It is perhaps fitting that as we gather to pay our final respects to Vienna Ditto tonight we are surrounded by hordes of the undead, as South London begins its descent into the Halloween season.
We’re given a suitably chilling introduction to the night by Brighton instrumentalists Son of Ugly, whose set is laced with horror soundtrack classics including a rollicking version of John Carpenter’s seminal Halloween theme. They’re followed by Scout Leader, whose raw mix of proto-punk and grungey metal veers a little too much on the shouty side for my taste, though a slowed down doom-groove take on Stooges classic ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ hits the spot perfectly.
Parisian garage rock revolutionaries Louis Lingg and The Bombs kick things up a gear with a set of blistering tri-lingual call to arms punk that concerns itself just as much with rocking the fuck out as it does with dismantling the political status quo.
By the time Vienna Ditto make their way into the cramped corner that makes up the stage area of the London boozer that they’ve long claimed as a second home the witching hour has long since passed but a sizeable band of fans, alongside the occasional zombie and warlock, are still here ready to sing back every word of a set that spans their ten-year history.
Whilst they’re not a band that have packed stadia or soared up the charts, they mean something special to those of us who’ve gathered for this final show. Regulars on Joyzine line-ups and on our blog and radio show, their 2008 demo of debut single ‘Long Way Down’ remains one of the best that we’ve received in fifteen years of running this site, and with their alchemist’s knack of fusing elements from disparate genres – blues, electro, psych, jazz, surf rock, even the occasional stab of drum and bass; into shapes that are weird and wonderful without ever being overblown or pretentious, they’ve often been the answer to the question that I’m always asked when people first find out that I do this: “So who should I be listening to?”
Tonight’s show, as with many that have preceded it, is a amiably chaotic affair with Nigel’s easygoing charm navigating us through the near inevitable technological breakdowns that have become so much a part of their shows that I’m starting to think they build them in deliberately. Hatty channels the spirits of 1920s jazz singers, both through her sumptuous purring vocal and her writhing arm gestures, while Nigel wrestles surfy riffs and shards of abstract noise from his guitar, layering them over the electronic pulses that drive the undulating dance floor ever onwards.
There’s audience participation aplenty too, not just in echoing back Hatty’s vocals but through an impromptu dance-off and a request for suggestions for a subject for a set closing ‘Send That Man To Jail’ that results in a toss up between Tommy Robinson and the current President of the United States of America.
Despite the clock lurching ever closer to 1.30am, there’s no way that this audience is going to let them leave without one more song, and Vienna Ditto duly oblige with a storming extended version of fan favourite ‘Come Back’ that eventually collapses into a sweaty heap of electronic feedback nine minutes later.
The spirits of the dead reluctantly shuffle back to the bar and we’re left hoping that like many of the denizens of the night who’ve packed the dancefloor today, Vienna Ditto may one day be reanimated too.