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gig reviews -dec 05/jan 06

The ICA – 11/01/06 

It shames me to say that this evening is my initiation into the weird and wonderful world of the ICA. But before you go ahead and call me a typical apathetic Londoner, it’s not the easiest place to find…I was meant to go and see “Godzilla” there last year but got lost! Less apathetic…more just pathetic. 

This is the 2nd night in a sold-out run of five, meaning that if you do the simple math it’s obvious that Mogwai could have packed out a venue five times as big. It’s obviously a ruse to foist as many of their favourite support acts upon us as possible but seriously, I can’t believe how tiny the performance area is. There will be no escape for our ear-drums in such a confined space…thank God I bought my headphones. 

I amble down the gangway just in time for the start of the strangely named Uncle John and Whitelock’s set, and while their unique brand of art-rock and blues initially sounds just as bizarre, it sure is a grower. They’re interesting to look at, too. The bassist holds his instrument as if it were a double bass, the drummer pounds out one intoxicating rhythm after another, and the keyboardist is either incredibly drunk or incredibly ill…I can’t tell exactly which but he looks as though he’s about to fall off his stool! And if singer Jacob Lovatt’s name sounds like that of a gospel preacher, his Ian Curtis-meets-monk-of-doom vocal style does nothing to dispel that image. The microphone stand is repeatedly dashed to the ground by his unabashed flailing and the set climaxes with him spinning off the stage into the crowd. Terrific. 

It seems sensible, given the ‘Gwai’s reputation for extreme volume, to retreat to the back of the room at this point and it is here that I get chatting to a guy called Andy and (briefly) his mate Bob. Andy isn’t all that familiar with the band’s oeuvre but he likes what he’s heard and during the show proffers some interesting thoughts about what their influences might be. Plus he buys me a pint…what a gent! 

As it turns out, the headphones aren’t required. Mogwai are both quieter and chattier than on the two previous occasions I’ve seen them live. Front-man and occasional singer Stuart Braithwaite responds good naturedly to friendly cat-calls from the crowd, and when a guitar lead/socket interface produces some unexpected between-song noise, jokes that we’ve just been given a taste of a typical band rehearsal. 

I soon discover that I am as familiar with the band’s overall body of work as I thought. It’s been years since I heard Come On Die Young and Rock Action pretty much passed me by, although I do recognise “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong” from the latter. “Tracy”, “Hunted by a Freak” and “Kids Will Be Skeletons”, all favourites of mine, are indistinguishable from their vinyl counterparts and what new material they do play doesn’t stand out from the back catalogue, which may not be a bad thing depending on your point of view but which doesn’t exactly support Alan McGee’s recent claims about the greatness of the forthcoming Mr Beast. 

Overall the set is too subdued to capture one’s attention throughout and we have to wait for a pre-encore rendition of “...Fear Satan” before the feedback starts to resonate. Much as I value my hearing, I feel disappointed not to be pinned to the back wall by the end of the evening. It seems that in the quest to refine their sound, Mogwai have lost some of their fire in the process and that’s a real shame.

Will Columbine

ATP Festival – ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas – Mars Volta’
2-4.12.05 - Camber Sands

For those of you who’ve had your heads crammed up your arses and have therefore no idea what ATP is I will fill you in. It is a festival curated by musicians taking place in a Pontin’s in Rye on the south coast of England. Hosts have included Shellac, Autechre and Sonic Youth and it is quite frankly the greatest festival on the face of the earth. This time the honour fell upon the shoulders of those prog fools The Mars Volta. So with a car boot full of booze and a heart full of joy to Camber I did go.

Now with three days and more bands than you can shake a big stick at ATP is a daunting and exhausting affair and even if there is a lull in the programme you can head back to your chalet (yep chalet, none of that tent nonsense, this is for adults you know) and watch the specially chosen viewing on the ATP channel on the TV sets provided. Ace!

Now please bear with me through this overview of the weekend as time has used its shitty digits to meld this into one huge musical lump and I lost my guide during the weekend so some details may be incorrect. You don’t like it you fucking go yourself next time.

So day one, a belly full of Stella and Jim Beam in my bag I was ready for whatever Mars Volta had to throw at me. First up Battles, Warps newest signings, take to the stage and are quite frankly stunning. Representing some Warp’s slightly changing musical view, this guitar based lot with a hint of electronic tricks prove a hit with nearly everyone I spoke to. Probably why they got a reprise at 1am for all those who didn’t get there in time first time round. Another corker for day one came from Jaga Jazzist’s, a 10 piece Norwegian neo-classical tour de force. Dalek also prove to be the first of the weekend’s hip-hop acts a real delight as well. From here the night spirals off into a booze soaked mist.

Day two and a hangover like no other isn’t gona stop me as today holds some of the festivals greatest moments. Beans & Holy Fuck supply some guitar and electronica fuelled hip-hop, The Fucking Champs rock like no else before or after them and Mastodon and High on Fire have to be seen to be believed. However band of the day award goes to the princely Les Savy Fav. I’ve wanted to see these chaps for a while and I wasn’t disappointed. It takes a lot nowadays to get me to the front of a gig dancing my arse off but I did it for these guys. Hot and sweaty I left the venue and again the booze took over allowing fleeting recollections of the Stones Throw club night and the excellent Madlib, a party in the chalet with some very strange French blokes and a near fist fight and then reconciliation with my younger brother…oh and Mars Volta played a couple of prog rock tunes apparently. God bless you alcohol.

Day three pays witness to a broken man. The only way through is beer. As a day it feels more like me watching myself at a festival than actually being there but I slaved on. I’m good like that. Kicking off downstairs were a festival highlight, Gris Gris, who play fuzzed up folky rock that is beautiful discordant and freaky. Check them out and I promise you will be fall for their charms. Hella proceeded to rock me to my core (or was that yesterday?) and Anthony and the Johnson’s calmed it all down again. It was just down to Acid Mothers Temple to confuse the fuck out of my bewildered body and the festival to break down Lord of the Flies style.

Now then people this is a summary of the weekend and there were many great bands playing not mentioned here, some I saw, some I missed some I apparently saw, but that’s life at a festival with a weak mind and body for you. One things for sure though, ATP is always a fucking good time and I for one am counting my pennies in preparation for buying my tickets for next years events. God bless you ATP, the only festival in my book…not that anyone’s ever read it and those that did gave it a poor review.

Luke Drozd

Gris Gris + Quack Quack
5.12.05 - The Faversham, Leeds

Against all my better judgement and a hangover from hell I made my way to the Faversham pretty much straight after having stepped out the car having returned from ATP. Hey Gris Gris were so good on the Sunday in Camber it seemed silly to pass up seeing them again on my home turf.

First however there were the support bands and to be honest the first two won’t even get a mention due to utter mediocrity. Ok so maybe my mental state was less than forgiving but tough shit.

However all was to change with Quack Quack taking to the stage, well in front of the stage at least. They plough through what turns out to be a far too short set of pop infused kraut goodness that had the kids (well me) gagging for more. It is no exaggeration to say these guys could be the best band in the UK.

Finally for the second day in a row I had the pleasure of enjoying Gris Gris. Far louder and somehow more unhinged than their ATP appearance Gris Gris fuzz and rock with more soul than most other bands out there, a sort of psych folk punk maybe. I have to say I think the smaller venue was far more suited to their sound allowing you to be almost enveloped in the buzzing wonder. Just a shame a few more people didn’t come to share the joy.

Luke Drozd

Gris Gris + Quack Quack
5.12.05 - The Faversham, Leeds

On arrival at the Faversham it was immediately noticeable how empty the place was and how lacking in atmosphere it was. There was certainly no shortage of equipment but another ten people would have without doubt plumped up the atmosphere nicely, it just seemed as if the air was lacking something... but the bands dealt with what they were given and support band 'Quack Quack' set up all their gear in front of the stage on the dance floor so that they were level with the audience which I thought was a nice touch and so their performance became an intimate experience between us and them.

As soon as Quack Quack begin there is an explosion of sounds and each musician, of which there are three (bass, Keys, Percussion), is absorbed in his instrument. I was particularly paying attention to the drummer whose whole body became completely consumed with complex rhythms and beats of a variety of tempos and styles, so complex even that I often found it difficult to tap my toes along to it but I found their whole set very interesting, original and uplifting. Quack Quack could be likened to Mogwai or any other instrumental 'chill out' (inverted commas because some tracks were much more up-beat) but there is something a little more stimulating about this experimental trio, and maybe that's just it, that they do experiment and are hungry for new sounds.

This then brings me to Gris Gris who returned their set up to the stage which proved to be a tight squeeze considering the amount of equipment they were using and how much they liked to wonder around. I waited for their set to begin with much anticipating of what they were going to sound like after reading comments such as "...The set was an anvil of perfection, on which the band pounded out glowing hot weaponry that cut the audience down to pieces of raw awe." (Chad Cheatham) previous to the gig.

If music is described as organized sound then this was definitely not music. The concept was interesting and exiting, a concept which was very much embraced by psychedelic rock band The Grateful Dead; a form that has no form, a structure that has no structure. But even in a structure that has no structure, a single thread needs to be weaved throughout whatever elements of the music to keep the listener listening. What I heard was each member of the band performing his own act simultaneously which just resulted in discordant noise. It was a bit like watching four different musical performances of varying styles, all at the same time. Gris Gris had energy and substance but musically I think they need to fuse a little more of each other together...

Suzanne Marron

Doves + Stubbzy + Polytechnic
6.12.05 -  Carling Apollo, Hammersmith

I have never reviewed anything in my life, although once I wrote a sarcastic email to a newspaper at three in the morning.  Consequently, when my good friends at Tasty Fanzine called me on the red telephone and asked me to accept two tickets to see Doves in return for writing about it the next day, I jumped at the chance, and so it came to pass that one chilly evening in December I quit my mansion-garret in deepest Fauxhemia and headed out to the Carling Apollo, Hammersmith.

Now I really like a bit of Doves, so I was anxious to make sure my review didn't simply consist of an account of me standing up and dancing around like an idiot child.  No.  You, the reader, deserve your full money's worth (given that Tasty Fanzine is free, I think I have delivered exactly that).  For this reason I donned the mantle of impenetrable cynicism affected by all writers for NME.  Add to this a notepad and a charming guest to impress with my journalistic credentials, and I was ready to do battle.

The line-up was started by Stubbzy, playing one-man acoustic rock songs.  The Carling Apollo is huge; at this point it was still largely empty, and most of those there were chattering excitedly about Doves and beer and things of that nature, so to appear with nothing but a few barre chords for protection must have taken balls of granite.  Unfortunately he only had prefabricated concrete and glass music to go with them, but his courage will not be forgotten.

Next up were Polytechnic.  A tightly bound, highly maneuverable five-piece, their sound was variously reminiscent of Blur and even A-Ha, but most of all of an I Should Coco-era Supergrass, albeit the jittery speed-pop of Caught By The Fuzz rather than the mockney rebelry of Alright.  Their combination of raw energy with endearingly fresh larkiness supported an impressively varied repertoire and gave them an original, but not outlandish, sound.  The last song, my personal favourite, suggested that there was much more still to come from this band.  They succeeded in winning me over, and I really hope to see them again.

Richard Hawley, by contrast, calmed the pace down a bit with croony songs reminiscent of Henry Mancini and Pat Boone.  It made me want to go "Ah woodle-dee doo wop bop bop", but only briefly.  In fairness to him, I must say he has a very fine voice and the musicians played superbly, but the repertoire paled for me after the first few songs, and I felt his sound didn't sit well with the evening as a whole.  Still, he is an amiable balladeer.

A short break and, at last, a sound like church bells underwater announced the arrival of Doves.  They opened powerfully with Snowden, following swiftly with Sky Starts Falling and a video that would have had Howard Hughes in ecstasy.  These and the well-titled Pounding set the tone for a vigorous performance which incorporated a wide range of their material, from the nice-dreamy Sea Song or the hotel californication of One Of These Days to the Northern Soul-influenced Black and White Town.  Atmospheric lighting and video footage helped immerse the audience in the music.  Technical issues postponed, but did not prevent, Last Broadcast, but as bassist and singer Jimi Goodwin said, it wouldn't be a Doves gig without technical issues.

The energy didn't flag for a moment in over an hour, climaxing in a massive and concrete performance of Satellites (which showed off the 6,000 horsepower coupled to the driveshaft of drummer Andy Williams).  At this point a cute video sequence showed the band going outside, riding four feet in a limousine, and enjoying a swift pint, while the audience cheered every fifteen seconds, hoping they would be back soon.

And then, of course, they were, with the soul-boisterous Here It Comes, the gentler M62 Song, and, finally and triumphantly, the epic There Goes The Fear.  Abandoning cynicism to the real journalists, I stood up and danced around like an idiot child.

Andy Wyld

The Mountain Goats
23.11.05 - Bush Hall, London

The day has arrived, I have the songs in my head, let’s go. But I don’t like Bush Hall. Never mind. Get to the front with the rest of the geeks. I’m there, front left, good view, red wine has had some effect, but not enough for a disruptive wee. He’s on, John Darnielle is on the stage, and we’re all thrilled, and never before have I been amongst a more adoring crowd, a large number of which probably used to get beaten up at school, but with a sackful of albums, ep’s and cassettes this is a cult following. We are here as part of 4AD’s 25th anniversary celebration, 4AD has been home for the last three Mountain Goats releases, and unsurprisingly it’s material from these albums which dominate the set.

He’s quite simply amazing. Playing tonight with acoustic guitar accompanied by Peter Hughes on bass and backing vocals nothing is lost from the records. He rattles along, playing hit after hit, that’s hits if you know The Mountain Goats, and there’s no time for breath, just keep them coming john, please, you’re very good and we all love you, some more than others, slightly creepy perhaps, but they own your first cassette release, and you’ve given them a voice in the world.

He can do no wrong, we would have applauded a dump. Now all I need are those cassettes, the coach doesn’t have a cd player. 

Ron Beasley

The Chemical Brothers
1.12.05 - Newcastle Academy

It was about 12 years ago when I first heard 'Leave Home' being played in a club and was instantly hooked on The Chemical Brothers. Some achievement considering I was a hardened combat wearing, Doc Marten-clod grunge kid. But then that has always been the secret of The Chems- they seem to appeal to everyone. So it was kind of fitting that I was finally going to see them live only a few yards away from the club I first heard them in.

The other thing about playing a gig in Newcastle as opposed to Leeds is that the crowd is so up for it. There's no standing around, almost challenging the band to entertain you. The audience is fully part of the performance - willing the band on. So combine this atmosphere with the Chems popular appeal and you've got a killer show.

The recently reconstructed floor to the Academy was given a severe testing as the set kicked off with a storming version of 'Block Rockin' Beats'. And the boys didn't seem to take the foot of the gas until the very end of the set. Awesome visuals and an array of very hi-tech looking equipment (seemingly only used for producing little red flashing LEDs every so often) animated the whole show, though it would have been just as good in a disused warehouse in Byker. Recent single 'Galvanise' obviously went down a treat but constant tempo meant there was never a slow point. 12 years and well worth the wait - an awesome show.


David Ford
6.10.05 – The Faversham, Leeds

On first inspection of his latest album ‘I Sincerely Apologise For All The Trouble I have Caused’, there isn’t an awful lot you can say about David Ford, other than that he is a competent singer-songwriter more than capable of writing touching, weepy laments custom designed for a heart broken demograph.  At worst, he trundles along the Blunt, Gray, Rice, Fretwell, or any other mono-syllabic-surnamed singer-songwriter I care to think of, contingent. But arguably, Mr Ford does have the talent to overcome these easy comparisons and to stamp a little individuality onto this well trodden public foot path. 

In essence, this was an impressive performance with luscious harmonies and deft musicianship right from the beginning.  This was massively helped along by his lovely backing band, ‘The Late Greats’ and the crisp as a fresh tenner live mix that the sound engineer provided. After a worryingly slow, plodding introduction, the Fordists become slightly more lively and involved, utilising a loose, slowing down/speeding up dynamic that is quintessential to making a songwriter’s live act more accessible to the basking audience. But it soon becomes clear that David Ford is a very talented man, and throughout the performance on this brisk autumn evening, he sings, plays the guitar, harmonica, banjo, piano and a brief stint on the drums; but one can’t help but think there is an element of rubbing his talent into the audiences, moist, tear stained faces. You could say that a jack of all trades is, more often than not, a master of none, but David Ford’s real aptitude remains in his song craft.  

Drenched in cynicism and a with healthy dose of political conscience to boot, David Ford has the vocal capacity to deliver his intelligible lyrics with a control and confidence that makes him seem older and more experience than his trilby-toting appearance might suggest. And after a rousing, piano lead rendition of ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, it becomes obvious where his bitterly ironic, self depreciating influences lie.  I’d like to point out that ‘Cheer Up You Miserable Fuck’ are his words and not mine.  He has that not quite so rare talent of making you think you’ve heard this all before; songs with meaning and content but just not enough variety to keep one interested. Tonight, his songs seem to be especially drawn out and could probably be half as long and have twice as much impact; and when worked out mathematically, it equals - a bit of a shame.  

It would be nearly impossible to love Mr. Ford’s lowly, sob inducing music but it inflicts a certain amount of fondness onto his listeners. In all, he is a cut above many other singer-songwriters doing the rounds at the moment but whose music still wouldn’t look out of place on a soundtrack of a cuddly English drama such as ‘Teachers’ or ‘Cold Feet’. That said, I don’t think he has that much to be apologising for. 


Dirty Three + Josh Pearson
22.11.05 - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Sometimes it’s best not to get your hopes up to high. Like at Christmas or your birthday a really anticipated gig can leave you feeling hollow and alone if it doesn’t live up to your expectations. I have been waiting to see both Dirty Three and Josh Pearson for years and the excitement I felt before this gig was palpable. However things began to go awry as soon as I set foot in the venue. The dreaded, ‘you’re not on the list’ speech, my ‘don’t you know who I am’ retort, the ‘no’ response and the final payment of 11 sulking pounds.

Taking a seat I decided to ignore my newly emptied wallet (easy considering its new light weight) and get ready to enjoy Josh Pearson. For those not in the know Mr. Pearson is the big, sexy, bearded wonder who fronts Lift To Experience. Their debut album enchanted me and is still one of my favourite records. His solo work had to be good right? Well yes exactly right, but it was hard to truly engage with it due to all the hipster talkers waffling on around me like it was some sort of WI meeting. Still his songs played like a pared back LTE and while being previously acquainted with the songs would have been nice it really didn’t matter. I look forward to the album.

Between bands I tried to settle myself and quash the rage that the babbling bastards had awakened in me and by the time Dirty Three came on I was calm and ready to be taken on an antipodeon musical journey.

The first thing that strikes you about Dirty three is Warren Ellis their main man and fiddle player. He is confident and comfortable on stage and through the show his witty banter is a joy. Stories of dead musicians in hell, bong smoking surfies and why ladies prefer Dirty Three to Robbie Williams mean that you could happily sit there and listen to his non-sensical ramblings for quite some time. However that’s not why we are here is it? So on with the music and it is every bit as wonderful as I hoped. They saw, thrash, lull and drift through old favourites (‘Sues Last ride’ & ‘Red’ for instance) as well as good chunk of material off the new record Cinder too. It is a mass of emotion and feeling and quite frankly a staggering thing to behold, truly awesome in its magnitude.

So as the metaphoric curtain falls and I leave I have this mix of feelings. Yes Dirty Three were great, but I’m now poor and I didn’t even manage to get one of the limited tour CDs and the whole experience was marred by so many bloody talkers (even during Dirty Three). I feel energised and yet still somehow hollow. Curse you anticipation, curse you and your sibling excitement. 

As a foot note if you were one of those bastards who waffled inanely throughout the gig I would like to wish you a slow and painful death, perhaps under something really heavy or in a car crash. Then while you wait at heavens door I hope God himself greets you explaining that you aren’t welcome and that all he can bestow upon you is a faint ember with which you can guide yourself through an eternal purgatory forever haunted by the sound of the continuous gratuitous tripe you were uttering on the evening of 22nd of November 2005.

Luke Drozd

Test Icicles + Killa Kella
The Faversham, Leeds

Arriving regrettably early, I had to endure a hellish 30 minutes of Killa Kella, when 30 seconds would have been more than enough. It wasn’t so much his wacky beat-boxing antics, but Mr Kella’s rapscallion chum who was irritating beyond belief, yapping like a little dog that has just wee-wee’d on your freshly ironed chinos. Prick. Anyway, haircuts ahoy, the said Icicles take to the stage, yelping, barking and growling through a thankfully brief set of noisy numbers. The performance was nothing short of incendiary, which saw them leaping and bounding across the stage, taking it in turns to damage their vocal cords and the audiences eardrums.  The music was a fantastic cacophony of abrasive drum machines, rancid synthesizers and tattered guitars so loud you couldn’t actually hear what was going on. A short lived but a nonetheless positive experience which left me slightly confused and none the wiser…. in other words, a pretty good gig by anyone’s standards.  

However the Test Icicles come across as a trio of obnoxious chancers, who deliberately want to get, get, get on your nerves, and the infuriating thing is that they are able to provoke this reaction with relative ease. This could either be because they serve as a parody of the Nathan Barley esq. world dominated by i-Brain Nano pods and angular hair concepts, or they are part of the loathsome mass of morons they may or may not be critiquing. Frustratingly, I still can’t decide which would be more appropriate, or indeed funnier, for the testing times in which we live.  To say that Test Icicles, the nerdy ambassadors of, are a one trick pony might be accurate, but would be way beside the point.  

…..It’s funny because their name looks like testicles!! But under closer scrutiny, it’s about as funny as cold, shrivelled ball-bags.  

Whether you take the bait or not is neither here nor there, but I would say that some people fish for compliments, others for controversy and some people are just a little bit fishy.    


This Et Al + This Aint Vegas + Support
24.11.05 - The Upstairs Bar, The Cockpit, Leeds

Whatever possessed someone to put a gig on in the tiny upstairs room above the bar at The Cockpit? As if the railway arch ceilings of The main rooms don't spoil the sound enough, someone thought it would be a good idea to jam everyone within 10 feet of a pretty meaty PA system. My ears are still whistling.

Which may account for missing the name of the first support act. Someone from Nottingham apparently who pull of a very passable impression of The Rapture complete with pseudo falsetto vocals and much cow bell action. Very good start to proceedings.

All of which warmed us up nicely for some Sunderland hardcore action. Safely ensconced in the second row (as far back as you could go and still see the band) I witnessed at close quarters the ferocity that This Aint Vegas put into their performance. Like a frenetic frantic beast but underlined by precision and uncanny accuracy they swaggered their way through a lightning set which only let up during their slightly annoying protracted inter-song delays. But when someone sounds this good you don't mind hanging around for a bit. The duel vocal attack has a laddish quality that always threatens to unravel into a bawlish football chant. But they always manage to keep it together and in control. Some lovely Rickenbacker sounds and scissor stepping from the guitarist too while the bass player just efficiently ploughed out his lines from the back of the stage.

And so on to headliners This Et Al who broke my heart again. This time perilously perched on the railings of the balcony to capture a glimpse of the top of the band's heads I felt a little bit let down. this Et Al have a huge, complex sound which comes across perfectly on record and is one of the most exciting things around at the moment. but within the confines of The Cockpit's crinkly tinned roof everything seemed to swim together in a big old trashy noise occasionally punctuated by Wu's wailing vocals or some guitar histrionics. the one constant was the seriously impressive drumming which tried to hang everything together but too often the tracks seemed to fall apart in a chaotic cacophony. Put This Et Al on somewhere with decent acoustics and a good sound guy, then judge them. And make sure that This Aint Vegas are on the bill too.


Devendra Banhart + Dirty Three + Akron Family
16.11.05 - London Astoria

More beards than you can shake a stick at here, on and off stage, so just as well I like beards, and shaking sticks.

First up, Akron Family. They seem like very nice young men, delighted to simply be playing music, and what a joy that music is. In half an hour they span quiet, loud, folk, post rock and even barber shop, all delivered whilst sitting down with great charm and exuberance.

  The Dirty Three play the sort of music that should bring in the New Year, whilst all around dance, swig ale and then collapse. They are quite simply awesome. Violinist Warren Ellis exudes charisma and displays great skill by playing and karate chop kicking at the same time. The set spans both new and older work, with tracks from the latest record ‘cinder’ along side material from ‘ocean Songs’ and ‘Horse Stories’. Each track is introduced by Ellis telling us a little about the compositions, such as (not word for word) ‘ This is a song about living in a hole, you’ve been there five or six years, getting comfortable, when you decide to check on the outside, so you build yourself a periscope from used toilet rolls, attach a mirror and look out, and on the horizon you see angels, then you hear the sound of tuba’s, and its then that realise everything is fucked’. It’s rousing stuff, Ellis’ violin creaks and roars, I could watch them all night, if anyone is making more emotive, raw, honest and timeless music then I’m yet to hear it.

Devendra Banhart is by now quite literally hotly anticipated, and when he enters the stage, flanked by his band ‘The Hairy Fairy’, people seem rather pleased. I have never been too sure about Banhart, on record the songs are nice, good voice, good instrumentation, I quite like them. However, the sight of the man, and his bearded comrades is just annoying. He opens the set with a song sung in Spanish taken from the new album, and it’s now you remember what you like about him, it sounds nice, it’s a nice sound, just close your eyes, forget the beads, the waistcoats and the rest of the hippy shit, it will all be fine. But I can’t, just can’t do it, I have to look, and what do I see, it’s the fucking eagles, with new, quite good material, and better hair, not so dry.

The band are tight and well rehearsed and live his voice doesn’t let him down, but I can’t help but feel that he’s not a front man, and when playing with a band that’s what’s required, and surly the venue is too big for free love, (£3.30 a can of red stripe) he needs a small coffee house somewhere in the bay, which sells flavoured teas, and girls with unkempt pubic hair can sit around naked, besotted by his ‘freakiness’. I am not a girl and I don’t like flavoured tea, and my pubic hair is beautifully trimmed, and I’m not besotted by his ‘freakiness’. Nice songs, just play behind the curtain next time. But that would be ridiculous I know.

Ron Beasley

The Southern Electrics + Nigel Clark
30.11.05 - Cargo, London

Interesting footnote: I once played on the same bill as The Southern Electrics. It was at the Bull & Gate some 3 ½ years ago, the first time the band I was in at that time had ever played London (or gigged, for that matter), and they were the headline act. I remember thinking that they weren’t particularly good and someone making reference to the lead singer as a “third-rate Michael Hutchence”. And yet, here I am at this, their second single launch party this year. Hey, what do I know? Perhaps time, as Michael Ball once warbled, really does change everything…or perhaps not. 

Anyway, it warms the cockles of my heart ever so slightly to find that support for this evening comes from Nigel Clark, former lead singer of Britpop bandwagon-jumpers Dodgy. While his new material follows pretty much the same formula with perhaps just an added splash of West Coast sunshine pop, it’s obvious he’s still got the knack to pen a good tune. Maybe there’s nothing as immediate as some of the old classics but, having probably made a ton of cash sound-tracking all those car adverts, Nigel can afford to just have fun. Now all he has to do is make his guitarist stop pulling those ghastly faces. 

Southern Electrics certainly look more like a professional outfit these days (or a bunch of Stroke-a-likes the more cynical amongst you) but within seconds of them launching into “Electric Superhighway” (a track they were playing back in the Bull & Gate days) it becomes apparent that there are one or two minor problems that they might want to address.  

The main one is that they don’t have much in the way of actual songs…or hooks…or choruses…or ideas…and all the expensive gear in the world can’t hide that fact. Secondly, the singer can’t decide whether he wants to be Liam Gallagher or…wait for it…Michael Hutchence. And he can’t sing. They perform “Save You”, the new single, and he doesn’t sound like he means it at all. 

The final nail in the coffin comes in the shape of the third song. It’s called “Alien”. And it’s about falling in love with an alien. And the words go “I fell in love with an alien…she came down from an asteroid…she took me out to a restaurant”, and so on. Honestly, the written word cannot do justice to how bad it was. But that was the point at which I realised I had better things to be doing and went home.

Will Columbine

King Creosote + José Gonzales + Crooked Fingers
7.11.05 - The Wardrobe, Leeds

It’s a nice seated affair in the wardrobe tonight for what essentially is a folk night. I arrive just as the huge iron man frame of Crooked Fingers’ is getting into the swing of things. Who has possibly perfected his Dylanesque vocals a little too much, but that’s of no point seeing as Dylan has a good voice, which he got from consistent vocal meanderings. He’s all right, talented and sings of women coming from the sea and people covered in blue bottles.

Jose Gonzales takes the stage next with the modest confidence of a Swede (not the vegetable). From the start it’s a technically accomplished performance in which his delivery is so close to the perfection of his studio album it’s hard to believe it’s live. It’s a good set as well ending with his covers of Kyle’s “hand on your heart” and Massive Attacks’ “Tear Drops”.

Now for a King he doesn’t quite look the part but King Creosote actually isn’t anyway. He is just a small Scottish inventor who writes better songs than the whole music industry can in its whole life span.

Not backed by the earlies like last time I saw him although they are at the bar getting shit faced, he takes the stage with a small backing band and we’re off. Each song is as good as the last if not getting slightly better. There’s a slight lapse of energy in the middle of the set for me but even the lounge jazz version of his new single “………” is classy even if it is a piss take. Finally it all ended with an encore involving all the previous acts to get on stage and sing one of the Kings songs. Crooked fingers tried his best while Jose Gonzales looked slightly uncomfortable until he found a gazoo and spent the rest of the song trying to work out how to use it, (ha stupid vegetable). It was a bit like live 8 but without a stage covered in shit bands.

Pete Williams

Turin Brakes
2.11.05 - Leeds Metropolitan University SU

It's tricky when you go and see a band you know nothing about, and thankfully your friend says they will do the review. Then a month passes and still no review. So apologies for the complete sketchiness of this report but at least it does exist.

My knowledge of the Turin Brakes had been limited to thinking it was a cool name. I had absolutely no idea they wrote lilting acoustic songs and played from those musician stools like the ones that Des O'Connor would sing from. There was undoubtedly some fantastic guitar work but, being a child of the MTV generation, I found it all a bit, well, boring. Of greater concern was the way I suddenly had to question my own existence - certainly not wanted at a gig. There I was surrounded by what could only be described as a very middle class, middle aged audience who were absolutely loving the show and getting down (in the gently vibrating piss poor way your Dad might dance at a wedding). I am a little bit younger than these folk but not so different. I can't imagine ever going to a show like this and coming over all doe-eyed. But at the same time I can't really hold my own in a mosh pit anymore. Where to next for us in betweeners? Oh dear...