“It’s 3-2 to England!” announces Jimmy Dixon, Django Django’s affable bass player, a few numbers into their lively set at St Paul’s church in Cambridge. Nice of him to mention it, particularly given that the band hail from Edinburgh, not a part of the world where you’d expect to find much enthusiasm for the English football team. But this is a pretty nice evening all round – the novelty of finding a critically lauded techno-savvy pop group like this playing in an unusually venerable venue seems to have a generated a good vibe among band and audience alike.
St Paul’s church was built around about 1841 and has a spacious and airy interior that has been adapted to the purpose of putting on bands with little trouble. Two banks of pews on a gentle ramp face the platform that functions as the stage, and while the high ceilings probably don’t provide ideal acoustics for amplified beat music the width of the building provides ample milling and moshing space for the crowd. The long midsummer evening means that support band NZCA/Lines have to go on in what is effectively daylight, which doesn’t seem like the best fit for their electronica based sound, but they don’t seem too put out and deliver a proficient set of melodic and thoughtfully layered dance tracks, with the bass guitar cutting through as the most prominent element.
It’s just about dark, and the hall’s just about full, when the main act take to the stage for a brisk run through of songs from their debut album. Django Django are simultaneously a very modern band and fearless ransackers of the past – their songs tend to be littered with sounds and samples and riffs and bits that feel very familiar: a Duane Eddy twangy guitar lick, a Bo Diddley-ish shuffle, a smattering of spaghetti Western seasoning colliding with a sinuous Middle Eastern keyboard part, with shamelessly jolly bleeps and bloops that sound like they’ve been lifted from an early 80s ZX Spectrum game popping up regularly. All great fun, but potentially quite annoying unless you know what you’re doing, and thankfully Django Django do, as these elements have been skillfully coralled into the support of some very robust and infectious tunes. You could indeed almost call them anthems if they weren’t so light and springy. The sheer musicality of the outfit is underlined by the ease with which they swap instruments where necessary, and the sweetness and delicacy of the vocal harmonies delivered by Dixon and lead Django Vincent Neff. They’re clearly also far from reliant on technology, with an acoustic guitar and a tambourine making appearances at appropriate moments. The band seem to be having a great time, acknowledging and chatting with the audience, and the set seems to be over with indecent haste (Neff actually apologises for this, explaining that so far they’ve only done one album!) While some of the subtleties of Django Django on record are inevitably sacrificed to the acoustics of the nineteenth century architecture it’s still quite thrilling to hear this stuff played live, as what the band lose in clarity they more than make up for in punchiness and energy. You can imagine them becoming a real draw on the live circuit and eventually graduating to arena support slots. I’m very glad I got to see them this close up – catch them while you can if you get a chance.