The Insomniac's Ball - 25 November at SeOne
There's a girl on roller skates who has constantly got a balloon filled with laughing gas (available over there by the bar for two pounds apiece) clenched between her fingers. I'm not sure if she's delivering them to someone lost in the crowd or if she's inhaling them herself. If she's just delivering, then prayers go out to the man or woman in the crowd; they'll have a hard time making it out of here. If she's using them herself, how on earth is she still upright? The Insomniacs' Ball, 25 November at SeOne, is going to be a crazy night. It's in the air and it smells rather similar to nitrous.
One of the announcers proclaims Insomniac's Ball to be the biggest party in London this year. It's definitely a contender. More than 25 bands and DJs are vying for top dog over three stages in the massive underground bunker that is SeOne. This Southwark club is a little bit difficult to find unless you know what you're looking for. Hidden within a road tunnel under London Bridge is the city's largest dedicated nightclub, with a capacity of 3000 people. The thousand or more people who arrived for Insomniac's Ball were lucky, then: the venue's massive capacity ensured that there was always breathing room and space to move.
Out of 25 bands, there have to be winners and losers. As for losers, just watch the charts. There were half a dozen bands here that were gong to be arriving on them very soon. And, to the skinny goth who towed his dumpy girlfriend through the crowd like a fleshy wrecking ball: not cool. Besides that, no time will be spent on the losers.
One of the evening's headlining acts, the White Rose Movement, put on an outstanding show to no one's surprise. Their particular brand of electro-rock has become extremely popular of late, as brought to the forefront by the WRM as well as others like the Infadels (whose upcoming 14 December show should be awesome) and Deaf Stereo. These local boys (they're from London, obviously) have been together for several years and play a constant stream of shows in and around their hometown.
With songs like the Love Is A Number, which is also the title of the band's first release, the WRM rumbled and bleeped through SeOne. They weren't the only ones who rocked the house, or rather the catacombs under the house: proving once again that economy is key, the two members of Blood Red Shoes managed to put out as much or more sound than many of their five-member competitors. This pair from Brighton blast Sleater Kinney-like rock with Laura-Mary Carter on guitar/vocals and Steven Ansell on drums/vocals. Watch out for these two.
Crowd surfing, for some reason, was the name of the game. Nathaniel Fregoso, the singer for LA-based The Bloodarm, a surprisingly funny band from Los Angeles, threw himself out into the crowd still clutching the microphone. As with any experiment in crowd-surfing, there were successes and failures: several times in a row the crowd almost dropped him, but he didn't miss a beat.
The Blood Arm was an interesting case, though. Fregoso, despite his disregard for safety and his penchant for continuity, couldn't really sing that well. It was almost a spoken-word performance on some songs, especially their pseudo-theme song Suspicious Character (refrain: “I like all the girls and all the girls like me”. Blood Arm is a sign, however, that sometimes it's more important to have a charismatic frontman, one who can elicit an audience response. Talent sometimes takes a back seat to showmanship.
In any case, if you missed the Insomniac's Ball, make a point to attend next year. It's not an idle boast to call it London's biggest party of the year. Not idle, just debatable.
- Nicholas Carter