While worried English Literature students hide in their rooms making a start on this year's reading list, NME throw a Fresher's Tour for those prepared to do uni properly...
Let’s be honest, nobody actually remembers any of their Fresher’s Week at university. The odd flashback will reappear to haunt you: ‘impressing’ new friends with your party trick by getting them to sing the “play the willy banjo” part, or waking up naked in the communal kitchen next to the hall monitor while your timid next door neighbour sneaks around you to grab the Frosties.
So, of course, when the opportunity arises to venture into those forgotten dark days again I grab the chance with two hands, grow a bum-fluff beard, down six super snakebites before falling into London’s Astoria, kebab in hand.
As the lights ignite the stage a cheer rattles the Astoria’s insides like an empty stomach and Operator Please bounce on to pick up their instruments. The Aussie teeny-boppers’ arrival disperses the older crowd members to the back revealing a cacophony of chemical coloured kids swelling at the barriers. Firing through their fizzy power pop foot shakers, they make me bop around like I’m half my age – that’ll be their age then, given they’re all aged 16-19.
Just like the first few nights of Fresher’s Week the band reaffirm the traditional need to hammer it hard with their music while the hoards do it by getting plastered on bright coloured drinks like Hooch and 20/20. A set of screams welcome the band’s sugary flying saucer number: ‘It’s Just A Song About Ping Pong’.
But it’s much more than a table tennis track: it has everything for a perfect party tune – driving drums, screaming lyrics and even a breakdown that oozes in like the band are playing on a giant record player when somebody … pulls … t … hh … eee …. pllluuuugggggg.
The six-piece go off stage leaving the crowd with the ecstatic feeling of a great opening night at university. You’re happy with the three hour conversation you had with your first new friend (the one you’ll try to avoid ever seeing again), you’re pleased with the girl you pulled (the one you’ll try to avoid ever seeing again) and you’re pleased with the 30 alcopops you’ve put away (the ones you’ll vow never to drink again).
Then, like all nights out, the incurable hangover hits. But this time the thumping headache and beer sweats appear in band form. Indie heel-draggers The Satin Peaches clamber on stage with their guitars kicking at their ankles like Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood.
Their pubescent sixties sound is muffled by lead singer (and 2007’s Robert Plant look-a-likely competition winner) George Morris’ curly hair. The Detroit four-piece attempt to relight the atmospheric retro sound of The Doors but instead they highlight the need for melody in music as they fail to capture the imagination of a bar-bound crowd.
Their latest single ‘Well Well Well’ adds a touch of piano but, as their static performance doth suggest, the Brett Anderson-sounding clunker is all a bit self-indulgent. It sounds like something that your new friend (who you’ve now found out is called Gareth and he likes to watch Disney films in leather pants) would listen to.
But the best is saved to last. Student Unions usually book the likes of Bradley from S Club 7 or Chesney Hawks to finish off the opening week but this time the University of NME have brought in a little more class. The Go! Team's Ninja bounces onstage with all the vigour of a PE teacher on her first day, but these kids aren’t going to drive the energetic front woman down to a 40-a-day, whisky in a sport’s bottle bully.
Instead the crowd’s cheers suggest that they’re on her side as her glo-day counterparts step out into the green and purple lasers too. “This is the last date of the tour,” Ninja announces, “We’re going to do our bit and you’re going to do your bit.” Yes Miss.
The six-piece spring into their breakbeat led mix of sampled horns, keys and blubbering bass. Their music sounds perfect for a superhero TV show or the type of fairground funk Michael Jackson might play at Neverland.
The cartoon clouts and energetic swashes from the Brighton band put The Static Peaches to shame especially when Ninja begins to hop, pop and lunge along to ‘Bottle Rocket’.
But it’s refreshing to see a contagious bout of pogging at the Astoria, away from the usual crowd-surfing and chest-tightening mosh pits. The entire downstairs dance floor is awash with raised arms, smiling faces and all the ignorant fun of Frasher’s Week.
Tonight Ninja is a possible candidate to replace Mr Motivator on GMTV (who has been away far too long) with her bright red vest, green gym shorts and exhausting workout. “We’re going to dedicate this to the whole room,” she says as the band performs ‘My World’ – which sounds like Lemonjelly taking on the Lassie theme tune.
They pummel through a raucous version of ‘Titanic Vandalism’ which gets the throngs springing around like they’re on a rubber floor before they twist ‘Grip Like A Vice’ into a heavily sampled funk gem.
Like longer drinking hours The Go! Team leave the students wanting more and they encore with the energetic choreographed riot known as ‘Ladyfuzz’. The song and set peaks with Ninja thumping the skins and the drummer raised on the bass drum.
The lights come up and it’s all over. The oldies rush out into the darkness while the young ‘uns grab their catch of the evening and head off home. Finally there is a Fresher’s Week everyone should remember. Now where’s that hall monitor…