It’s a bit hard to pinpoint what kind of band Disco Ensemble is when their style is a bit alternative, a bit post-hardcore, a bit electronic, and a bit punk. Either way, their strong blend of styles is a refreshing change from heavy metal every now and then, and we were curious to see what they were like in a live setting. They happened to be playing at the Virgin Oil Co. in Helsinki on August 22nd, 2015, and we were there to check it out.
This was a weird night for me all around, on a personal level. Firstly, doors at 21:00 and showtime at midnight is extremely odd, even for a Saturday night at Helsinki, though I suppose that’s fairly standard for Virgin Oil. I had also gotten a touch of sunstroke that day and was feeling incredibly ill, nearly bailing out at the ticket booth. However, since I had already made the journey and was quite interested in seeing the band, I didn’t want to turn tail and miss an opportunity. I was really intrigued by a band that could sound like so many things at once.
Already very late in the evening, the show was closing in on 20 minutes late getting started. This is never something I assume is the band’s fault – there is always potential for external issues, be it the sound or the stage or the venue or whatever. Still, it was unfortunate that they ended up starting so late for an already late-night show.
Fortunately, when the music died down and the band came out, they were straight to business with “So Long, Sisters.” They were full of energy and in that very traditional punk rock -style, their stage presence was almost exaggerated in its enthusiasm. I’ve never seen a band where the singer stands behind a keyboard from time to time, mashing away at it while singing, and then rushing off to jump around and hype up the crowd. It was great fun.
I was also happy to hear that the sound quality was quite well-balanced from where I was standing, which is a common issue at Virgin Oil Co. I have a disadvantage in that I don’t know the songs by name for the most part, but I was really impressed by their set. Enough so, in fact, that I think I enjoyed it more than listening to the albums. Maybe that had something to do with the combined enthusiasm from both the band and the fans. Every time a song was introduced, a roar would go up and then the majority of the crowd would start jumping up and down with their hands up in the air. For as long as I was there, this happened every time, so much so that I could feel the floor trembling at times. And why not? With that sort of part-electro, part-heavy, part-punk music going on, you can’t stay still. I had a raging headache and it was still nearly impossible for me not to move around to the beat.
There was one ill-fated moment where some loud static sounded, nearly completely drowning out the vocalist. I’m not sure if something was jostled or came loose or what, but I was really impressed that the band didn’t miss a beat and just powered through the hiccup. Whatever the problem was, it was fixed very quickly and hardly interrupted the show.
The show seemed to almost increase in intensity as the night continued as well. Each song somehow seemed a bit livelier than the last, or maybe it was just that the crowd was getting more and more into it. I stayed long enough to hear the other song I can name, “Second Soul.” I’ve always thought something about this song sounds an awful lot like U2, and while it does still have that element, it’s less obvious live. Not to say that sounding like U2 is a bad thing – quite the opposite – but it’s nice to be known for your own sound and not for sounding like someone else, and I would say that this song is, as such, stronger in live form.
Unfortunately, that was the point where I was feeling ill enough that I had to leave. I was told later by the others that the show continued much in the same vein, ending on a high note with “In Neon”, but they didn’t come back to play an encore. That put the show’s end at around 01:15 in the morning, making the whole thing more or less an hour long.
So what was enjoyable about the show? The performance and the music were really excellent. It’s an absolutely horrid type of show to go to when you’re not feeling well, because everything about it, from the music to the atmosphere, makes you want to get up and jump around and expend some energy. Any technical difficulties they had were dealt with swiftly and efficiently. The only real downsides to it were the late time slot, the late start, and the early finish, but those have nothing to do with the band itself. I’d really love to go see them again sometime when I’m feeling better so I can not just witness the atmosphere, but be a part of it!
1. So Long, Sisters
2. Bad Luck Charm
3. Spade is the Anti-Heart
4. Bay of Biscay
5. Black Euro
6. Eartha Kitt
7. Magic Recoveries
8. Drop Dead, Casanova
9. Second Soul
10. We Might Fall Apart
12. Stun Gun
13. In Neon