KOKO in Camden is an impressive venue, stacked like a wedding cake, with the biggest disco ball I’ve ever clapped eyes on hanging from the distant galaxy of the ceiling. It’s easy to imagine the turn of the century elegance and glamour when admiring the ornate carved frieze above the stage; it’s made a little more challenging whilst nursing a mid-grade cocktail in plastic cup.
I spent Saturday night there enjoying a Soundcrash gig featuring The Impellers, DJ Vadim’s The Electric Project, Polar Bear, and Mr Thing. Headlined by Kid Koala. So yeah, basically a party. I haven’t been out to a club to get down like that in a while, so it was
The Impellers are a big ol’ funk and soul band with all kinds of horns and guitars and an absolute belter of a lead singer. They won me over – especially with their tune “Knock Knock!” That’s a chorus and a great set up for many many zinger punchlines.
DJ Vadim and Polar Bear should probably have gone in reverse order, as Polar Bear’s deep and sweaty funked-out jazz, while undeniably awesome, isn’t the most accessible of musics. Neither was it made more party-rocking by an MC who seemed ill-suited to the job of rallying the crowd and being the face of the inscrutable jazz-fiends.
DJ Vadim, on the other hand, playing just before Polar Bear, had four vocalists – all of whom seemed to want nothing more than have fun and make sure everyone in the packed house was doing likewise. Although the first half of their set was pretty generic, they brought their good-timey vibe to a storming second half that got the crowd well up for further party time. Hence maybe they should’ve gone reversies with Polar Bear. Except I guess it kept the bear-themed names close to each other on the bill.
And the bear-suited Kid Koala came on post midnight and, as his place on the bill suggests, he was the real highlight. While there was less of the clever samples scratched into beats (i.e. raw turntable comedy) that I remember, there was plenty of turntablism and charm to get the packed crowd roaring their approval. He revealed which song is the favourite of his two-year old, and that the bear suit was the result of a lost bet – this was show number 23 of the 100 he’ll play in the outfit.
The goofy sense of showmanship is allied with his mastery of the decks – and wrapped up in his self-described ‘cute and cuddly’ package. Hopelessly endearing and endlessly inventive. Though my attention wavered a couple of times, his set was fantastic. Beat juggles, scratches and refereeing a one-armed pillow fight – it was everything one could want in a DJ show.
Afterwards, I sent him a tweet to thank him for the show, to which he not only replied – he also answered my question about the bear suit bet. It involves an unrealistic self-confidence about jumprope skills. What’s not to love?