“Can you turn fucking Talking Heads off? It’s not fucking New York.”
Quite. No, it’s not fucking New York, but rather fucking Salford and tonight fictional heroes The Moonlandingz are playing somewhere called ‘The White Hotel’. Unfamiliar with this particular part of Salford, I find myself walking into what looks like an industrial estate, where the smell of *something* burning is overwhelming and a car alarm shrieks. If it were any other outfit, this might be a sign that the night was ready to take a turn for the worse. But with tonight being the turn of the fictional ‘Ouija Pop’ maestros of Valhalla Dale, the venue feels more than appropriate. It’s practically one of the locales taken from ‘Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine…I’m Your Biggest Fan’, the Eccentronic Research Council album that put the wheels in motion for this psychedelic super group.
Safely inside, it feels like The White Hotel could’ve been something cooked up in the brainboxes of Jez and Super Hans. The smoke-filled room is near-enough rammed already, with all eyes firmly on Madonnatron – tour support for a number of dates during this ‘Ultimate Realism’ trip. As I nip round the back to grab a beer, I hear wonderful Siouxsie Sioux-esque sounds from the quartet in the main room, with Madonnatron flitting between angsty, thumping punk and poppier New-wave throughout their set. A spot-on warm-up for the manic Moonlandingz, it’s lapped up by those in attendance .
A big blast of ‘Once In A Lifetime’ welcomes The Moonlandingz through the crowd and onto the stage, forcing chief synth/nob twiddler Adrian Flanagan to utter “Can you turn fucking Talking Heads off? It’s not fucking New York.” A line so good, it’s surely been used every night of the tour since.
The man up front, Johnny Rocket, recently seen papped on the streets of Valhalla Dale chatting up the locals in his knee-high silver boots, is certainly dressed for the occasion. I’ve barely got chance to admire his glittering cod-piece before the band burst into the first dose of lose-yourself psychedelia.
‘Vessels’ thumps along to open up proceedings, with a horribly eerie, frantic organ solo shaking any cobwebs away from an audience literally on the verge of losing the plot. ‘Sweet Saturn Mine’ – the hit – comes just three songs in and does just that, causing the Salford crowd to, quite rightly, lose their shit. An old man in a floral shirt hits the deck instantly, lying amongst the fag ends and spilt buckfast, propped up against the stage yet STILL taking photos on his phone. A rotund young lad with a perfect quiff is soon reduced to a sweaty mess in an instant. People go down just as quick as they go up.
The crowd remains frantic for the majority of the night, save for a slower number in which punters are welcomed to sit on the floor. They’re rewarded for it too, with pieces of ham produced from that very same cod-piece thrown lovingly into the crowd from Johnny. One lucky young man is even given a pineapple from backing singer Rebecca Taylor (of Slow Club fame).
The first time I caught Moonlandingz was earlier this year at The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge, and Rebecca put in a real shift, just shy of matching that of our Johnny Rocket. Tonight though she’s smashed through the looking glass, matching the glittery-crotched front man’s every step. It’s as if the Stockholm syndrome has proper kicked in and she’s become a card carrying member of The Moonlandingz. A natural fit – whilst Johnny calls out for (and is given) cigarettes, Rebecca calls out for swigs of people’s beers.
The Moonlandingz have just put the finishing touches on their debut album, co-produced with Sean Lennon in upstate New York, due out in early 2017. A wealth of special guests are appearing on the record, including Yoko Ono and one of The Village People, and tracks from this debut album are of course littered throughout the set (though there’s no sight of The Cowboy during the show…)
‘Man In Me Lyfe’ taken from the EP accompanying that aforementioned Eccentronic Research Council album, is the closer for the evening. I’ve since watched a live video back from this moment, and due to the restraints of technology, as well as the shiteness of mobile phone quality, the performance looks like the comedown of some horrible trip through the grainy Youtube video. Admittedly, that’s the experience live too, but a touch more euphoric… The crowd becomes a sea of bodies in an instant, surfing on top of each other and letting go of everything as the song builds to its throat-shredding conclusion.
It’s a thrill to see The Moonlandingz have become a full fledged entity, rather than simply a spin-off from Fat White Family and Eccentronic Research Council – The depraved Johnny Rocket and his gang wading through the shite of popular culture and putting shit-eating grins on the faces of those fed up with Catfish and The Bottlemen. I think Adrian summed up their place perfectly, when discussing the music industry croaking out its last breath in a recent interview for Skiddle “I whole heartedly believe people need The Moonlandingz…film is dying, art is dying, all the musical greats are dying, we are here for those, who in the future, will have no culture.”