Modestep @ Thekla, Bristol 7th Feb
I am deep in the belly of an old boat,
And I want to cut my fucking ears off.
I had, however, anticipated this reaction, and so instead of giving my plus one to some parent hating young doomstress I opted to invite along my friend Feral, because I had a vague memory of him owning a pen-knife. But alas, when the moment came, he failed me. At least my mood was now somewhat in keeping with the vague, confusing quasi-emo stylings of what, to my horror, I was rapidly realising was a showcase of the world’s first teen zeitgeist dubstep boyband. For fuck’s sake.
Luckily, when I was inspecting the tickets earlier on in the day to gain some clues as to what the evening held in store for me, I noticed the phrase: Over 14s Only. See, I’m just not the type of guy who likes to spend too much of his life on a decommissioned ship full of teenagers. I think I’ll save that for my horrific mid-life meltdown, thank you very much. So I had decided to turn up comfortably late, in order to reduce the probability of leaving the gig without my ears. We arrived into the water-borne cage that is the Thekla in time to hear the last couple of tracks by Document One. From what I could perceive through the pale forest of upraised teenage limbs this was some fairly standard pop-dubstep fare, so I decided to hang by the bar and drink sambucca, in order to heighten my sense of existential woe. The frontwoman of the band did a slight rap towards the end of the set, and this annoyed me a bit, but I knew that it was the least of my worries for the evening.
As I mentioned, Feral had not brought his pen-knife with him. This was because he figured we just couldn’t be trusted to bring any form of slight weapon to such a soul-murkening fad-fest as this promised to be. He had opted, instead, to bring his new video-glasses. These are basically a cheap video camera/sd card device housed in a large pair of shades that probably would have looked cool as fuck in the 80s. Now, given the fact that they appeared to belong to an era before most of the audience were born, and combined with my mangled faux-leather jacket and Feral’s dirty shell-suit top, they mostly helped enhance the look that we seemed, comparatively, to be projecting: namely, a pair of strange, confused old perverts. We decided that this was probably a good thing, though, as it slightly increased our chances of getting kicked out. We came up with the idea of using the glasses to full journalistic effect by going to the smoking area to have a ciggy and interview some members of the voluntary audience. But, when we saw reflections of ourselves in the glass of the exit door superimposed next to the young things shivering on the terrace, we knew it was best to just chuff away and do our best to keep our fucking mouths shut.
After a few minutes we felt the inevitable rumblings of bass through the decking of the boat. We took a few last solemn drags on our cigs, and we knew our time had come: Modestep was beginning. We headed back down into the iron stomach of this hell-beast, and were confronted with something deeply postmodern and terrible. It looked and sounded like A-level results day in some trans-apocalyptic youth detainment centre. The first, or perhaps second tune passed while Feral and I stood dumbfounded in a state of numb shock. But I definitely remember the next one: It was some kind of medley that could have been created by a computer algorithm randomly selecting elements of the recent history of electronic music. It started with a sample of the main riff of some abrasive, charty pop-electro tune that I recognised from some involuntary radio one experience I doubtless had whilst working in one of many pointless warehouses. It then rapidly smashed into a cover of Prodigy’s ‘Smack my bitch up’, before suddenly becoming a sample of some clubby house-trance tune which again I half-remembered from the national ear-hijacking corporation. This experience was similar to watching an American infomercial: a jarring bombardment of disparate, angular lumps of data, which was all over in about a minute, leaving my mind feeling utterly violated. The third tune started, and I decided to fight my way to the front, mostly because I wanted to gob on the frontman’s forearm tattoos to see if they would rub off. The whole thing seemed to be some identikit mashup of youth culture semiotics: The keyboard player was done up in Joker/goth style makeup whilst wearing some probably well-cool cap and hoody; The rest of the ‘band’ that I could see looked like prime examples of what happened to the nation’s youth a few years ago when the emos and skaters apparently decided that they might as well just meld into one another; the synth lines sounded like the watered down, clinical essence of what dubstep has become; most of the noises and riffs can probably be easily produced by pressing one button on the latest soft-synth and letting the computer work it’s tawdry magic; and…… in the middle of the stage…….there was a man singing. Vocal emo- dubstep? For fuck’s fucking sake.
The most disturbing thing to see was all the kids in the audience fully buying into this shitty modern myth by wearing the dead-smiley logo face masks that doubled as a flyer for Modestep’s new album. This is one of the most depressing examples of viral marketing that I have ever seen.
I feel a bit bad for the young gentlemen of Modestep, because technically they’re pretty good. I could have happily listened all day to the future-metal solos that the guitarist was whipping out at any opportunity, and the band was tight as fuck. They’re good at what they do, but I just can’t see any valid reason for them doing it. Feral and I were left shaken and moody by this whole experience, for we had truly touched the void. As we silently climbed the steps out of this hulking torture chamber, my mind was filled with empathetic hallucinations of their manager wanking off into a fat, crumpled roll of twenty pound notes as he made the band stand in front of him so he could stroke their smooth photogenic faces with his scaly claws. Some people claim that dubstep has reached its commercial peak, but me and Feral say it is thoroughly dead, and a nation of teenagers has been tricked into fucking its mangled corpse.