Gig Review: Crystal Fighters – 23.11.13 @ Academy 2

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By Liam Armstrong

I can’t remember when exactly I was made aware of the Crystal Fighters, but I do know that ‘Follow’, from their 2010 album Star of Love was featured on the soundtrack FIFA 13, so that’s something. Having assumed the role of chief blagger, I managed to acquire a ticket to their sold-out gig at in Academy 2 on the 23rd of November and boy, was it worth it.

For those of you not ‘in the know’, Crystal Fighters are a group formed in London, with ties to Spain and in particular the Basque Country. It is due to this that there style has become so varied and so diverse that it often defies attempts to pigeonhole them into one specific genre, instead being described as a folk/electronic/dance/psychedelic combination or some variation of the aforementioned (see: folktronica). With the fairly recent release of their second full album, not counting remix albums, and with a fairly large arsenal of songs to choose from, I knew that this was going to be something special.

As they emerged from the side lines, I spied their trademark txalaparta, a type of traditional Basque xylophone played by two people, in the centre of the stage. Cue crazy costumes and colourful lights. As the first song came to an end and we were introduced, the energy had already permeated into the crowd and it was certainly infectious. Sebastian Pringle assumed the role of hippy-esq shaman, and yes I know how cliché that sounds but I assure you that it is accurate. Sporting a top-knot, large sunglasses and a marvellously sequined shirt/trousers type thing, he appeared as a conduit for the music, waving his hands around not unlike a sorcerer as the rest of the group added the extra layers of vocals.

This was the kind of gig where everyone knows the lyrics and everyone sings along, dancing in their own way and not afraid to look a little bit leftfield. If there were any criticism of their music, it could be the repetitiveness of some of the lyrics, such as in ‘Plage’, however I would argue that this added to the set, allowing them to transform tracks such as this from album-fillers into crowd-pleasing anthems, allowing for a sense of togetherness. In the few quiet breaks from the music, we were thanked for taking time out of our lives to be there, and then to simply ‘be’, which I thought was quite nice, followed by a command for everyone to give the person to their left an item from their pocket in an effort to start a friendship. (NB: I met Gilbert Vierich after the gig and informed him, rather embarrassingly, that I have no recent memory of being in such a happy room.)

Having finished their set and gone off stage, the raucous of the crowd continued, culminating in the inevitable return to the stage and the encore. The band welcomed their support act back onto the stage, handing over the txalaparta responsibilities to them, signifying that something special was to happen, which it did. ‘Xtatic Truth’ is one of their best known songs, one of the most energetic, a perfect encore. As the strobes kicked in for the last time and I waved my hands above my head mimicking both Sebastian and the two female vocalists, Mimi Borelli & Laure Stockley, I found myself wanting more still but the house lights came up and I knew that it was over.

If this sounds a little bit “far-out” for you, that’s because it was, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking them out. Whether you’re a fan of acoustic folk, psychedelic electronica, drum & bass or even dubstep, this band have something for you.  Their stage presence is incredible and it is surely a gig not to be missed…

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