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  gig reviews - apr/may 04

Pow! to the People all-dayer: Herman Dune / St Thomas / The Cribs / The Projects / The Radio Dept / Bearsuit / Ant / The Loves / Stained Glass Heroes
11.4.04 London Barfly (it's the Monarch in Camden)
The owner of the J D Wetherspoon pub chain is not, as you may be forgiven for thinking, J D Wetherspoon. Rather than etch his own monicker over the door, the bloke chose to name his empire after a teacher who once told him he'd never amount to anything; the idea being that we warm to his defiant rebel spirit. 'Business leaders', you see, bemoan what they see as Britain's anti-entrepreneurial culture, and want us to idolise them as we do pop stars. We all just want to be loved, don't we.

But for crying out loud, man, just move on! There is, thankfully, a long way to go before the nation's teenage bedrooms are lined with Richard Branson posters, and Mr Wetherspoon's former charge appears to have letting-go issues that may need serious psychotherapy; but I am at least very grateful to him indeed for selling cheap beer. If you're going to Pow! to the People, be sure to do all your drinking between bands – in the Wetherspoons just down the road (it's on the right, before the venue, as you're walking up Chalk Farm Road from the tube), where a pint and a short can be had for less than the Barfly charges for a pint. And has been many times. O yes. 

Since its inception in 2000 Track and Field's annual Easter Sunday knees-up has featured some absolutely blinding sets from the likes of The Butterflies of Love, Saloon, The Aislers Set, but this year – as Ron Atkinson might say about a third-round Carling Cup tie – for me, you're looking at a weakened line-up here. You know when you're gagging for a curry and you sit down and order your lager and poppadums, only then to discover that they don't do vegetable chana vindaloo (substitute your own Ruby of choice)? And you're a bit disappointed... but only a bit, cos, y'know... it's still curry

So let us drool over Bearsuit, irresistible as a tickle, more sexy and exuberant than ever. Let us particularly admire the way Lisa reels off some shrieky stuff and then looks momentarily amazed and amused at her own capacity to emit this fab din. The new stuff sounds as good as the old this time, and me girlfriend has to forcibly restrain me from buying the new album cos she's already got me it for a present. Hey – Bearsuit: so good they nearly spoil your birthday. 

Aforementioned better half, ever hip to where it will shortly be at, discovered The Radio Dept about a year ago by downloading the awesome 'Why Won't You Talk About It?'. Trailing in her sugar-scented wake, the world is apparently about to go gaga for this lot now that the XL label, no less, is priming them for UK consumption: hence our failure to get in to see them at the Betsey Trotwood last night. In the same way most Scandinavians speak better English than most Brits, The Radio Dept continue the Swedish tradition (see also: Boys Like Charlotte; Second-Hand Furniture; Free Loan Investments) of playing the sort of glorious unashamed indiepop that most Blighty bands are just too jaded and jaundiced to even think of. They hint at the grandeur and radiance of The House of Love but with less self-importance, sweeter understatement. Now let's see if XL overproduce them. 

Just to give your Scandophile reviewer a reality check, St Thomas – a Norwegian outfit formed by an ex-pro footballer – are the Tore Andre Flo to The Radio Dept's Henrik Larsson. I last about 15 seconds of a song about cowboys before the call of Mr Wetherspoon's star pupil drowns it out. Nul points. The Projects chase that mesmeric Stereolab groove and get halfway with some ace throbbing drums, bass and synth. But the singer's undershooting her range; she sounds flat as Lincolnshire. The Cribs are another of these back-to-basics three-pieces; at the end of their set the drummer stands on his stool and waves his arse at the crowd. Fine if you like that sort of thing. Oh, you do. OK then. 

On balance it's been a tasty old rogan josh of a day, but a better running order might have elevated it at least to jalfrezi level (it's still light when Bearsuit and The Radio Dept are on, and I manage to miss The Loves entirely, mistakenly figuring that such a decent band will be held back until well after teatime). Herman Dune sum it up. They're a man down, and so the event is headlined by a two-piece: not exactly a feverish climax. But the indie hipsters are loving every minute – even though, or possibly because, all the good songs sound like 'Sweet Jane'. It's the third time I've seen these and the second time was better than the first; but £1.55 a pint is dead cheap, especially for London... 

Pete Popkiss

Lambchop + Clientele
April - Sheffield City Hall

Following up from the haunting, laid back ‘Is a Woman’, Lambchop released two albums this year simultaneously, ‘Aw C’mon’ and ‘No You C’mon’. These were the result of band leader Kurt Wagner’s dedicated work ethic of writing a song per day and the result is a pair of albums that bridge the gap between ‘Is a Woman’ and Lambchop’s breakthrough release, ‘Nixon’. Tonight at Sheffield’s City Hall, Wagner and Co are taking these new tracks to a live audience.

Support tonight was supplied by The Clientele, a so-so folk-rock band who pretty much passed me by and, I think, ht rest of the audience also. They certainly paled into insignificance once lambchop took the stage. Wagner has that sort of laid-back persona that is instantly engaging. He is cool and geek in equal measures. Live, lambchop have the ability to soothe and enrapture an audience as you’re pulled under by Wagner’s rasping soulful voice, and then a second later they’ll rock you in a way only Lambchop can (demonstrated perfectly by tonight’s rendition of ‘The Gusher’).

For an encore to this captivating set to a grateful audience Wagner returned to the stage, with a mere two other members as backing, to offer a heartfelt thank you to the crowd a beautiful stripped down finale.

This is how live music should always be.

Luke Drozd


Yeah Yeah Yeahs + Entrance + The Locust
14.04.04 - Manchester Academy 1
The one man Baltimore rickety, bluesy part Jack White part T Rex act of Guy Blakeslee the former bassist with The Convocation Of… set things off nicely as the crowd bounced of the mercurial artist’s enthusiasm. One of the highlight tracks was set opener ‘When Your   Way Gets Dark’ a bluesy rock gem that gives you a taste of what Jack White’s solo stuff will sound like or how the White Stripes sound when Meg calls in sick. Things got angrier with the howling and harrowing cry out against George W Bush in ‘You Gotta Die’. Guy showed his caring side when towards the end of his set prompted by a member of the front row he threw himself into an acappella version of ‘Happy Birthday’ for Alan. 

I am no statistician, but I would guess that on average, including thought time about what to wear; the average time taken to get ready to spend an hour or so in the company of the stylish Karen O was about one hour. Therefore, you can imagine that some of the crowd was slightly aghast to witness four guys troop on to stage clad in a locust costume and mask, resembling a cartoon baddie. The Locust had arrived, this was the ultimate “Judge us on our music and not our dress style” statement that was greeted with boos before the first note of their futuristic, post hardcore thumping and zapping instrumentals that is a delightful mix of Whirlwhind Heat, Raging Speedhorn, Boysetsfire and Slipknot with contrasting occasional Kid Rock style vocals produced by keyboardist Joseph Karam and bassist Justin Pearson had sounded. The open minded amongst the crowd warmed to this neat experimental brand of punk metal, while the others remained plagued by the temerity of the San Diego based four piece who soared through songs from their 23 track album  ŒPlague Soundscapes.

Wanna be Madonna or original art punk princess? Was the question in my mind requiring resolution tonight regarding the Yeah Yeah Yeahs front lady Karen O as she stomped her way onto the stage. The screams and looks of adoration as she belted out crowd favourites such as ‘Cold Light’, Map’ and ‘Date With The Night’ suggested that she is the latter. The YYYs have a bubblier more pop focused sound than you would expect of them live, with the exception being the raucous garage rock bruiser ‘Miles Away’ that featured towards the end. Karen O certainly knows how to put on a show as she provocatively munched on and played with a French loaf before hurling it into the crowd. Then she seductively spewed lager into the adoring crowd and she managed to make me repress my urge to yell out “Bring back The Locust”, but only just.

Dave Adair