Imperial Leisure (O2 Academy 2 Islington, 20/12/2019)

In 2012, I saw Sonic Boom Six at Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms and while they were great, one of my biggest takeaways from the show was the support band Imperial Leisure. They were a ten-piece ska rock party band and they were great fun and I really wanted to see them again. After all, it’s impossible to ignore any band who introduce their first song with the words “this next song is about going fucking mental”.

I had tried to see them on numerous occasions since, but I could never make ends meet. Shows were too far away, or I had to be somewhere else. Most recently the opportunity arose to see them at Boomtown Fair, but once again, I couldn’t make it. I saw that they would be playing in London in December, and almost turned it down in the ‘knowledge’ that they would play there again soon, as I’d been back and forth from London a lot over the last couple of months. Then I did a bit of extra research.

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Oh, crap…

I don’t know when the decision had been made, but the event became their “farewell show”. Well, that sucks. I guess I’d better go then. I was fresh as a daisy on my way there, but by the time I was on the way home, I pitied the woman next to me in the coach. She was sat next to me, who stank of sweat and alcohol, and was snacking on a cheese and onion pasty.

So what had happened?

It was a pretty long slog on the coach to get there, which wasn’t helped by the fact that a taxi (referred to by the coach driver as “some idiot”) crashed into the side of it in Battersea. I also somehow managed to get lost walking from London Victoria Coach Station to Victoria Underground Station. Still, I can now say though that I rode on the second longest escalator in the UK at Angel station. Perhaps I should take that coach more often.

The O2 Academy 2 Islington was an adorable little venue, and I was baffled by the prospect of Imperial Leisure fitting ten musicians onto the stage. In fact, there may have been even more considering that to mark their tenth anniversary, they had apparently reunited with ex-members, leading to seventeen musicians being on the stage at once. The venue only held 250 people, and in the knowledge that it was at least almost sold out, it was pretty obvious that it was going to be chaos. However, I’d later learn that it would get substantially messier than I’d first anticipated.

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First up were The Gogonuts, who were fantastic. I was very surprised to find out that they had only been around for less than a year. I would have thought it would taken much longer to have mastered writing songs about tea (really) than they had. Next came Karl Phillips & The Rejects. Continuing with the humble “reject” title, frontman Karl referred to the group as being “like a shit Imperial Leisure”. As far as I was concerned, they held their own. They certainly one-upped Imperial Leisure on one factor – they caused me the bigger nightmare when trying to categorise their mish-mash of punk, rap and ska. I’m not sure it can be done.

The free-for-all attitude began at this point, as already, members of Imperial Leisure were joining the support on the stage.

As more people arrived and socialised, I felt like I was in a very tiny minority of people there who hadn’t already seen the band at least five times already. Everybody would be singing along to every word, and I wasn’t nearly as well-informed. I take no issue to going to concerts alone. I do it a lot. But tonight was different. I spoke to a few people there who were going to an after-party with the band. Some of those who had come a long way would even be sleeping on the floor in the band’s studio. One woman had come all of the way from Aberdeen. I really should stop complaining about concerts being too far away, when other people will go so far out of their way for them. Especially one so small, farewell show or not.

I felt like I’d crashed the party, or the funeral in this instance. I do really wish I’d jumped on the bandwagon sooner. After all, it’s one of very few instances where I’ve had a drink splashed in my face at a concert, and I’ve been relatively happy about it. Frontman Denis solved the issue of space on the stage by pretending very little time on there, and more on top of the crowd. He shed his hi-vis suit in favour of swimming trunks halfway through the set. He also squirted at least five cava bottles squarely into my face over the course of that hour.

Thanks guys.


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