This week marked the ten year anniversary of my arrival in London. I (young Master Dik) had arrived here from shores afar, accompanied by my faithful pussy, drawn by tales of streets paved with gold… (the streets, as it turns out, are strewn with discarded chewing gum, spat up lurgies, and other various rubbish & effluent).
Right, having achieved the onanistic feat of referencing Sonic Youth, Dick Whittington and the propensity for Londoners to treat the streets of their home as a massive garbage can, all in the same sentence, let me start again…

I arrived in London, fresh-faced and with a twinkle in my eye, drawn in part by this city’s (and this country’s) peerless modern music heritage. I experienced a palpable thrill at the sure knowledge that I would get to experience many of my favourite bands in the flesh, and so I have for ten great years (little did I know then that even some of those bands I thought I’d never get to see – Bauhaus, Pixies, Gang Of Four, Slint – would magnanimously reform for my benefit!)

So over the next few weeks I’ll be marking this anniversary with a self-indulgent reminiscence of a decade of eardrum damage and second-hand smoking, of life-affirming experiences in both sweaty, airless shoeboxes and majestic concert halls, of bank-balance-busting beer prices & limited edition tour-only recordings, of a myriad of merch stands resulting in way too many t-shirts, of gooseflesh and Godflesh

Rock Action!

The band that tops the “number of views” league table is Mogwai – I’ve been privileged to see them thirteen times (with #14 coming up in a couple of weeks, in “surround sound” at Somerset House), from the relatively intimate black box that is the ICA‘s performance space, to the stately grandeur of the Royal Albert Hall, to the wide open space of Hyde Park. It’s fitting that Mogwai should take top spot – they are a fantastic, visceral live band, every single one of those thirteen performances never anything less than an exhilirating experience.

Mogwai @ ICA, 13 Jan 2006

For me, the Mogwai live experience is second only to that of Shellac (who incidentially take second spot in the aforementioned league table with ten, although admittedly not all London gigs with four of that number spread across two ATP festivals), the three-pronged guitar attack in turns elegiac and melt-your-face-off brutal. Although the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic of ‘post-rock’ has become formulaic, copied by a plethora of same-sounding bands, Mogwai are both the pioneers and reigning masters of it, and it is only in the live setting where one can properly experience the plunging valleys and towering mountains of their sound. They have the ability (as when they launch into the second part of “Like Herod”) to make the entire audience flinch in fright, and I’m sure countless venue owners have worried that Mogwai were in danger of tearing the walls down around them with their immense noise (I remember sitting upstairs at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for an April 2001 show where the swirling feedback at the end of the magnificent “My Father My King” felt as though it was going to take the roof right off!).

Mogwai @ ICA, 13 Jan 2006

Here is the metallic beast “We’re No Here”, taken from a live session recorded for the BBC OneMusic radio show (the successor to “The John Peel Show”) at BBC’s Maida Vale studios on 31 January 2006.

Mogwai – We’re No Here (live BBC OneMusic session)

Check out fansite bright light! for a comprehensive Mogwai ‘gigography‘. And The Runout Groove has a great collection of Mogwai Peel Sessions here, a companion piece to the “Government Commissions (BBC Sessions 1996-2003)” album.

Photos from Mogwai live at the ICA, 13 January 2006