The period between 2001-2004 represented a ragged and riotous time in indie rock. It was a time in music which affected some of the biggest artists still working today. Two such artists Dev Hynes and Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys came together at a 2008 gig at Madame Jojo’s in London, to celebrate this period of rock and roll which swept up a generation. And inadvertently created one of the most “indie” nights imaginable.
In 2008, Dev Hynes was pursuing his project Lightspeed Champion, an indie-country crossover with some charming results, while Alex Turner was finding fame with Arctic Monkeys as they were becoming the biggest band in the country. Part of that fame came from Turner dating model and TV presenter Alexa Chung, which not only put him in front of the tabloid cameras but in the then up-and-coming trendy location of East London.
Hynes and Turner had already been friends prior to that location, however. The duo had been label-mates when Hynes’ indie-metal group Test Icicles shared a place on the Domino Records roster with Arctic Monkeys. But they started playing together more regularly in the centre of a certain Dalston Venn diagram when Turner began staying at Chung’s flat in London when visiting from Sheffield. That turn of events found him spending more time with Hynes which naturally led to them performing their favourite indie hits from their teens.
The garage rock scene would massively influence the pair. Turner, now famously, a shameless fan of The Strokes among other bands, often cites the zeitgeist bands of the time as influences. The early noughties dancefloors so expertly dominated by swaggering leather-clad bands, wearing ripped jeans, and big grins.
Though bands like The Libertines and The Strokes would find further fame in later years, the gig also celebrated lesser-known bands like The Von Bondies, The Vines and The Walkmen, who comparatively drifted into obscurity. The songs of which had soundtracked a generation’s Saturday nights got another run out as the supergroup performed for a 300 strong crowd filled to the brim with the (cringing) NME glitterati of the time.
The Independent reported in that in January of that year, Hynes, in promotion of his Lightspeed Champion album Falling Off the Lavender Bridge, had texted his “supergroup” bandmates from some of 2008’s ‘ones to watch’ list. The group included bassist Joe Edwards from The Rascals, Fred Les of Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man, on guitar Ferry Gouw from Semifinalists, and, the brilliant Victoria Smith from Ipso Facto on drums. The addition of Turner for the finale was kept a secret from everyone at the iconic Soho venue Madame Jojo’s.
The band, going as The Pun Lovin’ Criminals for the night, came out to rapturous applause and after a rallying cry of “Who wants some indie?” from Hynes, ploughed into a set filled with dancefloor bangers. The Von Bondies’ ‘C’mon, C’mon’ was followed by Interpol’s ‘Slow Hands’ and The Walkmen’s fantastically brilliant song ‘The Rat’. A touching moment followed as the group paid tribute to Heath Ledger, who had died that day, with their performance of The Vines’ ‘Get Free’. Turner showed up to deliver the standout song of the evening when he joined Hynes and co for a special performance of The Strokes’ ‘Reptilia’.
Turner arrived on stage with blood flowing from his head after a joke had gone awry and left the singer needing a sit down after hitting his head on a door. The band played Interpol’s ‘NYC’ while Turner gathered his senses and went on stage at the White Heat night to deliver an excited and exciting cover of the indie dancefloor hit.
The crowd suitably lose their shit and as The Horrors and Kelly Osborne jostle for position at the front, Alex Turner sings one of his favourite songs from his favourite band like a giddy schoolkid, while Dev Hynes bounces around in thick-rim glasses and a furry floppy hat, and the touring party of 2008 smash through songs learned through their Blackberrys, there’s one question which we can’t shake. Is this the most “indie” thing that ever happened? (and why can’t we stop shuddering?)
Either way, it’s hard to not find some joy in this clip. It may show an increasingly cringey picture of the life and times of the indie scene but it also shows a joyous celebration of the genuine fun and frivolity of the garage rock scene. And, in Hynes and Turner who were both 22 at the time, it’s a tableau of two young artists finding friendship in each other as their upward artistic trajectories crossed paths.
But most of all, it showed a group of friends, a group of young people, happy, dancing, singing and shouting, lost in the moment which felt like the most important in the world. Most of which will likely still think about that night at Madame Jojo’s.