Molotov Jukebox unleash their Explosive Groove in London’s Southbank
Molotov Jukebox found an ideal setting for their unique, high-tempo style in a giant 1920s spiegeltent erected in London’s Southbank.
Part of London Wonderground, a colourful festival of cabaret, circus and music that began in May, the spiegeltent is a discombobulating presence by the side of the Thames. With a ceiling of luxuriant red and yellow stripes and a laminated wooden floor, it feels like it’s been transplanted from one of the more psychedelic summer festivals. This impression was only accentuated by Molotov Jukebox’s eccentric performance.
The band’s wildness is evident in the name alone: they claim to have chosen “Molotov” as a symbol of revolution, and “jukebox” to represent the diversity of genres in their sound. And on stage they make an immediate impression, facing the crowd with Angus Moncrieff waggling his trumpet, Sam Apley caressing his violin, and frontwoman Natalia Tena bearing an enormous black and white accordion. Before the first note was struck these three were already bouncing around the stage and coaxing the crowd to join them in shedding all those heavy inhibitions we carry around every day.
Natalia Tena, perhaps a little wobbly from drink but technically unimpaired throughout, was quick to draw everyone into the gig. Over a fast-paced warm up of punky acoustic guitar and blasting trumpet, she announced that the first song was about her ex-boyfriend – a real bastard, she added, in a voice dripping momentarily with disdain. Tena sang soulfully about the break-up over propulsive outbreaks of fiesta trumpet.
Throughout the gig, Molotov Jukebox lived up to their name by moving seamlessly between several styles. Their second song shifted the tent to the West Indies with a jaunty calypso rhythm. The next carried it back across the ocean with Spanish-style guitar guiding the crowd’s groove. The fourth song took us to the Balkans as the band bounded to the front of the stage and stamped their feet to furiously energetic gypsy punk. In between Tena built rapport with the audience by shouting surreal injunctions aimed at further puncturing people’s sense of personal space, at one point exhorting: “Find someone near you and sniff them! Sniff them!”
All these chameleon shades had one thing in common: a terrifically danceable beat. This thrummed up a stomping atmosphere, with people bouncing and skittling across the wooden dancefloor, hips gyrating, bodies thrusting to the thump of the music. Only my black-clad, shoegaze-loving companion, whom I’d dragged along to the gig to keep me company, could bring a note of doom. “They’re very good,” he opined. “The violinst’s really talented and so’s the bald bloke playing the trumpet, and it’s a damn commercial sound. But they’re fucked! The record industry’s dead!”
Ignoring such doom-mongering, I watched the gig build to a fiery crescendo with fan favourite Trying. Tena repeatedly called: “I’m trying so hard! I’m trying so hard!” as the tempo gained speed before coming to a tinkling climax. The band finally laid down their instruments and waved goodnight to an ecstatic crowd, leaving the stage speckled with pools of well-earned sweat. Molotov Jukebox are definitely a band worth paying to see live, regardless of whether you’ll fork out for an actual recording.