Review: Hostess Club Weekender, Zepp Diver City, February 2 & 3

Hostess is a record label/promoter that knows how to put on a not-so-mini festival and, sticking with their move to a slightly bigger venue for their first Weekender of 2013, after sold out shows in Ebisu in both spring and autumn last year, it put together another stellar lineup. After Spiritualized, Hot Chip, Bloc Party, Dinosaur Jr., the Mystery Jets and more helped sell out two of the three shows in 2012 (it was surely only the move to Zepp in Odaiba that meant November’s show remained on sale up to the event) they needed to keep the momentum going.

By Christopher O’Keeffe and Matthew Holmes

Kicking things off Saturday were L.A. garage rockers Fidlar, who might have benefitted from playing later in the day when the crowd was a little more inebriated but nevertheless managed to get the crowd going and a mosh pit forming at the front which remained until the evening. The songs were rough, spiky punk numbers, reminiscent of The Black Lips, with lyrics revolving around partying and getting wasted and a couple of tracks hitting heavier notes: great value for an opening act.

The second band up, Unknown Mortal Orchestra unfortunately failed to maintain the momentum, disappointing as the band are great on record with their successful self titled album from 2011 being well worth a listen. Singer Ruban Nielson sounded like he was having some audio problems as his vocals were muffled and the band struggled to connect with the audience. Everyone was ready for a dance to their biggest hit, Ffunny Ffrends, by the time it rolled around at the end of the set.

UK band of the moment Palma Violets acted like a band with a job to do and they came on and did it. While perhaps not the most original group in the world – they sound for me like pretty much every British indie band since the Libertines – they can certainly write a good hook and put on a show. Vocalist/guitarist Chilli Jesson gave it his all, swinging and stomping around the stage and yelling at the crowd to get going.

Palma Violets

Palma Violets thank their fans (Photo: 古溪 一道 Kokei Kazumichi)

The band also provided one of the highlights of the day when the stage was invaded by three young men, in identical Palma Violets tees, looking for a dance and a hug with their idols. It was good to see the roadies holding back from throwing them off the end of the stage until the song finished. The band has enough tunes such as Last of the Summer Wine , Tom the Drum and the excellent single Best of Friends to make a fantastic set for jumping around to.

Fourth act, Band of Horses were the opposite of Unknown Mortal Orchestra in that I’d heard some of their stuff and found it to be uninspired and uninteresting, however live they were a joy. The band and stage layout brought a real presence and they looked and sounded like a cross between Kings of Leon when they were still cool and The Arcade Fire. The band has been around since 2004, and brought a more mature presence than the earlier acts with a relaxed, confident set with some soaring moments.

Band of Horses

Band of Horses rock their beards… (Photo: 古溪 一道 Kokei Kazumichi)

Headliners Vampire Weekend (pictured at the top of the page) have been firm festival favourites since the release of thier debut album in 2008. Their fun, joyful sound, a combination of clever indie rock and afro-pop, can’t help but get crowds dancing, which is exactly what happened here.

The hits from the first album are still better known than their latest, Contra, and the likes of Oxford Comma and A-punk got the biggest reaction in what was a wild, uplifting set. (CO’K)

Sunday Highlight: Ultraista

When Nigel Godrich stepped out and apologetically announced what many of the Sunday afternoon crowd knew already – that drummer and collaborator on his Ultraista project, Joey Waronker, would not be appearing (his wife had given birth leading to a premature end to his journey) – he promised, only somewhat convincingly, “We’re gonna make it work. I hope you enjoy.”

We were in good hands though. Godrich (best known as producer and “sixth member” of Radiohead and for his role in Atoms for Peace with Thom Yorke, Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Waronker) indulges in basslines he has allowed himself space to perform, looping licks that weave in and out and all the while curating beats that make sense of everything around them. There is a formula – there’s not much in the way of chorus and I do mean it when I say Godrich is curating these beats from something of a crib sheet (I’ll allow him that!) – but it seems to be working and a 45 minute set of afro-beats and electronic synths (I was captivated throughout) is about right for these guys.

When one album review said the music was “easier to admire than to love”, the writer’s point probably came from the tightness and intelligence of the production and arrangement of the perfectly minimal electro beats as they are on record. But this was live. Without Waronker it is hard to give a completely fair assessment, and while the strictness of the music was there to see, this was a well put together show that did breathe life into the stage. It edged towards the poppier side of fairly serious electro and Laura Bettinson, Ultraista’s vocalist/keyboardist, brought charm and life to the band’s sound, and look.


Ultraista were a highlight on Sunday (Photo: 古溪 一道 Kokei Kazumichi)

Bettinson has a little of the Betty Boo in what seems an arty onstage persona; her cutesy Charleston style dancing makes her seem less serious than I’d in fact expected from listening on record and though that lack of much in the way of chorus in the formula means she sometimes seems restrained, it’s easy to like her. Oh, and she’s wearing a clown wig.

Godrich is perhaps more used to being in the background, but that doesn’t mean he’s not comfortable on stage: he only scuppers a cool image when his promise (“Next time we’ll have Joey with us and, yeah, it’ll be exciting…”) requires the climb down he then crashes into the opening chord of their last tune: “not that this hasn’t been exciting.”

“Thanks, Nigel,” offers Bettinson. She’s as sincere as the audience’s unmasked admiration for the fact that yes, they did make it work. (MH)

The next Hostess Club Weekender will take place at Ebisu Garden Hall on the weekend of June 8 & 9. The lineup is yet to be announced.