Desperate Journalist - Rough Trade East, 28th July 2021
I am not great with surprises. I worry they will be awful and I will have to fake a smile and pretend I am enjoying them - if you are thinking "what an ungrateful bastard", I don't blame you. I am grateful, I just worry way too much.
So when my friend Vincent said he was taking me out for a surprise night, I was simultaneously delighted and nervous. I know Vincent likes sailing...I hate sailing...but it won't be that...will it? Oh shit...Mrs JO'B teases me he is taking me skydiving - fear levels are racing out of control! Then I calm myself down, probably just meeting up with a mutual friend I haven't seen - whatever, it's Vincent, it will be lovely.
When we meet, Vincent is convinced I know what we are doing, but I haven't a clue. So I am thrilled when he says we are off to see Desperate Journalist. And it's another indicator of the weird impacts of the last 18 months - a gig didn't even occur to me!
Vincent introduced me to Desperate Journalist a couple of years ago - they were right up my street, indie, 80s, gothy, jangly, brilliant. I recognise Jo Bevan, their singer from Joanne Joanne, the all female Duran Duran tribute band. She did a stunning Simon Le Bon, but she's way better as herself.
So it's wonderful to be seeing them again - ridiculously they are gig #3 of 2021 (I'd normally be on 30+ by now). As we head from the bar to Rough Trade, I am stupidly excited.
I have mixed feelings about Rough Trade East - it's a great shop and a record shop with a bar is a lethal combination. But I find their staff a little too "High Fidelity". I am all for a bit of musical snobbery, but they occasionally stray into the rude. Hey ho. The bouncers are always lovely though!
Anyway, we rush in just in time, picking up a beer and heading to the stage as Desperate Journalist emerge. For a Wednesday night while people are still finding their feet getting back to gigs, there is a decent crowd. They launch into Fault from the new album, Maximum Sorrow!.
Fault crackles along, channeling Joy Division with rage and fury - "If it’s no one’s fault, then it’s everyone’s fault" Jo howls - gig#3 is shaping up well. It's swiftly followed by Personality Girlfriend, a huge song that fills this tiny venue. Jo repeats "please will you love me" and then rages against the way society treats women, the song's character bewildered by life - "No femme fatale, I don't even have any semblance of any fucking wherewithal". Anyone who uses "wherewithal" is good in my book.
The Victim motors along, soon followed by three blasts from the past - Cristina and Eulogy from their debut album and Hollow from their second, the latter has Jo pounding her chest with the mike as the song reaches its climax.
Then we are back for one last blast from the new album. Everything You Wanted is pure Goth pop - Wolf Alice meets Blondie meets The Banshees. Jo hugs the mike as she sings "Oh you'll never be everything you wanted" and then they are gone.
Seven songs leaves us wanting more, but that's a great way to end a show. We say hello to the lovely Mel Woods, drummer with Joanne Joanne and also Sidi Bou Said - she is also a superb carpenter and is going to come and fit new shelves for my vinyl when I get my act together now lockdown is done (the book cases she made us are splendid!). Shelves for my vinyl feature surprisingly often in my gig reviews - age is a strange thing...
Then with our albums in hand, we debate joining the queue to get things signed, but I never got the need to have someone scrawl over my records, so we do what all good hearted people should do and go find a bar.
Thank you to Vincent for such a thoughtful gift and can't wait to see Desperate Journalist when they are back in London in February!
Maximum Sorrow! is out now on Fierce Panda Records.