The hipster's hipster, Joel Gion cuts a slightly detached figure onstage, even when prancing around his mike stand shaking maracas. Steadfastly devoted to his own idea of cool – right down to bushy sideburns, a John Lennon cord cap and a biker-style ill-fitted jacket – Gion gives the impression of being less a revivalist, and more someone who genuinely believes he's a contemporary of the ‘Nuggets’ generation.

Best known as the man shaking a tambourine in the Brian Jonestown Massacre, the decision of BJM mainman Anton Newcombe to relocate to Berlin left Gion at a loose end. He passed his time DJing in his native San Francisco, and then – as much to his own surprise as anyone else – began writing his own songs.

Touring Europe in support of his recently released debut album 'Apple Bonkers', Gion drew a mixed bag of curious indie kids and BJM diehards to a three-quarters full Hoxton Bar on a Monday night. His dense fug of smoky psych-rock and Beatlesy pop goes down well, even if it doesn't seem like many in the crowd are familiar with the songs.

At its best, this was an enjoyable set – Gion's songs are simple but catchy, and his band, made up partly of friends from the BJM and partly of members of London-based support band the See See, do a decent job replicating the album's blend of psych and shoegaze. In particular, the two tracks that bookend the album stood out – 'Yes' with its laconic drawl countering bubblegum harmonies, and the defiant kiss off, 'Don't Let the Fuckers Bring You Down'.

Alas, Gion remains an inexperienced frontman and it was this which pulled the show back from being in the very top drawer. At times, you felt the set drifted along – Gion himself unsure whether he should be concentrating on performing for the crowd or on his (fairly rudimentary) guitar playing. The band were enjoying the last night of their UK tour, but you didn't get the impression they were totally immersed in the performance. The root of this was that Gion's thin voice – engaging on record – was often totally lost in the mix, as were the little details (unusual percussion, keyboard fills) that made the album one of the year's surprise treats.

That said, it was by no means unenjoyable. Perhaps it was simply the case that we'd already seen a far more impressive set from the experienced See See. Perhaps Gion - despite the recognition of his links with the BJM - should have played as the support act. The See See, in many ways kindred spirits of Gion, played songs from their forthcoming album, which on the strength of this, promises much. Perhaps less naturally tuneful than Gion, they fizzed with added intensity, and gave the impression of a band on the cusp of a breakthrough.











Related Links:

http://joelgion.com/joelgion/Joel_Gion.html
https://twitter.com/joel_gion?lang=en-gb
https://www.facebook.com/joelgionapplebonkers


Commenting On: (and the Primary Colours) Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, London, 29/9/2014 - Joel Gion








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