Is it wrong to irrationally dislike acts that have a laptop as their primary instrument? No? Good. First supports DreamGarden improve half way through their set, once a vocalist joins our lone laptop-user on stage, but in comparison to the brilliant Abe who follow, they falter in front of their miniscule audience.
Abe play their ambient electronica to a more receptive audience, helped not just by the later timeslot but also by their more accessible music. The trio are a little too absorbed in their respective equipment to pay much attention to their surroundings though – most notably the drummer, with his drum machine as opposed to a real kit, has a serious case of ‘concentration face’ going on.
In contrast, IS TROPICAL’s set is as much about the visuals as it is the thunderous sounds they create. They stick to an order vaguely reflective of their album, kicking off with the sublime ‘South Pacific’ which also begins Native To.
In their characteristic bandanas, the band strikes a formidable pose on the somewhat small stage of The Harley. The light show that starts as soon as they appear carries on for the duration of their set – flashing lights of white and red colour the room and come with headache-inducing potential. There is some respite in the surreal videos that adorn the ceiling every so often, playing strange swirls of colour that almost seem to throb in time to songs such as ‘Lies’ and the powerful, bass-heavy yet also kind-of sentimental ‘I’ll Take My Chances’.
Despite their slightly rebellious attire, they’re polite boys, saying “cheers” after nearly every song. Before launching into their biggest hit, ‘The Greeks’ as their penultimate song, drummer Dom Apa crosses his chest in a strangely religious moment.
Of course, the bandanas covering their face add to the rousingly militant sounds of ‘Seasick Mutiny’, whipping members of the crowd into dancing frenzy as cries of “Heave! Ho!” break through the electronic soundscape. Sadly, this signals the end of their set, and IS TROPICAL leave as abruptly as they came. Even more sadly, it seems patrons of The Harley are more concerned with the club night on afterwards, as people begin arriving shortly after, with no idea of the amazing gig they’ve missed.