Saturday, November 2, 2013

'The Howling featuring Fag Junky' at the House of Wolf, 1st November 2013

Watching a Fag Junky set is like eating a load of super-cheap, ultra-sugary sweets.  You know it's not good for you, you know you'll regret it, yet you recklessly jam the stuff into your gob.  Fag Junky are an eight piece covers band with a total lack of bum-clenching earnestness.  They run through an imaginative variety of genres, their set list ranging from hip-hop to glam rock, drum n bass and hi-NRG techno.

Fag Junky are a party band right down to their glitter-encrusted core.  They're in constant motion, gleefully shaking their bootys, lurching from song to song with barely restrained anarchy.  As they launch through their set they constantly hit duff notes, fall out of time - they even begin their set with an AWOL rhythm guitarist - yet they bust through these minor musical obstacles like they just don't give a fuck.  Fag Junky don't give a fuck though, and though this is the only time I've seen them I can't imagine them working in anything other than a grimy sweatbox full of the drunk and the happy.

This is Halloween, so the bar is full of ghouls, goblins and zombies.  Día de Muertos is in this year and everywhere are pretty girls with hollowed skull eyes and flowers flitting around exposed rictus grins.  There's a guy dressed as Mr Stay Puft, coils of white balloons festooned around his body.  He emits rubbery squeaks as he dances, a human internet fetish on the dancefloor.  Getting down at the lip of the stage is a girl in a white dress too fragile and too beautiful for a dingy club like this.  

The band haven't skimped on the costume front either.  On stage is one of the most impressive pairs of dungarees I've ever seen, bristling with pipes, buckles and intricate designs.  The other members are no slouch too: a kaleidoscope of slashed throats, mutilated flesh and George Romero death-pallors.  There's a rockabilly Rocky Horror flavour to the stage, and as the songs kick into high gear black and white striped legs kick the air and fluffy Magenta wigs bob to the beat.

The set list is unashamedly populist and cheesy - music  because you can yell the choruses at the top of your lungs.  The band makes a statement of intent early on with a demented cover of Kelis' Milkshake, the chorus being screamed with more fuckoff attitude than musical skill, pulling it off through pure gumption.  The musical highlight of the set is T-Rex's 20th Century Boy, executed with no small amount of finesse and just the right pinch of pansexual seduction.  Later, the band kick into a pop-dance medley, switching at a dizzying pace between crowd-pleasing 90s/00s funk, the best bit of this being a dip into Armand van Helden's remix of Tori Amos' Professional Widow.

By this point the crowd are bouncing around joyfully, a sea of brutalised and bloodily made-up faces smiling upwards towards the stage.  Dead Prez' Hip-Hop gets the whole crowd chanting along with the chorus and waving their hands at the stage, the winding, woozy bass rhythm rippling through the room.  But it's their penultimate song that really sets the place on fire: 2 Unlimited's 1993 classic No Limits.

It doesn't really get cheesier than No Limits, but dammit, it was fun dancing to it at school discos in the 90s and it's fun dancing to it in a bar in 2013.  I guess I already knew that there was no mountain too deep and no valley too high but Fag Junky made me believe it. Quite simply, being drunk, waving your hands in the air like a moron and shouting "techno techno techno techno" is the platonic ideal of dumb-fun times.

The chaos on stage is infectious, a feedback loop of silly dancing and cheesily yelled poppy nonsense all adding up to a damn good time.  As they wrap up the crowd yells over and over for an encore.   I can't in good conscience say that Fag Junky are a good band, but they're a fucking fun one. 

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