Two streets from Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach, a black woman with dreadlocks and purple leggings is funnelling vodka into people’s mouths onstage. Behind her, a guy with mangy tracksuit bottoms parades a giant speaker like an Olympic gold medal as the DJ slices lumps of Daft Punk’s ‘Robot Rock’ like disco celery. Miniature mad- magnet Johnny Sierra, a grey-hooded gnome among a host of humping bodies, screeches into a microphone then nicks a bystander’s camera and starts taking photos of the crowd’s horrified faces. And this isn’t even The Death Set’s gig.
We’ve heard of crashing cars, cymbals and house parties, but rarely other peoples’ shows. A couple of hours earlier the Baltimore trio were staring at four walls and the prospect of “playing to the soundman”. Now, at 1am, they’re leading the masses from Bonde Do Rolê’s gig (they’re pals – they’re not that rude) over a zebra crossing back to their own – then throwing the world’s maddest afterparty. Y’see, the digi-kids are punk-rock squatters. They’ll play anywhere. In this case, a corner in front of the ladies’ lavs. It’s a spirit they’ve channelled as mob-leaders of Baltimore’s burgeoning Wham City scene (see Adventure, Videohippos, Santa Dads, Double Dagger, Dan Deacon) – all current or ex-tenants in the city’s Big Brother-style mansion The Copycat Building. Finally word, like the Death Set’s destruction, is spreading fast.
Typically, after plugging in, it’s only a matter of minutes before Johnny begins
snatching phones and climbing over speaker stacks, tables and Jahphet’s drumkit before threading his mic lead through an unsuspecting guy’s T-shirt and jolting him to the floor. But this is no traditional punk rock show. Their kryptonite anthems (‘Negative Thinking’, ‘Around The World’ ‘Impossible’ – cyber-spazz hybrids of Lightning Bolt and Girl Talk) are weirdly separated by jagged blasts of Dizzee Rascal, Salt-n-Pepa and The Jackson 5. It’s not easy, comfortable or normal, but then neither are The Death Set.