Cool For Cats: Call The Doctor, Montage Populaire & The Bon Vivants, Old Blue Last, 29 March 2011

Record label, Cool For Cats, aren’t releasing stuff at the moment. Perhaps they’re victims of illegal downloading, or perhaps they simply can’t be bothered.

What they are doing, however, is showcasing bands at their occasional free entry nights at the Old Blue Last.

Tonight they’ve gone for a bit of a French theme – with The Bon Vivants and Montage Populaire supporting Call The Doctor.

But The Bon Vivants turn out not to be French at all, but Londoners, with an Irish frontman who’s dressed like an emo Ringo Starr (black suit, red tie, floppy black hair). They’re pretty much The Beatles all over – but with distortion and clichéd big riffs.

Revealingly, they joke that I’ll Protect You, with its stabbing guitar chords and rather weak chorus, is going to be in the next Twilight movie. Perhaps 30 Seconds To Mars is what they’re going for.

After several people leave disappointed, lead singer, Zachery Stephenson, takes to walking amongst the audience, staring individuals in the eyes as he sings to them. Suffice to say the rest of us are intimidated into staying.

Montage Populaire are far more subtle. They transition from soundcheck to performance without so much as a ‘Hello’, and the first vocal we hear is made to sound like a distant megaphone, which makes communication difficult for the rest of the set.

The band’s eyes are fixed firmly on the ground, and movement is kept to a minimum. But with a sound like this, the music speaks for itself.

MonPop play with tempo, volume and layered rhythms to keep you guessing as to where these ridiculously catchy songs are going next.

On Simon Says dozens of different melodies halt suddenly to leave the infectious vocals of the chorus bare.

Sorrows Well Rehearsed boasts charming retro call and response backing vocals before the trumpet comes in to provide an extra layer of melody and send the song into full-blown party mode.

Every track Montage Populaire play tonight is unique, interesting and joyous. Their music is brought to life onstage, and it’s pulled in the biggest crowd of the night.

Headliners, Call The Doctor, hit in with a punky riff that flags up Be Your Own PET as a strong influence.

Feisty lead singer, Patti Aberhart, performs like she’s an actress in a West End show, full of attitude as she moves slowly around the stage while the rest of the band shoe-gaze, firing out manic riffs. A few songs in she dons a guitar, but doesn’t touch a string until it’s time for her solo.

Call The Doctor’s slightly shouty three-chord punk is nothing original, but Patti makes it worth watching.

Towards the end of the night they play a slow song that proves their music to be less than exciting without that hard, distorted edge. But the finale is worth hanging on for.

After what might as well have been a shouting match with guitarist, Robert Hallworth, Patti wanders about the audience. She’s planned it out perfectly. As soon as the last chord is struck she storms out of the room. A dramatic performer indeed.

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