It may not yet be even two years old but, by striking a rare balance between credibility and great tunes, 1965 Records seem to have hit the indie nail bang on the head. The beloved baby of former Rough Trade man James Endeacott (the fella who A&Rd The Strokes and signed The Libs), the label is now the happy home of a whole host of retro-rocking upstarts so he’s decided to throw a Christmas bash, inviting ’65’s finest signings to come and join in the fun. “Christmas is supposed to be about love and about giving,” gurgles Endeacott from underneath a Santa beard, looking cosy in his red Father Christmas garb.
“So we’ve decided to open our arms here at 1965, and give something to the people for Christmas. What presents do I want this year? Nothing! I mean, look around, I’m the boy who’s got everything!”
With their swooshing swathes of rainbow rock, The Hugs are further
proof that someone’s certainly putting something in the water in Portland, Oregon. Like The Lemonheads but with more primal yelping, the moment when their retro-referencing tunes seem to be veering too much in a pleasant, palatable garage-punk direction, their teeny weeny singer Danny Delegato – the lovechild of Noel Fielding and one of The Monkees – lets go a grave-spinning, throat-slashing screech before indulging in some energetic and muscle-tearing mic-robatics. It’s still early days for the festive shebang, so sadly only a few punters catch the sight of Delegato half-heartedly trashing his guitar at the end of the set. You can almost pinpoint the exact second where he realises he’s going to have to dive into the band’s emergency tour fund to buy a new one. It’s not a pretty sight. Among the crowd members who do catch this incident though, is a slight man with long dirty blonde hair and a tatty leather jacket, who’s stood dead in front of the stage. His hands are raised in ecstasy, his hips are jutting at right angles and a massive, borderline insane grin slides across his face. More on him later.
Frank Sidebottom has spent the last 20 years trying to make papier-mâché cool and, although he’s never quite succeeded, his reworked Casiotone versions of Joy Division, Arctic Monkeys and Morrissey tunes bring a festive feel to tonight’s Christmas bash. His outlandish northernness sits in sharp contrast to The Metros, who are virulently, unmistakably southern. Frontman Saul swaggers across the stage to the infectious bounce of ‘Every Other Tuesday’, clutching a bottle of red plonk and winking flashily at his bandmates. Modern-day spiv that he is, you almost expect him to open up his long camel coat and offer you a selection of sparkling watches and shiny silverwear, or at least try to sell you a shonky used car.
Strutting onstage soon after like he not only owns the venue but, quite possibly, all of London too, is the long-haired man who was cheering The Hugs earlier on in the night. His name is Conor Kiley and he is, quite possibly, the future of rock’n’roll. No sooner than he – as the singer with Washington’s Holy Ghost Revival – arrives onstage he’s off it, speeding his way around the crowd, grabbing girls, nicking pints and tossing them over his face and nearly decapitating several punters by spinning his microphone in three-metre circles around his head.
Occasionally he takes a break from the madness to sing a few cursory lyrics of pomp-rock smasher ‘Embrace The Hate’, but mostly he seems set on terrifying and amusing the audience in equal measure. Nobody even looks at the rest of the band until the third song, when Conor finally gets his arse back onstage to join them in their glorious glam-goth racket. They play for a mere 15 minutes but it’s enough to make every single soul here realise that 2008 is going to be rather special indeed.
The mod-tastic Draytones seem rather weak-willed and dirgey by comparison and the excitement only starts after James Endeacott, in his full Santa suit, comes onstage and mimes giving the bass player a blowjob. He’s followed by all of Holy Ghost Revival, who come back on to sing along to the sexy stomp of ‘Keep Loving Me’. Like some kind of indie borstal, the whole thing ends up in complete and utter chaos, with Conor indulging in some homoerotic wrestling before chucking full pints at The Metros, who’ve worked their way to the front of the crowd. It’s a tough moment to follow, but The View cope. No matter how leathered they are, they always manage to pull a sterling gig out of the bag. Tonight they rattle through a set so rousing that a major league punch-up starts at the back of the venue (guess who started that?). Kyle makes the likes of ‘Wasted Little DJs’ and ‘Superstar Tradesman’ seem so effortless it’s a surprise he’s able to keep his eyes open at all. He can’t even be arsed to take off his anorak until the last few songs. Newie ‘One-Off Pretender’ – for which Kieren takes centre-stage – is, quite simply, a massive tune. We bet our Christmas crackers that festival fields next summer will be quaking to it.
Suddenly, half-way through a juddering ‘Same Jeans’, trouble starts up in the moshpit. Snarling blokes come flying out, hitting the walls and grimacing in pain. We look over to where the trouble started and the last thing we see is Conor Kiley grinning wildly, his fist punching skywards…