Samsara Blues Experiment / Stubb / Alunah @ The Borderline, London 15/11/2013

Samsara Blue Experiement - London 15/11/2013

Some of the most memorable moments I’ve had at gigs have been due to technical blunders. Whether it was a guitar amp literally exploding at a Trivium gig (we were all young once, OK?) or hilarious microphone failure while watching Anathema, I’ve had more than my fair share of fun times watching bands flail about and die on stage. Call me a dick if you like, but sometimes a touch of the ol’ schadenfreude can elevate a mid-tour show from the tired, going-through the motions events that they often become, to a piece of serious entertainment, even if it is at the artist’s expense.

However, it’s pretty rare that a technical fault has ever made a gig better from a performance standpoint: broken guitar strings and malfunctioning effects are often good for a laugh, but they hardly contribute to any kind of stage presence the band might be trying to create. Cue second support act Stubb, and as soon as they try to take the stage, the lights die. Being the kinds of lads they are, they take it all in good humour and decide to play in the dark, launching into a fun and energetic set that has been the most fun I’ve had at a gig in a long time. With all the po-faced seriousness of most modern rock bands, it can be easy to forget what it’s like seeing a bunch of guys just enjoy themselves up on stage, and it was something I found really refreshing. If the lighting-rig cock-up helped break the ice, then it’s all to the good.

Headliners Samsara Blues Experiment seemed a little more prepared for the lack of illumination, setting up small spotlights just in front of the stage to light themselves from below. The effect was eerie and effective, and particularly welcome to me, knowing what light shows they usually perform. I’ve never been a fan of drenching the stage in sickly-saturated coloured lights – a hallmark of “psychedelic” showmanship – and this alternative gave the show a unique atmosphere that few attendees to their other gigs will have the chance to experience.

Regarding their music, it was pretty much flawless. Samsara Blues Experiment are one of those bands that sound just as good live as they do on record, without it sounding as though they are just playing a CD through a PA system. There was enough variation in the set to keep things interesting and unexpected, and while they played the majority of their new record ‘Waiting For The Flood’, there were a few other choices out of the left field to keep the fans guessing what would come next. By the time the curfew crept up, it felt as though we had just scratched the surface of their performance, and there are very few bands that can leave me wanting to hear more at the end of a gig, I can tell you.

Finally, it would be remiss of me to sign off without putting in a good word about Alunah, the opening support act of the night. The West Midlands quartet really brought it, and it’s great to see a woman-fronted doom band with some bite. The riffs were heavy, atmosphere thick, and Soph Day’s vocals proved an interesting departure from the usual gruff, masculine tones that are so prevalent in the genre. It’s a pity that the crowd didn’t get a little more animated during their set, and it saddens me that so many people are still so apathetic towards support acts. Whatever, the band can be satisfied that they delivered a great performance, and if they keep playing sets like that, they will surely gather a much larger audience. God knows they deserve to.

Scribed by: Calum Darroch