Johnny Rocket and the Moonlandingz have taken their fictional band outfit from rubble to the Ritz. Quite literally tonight as they headline Manchester’s 02 Ritz. Debut album “Interplanetary Class Classics” was released in March and is one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year with their live shows transforming the album into a blitz of mind-bending synthesizers and signature carnage.
Opening the stella line-up are local girl band PINS, bringing a tribal, yet modern energy to the stage. The band make use of synchronised movements, with frontwoman Faith Holgate weaving between her band making the stage her own. If King Gizzard took away their rocket fuelled drum beats, it would sound something similar to this. The show goes on with American garage rock pioneers, The Black Lips. Considering their history and reputation, it is a pretentious support to say the least. Despite being over 4,000 miles away from home, they make the stage their own with a sizeable crowd getting down early. The set is a quite lengthy and toilet roll keeps flying overhead – fuck knows why.
The band crash-land questionably late at around 10pm, with members of the band dropping their bags on stage as if they are opening the local showcase, aided by “Theme for Valhalla Dale”. While blinding the crowd with bright lights, the arrival of Johnny Rocket triggers “Psych Erstaz” from the Black Hanz EP, with the Vocoda aided vocals to bring the crowd straight into Armageddon. Without even saying a word, Rocket holds a huge two-fingered salute to Pitchfork by brandishing a controversial Swastika on his forehead. The rest of his ever-crazy outfit tonight makes his appearance come across as the naughty school girl who was murdered on a date with Dracula.
The four-beat intro of “Black Hanz” divides the crowd into teenagers off their nut and people who don’t want to be attacked, exposing a lot of open space within the crowd as result. The set continues with “Neuf de Pape” before dedicating “Sweet Saturn Mine” to Charles Manson.
The crowd merges back together for Frankenstein slow-dance, “Strangle of Anna”, before informing a lover of an STD with “Rabies Are Back”. Although chaos is not uncommon at a Moonlandingz show, there is a sense of disorganisation tonight, ranging from making the set list up on stage to clear confusion between the band throughout the performance of “Glory Hole”. The quality of the performance reflects the size of the crowd; what is there is great, but something is visibly missing. Rocket proves that he is the second greatest frontman alive, dictating the crowd when to lose it by screeching the lyrics instead of shouting them, showing immensely within “Lufthansa Man” before the set comes to a first-round-knock conclusion with “Man In Me Lyfe”. With “Vessels” and “Cities Undone” not performed in the set the lack of an encore brings a strong enough show to a weak close.
Did The Moonlandingz even play the gig? Was it all a figment of our imagination? More importantly, will we see more of The Moonlandingz in the future? With a Fat White Family album rumoured for next year, it is likely we won’t be seeing much more anytime soon. There is a sense, and hope, of this weird and wonderful fictional story, being a one-off, a capsule and memory of what a group of contrasting creatives had fun with. Could the Moonlandingz ever bump into Noodle and the gang on their adventures? Only the future will tell.