Live Report Exclusive

Helsinki Lambda Club at Hope and Anchor, London

06/06/2024 2024-06-06 14:00:00 JaME Author: ChrisN

Helsinki Lambda Club at Hope and Anchor, London

It ain’t a party till something gets broken.


© ChrisN
Tokyo indie-rock trio Helsinki Lambda Club have always had ambitions to tour internationally. They’ve had some excursions to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, but it’s only recently that opportunities have come to visit the western countries whose music has had such an influence on their sound. In March 2024, they appeared at SXSW festival in Austin, Texas and their latest overseas adventure was to the UK. It might have been the band’s first visit to these shores but lead singer Kaoru Hashimoto and guitarist Taiki Kumagai weren’t strangers to the country, having studied in the UK previously.

Just as Helsinki Lambda Club were looking to head west, the yen had been rapidly heading south, making the already expensive proposition of overseas touring that much more difficult. A healthily oversubscribed crowdfunding campaign helped out though, and fans back home will be rewarded with a selection of CDs, DVDs and various other goodies in return for their support of the HLC AIRLINES Tour, which took in London, Birmingham and two appearances at the Great Escape Festival in Brighton.

The first stop on the itinerary was at Islington’s Hope and Anchor. The venue, a Victorian pub built in 1880, might be officially historical thanks to its architecture, but its significance in musical history is in the punk and new wave music scene of the 1970s and 80s. The likes of The Police, The Stranglers and The Cure performed in the pub’s basement, while original punk/new wave label Stiff Records ran from offices upstairs. Helsinki Lambda Club did considerably better than U2, who, legend has it, performed to eight people here back in the day. They sold the place out.


The building has been refurbished in recent years, but the basement venue still has that cramped, beaten up and lived in look. Band stickers slapped on almost every flat surface create a chaotic collage and spiky soundproofing foam is stuck, and in places unstuck, to the walls and the claustrophobically low ceiling. The stage’s back wall is proudly emblazoned with “Hope and Anchor” in punk style graphics.

Support came from Derron, a member of the Japanese language social group that helped arrange the gig, and local rock band Krokodile. The stage at Hope and Anchor is so small that there is no backstage, so there was no grand entrance for Helsinki Lambda Club. They made their way through the crowd and around the support act packing up their gear to set themselves up.

The headliners opened with the upbeat, garage punk Mitsubishi Macchiato and the crowd picked up the energy right away. The song tells the tale of a date at a Vampire Weekend gig and, crammed with name-checks of their songs, serves as an effusive nod to the New York band’s influence on Helsinki Lambda Club’s own eccentric sound.

During chirpy pop track PIZZASHAKE, bass player Kodai Inaba announced loudly “I am dancer!” to the crammed in audience. There was barely enough room to fit the band on stage, but somehow, they made enough space for Inaba to reel off some elastic-limbed funky dance moves in the guitar break. He hopped and jumped all over and managed to avoid getting snagged in the spaghetti tangle of cables. He was a livewire all night in his bright red ‘funkadelic’ t-shirt, grinning and gurning throughout the set.


True to their eclectic style, Helsinki Lambda Club rolled through a string of tracks with a disparate mix of influences. Lost in the Supermarket and Horse Candy had an 80s new wave vibe about them while the weird, unsettling prog funk of IKEA decried bland consumerism and the dystopia of a life measured out in flat-pack furniture. Pitch Black Donut was a curious confection of funk and rock guitar backed by Hashimoto’s laid-back rap vocals and Khaosan’s insistent beat was reminiscent of Silent Alarm era Bloc Party. Just when you thought they were being straightforward with a song, Debora’s sparky pop tune spiralled off into a strange punk-thrash UFO sighting finish.

Hashimoto put his guitar down for vocals only on Good News Is Bad News and when they finished, he shared the band’s own good news/bad news story. Unfortunately, Kumagai’s guitar was damaged on the flight from Japan, sustaining a nasty snapped neck.  That meant a trip to Denmark street, something of a pilgrimage for guitarists, and one of the few places in central London that has just about held back the tide of corporate retail to retain its original character, a side street cluster of specialist guitar and musical instrument shops. Kumagai clearly knows his stuff and treated himself to a handsome Gordon Smith offset style Gatsby in sky blue that also matched his outfit perfectly. Hashimoto, enjoying the silver lining to this particular cloud, remarked “This will be our best memory in this tour.”

They got back to business with Touched You, but the song’s gentle intro was derailed by the crash of a beer glass smashing to pieces on the floor, prompting the crowd to let out a big “Oi!” (The joy of cultural exchange! Sorry, Brits will always cheer when this happens in a pub.) Hashimoto stopped to ask, “OK? Broken?” and Kumagai added wryly, “Like my guitar?” Hashimoto helpfully suggested, “You should buy a new one.” Take two went off without a hitch, and they raised the energy again with ALONG VACATION, a perky pop song that switched to a reggae beat.


Support drummer Yusuke Okada briefly sounded like a traditional taiko drummer as he hammered out the intro to Golden Morning. This boisterous and bouncy song got the crowd chanting and jumping along before Season of Harvest and Plunder mellowed everyone out again with its chilled out, swoozy guitar.

Introducing the final song, Hashimoto took the chance to plug the rest of the tour and thanked everyone, which prompted the crowd to break into a “Helsinki! Helsinki!” chant. Finale Rock ‘n’ Roll Prankster set the crowd off singing along, jumping and waving their arms in the air, adding to the increasingly sweaty atmosphere and bringing the night to a finish in a party mood. Savage baggage handlers aside, HLC AIRLINES were off to a flying start.

Check out more photos from the show in our gallery below.

Set list

01. Mitsubishi Macchiato
02. PIZZASHAKE
03. Lost in the Supermarket
04. Horse Candy
05. IKEA
06. Pitch Black Donut
07. Khaosan
08Debora
09Good News is Bad News
10. Touched You
11ALONG VACATION
12Golden Morning
13Season of Harvest and Plunder
14Rock’n’Roll Prankster

The music video for 2023's ALONG VACATION and live footage of the band performing Pitch Black Donut in Tokyo in 2022 can be viewed below.


 Download or stream Helsinki Lambda Club's music
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