Le Tigre – London Astoria, April 2004

OK, I admit it, this isn’t going to be a balanced review. I love Le Tigre. Even though their slightly dance/pop music is nothing like anything I listen to normally, there’s something about their combination of musical bounciness and right on politics that I find utterly appealing. They are not the usual kind of band to play the Astoria: sweaty favourite venue of most medium sized metal and punk bands that come through London, but they packed the place out for one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen there.

Meaningful lyrics wrapped in day glo pop songs

The band’s driving force is Kathleen Hanna, who is perhaps better known as one of the founders of Riot Grrl, and for fronting the seminal 90s band Bikini Kill. The other members of the trio are Johanna Fateman, who has been with the project from the beginning, and JD Sampson, ex-Le Tigre projectionist, and of the famed JD’s Lesbian Calendar. However, the band doesn’t have a traditional lead singer/band relationship, and each of them take the mic for various songs. The best thing about Le Tigre’s music is it is utterly joyful and powerful: meaningful lyrics that resonate with their core audience but wrapped in day glo pop songs.

They played a mix of new songs from their forthcoming album, and old classics, well known and loved to long term Le Tigre fans. Notable songs were the yearny Mediocrity Rules (my personal favourite Le Tigre song of all time), Hot Topic – feminist essential reading list in a kick-ass song, and the powerful anthem FYR (which stands for ‘fifty years of ridicule’, a song about the backlash). The few new songs they played hold great promise for their forthcoming album. The audience responded as enthusiastically to the new material as to Le Tigre’s more familiar songs.

Le Tigre have a definite and endearing high-tech/lo-tech aesthetic. They have a sort of stage show – not in the Spinal Tap sense, but a series of videos projected behind them while they do their thing – linked to an onstage laptop, like a rock and roll Powerpoint presentation.

The outfits have a great punk DIY, reclaiming sewing as feminist, camp 50s feel.

Then there are the videos themselves, which feature dancing, primary colours and a flashing display of cover art, plugging cool books and music. You can see some of these on their website, including the video for Deceptacon, which features two guys in boiler suits doing a crazy half strip dance. You can also catch a look at the video for Keep on Living, which was filmed with the not for profit Paper Tiger Television. Talking of stage shows, it would be amiss to neglect to mention Le Tigre’s outfits. They were all made out of the same (slightly questionable) multicoloured fabric, but each in a different style. To adapt a horrible clich”, a ‘uniform of individuality’. It also has a great punk DIY/Bust magazine, reclaiming sewing as feminist, camp 50s feel.

The support bands definitely deserve a mention. How to describe Kaito in one word? Chaos. Suffice to say, it was no surprise to read on their website that they sample the sound of ‘breaking things’ into their records. Kaito’s slender lead singer and guitarist Niki Colk shouted out the songs, a heavy fringe obscuring her face. That said, the British band are surprisingly melodic and poptastic, and they played a thoroughly enjoyable set.

I had mixed feelings about Erase Errata. They also had something of an anarchic, jerky post-punk aesthetic, and when it came off well, there were real moments of brilliance. The band only seemed to get into the set four songs in, which may have been part of the problem. Jenny Hoyston flitted between the front of stage and a drum kit in the back, from which she played trumpet and talked to the audience. At one point she declared that she couldn’t understand the emotion in a Yoko Ono poem, because she was robotic. Fun, but not as good as Kaito.

Le Tigre have a website (www.letigreworld.com), where you can watch some of their videos and read more about the band and check for their remaining tour dates.

Erase Errata also have a website, where you can listen to a few MP3s (www.eraseerrata.com). Kaito’s website also features downloadable MP3s and links to their videos on the MTV website (www.kaito.co.uk).

Jess McCabe is a Zappa fan and cinephile. She also has a website she loves plugging: www.jessmccabe.co.uk.