Thursday, 13 September 2012

Walk Off The Earth. Enough said.

So, on Saturday 8th of September, I had the absolute privilege of going to see Walk Off The Earth live at the HMV Forum in London; and I had a free ticket courtesy of a friend, too. We got a train to Waterloo and spent a few hours wandering around London, watching magicians and street performers in Covent Garden and hopping from pub to pub, occasionally stopping and simply saying "Walk Off The Earth, ahhhh!"

"I'm going to London to see Walk Off The Earth."
"Who? What?"
"Y'know, that well cute band who sang Money Tree? And Summer Vibe? They play ukuleles and stuff?"
"Ermmm, no..."
 do covers on YouTube?"
"Somebody That I Used To Know, five people one guitar?"

I'm not one of those die-hard WOTE fans who loathe those people who only know them through their YouTube covers, but after telling various friends where I was going and who I was seeing on Saturday night, it began to irritate me when I was met with blank faces until I said the words "Gotye cover"; I understand now why their fans are always so anxious to point out their original songs and albums, and get so pee'd off when people only seem to know their covers. If I were in a band who wrote some amazing original stuff but was mainly recognized for their covers of other artists' songs, I'd be pretty ticked off personally.
   So we've addressed the cover issue: Walk Off The Earth do amazingly kickass covers of pre-existing songs, putting their own arrangement and imaginative spin on them and thus distinguishing themselves from the pack of "cover people" online. They're primarily known for these covers, but as more fans emerge, their original songs are getting more attention.
I'll admit that I came across WOTE, as approximately 135million other people did, because of their covers. I'll also admit that when the friend I attended the gig with asked me to name all the band members, I panicked; I know Gianni, Sarah, Marshall and Joel, I didn't know Beard Guy's real name though... There were a few moments when I didn't feel worthy to be there with all the "true" fans who've been walking off the earth since 2006 and knew them all well before the YouTube days. However, I love their sound and listen to them constantly in my Little Boxes little box room at uni, and I had the best time at the gig. So there.

The show itself is a happy haze of pretty voices, ukulele solos, crazy bass and beatboxing, colourful bouncy balls flying around the crowd and shiny confetti (which got stuck down my dress and the coloured dye still hasn't washed off). Getting in early and with priority tickets meant we were four "rows" (clusters of people) from the front, and because the crowd consisted of such damn lovely people, not a mosher in sight, we got to comfortably watch the support bands and get psyched for the main event. The last live performances I saw were at Reading Festival, so I'd forgotten what a nice intimate gig was like; my friend read my mind and said "it feels strange being indoors and not standing on grass..."
   Yes, I said "intimate". Because although this night saw approximately 2500 people crammed into the London venue, it still felt very small and close. Having said that, I was right at the front and within fingertip-touching distance of Sarah as she climbed the barrier; I'm sure those on the balcony or at the back of the stalls would tell you a very different story. I really enjoy the intimate-feel gigs; I've seen some of my favourite artists at small London or Brighton venues and felt so happy and connected to them, while for example seeing Taylor Swift at the O2 arena last year was the most alienating (yet girlishly incredible) concert experience.

Now, for the support bands. I always make a point of watching the bands/singers that precede the headliners, because they've clearly worked hard to be where they are, they've gained the approval of the headline band, and I might find a new favourite if I watch them. It's the same reason I always download the iTunes Single Of The Week, no matter how disappointing it turns out to be, and why I look up every song/band/artist my friends recommend to me.
   So I fell a little bit in love with the first band + singer: Ezra Axelrod (the coolest name, maybe ever) and The Motel Band. The loveliest arrangement of guitar, vocals and the sweetest hint of violin made for chilled and gorgeous listening. I not only loved the songs and the genuine yet catchy lyrics, but also the interaction with the audience - some bands will stand and play, with barely any breaks between songs and no "talking time", and subsequently distance themselves from the audience and not gain much of a following. Ezra & The Motel Band, however, were friendly and approachable. Ezra chatted to the audience and explained the meaning behind his songs; he even started a tweeting competition to win one of three free CDs, which I was instantly determined to win (I am a champion tweeter). I really admired Ezra for dedicating one of his songs to his husband; you don't often see gay men singing songs explicitly for their significant others. It was rather beautiful. My friend and I also spent a while discussing how attractive accompanying singer Tim Oxbrow is, and later discovered we weren't the only ones who thought so, in fact a lot of other audience members were swooning and making comparisons between him and Robert Downey Jr... Anyway, I adored their section of the pre-show and got myself a handsome new Twitter follower (@toxbrow) and a free CD out of it. Not too shabby.

I also loved the second support band, two lads going by the name of USS. They were eccentric and eclectic to say the least - at one point one of the guys was playing his guitar above his head, then one picked the other up, then a builder and a shepherd randomly came onstage to jam with them. They had decks set up, plus guitar and vocals, and they performed their own material as well as covering 'Hey Ya', much to the delight of the crowd. I really liked how they not only went completely crazy performing their own stuff, but also got the crowd extra-excited for Walk Off The Earth. They had us chanting, clapping and singing in anticipation, and they repeatedly thanked WOTE for the opportunity to tour with them, hailing them as "the best band of the moment". I really love it when support bands do that.

Now, for the main event. Walk Off The Earth are known for being quirky and original, so it was no surprise when they all walked onstage in matching WOTE hoodies, took up dramatic stances and Gianni and Sarah started banging on drums covered in rice, beans or beads of some kind... Sarah was an undeniable presence onstage, bouncing off the walls and beaming away, her stunning face lit up with the excitement of performing and her hair totally wild. I took a moment to appreciate her choice of outfit, too; stripey tights (on her enviably tiny legs) and a yellow shirt with a drawing of a beaver saying "Dam it". Beard Guy (who I found out is really called Taylor) was calm and poker-faced as always, insanely intense and getting on with his job. Marshall was just plain beautiful, proving that when your face is that perfect, you can just wear jeans and a T-shirt and look utterly flawless, Dam it. My favourite band member, Gianni, kept his crazy hair concealed under a knitted hat at first, then head-banged spectacularly and it all came free. I'll admit, I was more than a little starstruck staring up at Gianni Luminati. He's one of those people I can watch sing forever and refer to him as though we're on a first-name basis. Oh, and I got to meet him afterwards. No biggie.
   My friend and I were dancing madly and singing along throughout; partly because the music was awesome, and partly because we wanted to win the signed red ukulele they were giving away to one lucky audience member. Sadly we didn't win, it went to a deserving girl who was apparently "rocking out" on the left hand side of the stage, but I'd already got my freebies and my friend caught Gianni's drumstick when he threw it into the crowd, so we couldn't really complain. Plus, we met the band afterwards and got photos with most of them - oh sorry, did I mention that already? Oops.
   I cannot fault the band's live performance, nor would I want to - they put everything into it and it was nothing short of epic. My feet were killing me, I was full of pizza and I had shiny confetti stuck down my bra, and I didn't care. I had so much fun. The audience was lovely and everyone standing around me was friendly and chatty; when a tall and slightly delusional guy tried to cut in front of us all at the last minute, we pointed out how unfair he was being and politely told him to get lost, and when I had to rush to the bar and back the crowd parted before me and nobody swore at me as I squeezed past, nor did they care much when I wiggled my way back to the front. It was the definition of a "nice crowd".

WOTE had two encores, one right after the 'Summer Vibe' extravaganza which saw the audience bouncing balls to one another over their heads and shouting "EYY-O, EYY-O, EYY-O, BOP-BOP AWAY-O" and another which was a simple "Walk Off The Earth! Walk Off The Earth!" chanted over and over. It was clear that WOTE loved being in London (Marshall even commented on how awesome the Camden Markets were), and had the best time performing for us.

Thanks guys, I had an unforgettable night and I now owe my friend big time for the free ticket. To be honest, I'd have paid way more than full price for that night.

Did I mention I met Gianni?


  1. Im pretty sure i was standing right next to you both! Awesome night!

  2. No way! Hi, nice to meet you. Such a good night! :) x


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