Amelia’s Magazine | The Moonlandingz at the Lexington: Live Review


Making their first visit to the Big Smoke, those most inglorious sons of mythic Sheffield suburb Valhalla Dale, The Moonlandingz, have already made a big impression on the airwaves, with the track Sweet Saturn Mine getting heavy rotation on BBC 6 Music, and they’ve also drawn the admiration of Sean Lennon (yes, that Sean Lennon).

Actually a collaboration between the South Yorkshire based Eccentronic Research Council and members of South London’s Fat White Family, The Moonlandingz (with their charismatic lead singer, Johnny Rocket) were originally conceived as small town indie band royalty and the object of stalkerish obsession on Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine… I’m Your Biggest Fan, the ERC’s blackly humorous album that once again engages the talents of actor Maxine Peake. Already featuring the Fat White’s Lias Saoudi and Saul Adamczewski on the album, the tracks attributed to “The Moonlandingz” were expanded for an eponymous EP, before they finally broke the fourth wall (in a musical sense) and went on tour. As the Eccentronic Research Council’s Adrian Flanagan explained in an interview for the Lexington’s blog, “the reason I wanted to create an actual band… was to give the ERC album that extra depth, I wanted to get real fans and real stalkers for the fictional band and by some cruel twist of fate that has now happened, we are now the hottest ticket in town.”

And a hot ticket they were indeed, as the Lexington was pretty much at capacity even during the support band slot, more than capably filled by Abjects, who won a few admirers with their 60s garage infused sound.

With a brief, if abstract, introduction by the Fat White Family’s usual compère without compare, Patrick Lyons, The Moonlandingz appeared for the penultimate night of their North By North South tour. With the stage flanked by the vintage synths of Dean Honer and Adrian Flanagan, backed by a rhythm section of famed producer Ross Orton on drums and Mairead O’Connor on bass, Saul Adamczewski got things underway with the spidery guitar intro to Psyche Ersatz. Centre stage in a black leather waistcoat and cartoonish makeup, Lias Saoudi basically was Johnny Rocket, even down to a pseudo-Sheffield accent.

An early showing for a rampant Sweet Saturn Mine got the moshpit into full swing (not that people needed any encouragement), with arms outstretched to a prowling Saoudi (or should that be Rocket?) – part adulation, as the narrative of the album comes to life, and partly to try and drag him into the mass of bodies (I spotted a wryly smiling Flanagan taking a photo of the mayhem on his phone).

Lias Saoudi was actually ideally cast as the titular (anti)hero, if you’ve ever caught the Fat White Family live before – like a young Mick Jagger in his satanic majesty or, more particularly, Iggy Pop, marking his territory at the front of the stage and, like Pop, not averse to getting up close and personal with the audience.


Lay Your Head Down On The Road also made an appearance, sounding much fuller live with a full band to flesh it out. Of the new songs, there appeared to be a surprisingly twangy country number, and a song about rabies (but of course).

A furiously paced run through of Man In Me Lyfe to close the set prompted a fair bit of crowd surfing (by, from the looks of it and whilst dodging the odd flailing foot, some people old enough to know better) before The Moonlandingz headed off stage. There were calls for one more song but hey, fictional bands don’t do encores, okay?

The Moonlandingz as a live prospect certainly put the sweaty into meta, and with a new EP coming out on Sean Lennon’s own label in the next couple of months, chances are we haven’t seen the last of Johnny Rocket.

Categories ,Abjects, ,Adrian Flanagan, ,BBC 6 Music, ,Dean Honer, ,Eccentronic Research Council, ,Fat White Family, ,Iggy Pop, ,Lias Saoudi, ,Mairead O’Connor, ,Maxine Peake, ,Mick Jagger, ,Patrick Lyons, ,Ross Orton, ,Saul Adamczewski, ,Sean Lennon, ,sheffield, ,The Lexington, ,The Moonlandingz

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Amelia’s Magazine | The Eccentronic Research Council at Village Underground: Live Review

Eccentronic Research Council and Maxine Peake by Laura Hickman

The Eccentronic Research Council by Laura Hickman

For the first in a series of events celebrating a century since Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo published L’Arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noises), his manifesto on “machine music”, cross-platform artistic collective Noise of Art had gathered together an eclectic mix of collaborators. Perhaps fittingly, the venue chosen was Village Underground, a former Victorian warehouse adjacent to a disused railway viaduct on the fringes of London’s East End – a symbol of the industrialisation that had originally inspired Russolo.

As well as a series of DJ sets covering electronic music old and new, there was a brief appearance from the ever impressive alternative all-female choir Gaggle. Kicking off a short set with a thunderous Gaslight, they then unveiled their very own app, the Gaggle Phone (which certainly puts the tone into ringtone!). As has become custom whenever I’ve seen them perform, Gaggle finished with their album closer, the mournful Leave The City, with the various members departing the stage in groups as the music played out.

Eccentronic Research Council by Nadine Khatib

The Eccentronic Research Council by Nadine Khatib

The most anticipated part of the night, though, was the appearance of headliners The Eccentronic Research Council, playing their first show in the capital. Formed by two veterans of the Sheffield music scene, Dean Honer and Adrian Flanagan (who have, in the past, collaborated with such luminaries as Jarvis Cocker and Philip Oakey), they enlisted the considerable talents of actor Maxine Peake (most recently seen in the BBC period piece The Village) and released a concept album, 1612 Underture, based on the infamous Pendle witch trials of the 17th century.

The story of the Pendle witches looms large in the popular psyche of Lancashire (much like Pendle Hill itself, a distinctive feature on the skyline overlooking Burnley) – from the coaches on a bus route from Manchester named after each of the accused to Live At The Witch Trials, the debut album by The Fall, who just happened to be playing across town tonight (a band that, in a curious twist, Adrian Flanagan was once briefly a member of). With 1612 Underture, The Eccentronic Research Council recount the tale through a partly fictionalised, often witty modern day road trip (brought to life in an accompanying short film), which also touches on contemporary social parallels.

A full house cheered as the band appeared – Honer and Flanagan, the self styled “practical electronics enthusiasts”, took their place at the back, behind a table loaded with vintage analogue synths (and kept company by two imitation skulls), whilst on other either side and dressed all in white, like extras from the finale of the Wicker Man, Philly Smith and Lucy Cunsolo provided extra keyboards, percussion and vocals. Most definitely centre stage, however, was Maxine Peake, attired all in black.

Eccentronic Research Council with Maxine Peake at Village Underground by Sam Parr

The Eccentronic Research Council by Sam Parr

The set opened with the steady motorik of Autobahn 666, a Kraftwerk referencing ride along the A666, the so called Devil’s Highway that connects Manchester, Bolton and Blackburn, that Peake narrated with her rich Boltonian tones. This set the mood for much of the rest of the night, with otherworldly synths alternating between bouncy, burbly and just plain sinister acting as a soundtrack for Peake, a dominant presence, to recite from her little black book. Philly Smith and Lucy Cunsolo took over for Wicked Sister Chant, whilst another Sheffield colleague, Lucy Hope, took the stage for The Hangman’s Song (naturally enough, with a noose adorning her neck). Flanagan left his gadgets momentarily to duet with Peake on Another Witch Is Dead, probably the sort of song Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra would come up with if asked to score a film for Hammer studios (though I doubt Ms Sinatra could cackle quite so maniacally as Maxine Peake does at the song’s end).

Eccentronic Research Council by EdieOP

The Eccentronic Research Council by EdieOP

Not all was doom and gloom, and there was a fair bit of banter from the stage. Adrian Flanagan asked the audience if anyone was from Lancashire (being Salford born himself), but when he was overwhelmed by replies, he just gave up and joked “just shout random places at me!”

The core trio of Flanagan, Honer and Peake returned for an encore, the rather unseasonal but reassuringly acerbic Black ChristMass, which descended into an electro wig-out before they departed the stage for the last time.

With a London show now grudgingly under their belt, The Eccentronic Research Council headed back North once more and, with new material a current work in progress, we shall wait to see where their analogue odyssey takes them next.

Categories ,Adrian Flanagan, ,Dean Honer, ,EdieOP, ,Futurism, ,gaggle, ,Hammer studios, ,Jarvis Cocker, ,Kraftwerk, ,Lancashire, ,Laura Hickman, ,lee hazlewood, ,Lucy Cunsolo, ,Lucy Hope, ,Luigi Russolo, ,Maxine Peake, ,Nadine Khatib, ,Nancy Sinatra, ,Noise of Art, ,Pendle, ,Philip Oakey, ,Philly Smith, ,Sam Parr, ,sheffield, ,The Eccentronic Research Council, ,The Fall, ,Village Underground, ,Wicker Man

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