Gecko – Punk, Soho, London

By Tom Aylott

Swipe your Oyster card, shuttle six stops up the Northern line and you?ll find the majority of Team Punktastic awash with drool over the Canterbury/Not Advised tour. Get off at Tottenham Court Road though and you might find yourself in surroundings somewhat dissimilar. Whilst so many are familiar with the dance floor pillar, the leaking toilets, and the general scumminess of the Underworld, Punk in Soho is an altogether different affair. Leather sofas, a secluded ?lovers nook? and coffee tables are just are a few items on an inventory that feels, well, not very punk. Tonight we?re here to see Gecko, a band that plays venues like the Underworld, but then also plays ?nice? places like this. You know, the sort of venues that hold trendy open mic nights. And that there is what tonight feels a bit like.

The opening portion of the bill sees singer/songwriters DAN KORN and JON KENDALL play a last minute stand-in set each. Whilst Korn (2/5) plays a wistful, melancholy, self-questioning brand of acoustic warbling (music to think by, if you will), Kendall (3/5) is more energetic and passionately infused, almost the acoustic equivalent of a rock ballad. To be fair, neither is particularly Punktastic friendly but we?ll take the challenge.

SHE MAKES WAR is a completely different approach to the whole solo artist phenomenon. Utilising electric guitar, ukulele, loop pedal and megaphone, Laura Kidd is intriguing from the off, blending the gloom of Nine Inch Nails and no-fear ferocity of Garbage?s Shirley Manson with an individuality and experimentalism that catches the ear. Sure there are moments that don?t quite work, sometimes the loop is overbearing and sometimes it?s all a little bit too chaotic, but this sort of innovation and rawness shines through every time. (4/5)

Rawness and innovation unfortunately doesn?t fall into the repertoire of KAKUZI, an indie-pop outfit that fails to make much of an impression. With an overly hyperactive frontman and an uninspired sound Punktastic decides to cross this one off as a completely unrelated PT band. (-)

There?s a moment tonight that goes a long way to summing up GECKO. Mid -set the band breaks out a captivating cover of Outkast?s ?Miss Jackson?, dousing it with quirky charm, eclectic sounds, and a silliness that coerces a smile to your face. It?s not the fact that the band is covering the song that makes it noteworthy; it?s the fact that the band makes the song its own whilst retaining an air of enjoyment. Basically, Gecko is a fun band to watch.

Headlining such a rag-tad bill isn?t a problem. Emerging from the middle-bill cloisters Punktastic is used to seeing the band in, the quintet is as charming, smooth and groovy as ever. The acoustic reggae/hip-hop vibe Gecko brings to the table is lapped up by a noticeably larger crowd, and sounds sharply honed and more accomplished than when we first caught the band 18 months ago. The likes of ?Woke Up? and ?Falling Down?, from last year?s very impressive ?Stop. Look Lizard.? EP comes across as fully rounded, scattering some of the jumbled sounds that were once apparent, and sounding nicely layered. ?The Library? and ?Guanabana Juice? have become quintessential crowd-pleasers, idiosyncratic in flavour, completely enjoyable in taste.

For the most part the set works well. Of course there?s a little work to do, including the sharpening of backing vocals, but that?s to be expected with personnel change The set doesn?t quite feel headline finished yet, although the open mic feel to tonight means it probably wouldn?t have (Gecko gets just about the same stage time as the bands before) but the additional new material proves that it?s not far off. What we get though is a very accomplished finish to a rather strange evening, and an enjoyable one at that. (4/5)

Alex Hambleton