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  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. 

This is 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). 

However 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. 

Sayan Bapa 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. 

This isn’t 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 isn’t complete.

Luke Drozd


The Pixies
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...

Aline Lemos


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!)

This is 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.

While we 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 realise it.

We missed 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.

The band 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….

There was 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?

Fucking class. Even the Packhorse seemed bearable.

Drew Millward


   

The Keytones
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 Keytones.

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.

Sam Metcalf


   

Ladybug Transistor + Richmond Fontaine + James William Hindle + Benjamin Wetherill
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 O’clock.

The 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 stuff.

James 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. Very Good.

The bass 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!

Ladybug Transistor was pretty dull, but the ten people who were still there seemed to enjoy them.

 Drew Millward



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 over.

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 believe me.

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
15.6.04 Leeds Met Uni
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. 

Simon Wilson