Monday 19 September 2022

Ist Ist / Pale Puma - Rotterdam V11 - 18th September 2022

Ist Ist opened their series of sold-out Dutch dates in Rotterdam on Sunday night in the hull of V11 in the port area of Rotterdam in front of an adoring fan base who'd snapped up the tickets for this show in under a minute when they went on sale. Support came from local Dutch act Pale Puma.

Pale Puma open the evening with an impressive seven-song set. Describing themselves as an "indie dream pop band" their live sound is somewhat heavier than that tag might suggest, but the basic components of that sound are very much present and correct. Weirdly none of the three singles we'd heard on Spotify make the setlist - but opener Velvet Splendour and stand-out track Lost In A Pink Moon Dream more than make up for that. There's a real intuitive togetherness to them, the songs would work as instrumental pieces in their own right without vocals such is the tightness of the four of them musically. The attentive and respectful crowd love them.

Ist Ist's growing reputation across Europe has been organic. They've managed it through sheer will in the UK and regular touring that's got them to the point of a top three indie album with their debut Architecture, a top hundred official chart album with its follow-up The Art Of Lying as well as sold out dates in many of the country's circuit venues away from Manchester where their next headline show is the Ritz. All of this has been done with no management, no label other than their own and very little if any radio or press support and a blind eye from any of the industry support mechanisms that are there to promote independent artists. Here, the Dutch station Kink FM, think XFM before it got swallowed up, has been a true champion to the point of this sell-out gig and its follow-up at a 250 capacity Rotown, a stop-off for established UK bands, sold out within hours too as well as Amsterdam and Berlin shows. This feels, and we're told by a few friendly faces, that they see this as an "I was there" moment.  The venue, think a smaller Thekla in Bristol, adds to that sense.

The Dutch crowd is a wonderful one. Polite and respectful, there's only one call out for a song the whole evening, because they're just happy the band are here when many don't travel. Or can't travel because they haven't built an infrastructure to do it or the B-word. There's coat rails at the back of the venue where people leave their coats without fear of them being lifted, there's no idiots pushing to the front last minute with a sense of entitlement. The music is everything and we'd have loved to have brought every one of them back home to the UK to teach our audiences something.

While you sense the audience are just happy that they're in the room with them, the set list covers both released albums to date - Architecture and The Art Of Lying - as well as four unreleased tracks from their third album, already recorded and ready for release "sometime next year" as Andy tells us. The first of those Stamp You Out is a throwback to their earliest releases, a headrush of guitars and drums that set the pulses racing from the very first moment, All Downhill From Here gives a similar adrenaline rush whilst Mary In The Black And White Room is more expansive, a sign that they're still expanding their horizons but with the sense to ensure that the development is a linear rather than an obtuse one. They encore with Trapdoors which has the potential to usurp their current set-closer Slowly We Escape and have a sea of hands in the air. A look round the room at various points in the evenings sees people with eyes closed mouthing every word of these songs - Andy hits the nail on the head when he says "we might look miserable, dressed in black playing these miserable songs but this means so much to us so far from home.” Ist Ist are forming connections and acting as a release valve which is what the truly important music of this genre does and has done since it was first made.

With three albums of material at their disposal, there's a sense that this is almost a greatest hits set from an alternative universe, certainly towards the end with a run of Black, Extreme Greed, It Stops Where It Starts and You're Mine that stand up to anything anyone making this style of music has done in our memory before Slowly We Escape is so powerful as the four of them lead one final onslaught that we swear has the boat rocking. Before that they also demonstrate their mastery at slower tempos with New Love Song, Heads On Spikes and their ability to build layers into a song as The Waves simmers at the start before hitting boiling point.

It's clear that the Netherlands love Ist Ist and the reason is that they were given the opportunity to hear them on a regular basis allowing them to be able to afford to make this trip. From there the effect will snowball. Like everything they've done before on their independent journey, they have the supreme confidence in what they do that they can deliver. All three shows have significant waiting lists, the queue at the merch desk was pretty much everyone in the room and the main question was when they were coming back. 

They played Wolves, Stamp You Out, Fat Cats Drown In Milk, All Downhill From Here, Watching You Watching Me, Discipline, Middle Distance, New Love Song, Emily, The Waves, Mary In The Black And White Room, Heads On Spikes, Black, Extreme Greed, It Stops Where It Starts, You're Mine, Slowly We Escape and Trapdoors.

Ist Ist are on Facebook and Twitter. Their albums including the Live In Manchester release can be ordered via their website. Digital versions of their previous limited edition releases and a number of live field recordings are available to download from their Bandcamp

Ist Ist play Amsterdam Melkweg (September 19), Rotterdam Rotown (20), Porto Hard Club Post Punk Strikes Back Again (24) and Manchester Ritz (March 31, 2023).

Pale Puma are on Facebook.


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