“Dog is dead!”, a dyslexic’s version of Neitzche’s famous phrase, was the cry of the night at KOKO on an almost summery evening in north London. The floor was heaving and the three layers of balconies and theatre boxes were overflowing with people waiting to see this up-and-coming fivesome. Riled by the excellent support act, MT, who threatened to steal the show with his frequent jumps from stage to crowd barrier and back again, and the impressive mosh pit whipped up early in the proceedings, the crowd were in a mood for mischief. Definitely not my regular “folk” gig.
The quintet of chaps from Nottingham have slowly been garnering loyal support from a growing fanbase. Fitting somewhere in between “lads” and “hipsters” but with a decent dose of “white middle class” it’s not particularly obvious what they have done to deserve such a following, but a healthy presence on the festival circuit in the last couple of years is probably at least partially responsible. They’re hard-working young guys: this is the third time I’ve seen them in London in the space of two years, and each performance has been polished and slick… none of this “stumbling through some banter whilst trying to tune their guitar and locate a truant capo” stuff that many people seem to think is quaint. They’re talented, dedicated and seem to have a good team behind them. A full KOKO is a reward.
Despite the incitement to riot that MT provided them with, the crowd are a little slow to warm to Dog Is Dead. It’s not until Robert Milton announces a new song (that everyone seems to have heard already anyway) that the crowd responds. A rippling wave of claps pass through the audience perfectly in time, for “I’d never hit you back”. They opened with “Sin” and “Talk through the night”, followed by “Any movement” and “Do the right thing”, which pumped some energy into proceedings. “Get low” leads on to “I’d never hit you back”, and then to the song which spawned the name of their debut album, ‘All Our Favourite Stories’, “Two devils.” The voice of the crowd is heard for the first time.
Now the gig seems to get going a little. A couple of people light up joints in the crowd (to an amusing chorus of “He’s got a spliff, he’s got a spliff”), and after being encouraged to jump 6ft up into the air, DID break into “Burial Ground”, whilst the audience break into a huge mosh pit. It’s a pretty amazing sight, from my vantage point up on the balcony, to see three quarters of the audience jumping around in time. A few of the songs in the set feature Trev’s smooth sax, and this is one of them, breaking into a few bars of “Baker Street” and being accompanied by driving drums. The feature of this song, however, is the crowd-surfing of the DID keyboardist, appropriately wearing a Beach Boys T-shirt.
Not to be outdone, Milton also finds himself in intimate contact with the crowd for the next overture (“River Jordan”), also featuring more creamy sax from Trev. MT joins the stage to conserve numbers, and energetically dances around in time to the music. After finishing with “Glockenspiel Song”, the boys troop off, only to be brought back by the crowd’s incessant cry of “Dog is dead!” for two more songs, one quiet and one loud. The quintet gather into a choral group around one microphone for the slow-paced “Young” before launching into a finale of “Teenage daughter”.
All-in-all it was a thoroughly enjoyable night, if more so for the antics of the crowd than the music coming through the sound system. DID have a couple of stand-out tunes (“Burial Ground” being one of them), but ultimately for me fall into that quagmire of indistinguishment that houses the likes of The Maccabees, Bombay Bicycle Club, Beach House, The Leisure Society, Beirut and others.