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Inside Out prog duo Haken and Maschine pack The Borderline for one night only

Haken Maschine The Borderline poster

A two band bill and a one-off show to boot. Hard to publicise you might think? Not with promoter Jon Patrick and Inside Out’s Freddy Palmer on the case it seems. The Borderline, nestled down an alley between two bookshops, is hardly a massive venue, but what seemed like about 300 people were crammed into the main room as I descended the stairs, admittedly later than I had hoped, to witness show opener Maschine. The first of the Inside Out pairing, the five-piece were in full flow, and had the audience held in rapt attention.

Their debut album Rubidium was released earlier this year, and whilst Simon wasn’t so hot on it, Maschine are seemingly one of those bands you probably need to see live to appreciate. For me, the production was off-putting in places, but it wasn’t an issue here.

What did strike me was the charisma of the group. Guitarist/vocalist Luke Machin is both virtuosic in his skills on the guitar, and also infinitely likeable. A lot of people who are very good at things let it go to their head because everyone tells them so – so hopefully this praise won’t change anything in that department – but as he spends the set clearly enjoying everything he’s doing, nodding and winking at the crowd, it’s hard not to like the bloke. Keyboardist Georgia Lewis and he share vocal duties, which only adds to the impressiveness of their performance. All the while, bassist Daniel Mashal and drummer James Stewart were pulling music-accenting faces. Again; really hard not to like them.

So whilst some of the compositional flaws present in Rubidium are hard to gloss over, it’s a really enjoyable set, and the crowd loved it.

I think the most important thing I learned tonight was how to pronounce the name of headline act Haken; that is, like bacon, and not harken. Important stuff when you’re supposed to know what you’re talking about.

Having enjoyed new album The Mountain immensely – which was reviewed here – I was keen to see how it translated to the stage, and was not disappointed; The Mountain plays very strongly live, with songs like the quirky “Cockroach King” being a riot, with keysman Diego Tejeida and drummer Ray Hearne providing the counterpoint vocals that set the song as one of the most interesting in prog this year. ”The Path” and “Atlas Stone” are very strong also, and whilst they dip back into older material (which is not all that old really – their debut full length came out in 2010), the set is built around the new release, and it’s clear the audience are very into it, despite the eye-melting heat. Still, it’s nice to have variation, right?

I think the main lesson to take away from the evening is that Haken are probably a bit to well-liked to play The Borderline. It’s a cosy evening to say the least, but not in a good way, and the stage size limits the performance somewhat. It was a lot of fun nonetheless, but I echo some of the sentiments I heard pre-show that perhaps a larger venue would be in order next time. It certainly shows the widespread appeal of the headliner that the crowd was full of a somewhat ‘older’ generation of people, so I don’t think they’d have too many problems with that.

All in all, it was a nice little showcase of Inside Out prog roster, and shows what a strong label they are. They’ve had a great year, so I hope the success of the evening encourages both them and the bands to push onwards and upwards in 2014.