VNV Nation are fantastic live. Just real artists, wow.
I really like the Last.fm gig guide; I'm too lazy to go paging through all the venues and event organizers to look for concerts I want to go to, but having a page that automatically collates local events matched to my musical tastes is fantastic! As soon as I saw VNV Nation I knew I had to be there. But I realized it was a club night with VNV Nation headlining, rather than an actual concert, and I wasn't quite sure I'd fit in. Whatever, I have to see VNV Nation live, no matter the circumstances.
Then I dithered about clothes for the longest time. I don't have a whole lot of clubbing gear anyway, and most of what I do have is romantic goth and I was afraid it would be too girly. Eventually I had a big consultation with loreid, and we came up with the plan of wearing plain black but acquiring some spiky and neon accessories. I finally made it into town about two hours before candles on Friday afternoon, only to find that the shop I was looking for (a too cool to be true goth / punk / alternative clubbing shop) had closed down and been replaced by a generic clubwear shop, mostly aimed at kids and with a small and inadequate goth section. That part of town contains a fair number of club and scene boutiques of various sorts, so I was able to find somewhere more specialist just a couple of blocks away.
Somehow or other, my feminine side picked just that moment to come out from hiding. I tried on all kinds of interesting garments, all overpriced but with such a short deadline I had to resign myself to that. I was very tempted by a PVC minidress, which is the sort of thing I absolutely do not wear, but this was (almost oxymoronically!) a really nice dress. It's probably fortunate that they didn't have it in my size, and the one example in the shop didn't have much in the way of labels so I shan't be able to look for it again. Anyway, instead of the neon hair ornaments, pink fishnets and spiked bracelets / choker I was intending to buy, I somehow came out with this Hell Bunny dress. It's not a whole lot less girly or romantic than what I already own, (I mean, to start with, it's a dress!), but it's not too fussy and I figured I could have a go at constructing a suitable outfit based around it.
I am quite pleased with what I came up with. It ended up with a sort of loli1 style which worked surprisingly well, given how different it was from how I generally dress. I wore the dress over bright purple tights. I was going to wear it over a purple t-shirt too, so that it would be less like an evening gown with the low neckline and strappy shoulders, but it was just too well fitted to work well with a layer underneath. I put two high bunches in my hair, tied with fuzzy purple bands, and leaving most of it loose. Then I improvised a choker out of part of a bowtie, just a strap round my neck with the buckle showing, and improvised a spikey bracelet out of a necklace of haematite chips, wound tightly round my wrist. It would have been better with more makeup but I didn't have time to go shopping for makeup. It was a mild evening so I just covered it with j4's fantastic purple cloak, and didn't need a jumper or winter coat to spoil the effect.
It worked. It so worked. I was turning heads all evening, not just among the mundanes on the way to the club, but even in the club itself (though I'm hardly claiming I was the prettiest person there). That style of dress with a fitted (very fitted!) bodice over a serious bra, and a big foofy skirt reaching to just above my knees makes me look really curvy. The big downside of living on my own is that I didn't have anyone to take a picture, otherwise I would totally be showing off all over the internet.
Anyway, to my relief I was not the only woman in the club wearing a dress. Indeed, the range of different clothing styles was much greater than I expected; all shades of goth mixed together, quite a few people just in black t-shirts and jeans, and a noticeable minority of attendees in ordinary mainstream clubbing gear. So I needn't have worried, but I am rather glad I did buy the dress, whereas I would have been reluctant to spend that much money if I'd had time to think it through.
The venue was the Stockholm uni student union. As a venue, it's not the greatest, partly cos it's hard to make a student union atmospheric but mainly because the dance floor is really small. It is a good thing that they had the bars separate from the dance floor, and generally the venue is well organized. But there just wasn't enough room for this kind of gig. They had signs up saying that the fire safety limit for the whole venue was 300 people, and I'm sure they stuck to that, but when all 300 were crammed into the dance floor we were jam-packed, with no room to move, let alone dance. I do find it rather unpleasant to be closely pressed by strangers all evening, and it was annoying not to be able to bounce as much as the music demanded.
Support was a Canadian soloist called Solvent. He wasn't bad, doing some reasonably interesting experimental electronic-y stuff, but it's the sort of music that is pointless live. You'd get at most three bars of danceable music, and then it would all break up in to bleeps and noises. The recorded music going on in between acts was perfectly respectable; I didn't recognize much of it but then I am really not au fait with the electronica scene.
The really annoying thing was how long it took for VNV Nation to actually come on stage. The club started setting up for them after the support act finished at about 11:15, and then they kept us waiting until after midnight. The room was getting fuller and fuller as everybody packed in, eager to hear the main act. They switched off the music, switched on the lights and projected the VNV Nation logo onto the backdrop, and the crowd just roared, it was magic. Then they kept us standing around, without even music, for another 20 minutes. (I was quite amused by the clubbers being so very Swedish that they felt they had to make small-talk while this was going on: have you been to a VNV Nation concert before? what other music are you into?)
It was totally worth it when they showed up though. They opened with Farthest star which is, if I have to pick, my absolute favourite of their songs. The crowd response to the first note was amazing, and they kept building and building that energy all evening. Harris is fantastic, just every inch a performer. His ability to handle an audience is just as good as his musical talent, and that's saying something. I had also entirely failed to realize that he is Irish (I'm good at knowing absolutely nothing about groups whose music I listen to!) and I was very inclined to swoon over his speaking voice.
I can't remember the whole setlist, but it included lots of stuff that I love: Carry you, Testament, Chrome, Entropy, Perpetual, the absolutely anthemic Nemesis and others. Well, to be honest, I think almost every song on their most recent couple of albums is genius, so a set list comprised mostly of selections from those was always going to be a pleasure. I think a perfect set from my pov would have included more of their older stuff, particularly Beloved. But I am so not complaining. Hearing a whole concert made me realize just how impressive their emotional range is. Also, the sheer energy of those guys was just phenomenal. They barely paused between songs, keeping the momentum going through three or four songs with lots of da capos. And when they did take breaks it was to talk to the audience and coax us into ever higher intensity of response.
OK, they did one thing which annoyed me, which was to put the spotlight on a wheelchair user at the front of the crowd and make a big speech about how cool it was that he was attending. I've been out with Screwy and had that kind of thing happen; Screwy likes the attention and the chance to interact personally with artists he admires, but in general the whole concept of it being so miraculous and touching and amazing for disabled people to attend rock concerts is really very annoying. I yelled at them to stop being so effing patronizing and make some noise, but it was mainly for my own satisfaction, there is no way anyone heard me in such a noisy situation.
Apparently VNV Nation have toured Sweden several times before, enough that they've picked up a couple of Swedish phrases, and the habit of playing Små grodorna in the middle of their gigs. I have to say, it is quite a spectacle to see several hundred goths singing a silly children's song about little froggies.
I left a little before the end, because if I had caught the very last tube, I would have ended up about 2 miles from my flat at 3 am. So it is possible to walk home from the end of the tube line, but it's not terribly nice. Instead, I timed it nicely, getting to Fruängen just in time to catch the last connecting bus and was back by 2:30. I was glad of the extra hour thanks to the clocks going back, but I do still need to get myself off to work now.
1]Note to busybodies / LJ Abuse: I am talking about loli the fashion style, and I in no way condone sexual abuse of underage girls by adult men, thank you very much. Besides which I am well over the age of consent and there is no way anyone could mistake me for anything other than an adult choosing to dress in a girlish style.
Oh, and I have no voice left at all, cos when there was no room to move I was screaming instead of jumping!