I’m feeling a touch fragile tonight, but I’ve had a kind of boyish joy over the incredibly listenable debut album from Glasgow duo CARBS this last week, and this seems to override the hangover enough for me to make the journey south to The Glad Cafe, for, would you believe it, the first time ever.
Passing Jamie from the band and Niall, performing as Sham Gate in the opening slot, on the way it I’m acutely aware how this could still be difficult, but I’m told things are kicking off soon and a sly pint of Ceaser eases me into proceedings.
Before Sham Gate gets things underway he takes the opportunity to introduce nearly everyone in the room, from Julian (Miaoux Miaoux) who’s DJing for the night, to Gavin on sound, even to the guy doing the bar whose name escapes me, before letting his indulgent mixes do the work.
The set starts off on a settling tone with delayed, nonchalantly delivered vocals and is only interrupted by some deadpan stage chat about “feeling like a dj” before getting back into things with the “fun’s done now, time to lecture”.
At times the vocals and the lyrics border on the ridiculous, but the enchanting energetic synth tones and tongue in cheek charm override that and go some way to shaking by hangover.
Practically hugging the mic at points, hanging it over his shoulders at others while pacing the front of the stage, Sham Gate cuts an awkward yet engrossing figure before he lets out some ear crunching screaming to unsettle everything before going back to his organic bleeps.
At points it hits danceable pop extremes, but there enough edge, harsh bleeps and sharp screeches to make his performance more than standout.
Phoene Somsavath, performing under just Phoene, isn’t quite as extroverted on stage as Niall, but her music is striking, as luxurious beats builds over an ambient soundscape that’s always teetering on the edge of oblivion.
It’s inspiring stuff as jarring textural bleeps grow over a rich whirring space that both settles and unsettles in equal measure.
Then the sound just keeps lifting until everyone in the room has least a bobbing head or tapping foot, giving in to the incredible indulgence of her sound.
Taking the mic for a short while and chatting about how she’s “not allowed the mic” and joking about how’s she’s considered giving it all up she cuts a likeable, if awkward, figure before closing on a track by the immensely talented Arms Watches Fingers.
CARBS arrive on stage brandishing pizza boxes, which to the delight of the crowd are full and handed to an audience that lunges forward like the walking dead to get their hands on a slice.
The album CARBS are launching tonight, Joyous Material Failure, is released in little pizza boxes; it turns out Jamie had been telling everyone there would be pizza at the show, referring to the CDs, and band mate Jonnie Common had suggested they had better bring actual pizza incase there had a riot on their hands.
While pizza is a nice way to start a set, slides of more exotic and less exotic pizzas an interesting backdrop mid set and the band’s promo shots with pizza in mouth and the cute pizza boxes the album comes in are intriguing, tonight’s set isn’t solely about pizza, there’s some ice cream and video games thrown in too, even some movies stuff, it’s the perfect night in, indeed “The Skinny magazine are already calling it “an awkward bedroom listen” Jamie reminds is mid set.
The cheeky ‘James Special’ gets things off on a musical note and comes with plenty of humourous bravado and foot tapping bleeps before Common shows his gratitude for the large audience apologising for those who didn’t get a slice of pizza – “if you didn’t get a slice of pizza then I’m sorry, but you never should have been here in the first place”.
The hilarity continues throughout the set, both in their onstage chat and the, never failing to draw a giggle, lyrics; ‘Stick A Flake In Me (I’m Done)’ gives an “accurate” history of ice cream, complete with Common’s, famous people singing into ice cream cones video and infectious synths.
You could go on about the set and the album’s comedy value for ages, but ultimately this is a lush and addictive set from two talented musicians, proved by their various other ventures; tonight though they play up the comedy value as Common sips from a cooking oil bottle, full of presumably beer.
During ‘Life Drawing’ Common quips that he was unsure of the lyric “I’m not a racist, I want a black friend, I don’t have any black friends,” but they don’t have enough material to drop it from the set, but you feel it’s all just a set up for the punch line “my dad’s a racist”, before they blast back into the verse.
Even the album’s hilarious studio outtake track, ‘Water World’, gets an airing in screenplay format, and as the set closes the same way the album does, with the settling clicks of ‘Salty’ that give way sky piercing sirens and the ever present, ever entertaining lyrics, there’s not one person here that doesn’t leave with a smile on their face.
Words: Iain Dawson