Live Review: BODEGA

The Art School, 15/2/19

Support comes from Gong Gong, a two-piece from Beijing comprised of a bassist and guitarist/vocalist. They’re an enthralling watch; the bass player takes charge of the melodies while the guitar is used more for a sort of percussive strum, backdropping the punk-tinged vocals which are half-shouted, half-sung in Cantonese.

By the time BODEGA take the stage, the Art School is thoroughly warmed up.

Their music is an eclectic collage of influences and references both sonically and lyrically, from The Clash and The Smiths to Woody Guthrie. Playing with their home town of New York’s rich rock heritage, they slant the post-punk tradition towards a critique of modern day culture – frontwoman Nikki Belfiglio moves around the stage holding up a glowing lightbox, mocking the deification of screens but having a fun time doing it. And this is the tone that the band set for the rest of the gig: they’re droll and sarcastic, but also not afraid of a good dance.

Whatever you want to call BODEGA’s music – post-punk, postmodern, art-rock, social commentary – it’s good. Two songs in, frontman Ben Hozie quotes the French poet Mallarme and compares consumerism to being consumed by flames. You want to turn your nose up at the Brooklyn pretension, but the rendition of ‘Bodega Birth’ that follows is so good that he gets away with it.

Hozie and Belfiglio have excellent chemistry, uniting in a restless exchange of lyrical jabs while he plays guitar and she bangs out a rhythm on a drum. This works especially well for one highlight of the set, ‘Can’t Knock the Hustle.’ Belfiglio takes the helm, smashing out a beat and chanting, creating a build-up to the song that lasts several minutes. At some point during this exercise, my brother turns to me and comments that it now feels less like a rock gig and more like a techno set: they’ve wrapped up dance music influences with no-bullshit rock, resulting in a sound that resembles LCD Soundsystem at their most energetic.

Just like LCD, this is a New York band with a strong affinity for Glasgow. They happily tell us they love the place, and recorded their most recent live album Witness Scroll last year at our very own Poetry Club. Suitably flattered, the audience reciprocates the praise, growing only more enthusiastic as the band move into ‘Name Escape.’ For this number, Hozie ditches his guitar to move around the stage, holding the mic with the imitative ease of a hip hop artist. This is a particularly spitty tune, with its sarcastic closing refrain of “heaven knows I’m miserable now” leered drolly at the crowd with a lot more grit than present-day Morrissey could muster.

Soon after this, Belfiglio takes centre-stage again with the hyperactive ‘Gyrate.’
They rattle through another album favourite, ‘Jack in Titanic,’ before an extremely drawn out closing performance of ‘Truth is not Punishment,’ a witty number which matches ‘Can’t Knock The Hustle’ for dance appeal.

They have little choice in coming back for an encore – the Art School crowd is quite rapturous in their insistence upon another tune. When they finally re-emerge, they play quite literally until they have no more material, and even then seem reluctant to leave. Hozie tries and fails to hide his pride behind his sardonic demeanour. As the band wrap up and Belfiglio takes the glowing screen for a final strut around the stage, he looks out to the crowd and gives his final prophesy: “and the scroll will roll on.” For all their dry wit and sarcasm, the audience’s love for this band is genuine.

[Lizzie McCreadie – @franzgaffka]

[Image credit: DIY Mag]

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