As I equip myself with a Red Stripe in the unpretentiously vibrant surroundings of Brixton Windmill, I presume the lack of people in attendance is due to my early arrival and the abundance of sunshine still on offer outside. However, when opening act Bee Mick See and Yellowbridge take to the stage, we would appear to be the only people who have come to the gig ( in addition to the bands’ small entourage, the sound engineer and the bar staff). I therefore find myself worrying about what lies in store – the artists could so easily be demotivated and refuse to put in any effort. Thankfully, I couldn’t be more wrong. Starting off with a song entitled ‘Awkward’ (“Which is what this is!”), this duo are far from lacking in energy or enthusiasm, regardless of the crowd size. Putting on a completely engaging performance that sees Bee Mick bouncing across the stage and swinging each and every member of the ‘crowd’ across the dance floor, with catchy songs such as ‘Who Likes Laughing?’, I’m pretty impressed by the first Northern Irish rapper I’ve seen, alongside the charming vocals of Yellowbridge.
I was first introduced to Malibu Shark Attack by Steve Lamacq, who played the single ‘Better Off As Friends’ twice in a row, back to back, because he liked it so much. A first, I’d say, in all my years of radio-listening; a fact that illustrates just how enjoyable MSA are to listen to and how instantly addictive their transatlantic Indie-Rap is. Listening to Malibu Shark Attack on the radio, however, is nothing compared to seeing this unique and wonderfully eclectic collection of musicians perform live. With Rocky O’Reilly (esteemed producer and former member of Oppenheimer) on guitar, Tribe One delivering his inspired rap, the additional vocals of Yellowbridge (an accomplished singer-songwriter, as seen on Ireland’s ‘The Voice’) and the skills, once again, of Bee Mick See, it’s a pretty varied little group.
With the larger than life presence of Tribe One leading proceedings, I soon forget the emptiness of the room and am completely swept up in the enthused energy and contagious charisma emanating from the stage. Starting with the ‘sad’ before the “party gets started”, Malibu Shark Attack treat us to a set that showcases subject matter ranging from heartfelt reflections on life and love to favourite bands and Batman. And they do this with all the effort, energy, enthusiasm and sheer brilliance of a band who are playing on a sold out arena tour – whether playing to five, or five thousand, people it would seem that MSA are capable of putting on an impressive and utterly engaging performance.
A show deemed even more impressive once you bear in mind that Rocky and Tribe One only met face to face three days ago, at Leicester station: “We only realised we liked each other at 4am this morning”, Rocky informs me prior to the set. Having recorded an album together from opposite sides of the globe, you would never guess that Tribe One and Rocky weren’t the best of friends when seeing them on stage together. The whole troupe, in fact, seem to gel perfectly; each one of them exuding a vivacity that seems to bounce off the others, and spark a flame that burns throughout the whole of the set.
Whether reflecting on overcoming barriers and doing what you love, in songs such as ‘Doing It Wrong’ (in which Tribe One confides that he has always wanted to be Batman), referencing emo bands of the early noughties, or recalling stories of polite ‘Cocaine Gentlemen’, Malibu Shark Attack – in this dishearteningly empty space – succeed in filling it with their zest and craftsmanship. ‘Bad MTHRFCKR’ sees a particularly striking performance from Tribe One as he blasts out lyrics, which the band’s friends, my boyfriend and I, plus the sound engineer, (re. the crowd) enjoy joining in with, whilst ‘Plans For The Weekend’ sees the venue heaving with the weight of its occupants jumping up and down to Black Eyed Peas reminiscent choruses.
With satirical self-referential allusions a-plenty, MSA have skilfully fused together a range of genres with a unique style and humour. And, I’m not going to pretend I know much about rap, but Tribe One’s consistently skilled lyrical storytelling strewn alongside anthemic indie interludes, the soulful vocals of Yellowbridge and O’Reilly’s trademark electro-pop production, results in something wonderful and uplifting. A totally refreshing and immensely enjoyable night that makes me eternally grateful that Tribe One did really “quit my job to make rap”. The rest of Brixton, you missed out big time. (Though, rest assured, last night’s Surya show with MC Lars was sold out).
As you missed out on this incredible performance, you should definitely get your hands on Malibu Shark Attack’s debut album, released on Friday 23rd May. Preorder it here: malibusharkattack.bandcamp.com