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A Dinner Party at Rough Trade


 Photo available via Flickr by Raph_PH  (Under License CC BY 2.0 DEED)



On a gloomy Saturday in mid-February, after being lost in East London, we finally arrive at Brick Lane’s ‘Rough Trade East’, to encounter one of Britain’s freshest bands. 


As the campy and orchestral opening of the album’s title track and introduction ‘Prelude to Ecstasy’ emerge from small venue speakers, the band’s intentions are clear. You realise The Last Dinner Party’s stage presence can be read as a rebellion, and indeed, a rejection of the nonchalant ‘blasé’ attitudes of their more post-punk contemporaries. Frills and bows contrast the indie sleaze of band t-shirts and ripped jeans; revelling in all that is stylised and pretentious, whilst simultaneously remaining refreshingly relatable and real. 





In keeping with the band’s playful theatricality, lead singer Abigail Morris notes that Rough Trade East’s stage doesn’t offer “enough space to twirl”, confirming how they offer an experience that transcends the typical concert. Despite the confined walls and small stage space of Rough Trade East, The Last Dinner Party’s fondness for theatrics burns brightly and it’s clear that the group functions best as a live band. It’s one thing to listen to ‘Prelude to Ecstasy’ during your morning commute, and it’s a completely different realm to witness the quintet live as they manifest an otherworldly and maximalist breath of fresh air.  


As much as there is joy to be found within irony and ‘postmodernism’, much like any ex-drama A-level student, I hold a certain fondness for the dramatic and pretentious; something which is unapologetically championed throughout ‘Prelude to Ecstasy’. The band’s identity does feel distinctly modern, but their theatricality comes centrestage due to their rootedness in all that is classical, especially given keyboardist Aurora Nishevci’s classically-trained expertise. In this way, the Last Dinner Party is a band almost impossible to place, impossible to distinctly define.


After queuing longer than the band’s performance time, which notably wrapped its way around the whole record shop— an impressive feat for a band’s debut album— I had a memorable interaction with the band members. When leaving in a hurry to catch the tube, I absent-mindedly grabbed my KCL Resilife bag, thinking nothing of it at the time. But when standing sheepishly in front of the band’s lead singer and bassist, Morris excitedly exclaims “KCL! That’s where we met!, in freshers week!” I wish I’d done something so productive in freshers week; imagine forming a brit-award, genre defying band as opposed to spending way too much money on terrible jager-bomb shots in London’s dingiest student-infested clubs. After speaking briefly, I discovered we shared the same degree, going to show that an English degree is indeed the perfect degree for a rockstar (proof that to all stem-student sceptics, there is indeed use for my degree, thank you). Morris’s ‘Stay in school!’ sprawled on my copy of the record now remains a prized possession within the confines of my dorm, perhaps as some deluded form of motivation.


I first had the privilege of seeing The Last Dinner Party this Summer in Oxfordshire’s Truck Festival. Despite being packed into a tiny tent, drenched in mud, and just about functioning on three hours of sleep; the quintet have the distinct and rare ability to transport audiences to somewhere far, somewhere transcendent. In hopefully sounding as unpretentious as possible, when watching Morris parade around that very stage, one felt as if they were witnessing the beginning of something important, something new, and something incredibly needed. Those words fit the feeling. 

 

The band’s eclectic influences are palpable as they capture the indie-whimsy of Florence Welch and stacked vocal harmonies of ABBA.  Yet, these main influences stand alongside the band’s incredibly classical and literary references, such as the album’s recurring themes of fluidity and queerness reminiscent of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (cited as the band’s unanimous favourite book!). The Last Dinner Party thrives within these binary opposites, constantly doing whatever is unexpected of them. This is distinctly notable within one of the album’s stand-out tracks, ‘Caesar on a TV Screen’— an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which showcases the band’s distinct ability to marry the modern and ancient, giving voice to every girl’s innermost desire to occupy the same position of power as Shakespeare’s most prominent tyrannous dictators. Perhaps the band’s inherent eclecticness behaves as an explanation for their success and ability to resonate with so many, as the balance between pompousness and gritty realism ultimately gives voice to complex human desires and feelings within their music.


To keep up with The Last Dinner Party, be sure to check out their Spotify, Instagram and Linktr.ee


 

Edited by Akane Hayashi, Music Editor

 

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