Small Bodies’. Co-pilot Andy Falkous – looking like horror-rock’s own Legolas – lays into his gaffer-taped guitar. During closer ‘Adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood’ Falco dismantles the drumkit as a bewildered Jack Egglestone plays on. We’ve heard the future, and its deafening. And so to the main event. While it’s no secret Les Savy Fav are best in pokey bars where you can taste Tim’s navel fluff as he vaults over the bar, rubs his nipples, visits the girls’ loos and sucks your fingers (he does all these things at a tiny warm-up show the night before in Bedford) this evening is still something else. It’s Graduation Day: LSF upscaled. Last year’s ‘Let’s Stay Friends’ was a grand album and this is a massive stage. Not that it’ll prevent people here getting in(Tim)ate. Harrington celebrates the occasion by padding onstage with a mini ghetto-blaster playing Hall & Oates’ ‘Rich Girl’, dressed as the Phantom Of The Opera. Within 30 seconds of opener ‘What Would Wolves Do?’ he’s torn the cape off to reveal a tie-dye T-shirt and dived into the crowd, returning with a toilet roll for the climax of ‘Patty Lee’ where the crowd scream “Back before Babylonnnn, shit was cooooool”. It’s a hectic start taking in ‘Reprobates Resume’ and ‘Yawn Yawn Yawn’ on the way, a manic Harrington standing like a punk-rock Neptune, spitting beer and, um, riding one (smiling) fan.
Breathless, he twice visits the Astoria bar, gargling peoples’ pints on his way and, during the throttle-punk of ‘The Equestrian’ and the incredible stark-rock brawler ‘The Sweat Descends’, his costume changes (safari ranger, the devil, the Angel Gabriel) are almost as fast as Seth Jabour’s scintillating riffs. This is more than just an episode of Harrington’s Half Hour, though. As unhinged covers of the Pixies’ ‘Debaser’, Archers Of Loaf’s ‘Wrong’ and closer ‘Rome’ attest.
Soon after, the fivesome depart the battle-scorched dancefloor, littered with trainers, blood and groaning bodies. The New-Year clock strikes twelve – Beijing’s no doubt going ballistic, but forget the Year Of The Rat; after 13 years of toil, welcome to The Year of The Fav.