Something Corporate
Mean Fiddler

em Review

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a midget sing before. Saying that it’s not like I’ve ever really known any midgets; but this little guy just to the side of me was singing his heart out. This is the uplifting power of Something Corporate’s piano-led punk pop ballads. I’m not saying they have the power to make midgets sing…just that the kids love them and love to sing along, even though they’re the least ‘punk-rock’ act of Drive Thru Records’ current line-up.

If you’ve read the Puddle Of Mudd review I believe I sang the praises of the Mean Fiddler as a gig venue. I still say it has far better acoustics than the Astoria, but after tonight I think that’s the only good thing going for the place, certainly in terms of actually getting to see the band.

I didn’t want to bother queuing up outside. There’s something about standing around with a bunch of kids for about an hour that makes you wish you were somewhere else. And as I wanted to stand down on the floor area, just for photographic purposes, I couldn’t see the point of getting there early to get a seat (as is the case with the Astoria).

Upon entering the venue and heading swiftly past the t-shirt stall I found that the first support band was already on stage. Now I’ve never heard of Steel Train before and to be honest I doubt I’ll hear of them again unless the world gets a sudden craving for extremely weak funk rock.

Actually I have no idea how to describe their music. I’ve written ‘some sort of funk’ in my notebook, but that’s all I’ve got to go on as I really can’t remember anything about them. The singer seemed very scared though, clutching his mic-stand, and didn’t say a word besides singing, leaving all the inter-song ramblings up to the guitarist. The vocals were weak and the songs lacked punch and failed to inspire. So, after quickly concluding that they weren’t worth writing anything more about, or taking a photo of, I headed to the bar for a vodka and tonic.

"The little guy had probably being queuing all day knowing damn well that if he didn’t get that spot he’d see jack shit all night."

The bar was pretty full, but somehow standing right in front of one of the barmen seems to get you served quicker than being say 8 feet away. When will people learn? I would have been served quicker had it not been for the underage kid trying to get a Smirnoff Ice just to the right of me. He was pretty insistent he was old enough but the barman was having none of it. How was he ever going to get served? He didn’t even have a bumfluff moustache for Christ sakes!

Now I don’t know what this kid was going on about, but it had something to do with not having any ID because he’d left his wallet at home. He didn’t want to bring it with him because it might get stolen. “Ah I see, well that’s fair enough, kid. I can’t argue with that freaky logic. Here, have a keg.” Oh, the UV lights in the Mean Fiddler deserve another mention, especially those above the bar making your drink glow a weird sort of blue, so you can pretend you’re in the future drinking some sort of robot drink.

It wasn’t until the next support band, Home Grown, came on that it suddenly dawned on me how appalling the Mean Fiddler is for trying to seeing the band, and especially taking photos. The venue was pretty packed out tonight, which surprised me a little as it was never advertised as being sold out. I guess they had a bit of a ticket surge the day before. Because of this it was fairly difficult to get into a good place for a shot.

I headed downstairs and stepped up onto the little shelf they have there and could hardly even see the band. Now at 6’2” I’m not a short guy, but the stage is so low-down that from the back of the floor area even I couldn’t see the band below their heads and shoulders. I lifted the camera up and took a shot anyway, just to see what I could get. This was the result:

See, pathetic. And that was lifting the camera way up in the air too! I feel so sorry for anyone shorter than 6’ in that place. I headed back upstairs. At this point I wasn’t even really listening to Home Grown (who I hadn’t heard of before but are a very well known Drive Thru band (God I’m losing touch!)), I was set on trying to find a good photo spot; so I’ll get to the music soon, but just bear with me for a moment.

The upstairs is basically split into two sides. Right in front of you is some sort of room, probably for lights and stuff, so you can’t see a thing. Off to the left is a sit-down bar which has a narrow viewing area (just like the other side) except its all behind Perspex.

This only leaves the right hand side, which has this narrow viewing area which in all fairness provides a very good spot to see the band. However, the more central area is always jam packed pretty much straight away, as I found out when I tried to sneak in there to get a shot. I sort of managed it somehow, but I was behind some Japanese girls who were NOT going to budge.

The other problem with these viewing areas is that the gaps are kind of low down, which is a pain for me, resulting in neck strain. Anyway, some big lug came along and was leering over me to be near his girlfriend. As much fun as THAT was I decided it was time to find a different spot.

So this leaves the side, which again is a good vantage point, but because of the PA system anyone to the left of the stage (their left), is usually hidden behind Marshal Stacks.

It was the back of this side area (near to the centre) that this midget kid (let’s called him Warwick) had set up camp. And can you blame him? The little guy had probably being queuing all day knowing damn well that if he didn’t get that spot he’d see jack shit all night - so good on him.

Home Grown were pretty good - your usual Drive Thru high powered pop punk really, but without much to differentiate them between the barrage of other similar outfits. Not that I find this a problem – it’s all good music, and if they’re playing it because they like it then that’s cool. I do have to draw the line at the cover of ‘Barbie Girl’ though. How recent are these covers getting? And how desperate are the bands getting to find cheesy songs to cover? Anything from the 80s has that nostalgic feel to it, so it’s going to bring a smile to your face…but Barbie Girl?! That was only a few years ago – which is too recent to bring a nostalgic smile, and induces more of a painful-memory cringe.

"Now everyone, throw cheese at my ass! Throw it! And grapes too!."

The kids seemed to love it though, and Home Grown’s bouncy upbeat punk got them jumping, which is always a good thing. They were also quite psyched to be playing in London having “waited 8 years to play here” (I think that’s what he said anyway). You could feel that enthusiasm and energy through the music and it all went to making a damn fine set.

Highlights included the instrument swapping, which I’ve always been a huge fan of, and the drummer deciding to drop his trousers and show his ass to the crowd. I think he gave reasons for this, but I couldn’t make out what he said. Probably something along the lines of: “I’ve always wanted to show my ass to the crowd. Now everyone, throw cheese at my ass! Throw it! And grapes too!”…something like that maybe.

The time between Home Grown leaving the stage and Something Corporate making an appearance was spent trying to find a good vantage point for photographs. Which led me to setting myself up next to Warwick, and a girl I presumed was his sister, erm…Dionne (sorry). All their mates ditched them and went down onto the floor to rock out, hence me getting a good place near them. Dionne stayed with Warwick though, despite Warwick feeling bad because Dionne couldn’t go down with them, which all in all was very sweet.

There was one other incident when a few of the teenage lads from a little further down the room decided to head downstairs. On their way to the stairs they threw a few plastic cups from the balcony into the crowd, obviously its one of those things you find pretty funny at that age. There were a couple of American girls just near us though, one of whom shouted “Hey, don’t throw stuff! How old are you, seventeen?!” The thing is they probably were about 17. In retrospect it was a pretty weird age for her to pick. Maybe she should have aimed a little lower.

It was during this time that the crowd started to get excited as the piano was wheeled onto the stage. And excited they should be, not just the fact that seeing a piano in a band they like is a rarity in this guitar led genre, but this is also Something Corporate’s iconic centrepiece and hook – “a punk band with a piano! This is a great angle; I think we could sell this!”

Now I’m not saying that this is some gimmick and a mere marketer’s wet-dream, SoCo write some absolutely excellent songs and I’ve no doubt that they would be where they are with or without the old Joanna, but it is still their icon and something visual to help them stand out from the crowd, even though their music does that well enough.

So seeing the battered old punk-stickers covered piano being wheeled onto centre stage only goes to stir up the already high levels of anticipation from this crowd of emo-punk pop kids, because, like the masks in Slipknot, and the kilts in Korn, the piano = SoCo – only you see it before the band come onto the stage.

The lights dropped, you could just make out a floppy haired, scraggly Andrew McMahon make his way to the piano, and so Something Corporate kick off their short but sweet set with one of the more explosive and dynamic tracks off their ‘Leaving Through The Window’ album, Hurricane.

It’s during this first song of the 11 track set-list that makes you see the piano is more than just an instrument and centrepiece – its also a very handy stage prop for McMahon to stamp, kick, hit, and for end of set dynamics, stage-dive off. It also acts as a handy pedestal for him to stand on and sing from - which was a godsend for the poor short people down on the floor who wouldn’t have been able to see anything bar his floppy hair swishing around from time to time.

The set list was pretty solid, comprising of everyone’s favourites from the album (with the exception of my favourite ‘You’re Gone’ which they left out). What was surprising was the inclusion of ‘Little’ three songs in, which no-one really knew, including Warwick. To be honest I hadn’t heard the song myself. It was only later I found out that its one of two extra tracks included on the UK version of ‘Leaving Through The Window’.

I guess most people in the audience had imported US copies, and SoCo’s plan to pander to the UK audience by playing tracks on our version of the album backfired a bit. It could have been worse; people could have started saying “What’s this? I don’t recognise this song at all! I don’t need this confusion, I’m going home. Come on, Simon, we’re leaving.”

Some of the highlights of the show included Andrew giving a little ‘what this song is all about’ talk in the middle of ‘I Kissed A Drunk Girl’; him stamping on and generally beating the crap out of his piano at the end of ‘If You C Jordan’ (he obviously still has issues with this Jordan guy); and the inclusion of their big fan-favourite semi-solo piano ballad ‘Konstantine’, of which he had to kindly ask the crowd to “shut the fuck up”. The whole set ended with current single ‘Punk Rock Princess’ which of course everyone loved, and which ended, as previously mentioned, with Andrew launching himself from his piano into the crowd.

"Its also a very handy stage prop for McMahon to stamp, kick, hit, and for end of set dynamics, stage-dive from."

So looking at these photos you’d think that maybe I was in a pretty good position after all. But note how you can’t see the drummer in any of them. Nor any of the Puddle Of Mudd pictures either. If only they’d stick that stupid speaker stack somewhere a little further back. Poor drummers. Actually, these are probably some of the worst pictures I’ve taken. Mostly down to the fact that it really was a balancing act getting into a good position to take them. Often resulting in me getting uncomfortably close to ‘Dionne’ – all I needed was a dirty mac and some thick-rimmed glasses. Oh, and the band kept moving around too. Inconsiderate bastards.

They’re coming back to the UK to play the London Astoria soon though, so make sure you catch them.

The set list was:

I Woke Up In A Car
Straw Dog
I Want To Save You
I Kissed A Drunk Girl
If You C Jordan
Punk Rock Princess

Videos (for a limited time only)
Hurricane [33s/4.9Mb]
If You C Jordan (with Andrew going nuts at piano) [1m/8.7Mb]
Punk Rock Princess [41s/6Mb]

sorry, the file sizes are so big (I'll get a video compressor one day!)

david twomey

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Something Corporate
Leaving Through The Window

£11.99 | Buy It