gig reviews - july 04
Nina Nastasia and rare guests
15.5.04 - City Varieties, Leeds
The City Varieties in Leeds is still, without a doubt, one of my favourite
venues in Leeds, if not the whole of England. Having inhabited its current
guise since the mid 19th Century it is one of the few remaining
music halls still standing in Great Britain. Inside its grand yet compacted
traditional Edwardian interior such artists and performers as Houdini and
Charlie Chaplin have taken to the stage. Tonight it is the turn of Nina
Nastasia to join that illustrious list.
Nina Nastasia’s third gig in Leeds in the last two years and this time
things are promised to be a little different. Firstly she is not promoting a
new album but the official release in England of ‘Dogs’, her debut album,
and secondly she is here with some new friends in the form of Sayan Bapa and
Kaigal Ool-Khovalyg, members of Tuvan band Huun-Huur-Tu and accompanying
Nina tonight on the Igil (a horse hair cello no less).
before ewe are introduced to the world of throat singing and horse hair
instrumentation we are graced with a set of songs with just Nina and her
familiar motley crew. From the moment she takes the stage Nastasia has an
ability to appear both calming yet melancholic. An obviously shy performer
she prepares to begin in almost complete silence before stepping to the
microphone and greeting us. The moment the first note is released into the
room the crowd is enraptured. No matter how many times you hear her music on
record, you are never prepared for how Nastasia's voice sounds live. Easily
one of the most electrifying live vocalists I have ever witnessed, it is
impossible to listen to her and not feel that chill creep up your spine.
Nastasia’s particular brand of twisted folk is to centre tonight mainly
around tracks of the aforementioned ‘Dogs’ and so is a different experience
from many of her previous shows where these early laments haven’t been
aired. For me the track ‘Stormy Weather’ is, as ever, a stand out track of
the evening. If there’s a song that’s going to come close to bringing me to
tears live this is it.
As ever the
backing instrumentation this evening follows and expands the music and I
can’t help but become some how mesmerised by watching Dirty Three’s Jim
White pound along when required. On the occasions he is allowed to unleash
himself it’s not dissimilar to watching an octopus playing the drums as
limbs flick around the kit.
and Kaigol Ool-Khvalyg join the band only for the second half and initially
it doesn’t feel like it quite works with nothing really gelling. No-the-less
by the second or third song something just sticks and the overall sound is
something rather special. On the darker more angled tracks from ‘Run to
Ruin’ the effect of having them there is wonderful and really does add a
different dimension to the songs. The Igil sounds similar to a cello but
with what I can only describe as a looser, warbled sound. The additional
throat singing performed is a bizarre sound that is one part didgeridoo to
one part bird song and is quite astonishing and is a welcome addition. These
are two talented individuals that I’m proud tom have seen perform.
the strongest performance I have seen from Nina Nastasia, that credit goes
to lasts years show in St. Johns church. However this was still a stunning
show and one with a very different flavour bought to it by the evening's
guests. If you’re yet to see her perform live than your life quite simply
4.6.04 - Brixton Academy, London
On the way from Nottingham to London, a contented disbelief prevailed in our
minds: 'we're going to see the Pixies tonight!' Among the crowd outside the
venue, there were quite a few different age groups; you could tell the 'old'
fans from the 'new' ones. Some of the excitement was uplifted by David
Lovering's magic show, which we had the pleasure of viewing, instead of a
support band. To be fair, it was more like a combination of daftness and
good humour from his part and the audience's amazement. One could tell by
the smiley faces that no matter how silly the tricks were, people were
genuinely happy to see the Pixies drummer on stage. Well, at least I was.
And the astounding feeling of 'wow, it really is the Pixies' lasted the
whole of the performance.
'La la love you' was the first song they played, followed by 'Ed is dead'
which blew the audience away, with their power. The songs performed after
these, which included two different versions of 'Wave of mutilation',
classics like 'Monkey gone to heaven' and 'Debaser', 'Gigantic', 'Where is
my mind', among others, only confirmed that, basically, they have not
changed! They still posses the violence, the melancholy (such as in 'Hey',
one of the best songs they performed that night), the trippy, spacey touch,
as you have in 'Number 13 Baby', another top moment of the gig for me.
Simply unbelievable. The same is true for 'Is she weird?' (which Frank Black
confused with 'Gouge Away', the next song in the track list-oops!). Kim
Deal, on the other hand, did not make any mistakes. Her face seemed to glow
in amazement, perhaps due to the audience's reaction. This same enthusiastic
audience demanded an encore, three times, and were blessed
with 'U-Mass' (sadly the only song they played from Trompe Le Monde'),
'Caribou', 'Cactus' and 'Into the White', sang by this adorable Kim Deal. As
for Joe Santiago (just so that he is not left out!) he appears to remain a
master and genius in his solos. The same applies to Black's vocals: still
guttural, deep and intimidating, as witnessed in 'Vamos', 'Crackity Jones',
and 'Bone Machine'. 'Velouria', together with 'Is she weird', were the only
two songs from Bossanova; most of the songs were from 'Come on Pilgrim',
'Surfer Rosa' and 'Doolittle'.
No matter what the comments have been with regards to their return, I am
pretty sure in affirming that to most 'old' fans, it feels too great to be
true to see them back, with such energy and synchronicity, almost if we are
back to the past...
THE USA IS A MONSTER + Bilge Pump + Like a Kind of Matador
8.6.04 - The Packhorse, Leeds
It will never cease to amaze me, quite that who believes that The Packhorse
is a suitable venue for a gig has, I can only assume, smoked their weight in
crack. And fair play to them, if you are going to have a hobby, why not have
a damn cool one? (This is not an endorsement) My lounge is better equipped
to stage bands, now there is an idea! Why spend thousands on underused
lighting rigs, in a venue that can comfortably (!!!) hold thirty people? Why
not make slight modifications to the fabric of the building that would allow
the windows to open? Are the patrons of this establishment that ill regarded
that oxygen is deemed a luxury? I don’t really care. I don’t spend too much
time there, an there has to be a damn good reason to venture there, the good
reason tonight is THE USA IS A MONSTER (always capitals!)
not the first time, and I would seriously doubt the last time I have seen
Like a Kind of Matador, and that my friends, is a good thing. Living in
Leeds you can occasionally get a little complacent about the huge amount of
fucking class bands you have on your doorstep. I don’t mean just a thriving
live music scene, which Leeds can boast, but seriously great underground
bands doing something different, things that can be held up against music
created anywhere in the world, great bands, not just some clowns who wish
they were The Vines/Jet/The Libertines/Von Bondies any of that hand me down
garage rock bullshit the NME are so fucking keen on. Like a Kind of Matador
are one of those great bands, they are the purveyors of very
loud/heavy/droning female fronted post-rock (yeah, I said it, fucking shoot
me!), their sets seem to last for days but you still want to hear more…. Not
a bad start to the evening.
are on the subject of great bands, Bilge Pump played next, and very well
they did to. There was a little confusion with who was to be on, but it
turned out to be the mighty Bilge Pump. They had played the Tasty event the
previous Saturday, for which I believe there will be a review soon. Just
read that one…. What I can say though is they are one of the best bands this
country has to offer, it’s just people are to fucking stupid to
the first part of Bilge Pumps set as we had gone to cool down in the beer
garden. Sorry. I bet it was good though.
that sound like two sixteen year old boys attempting to execute some pretty
‘far out’ Yes covers, turn out to be two middle age hippies attempting to
execute some pretty ‘far out’ Yes covers. It is like being beaten up by a
nun, it makes no sense no matter how you look at it. There are two of them;
Tom who plays drums and keyboards and Colin who plays guitar; they both
sing. Like many great two piece bands before them they released their latest
album on Load records, for those in the know this should give an indication
as to their sound. They managed to get through a large part of their last
album, which is bright pink and has an Indian on the front; the back has a
man and what looks to be a toy weasel. Just what I thought….
a lot of talk about at ATP saying how amazing Lightning Bolt were, I think
THE USA IS A MONSTER get my vote in the two man noise stakes I’m afraid. How
can you fail? Noise, synth, guitar? Nu-Prog?
class. Even the Packhorse seemed bearable.
Nottingham Rock City
It’s ages since I’ve been to Rock City, and it’s not hard to see why.
Downstairs is just about inhabited by a dozen or so people here to see The
Depressing is the word that
comes to mind. I’d made an oath not to come to this place again after
someone said to me ‘How old are you?’ in a very sarcastic manner last time I
was down Talbot Street way.
The Keytones seem not to
bother that they’re in a dive of a nightclub, or the fact that there’s
probably more staff than punters in the entire building, and throw
themselves into what can only be described as an ‘energetic’ set.
Musically, they’re far from my
thing. Think Stone Temple Pilots or Pearl Jam, but with a British hard rock
twist. But, y’know, I sort of begin to admire the fact that they don’t give
a shite that they’re playing to an empty venue.
We stay for most of the set
before running – yes, that’s right, running, for the last bus, half full of
incredibly expensive Red Stripe and with a sense that never again will we
step foot inside that grotty place ever again. And if The Keytones do, it
will surely be to a much bigger crowd.
Ladybug Transistor + Richmond Fontaine + James William Hindle + Benjamin
2.6.04 - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
As I have may have mentioned at other points, I have been very busy over the
past few months, and as a result of this I am constantly fucking knackered.
It feels like I’m eight again, going out on a school night has become
somewhat of a ‘no, no’. Its shit, but I’m not here to burden you with my
minor quibbles, but please bear in mind my state of mind as Ladybug
Transistor were still tuning up, when it was knocking on the door of 11
evening was kicked off in fine form by Benjamin Wetherill. I had been
meaning to catch Mr.Wetherill for some time but never got the chance, but
from the performance here I would be more than happy to see him again. As
with so many of these gigs, the cryptic write ups are a little puzzling,
there was a mention of cricket, and all things English…once seen though, it
all made a lot of sense. There are very few bands or artists that would
brave the stage of the Brudenell with a George Formby cover. There is a very
obvious sound of Nick Drake about him, but that’s alright by me. Lovely
William Hindle is, was and always will be great. If there is not a bigger
audience for this man there really is no justice in the world. This time we
were treated to a simple stripped down set with just a lone player with a
guitar, which made a change from the full band sound featured on record. In
this from the quality of the songs becomes even more apparent, to me he
reminds me a lot of Damon Gough in his more introspective moments. Get hold
of the records, see him live….. Do whatever you like, this fellow is good.
player from Richmond Fontaine sat in front of us prior to them taking to the
stage; he was drinking whisky and Stella. This may be a small indication as
to the sound of Richmond Fontaine, well if you could sum a band in the form
of a drink. Queen would probably be a Pina Colada …. Hmmm?! I suppose the
drink analogy is not the best one, but I don’t care. Richmond Fontaine are
the purveyors of boozy country rock, if you think Neil Young, Credence
Clearwater Revival, Bruce Springsteen….alright, maybe more of the first two.
You get the picture. The set ran through plenty of tracks from previous
albums, but was all too short, these are great songs played with passion and
style by men who look like they should be working in a hard wear store. If
you can get hold of their albums, they are fantastic and I am in no mood to
be writing a review. Damn your eyes for missing this one, fools!
Transistor was pretty dull, but the ten people who were still there seemed
to enjoy them.
Photos Courtesy of Carmel McNamara
Bilge Pump + Lords +
TEAM + Skoo Club Night
5.6.04 - Carpe Diem, Leeds
So the first tasty/skoo collaboration finally arrived and
what an eventful night it turned out to be. Despite the shocking stage
lighting, the daylight outside and the tropical temperatures, all three
bands managed to thrash out some masterful sets.
First up were alternative guitar noise pros and tasty
favourites TEAM. What better way to kick things off. Although new and
largely unknown in the foreign northern climes of West Yorkshire, it was not
long before TEAM had the crowd baying for more with professional set
featuring New Capital Athletics, Model Lisbon, 50,000 and Resonate South,
amongst others. Another top gig by Leicester's finest and many a new fan won
Next to bless the stage were multi talented Lords. Despite
a few minor mishaps and the odd wrong note, the general consensus was that
of another top turn. Have a listen to the MP3 link above if you don't
And finally, Leeds finest, Bilge Pump. Always able to draw
a crowd and never a band to disappoint, Bilge Pump rocked away to the close
of the evening. Never the easiest of listening with their edgy brand of
metal guitar jazz funk fusion, no-one was leaving.
That is until we all had to leave due to a nasty blockage
in the local sewers. Ho hum, these things can't be helped and judging by the
photos, the skoo djs may have been having a few problems spinning the discs
by then anyway.
Ash + The Crimea
When the missus said we'll see Ash (for it was an order), I checked the
date. I had to be sure the gig sat in that brief football hiatus marking the
end of the domestic season and the start of Euro 2004. Goodie, 25 May,
doesn't clash with anything. Not even the Champions League final.
So how come I found
myself standing with trickling sweat tickling the back of my neck on the
same night Germany are playing bitter rivals Holland in Euro 2004? Because
this gig was bastard rearranged wasn't it. Stuck in the Leeds Uni refectory
feeling like someone's turned the heating, let alone the sound, up to 11.
Surrounded by a large number of Pepsi and Shirley wannabes. The 80s fashion
throwbacks are screaming "Tim! Tim!" in anticipation of their pin-up pretty
boy pop-rock hero, and Ash's main bad boy, Tim Wheeler. And I can't even
slink off to the side to check the footie score as there is no mobile phone
reception in this wretched venue. God save me from this ordeal. Or at least
let Ash be half-decent.
But first, as if we
weren't hot enough already, come The Crimea to try and get the crowd stewing
for the main act. The missus, catatonically awaiting Ash, was unmoved by The
Crimea. Shame, as there was a wit to the lyrics and a lovely variety in
their delivery, backed up by the odd able tune despite the set's occasional
lapse in the humdrum. The audience's failure to respond with anything like
the energy and openness apparent on stage was disappointing, but they're
probably all here for a glorified sing-a-lone anyway. Christ only knows how
the guitarist managed to get through that set without a bead of sweat
appearing on his brow.
Eventually saving us
from the supposedly comedic covers of their tunes piped through while we
wait, Ash drift onto the stage one-by-one, taking up positions with a decent
distance between each of them. Wheeler drifts on bearing a mighty statement
of rockin' intent - a flaming guitar. And the band continue from this, to a
point, showcasing material off their new album. These tunes are ok stabs at
'heavier' material, but the live performances mirror the record, falling
down because of Wheeler's occasionally fragile, almost too sweet voice. The
audience seem ill-prepared, most unsure of how to react, but a number of
diligent moshers respond accordingly.
The crowd enlivens
with a retreat into 1977, Kung Fu and Goldfinger still
the great bounce-alongs they always have been. And as the Kill All Angels
material is interwoven to - at first - slow things down, Shining
Light has young 'uns reaching for their mobile camera phones to capture
a stage swathed in moody blue, constructing a modern-day lighter moment.
The eyes cast on the
frontman mean the other band members - Mark Hamilton, Charlotte Hatherley,
and Rick McMurray - are often overlooked. But Hamilton shows a couple of
forages forward to lap up some worthy attention, while Hatherley is a
studied example of distanced cool (or maybe just weariness). McMurray pounds
away on the drums, almost relentlessly.
It says something for
Ash's career that A Life Less Ordinary was originally derided as
dull, but after seven years a revaluation of their second album shows most
of the starting points for where Ash are today. If not quite monsters of
rock, then they certainly know how to put a melody to some heavy axe
strumming, even if sometimes they come across as more of a piss-take than
the Darkness. Their recent material lacks the jauntiness of their first
tunes, but if that's what growing up means to them, let them do that. We'll
still have the memories.
Oh, and apparently
the 1-1 draw between Germany and Holland game was supposedly shit.