Live Review: Piney Gir, Fonda 500 + (… at The Lexington, Islington

There appears to be some form of trans-dimensional time travel vortex enveloping The Lexington this evening.  It’s even affecting the venue security, who for the first time in many a long year ask to see my ID before permitting entry which having recently turned 39 adds an extra spring to what I can only assume must already have been a youthful step (in their defence it was very dark outside).  Perhaps it’s something to do with the line-up: both tonight’s headliner Piney Gir, tonight launching her forthcoming new LP You Are Here, and main support act Fonda 500 have some serious history with Joyzine – Piney was our first ever guest on The Joyzine Radio Show seven years ago and Fonda were interviewed for our very first online edition way back in 2003 and both have featured on the site many times since.  The crowd too is full of familiar faces and a strong sense of deja vu permeates throughout.

However it’s not long before the source of this temporal aberration becomes clear.  Panda-eyed opener (…, which we believe is correctly pronounced Parenthesis Dot Dot Dot, has us under his spell.  Spinning a hypnotist’s spiral wheel he takes us back through the centuries, revisiting our previous lives and sings, with a slight Bowie inflection, of the failed love affairs that we have shared across the span of history.  And if that sounds slightly out of the usual spectrum for a mid-week opening act, strap in, as there are a plethora of quirky treats to be had including a Bryan Adams-themed love song (featuring some delicious word play), musings on cat people vs dog people and a very happy tree.

Pitched somewhere between the onstage theatrics of David Devant & His Spirit Wife, the surreal but warm-hearted lo-fi comedy pop of early Flight of the Conchords and the deadpan synth of Pet Shop Boys, (… is an unexpected treat that would be just as much at home at an Edinburgh Fringe show as in a standard gig set-up.

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The sixteen years that have passed since our first meeting with Fonda 500 seem almost entirely to have passed them by.  Their idiosyncratic Casio-driven indie disco stomp is just as energising, compelling my limbs to co-ordinate in ways I thought long-since forgotten, bassist Bod and more recent recruit Matt Edible (formerly of The Edible 5Ft Smiths, also interviewed in that first Joyzine) fling their hair around with just as much vigour, and bear-hatted beatboxing frontman Simon delivers his between-song quips in the same curmudgeonly manner.

That’s not to say they’ve been standing still in that time though – the tracks from recent eighth album I (Heart) Fonda 500 are just as vibrant, fuelled by the same sense of pure fun and propelled along by the deepest grooves in lo-fi pop.  This is music with warmth in it’s heart that draws us all in together and when Matt unexpectedly thrusts a huge Fonda flag into my hands during their final number, I wave it with more enthusiasm than I could have mustered for any national banner.

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Taking the stage with her Omnichord and duo of backing singers alongside the more standard indie pop set-up of guitar, bass and drums, we’re introduced to the latest evolution of Piney Gir‘s sound – always different but somehow still maintaining some essential sense of Pineyness at its core.  We’ve seen her morph through vampy electro, gingham patterned country and western, girl gang garage rock and pure sixties pop, and tonight’s set includes pinches of most of these, bathed in a more recent psych-tinged dreampop glow.

Last year’s single ‘The Great Pretend’ injected an extra layer of darkness to the sumptuous indie pop of her previous releases, and this tension between light and dark, sweet and bitter, looks set to be one of the characteristic features of the forthcoming album.  Recently released track ‘Peanut Butter Maltshop Heart Throb’ (whose title led to the ingenious sale of jars of the titular spread, complete with download code in lieu of an available physical release) gives us a taste of the other end of the spectrum.

It may be fifteen years since Piney’s first album Peakahokahoo but within the time field that has encapsulated The Lexington tonight, the charm, energy and inventiveness on display could easily be mistaken for a debut.

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Review and Photography by Paul Maps

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