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Go! Team Finds Pop Paradise

“Who’s got the illegal copy of the album?” called out Ninja, the diminutive rapper-singer-cheerleader of seven-person UK buzz band The Go! Team, during their set last Tuesday. As throngs of teens in the audience cheered and laughed, Ninja grinned right back, shouting “You’re all criminals, but we love you anyway!”

The Go! Team’s sunny indie-pop-cum-hip-hop sound and on-stage dynamism got Boston’s Paradise Rock Club jumping like a joyous street party. As the audience sang along to a sonic hodgepodge mixing rocked-up Moby with early 1990s rap, The Go! Team exuded infectious energy and joy.

On the tail end of their three-week tour across the US, The Go! Team are swimming in fresh acclaim. Though their current line-up is only a year old, The Go! Team found themselves nominated for this year’s prestigious Mercury Prize in England, competing against albums by Coldplay, Bloc Party, and eventual winners Antony and the Johnsons.

The Go! Team’s current success is testament to the power of word of mouth that propelled a British group with a magnetic live show and hip sound to stardom across the Atlantic.

FROM BEDROOM TO STARDOM

The Go! Team began as the solo project of guitarist Ian Parton, who stitched together a collage of pop, hip-hop, and Sesame Street samples on vintage equipment in his bedroom in Brighton, England. Parton brought in a few local musicians to supplement his playing on his debut 2002 EP, released on the tiny Pickled Egg Records, and for the 2004 album “Thunder, Lighting, Strike!” released on the small-scale label Memphis Industries.

In a hurried three weeks, “Thunder, Lighting, Strike!” transformed from a whiz-kid’s solo project to a full-band spectacle. When a booking agent arranged for The Go! Team to open for Franz Ferdinand in Sweden, Parton pulled together the current group by placing online ads and by bringing in friends and friends-of-friends. The icing went on the cake when the 22-year-old London rapper/singer known as Ninja fortuitously responded to an ad. The band gelled immediately.

The Go! Team’s success since then is a classic blog-buzz success story like that of Brooklyn’s Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or Montreal’s Arcade Fire. The influential online music site Pitchfork put The Go! Team’s album in its Top 10 Albums of 2004 list. The buzz about The Go! Team spread so fast at this spring’s South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, that a line two blocks long formed to see the band. After the Austin show, Columbia Records picked up The Go! Team, and “Thunder, Lighting, Strike!” was released across the US last month.

IN PARADISE

At the club, singer Ninja’s bouncy, ecstatic dancing and candid on-stage friendliness worked wonders. Wearing a black mini-skirt, tight crop-topped yellow T, and pink headband, Ninja got the audience chanting along to her silly lyrics, “Do, do it, alright,” and her cheerleaders’ call, “Two, four, six, eight, ten!”

At one point in the show, she began imitating the dances of various audience members, and late in the show began wildly kicking into the air. Caught up in the excitement and energy, the audience, the majority of whom sported thick under-21 crosses on both hands, jumped along like jubilant trick-or-treaters being handed candy.

The multi-racial band members, who look like the poster children for a United Colors of Benetton ad, raced across the stage to switch instruments. The two men on guitar, Ian Parton and Sam Dook, move to keyboards or to the second drum kit in the back of the stage while a cute female multi-instrumentalist bounced between keyboard, guitar, and a bizarre wind-instrument that looked like a cross between a clarinet and a mini-keyboard. Ninja, the fizzbomb cheerleader/singer, shook jangling bells, while Chi Taylor-Fukami rocked out from behind a drum kit twice her size.

Despite the positive energy and enthusiastic solicitation of audience participation, the show had a few flaws. The song “The Ice Storm” saw a drab, misguided instrumental jam, which brought down the crowd’s energy; the jam, though, was made less boring by the backdrop screen turned into a starry sky with swirling white lights.

An out-of-key one-off vocal performance of “Hold Yr Terror Close” from drummer Taylor-Fukami was out of place in the high-energy set. Though Taylor-Fukami’s singing was disappointing, so too was her drumming in the rest of the set, which remained stiff and noticeably imprecise when she played along to the electronic beats pumped through the PA.

But despite a few dull moments, The Go! Team pulled all the strings out with their massive dance-floor-stomping encore (closing with crowd favorite “Ladyflash”) that had the audience all smiles and sweat; they proved to be a true breath of fresh air in a rock scene that frequently takes itself too seriously for its own good.
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