A sweltering Saturday night engulfed in the sounds and sights of Bicep.
An interesting thing about the post-lockdown gigging life is just how many free gigs I’ve been to. For the most part, I have the pandemic to thank for that, as bands have been lining up to offer free tickets to NHS staff, giving me amazing experiences at Gorillaz and Liam Gallagher gigs at the O2 in recent weeks.
This Bicep gig however was free for a different reason: a surprise gift from the O2 Music twitter account, who randomly shower goodies on people they get into conversations with on Twitter. In my case, I mentioned that the Brixton Academy (oh okay, the O2 Academy Brixton, if you must!) is my favourite venue, and they asked me to list a few gigs I’d like to attend there, that I hadn’t bought tickets for yet. A few weeks later, a mysterious box arrived including a letter promising these Bicep tickets. You can watch me unboxing it here, from 3.32:
So off I wandered this muggy Saturday night to the best venue in the world, the Brixton Academy. Another unusual aspect of this gig was that I was not going alone – for once I had to behave like a normal person and attend a gig with a friend, as the O2 people had furnished me with two tickets. So I dragged along my friend Lukasz, who very specifically requested that I mention him in the blog post and that I say something nasty about him, so here goes: that bitch had the audacity to arrive half an hour early and secure us a spot in the queue, even though we didn’t need to queue as we were on the guest list, and then he proceeded to buy me beers all evening, HOW VERY IMPERTINENT.
Support was a no-frills yet spirited DJ set from Manami, and then after only a short wait while the lights and lasers were tested, we were transported to the alternate universe of Bicep. Like many people, I became aware of them from their stunning 2017 track “Glue”, which filled me with nostalgia for a rave-fueled 90s that I never actually experienced. This year, their second album “Isles” has brightened many an interminable WFH day for me, and I’d been making plans to catch one of their Brixton shows just as my O2 surprise arrived.
Tune after tune ensued of glorious electronica, reminiscent of sounds I used to love in the 90s: a hint of Chemical Brothers here, a nod to Andrew Weatherall there, but all wrapped up in a glorious, colourfully pulsating package truly unique to Bicep. This gig was very much like how I envisioned rave culture in the 90s: the lasers, the mind-altering flashing lights, the abstract, trance-inducing swirls and shapes of colour on the screen, illuminating the duo as they created magic on the stage.
I must admit to being slightly rubbish at identifying many of the names of the different Bicep tunes, but I can attest that “Atlas” was an early highlight. with its aura of distant menace reminiscent of the Aphex Twin’s Polygon Window project of the early 90s, yet somehow more earthy and organic. With each song melding into the next, this gig was an experience of the uninterrupted elation of dancing, reveling in the magic of the lights and the sounds, watching the lasers slice hypnotically across the glorious hall of the Academy.
In the encore came the stunning, iconic “Glue”, that tune so evocative of a lost time of 90s raves, of dancing in fields at one with the beat. Even though it’s a time I never truly experienced first hand, I still felt spirited to it, as though this tune rewrites an alternate history for me that I can dwell in for its duration. It was a truly euphoric and unmatchable live experience.
Being as I am a gig-goer more usually to be found in front of skinny boys with guitars, I have little in my gigging experience to contrast and compare Bicep with. With no lyrics to holler along to, you are left to absorb the beat into your bones and become one with the sounds and sights all around you, the crowd united in elation. It was wonderful to find myself in such a different gigging mode, and when the opportunity arises to see Bicep again in the future I will definitely be there, to dance and hold up my hands to catch the light once again.