Damn, localcut has gone international! First our ex-intern Jenny reported on the Swn Festival in Cardiff, Wales, and now our intrepid globe-trotting reporter Mark Stock reports live from a Glass Candy show in Rome. It's so real!
Club Akab—Rome, Italy 11.03.09
I had forgotten how good it feels to smoke a cigarette in a club. These Romans are used to it and I envy them. They're over-dressed, wearing $500 spectacles and looking healthier than ever.
Acting Italian before they even arrive, Glass Candy is running a bit late. The dinner hour extends into the double-digits here, even on a dreary fall Tuesday. I arrive at 11 expecting to be greeted by the magnetic trance of openers Desire, but I'm met by two bouncers and the following loosely translated line: “Yeah, there's a guest list, but we won't even look at it until 11:30 or so.”
Jump ahead an hour. Club Akab's dingy exterior gives way to a sparse but polished interior. Neon lights provide the little illumination around and the layout is a bit like Berbati's. Two bartenders man the watering hole, one collecting strange green drink tickets, the other pouring Pilsner from a Peroni tap.
The crowd grows steadily during Desire's speedy set. Glass Candy's Johnny Jewel is at the electronic helm, testing the venue's electrical grid with heavy-handed synthesizer bass lines and a laser battle's worth of effects. A human-activated drum kit adds some muscle, though the softness of the vocals keep Desire somewhat cagy. I wait for a one-liner about the fitting record label the two bands share (Italians Do It Better), but to no avail. People are contemplating a dance move or two, but such actions are still only thoughts.
And then Glass Candy arrives. While Johnny tinkers with the keys to the tune of the house music blaring in the background, vocalist Ida No goes through an extensive series of stretches. Like athletes before a game, the two appear to be submitting to ritual. The crowd has found their Italian heroine in the form No, her long black hair and nonchalance settling in naturally.
Pouring out the hits, the once Portland band plays a vibrant set smartly catered to Europe's love of dance and disco. The crowd is small and cramped, perfect subjects for a round of punches in the form of “Rolling Down The Hills”—the band's party starting, horn adoring track - and “Geto Boys,” their crackly, swinging number full of universal hoots and hollers, perfect for cracking the language barrier.
During the always uplifting “Candy Castle,” I can't help but shadowbox. It's the soundtrack to the last level of your favorite childhood video game in which you're pitted against the baddest boss 16 bits of graphics can create. By “Beat's Alive,” their fuzzy, spacey jam that showcases No's tender, encouraging, kid-like vocals, the Romans are looking for places to set their drinks. A rousing version of “Animal Imagination,” with its disco percussion and steady build unofficially brings the house down.
It becomes official seconds later when the club's power shorts for the third time in as many songs. Johnny holds up his arms and shrugs as Ida prances laterally on stage to create a distraction. Like the confused Germans who walked out just as fast as they walked in to the club before the music even started, I think the people at Akab had no idea what to expect, what to prep for.
When Glass Candy comes to a town near you, conserve electricity. They need it more than you do. And you need them more than anything.