Gignorance: Plastic Mermaids – The Pickle Factors, London – 03/05/17

Gignorance is a feature that looks to shake up the traditional gig review by sending writers to a show without revealing who they’re actually seeing.

When I found out I was being sent to The Pickle Factory for my first gignorance I was pretty pleased, and not just because it wasn’t some end-of-the-bus-line shed in South London – the one time I’d been to the venue before the sound had been excellent and the crowd had been nice, so I thought I’d enjoy it whatever the music was like.

Upon arrival I read that the main band were Plastic Mermaids, who, I can’t lie, I didn’t know anything about. Everything seemed reassuringly normal though – I didn’t appear to be at some screamo or teenybopper gig.

First up as support was RHAIN, who looked rather scared. She had a great voice, switching between haunting and childlike, and some sweet piano songs, although her stage patter teetered that fine line between endearing and awkward.

I’d actually seen the second support act before. I remember describing Tony Njoku at the time as ‘music for people who live in spaceships’, which after hearing him again I still think is fairly accurate. Sometimes he sang in what was really quite a lovely voice, sometimes he played nice tunes on the keyboard and at other times he seemed to be locked in a titanic struggle with his synthesizer keys, flailing and jarring around. I guess it depends on what you like: some people will find him really innovative and intoxicating, others may find it a little gratuitous.

While waiting for the main band I often play a fun game that I like to call ‘how many people are wearing a hat at this gig?’ I haven’t kept enough notes to make a properly scientific judgement, but I think there’s a correlation between the number of hats and how much I enjoy the gig – the fewer the hats, the more I like the music. So I was very pleased to count only one hat in the whole crowd, and he turned out to be the singer of Plastic Mermaids.

As mentioned, I didn’t know anything about the band but really I should have – they’ve been on the go for a couple of years now and a little bit of post-gig research revealed that they were interviewed on these pages only last month.

With hindsight, with me being entirely ignorant I should have tried to jot some notes down but I didn’t, so I can’t tell you what any of the songs were called. What I can say is that most of them were long, they said they were playing quite a few new ones (which made no difference to me), and that I liked everything they did.

Having two band members able to do vocals and people swapping instruments seemingly every other song meant there was a real versatility about them, and it was also the first gig in a long time that I’ve seen a megaphone used. They were a little like what I imagine Explosions in the Sky would sound like if they had singers and used cowbells.

To me, caught up in the lighting and mesmeric soundscapes, it felt like they had that indefinable something that marks a band out as exciting. Whatever the last song was – I’m fairly sure it was Saturn – when RHAIN reappeared to sing was majestically bonkers: about six songs rammed into one and veering all over the place, but somehow it worked fantastically. All in all I thought it was a very good gig with a really interesting band – no need to worry about being able to only enjoy the venue.