Event Review: Death to the Pixies and Kenickers at the Scream Showcase Lounge, Friday 7th April

By - Tuesday 2nd May, 2017

Rehomed after the departure of Hoodoo’s from Matthews Yard, this gig was pretty much perfection

Kenickers' bassist is joined by guest brass section

Photo by Vicky Walters, used with permission.

One of the casualties of Hoodoo’s leaving Matthews Yard was this very gig, now held down in South End. A mere fiver gets you two bands, both tributes to bands who were big in the nineties. The headliner, Death to the Pixies, is a tribute to Pixies, which was not only big in both the eighties and nineties but which is one of the most important bands of the twentieth century, its influence on hundreds if not thousands of acts that followed unquestionable. The support is Kenickers (I would have gone with Ken-iffy), a tribute to mid-to-late nineties glam scamps Kenickie, a band which arrived to much hurrah with a bona fide indie anthem in the shape of ‘Punka’, but with nothing quite living up to that song following after.

I saw Kenickie play at the 100 Club ‘back in the day’, and whilst the band was supposed to be like how The Bangles was supposed to be like, i.e. having no clear front person per se, it was always Lauren Laverne who stood out in the same way that Susanna Hoffs did. Lauren knew when to quit and pursue a career as a TV and radio presenter. Who knows what happened to the rest? I’m half expecting one of them to be in this band tonight. While Kenickie was four, Kenickers is five, I suppose because there were five who wanted in on this project.

Thrashing the songs to perfection just the way that a live band should

There doesn’t need to be five of them, because the singer can play guitar. But she only does for one song, freeing up another member to not play guitar and thus throw ‘YMCA’-style PVC shapes as a bit of stage craft, but this seems to be all about inclusion and buddyship. Two more join the band armed with trumpet and sax for ‘In Your Car’, which stands with ‘Nightlife’ as being one of the less forgettable tracks Kenickie conjured. The rest of the set is really filler: songs that weren’t ever really good enough to be singles, like ‘Millionaire Sweeper’. It’s no surprise that ‘Punka’ is saved until last and played with mucho gusto, as it most certainly ought to be.

Jon, William and Tereza

Photo by Vicky Walters, used with permission.

The line-up is mostly early- to mid-thirty somethings, and so not quite old enough to have gone to Kenickie gigs themselves. But for a band to have impressed eleven year olds via Top of the Pops and the like so much that they form a tribute band this many years later and have such infectious fun with it says a lot.

Pixies was four, and so is Death to the Pixies, and with a woman on bass a la Kim Deal, they are closer to being a tribute band proper. But while you can’t see Kenickie play anymore, and possibly never will, you can still see Pixies play live, so why bother with these copycats? The answer, very simply, is that apart from being more affordable, they are so much more exciting than the real thing. I didn’t catch Pixies the first time around, only twice in 2004 when they returned, and both times I was pretty underwhelmed. The songs are legendary, the live performance wasn’t. Death to the Pixies takes the same songs (around ninety minutes’ worth, no less) and thrashes them out to perfection the way that a live band should, with frontman William Nein never holding back with the Black Francis shouts and screams that speckle most of the tunes like so much shouty indie glitter.

Scream Showcase Lounge is a tasty little venue

And there’s no dicking about between songs. It’s all strictly vintage Pixies (no modern stuff), one tune straight into the next. Once they have exhausted every song they have learnt, and there are no obvious ones missed out, they play repeats of a few favourites to end the set, with nobody minding. That’s the magic of Pixies, and so too Death to the Pixies.

All in all the night is an unmitigated success, a big part of that being the between-bands-playlist of classic indie bangers bookended by Pixies’ glory days and Kenickie’s fifteen minutes of fame, carefully chosen by the main band’s lead guitarist Jon Roffey; everything from Fuzzbox’s ‘Pink Sunshine’ to PJ Harvey’s ’50 Foot Queenie’ via Whale’s ‘Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe’. Those silly smokers didn’t know what they were missing.

Who’s to say whether this would have been a better night at the original venue? We will never know. I do know that many share my frustration that Scream Lounge is less than it could be. It’s a tasty little venue. But its correct name these days is Scream Showcase Lounge: a venue where bands can showcase their work crafted at neighbouring Scream rehearsal rooms. With its entrance down an alleyway, its high street front bar long gone and now a truly garish looking coffee spot, it doesn’t feel like the gig venue proper that it could be. But when inside, it’s pretty much perfect. I’m sure that there are sound financial reasons behind it all, and who knows what the future may hold for it? As I type this there is still no announcement regarding a new home for Hoodoo’s. Time will tell.

Rob Preston

Rob Preston

Rob was a co-host on Croydon Radio's Encyclopaedia Croydonia, and hosts the popular bi-monthly tribute nights at The Oval Tavern on Oval Road. As a writer / photographer his work has been published in Doctor Who Magazine, Dreamwatch, Auton, Dog's Breakfast, Bulletin Your Head and SoHo Life & Technology Today. His short stories have been read at Tales of Croydonia at The Oval Tavern, and he is currently working on two anthologies of his own short stories, one crime, the other horror. He has written and directed seven plays at various Croydon venues, and survives today as a jobbing actor.

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  • Terry O’Stereo

    As the author of this review I must point out that it has been edited. I originally wrote Pixies who were (not which was), Pixies were (not Pixies was), Death to the Pixies thrash (not thrashes). It may not be correct, and I’m the first to admit my highest qualification is a D in A-level English, but that’s cos I was reading Melody Maker, Select, NME, Smash Hits, Q, Metal Hammer, Lime Lizard, fanzines, etc.

    • Ian Marvin

      I’m with you on this Mr O’Stereo. There’s a principle at stake or something.

      • Terry O’Stereo