If you haven't been to the Thekla, you're missing out. If you haven't seen The Lemon Twigs, you're definitely missing out. A former cargo ship, then home to Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's Vivien Stanshall, the Thekla has probably seen plenty of raucous, bonkers, sweaty below-decks activities over time. The advent of precocious nu-glam goofers, The Lemon Twigs, kicking off their UK dates, honoured that tradition of moist excitement, leaving us all requiring cold showers by the encore's final bars.
Supporting was Shock Machine, led by James Righton (ex-Klaxons). No longer moored behind keyboards, Righton cut loose with the zeal of a front man on a mission, pent-up energy spilling out all over the limited stage space. Dark hair swept back, eyes piercing and sartorially elegant in a red suit, he looked like a younger, more hyperactive Nick Cave, with hints of Tim Burgess. Their songs, part of the self-titled album due out in June, immediately pulled the audience out of their phones and their pints. "Open up the Sky", "Lost in the Mystery" and "Something More" have the obvious depth to underpin their own headline set.
The headliners took it from 0-60 in about 3.6 nanoseconds. Led from the front by Bristol gigging legend, Big Jeff, the crowd twigged out accordingly. I've never grinned so constantly through a gig before. I've also never known someone to break a snare drum after six songs from sheer brutality. Considering Michael D'Addario's overtly twig-like build, his drumming for the first six songs was uncannily forceful. Most strikes began flamboyantly from the top of his reach, sticks twirling and then hammering the beleaguered kit in a one-man percussive avalanche. From song eight onwards, Michael provided lead guitar and vocals, with Hong Kong Phooey high kicks and additional gymnastics. He'd come dressed for aerobic pursuits, in leopard print catsuit, open to the waist, like a late 70s Rod Stewart, or an early noughties Justin Hawkins, with more bounce than a Jane Fonda workout.
Older brother Brian's exuberance was delivered with more precision and restraint, beginning with 'I'm not gonna mention we're on a boat, even though it's all I wanna talk about' and later asking, "Everybody feeling OK?" as if 'OK' was the best he could expect. He was their PR man, looking after the audience, whilst Michael let his actions speak instead. Fraternal friction erupted only once, before they covered Alex Chilton's "All Of The Time" (M: 'Tell them we've been playing this cover a while', B: 'Why don't you say it yourself?', M: 'Because I'm over here and you're there on the microphone'). Their considerable musical faculties were complemented by the subtly-kooky Danny Ayala on keyboards and Megan Zeankowski, monolithic on bass.
The set was an inevitable "Do Hollywood" 'Best Of', a couple of covers and a taste of things to come. Brian's stint out front brought "Frank" and "Haroomata" from the album - the latter with its slow melancholia, 'I've found the source of all my pain,/ The emptiness inside my brain' followed by its Wacky Races instrumental freak-out. "I Wanna Prove to You" and "These Words" vindicated the hype they received in 2016. He plugged his dad, Ronny's forthcoming disc, covering "Love Stepped Out". "Why Didn't You Say That?" was the first enticing sampler of near-future releases. Whilst changing shifts on the drums, they marked the mid-point of the gig by giving everyone some uplifting downtime, the soulful ballad "How Lucky Am I?" seeing Brian on keys and lead vocals, Michael and Danny harmonising sweetly alongside.
Michael's lead duties were punkier, friskier, fuzzier and spikier. As well as the Chilton cover, he led us through "Night Song", "Baby, Baby", and "So Fine", before gig highlight, "As Long As We're Together" not only sounded resplendent, but you could feel it through the floor. Ludicrous album closer "Great Snake" also concluded this set, before they returned for an encore with soon-to-be-recorded "Queen of My School". More linear and cohesive than some of the album's tracks, it was surging and Weezery, with an Ugly Kid Joe, "Everything About You" hook.
As much as the 2016 album was lauded, The Lemon Twigs are at their most compelling and animated when they play live, to the extent that Jim Henson devotees may wonder if the great Muppeteer himself made the D'Addarios. Bristol awaits their return, surely to a bigger venue, for further electric mayhem.
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