Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Brooke Candy supported by Jake Emlyn at Madame JoJo’s, 25th February 2013

A chilly Monday night in February - could you ask for a nicer time to head out to an ultra-aggressive punk rock rap night in Soho?  But I was in a good mood.  I’ve been looking forward to seeing Brooke Candy for ages, her videos have just the kind of ultrasexual trash aesthetic that I love.  The first thing that struck me walking down the stairs into the venue was just how well-dressed everyone was.  I don’t really know much about Brooke Candy’s fanbase, but damn they’re a chic looking bunch.  Everywhere I looked there were men and women who’d pushed the boat out, looking attractively vicious and aggressively slutty.

First on the bill was Jake Emlyn, who was introduced slightly dodgily by warning us not to “tell him he looks like a girl” or he’d attack us.  It wasn’t a great start, at this night of all nights at this place of all places I seriously doubt anyone is going to be particularly bothered by a bit of minor genderbending and anyway, what's so offensive about looking like a girl?  Fortunately, he turned it round right away - walking out on the stage in the fabulous coat you see below.

As I’m sure you’ll agree, he looks pretty damn cool.  I particularly liked the All Quiet on the Western Front medallion he had around his neck, a nice touch.  Jake Emlyn starts as he means to go on, spitting out machinegun lyrics so impressively fast that it’s difficult to keep up.  But there’s a hint of defensiveness to a lot of what he does, like he’s answering back to some imagined slights.  He’s cutting a pretty awesome figure fashion-wise, which means it's  disappointing that he seems so concerned about demonstrating both his masculinity and his heterosexuality.  Songs like Honky Bitch are competent streams of over-the-top angry invective, but it after a a few songs it begins to seem a bit samey.  Additionally, there seemed like a direct correlation between how many pieces of his outfit he removed and how much I enjoyed his set.  

This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Jake Emlyn, he’s an impressive performer, but before too long I was peeking at the set list near his feet to try and work out how much longer he was going to be on stage.  But despite this, it’s nice to see a rapper subverting cliched masculinity at least in looks, if not in lyrics. 

A crush began forming at the front of the stage after this.  People were bouncing off each other excitedly trying to get the best view. And, as the thumping beats of the last song died down, Brooke Candy, dressed in chrome armour, stalked across the stage, looking like she’d wandered into our world from the cover of a science fiction novel.  She moves aggressively  - and somehow serpentine-y - every gesture and action brimming with self assurance.

It’s a bit easy (and obvious) to compare her to other musicians, but what’s impressive to me is the way she synthesises so much of what I like in music into a cohesive whole.  I love kickass women that don’t give a fuck, and Brooke Candy certainly is that.  She's occupying  extremes of fashion and sexuality, weaponising femininity with her chrome armour and combative attitude.  When you're singing lyrics like: "You ain't shit boy / got you pussywhipped boy / lickin' up the clit / make you savour every drip boy" you can't half ass it.  On stage it's got to be all out or it's going to fail.  The result is that there's a proper punk atmosphere; she’s visibly enthused about the mosh pit developed in front of the stage yelling: “I wanna see people getting punched in the face!”  That’s the kind of attitude I want to see! Far better than some lamely stuttered plea for people to calm down and treat each other in a civilised manner.

Everyone here seems to be on the same page as Brooke, she bends down and snarls lyrics straight into the gallery of cameraphones aimed up at her, only breaking to pose like a futuristic Hindu deity as she repeatedly exclaims “Man I’m so next level”.  It’s easy to believe her, and it’s easy to be slightly in awe of her fearlessness in everything she does on stage.

The only slight problem with all this is that she doesn’t actually have that many songs.  I know her from three excellent videos (which I’ve listened to numerous times) on YouTube, but I had assumed she’d have a bit more content live.  It’s a bit telling that mid-way through the set she invites fans up on stage for a twerkin contest.  Fair play to the people who got on stage, they seem like pretty good dancers, but this isn’t what I want to watch.  Sure this creates a pleasant little bond between her and us, but it goes on about five minutes too long.  Additionally, at the end of her set she just sort of stops and says “that’s it, I’m done” - a bit of an anticlimax.  Tickets for this night were about a tenner, and though I easily got a tenners worth out of enjoyment out of the evening, the night did feel a bit truncated.

Despite this, when Brooke Candy is in full swing it is goddamn amazing.  During Everybody Does and I Wanna Fuck Right Now the club went absolutely bananas.  People were hurling themselves across the dance floor, skidding through pools of spilt beer on the floor and fleshily banging into each other. Meanwhile, Brooke Candy is standing on stage miming jerking off the microphone and flicking cum onto the audience.  As the set goes on, people begin throwing underwear and wigs at her, with a number of bras and a few pairs of knickers ending up on stage.  Late in the gig (to her apparent surprise), someone handed up a pre-rolled joint to her which seems like an incredibly sweet gesture.
What made the gig feel a little special was just how much Brooke Candy seemed to be enjoying herself.  She said “London is the best place to play!”, and yeah she probably says that everywhere she goes, but even so, this was a particularly responsive, enthusiastic and energetic crowd, especially for a dreary, drizzly Monday night.  Next time I see Brooke Candy I’m sure it’s going to be in front of a bigger crowd and she’s probably going to have a more elaborate show, but there was something powerfully intimate going on last night between performer and audience. I had a fucking great time.

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