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gig reviews - june/july 06


The Lemonheads + The Sleepy Jackson
16.7.06 - Somerset House, London

Despite an arduous journey which sees me cross the Thames twice in search of the place, it’s more than worth it. Somerset House is simply the best venue to hold an outdoor gig during the summer months. Essentially a large courtyard with a stage erected in its centre, the mixture of modern music within historical surroundings works surprisingly well, as long as you’re not bothered that one of the nearby buildings is HQ to the Inland Revenue (boo!). 

The Sleepy Jackson wander on and starts setting up their gear before anyone’s really noticed. Having somewhat enjoyed their debut album “Lovers”, I’m also aware of the slagging their recent Leeds gig received at the hands of Tasty’s very own web primate SB. Their new album’s a bit on the dull side too, so those wacky-haired Antipodeans have everything to play for. The bad news is that Luke Steele makes no attempt to engage the audience whatsoever, and his constant fiddling with/swapping of guitars between each song foils any sense of momentum. The sound is fairly muddy, and all the harmonies and window-dressing in the world can’t disguise the ordinary nature of the songs or bolster Steele’s razor-sharp yowl. Compared to their multi-layered studio counterparts, “Good Dancers” and “God Lead Your Soul” just sound flat. 

As if to test our patience still further, the band embarks on a self-indulgent noise jam which, no doubt, they regard as some supreme act of defiance in the face of adversity, and our lack of interest and adoration. In reality, they just sound like a poor man’s Sonic Youth. Best get back to the set-list, Luke. They do a muted rendition of “Vampire Racecourse” and shuffle off to a smattering of light applause. I almost feel sorry for them. And the final insult? My friend’s verdict: “They’re totally GAY!” He’s from Canada, by the way. 

Only the goofy charm of Evan Dando can save the day now, possibly the only man alive who could look cool in a striped top with flared sleeves. Apparently unconcerned with promoting the imminent Lemonheads album, and with yet another fresh pair of faces on bass and drums (where do the old ones go to die, I wonder?), we're treated to all the classics tonight - "Confetti", "Shame About Ray", "Into Your Arms", "Great Big No"...songs that occupy their own unique slot in musical history and make me feel like I'm 14 again. Judging by the number of middle-aged bods in attendance tonight, there are plenty of others fishing for some of that nostalgia. The two new songs we do get to hear are no great departure but are fun all the same, in a Neil Young/Dinosaur Jr kind of way, and Dando seems just as at ease knocking out a solo rendition of "The Outdoor Type" as he does rocking out with the band...maybe more so. Take note, Luke Steele, for that is what they call "charisma".

Will Columbine


The Spinto Band  + Air Traffic
12.7.06 – Camden Dingwalls

Dingwalls is not the easiest place to find, tucked away as it is from the main street in the bosom of Camden Lock. Still, if you can make it past the drug dealers then you’re in for a right old treat as the place has a really nice atmosphere, kind of like Koko but on a smaller-scale. They also hold a famous comedy night there called “Jongleurs” although I’ve never checked it out, preferring as I do the screams of terrified children and pensioners over the patter of laughter. No, not really. 

I’m on a solo mission this evening, with one friend after another crying off wingman duties for some pathetic reason or other. I start to wonder how the offer of free beer and free entry to a gig could be misconstrued as me having contracted some contagious and disgusting disease and not to come within five miles of my being if they know what’s good for them. It doesn’t seem likely. Anyway…I don’t need ‘em…bunch of L-O-S-E-R-S!  I arrive on my lonesome to find the venue already pretty packed, with many punters sitting cross-legged around the stage area as though taking part in some hippy gathering. Let the tree-hugging commence! 

If there were an acceptable meeting point between Keane and Coldplay then Air Traffic would be it; pounding and occasionally jaunty indie-lite played by nice young men with carefully styled hairdos. It’s not the songs that stick in my memory rather than the individual tics of each player: the drummer looks almost constipated with concentration and keeps himself in time by doing that chewy John Bonham thing, the bassist’s hair and t-shirt suggest he’d rather be in McFly, the guitarist sports a white leather jacket and is almost a dead-ringer for the brother of a girl I used to go out with, while the singer hammers away at his keyboard in earnest fashion and cracks the odd joke with good-natured gusto. Nothing that would get a band signed, you’d think, but the fact that they’re on EMI’s roster proves that I know nothing about what record companies are really looking for. 

In my opinion, if a band must have more then four members then why not go hog wild? The Spinto Band have six which is a good start, and when they take the stage and start jerking and leaping around in that way it’s almost as though The Muppets have invaded, what with all those wacky facial expressions and all that hair flying about. With three guitars, keyboards, bass and drums competing for space, sending each song off in a squillion different directions, it’s a wonder how they manage to organise themselves to get anything written, never mind come up with such a startling end product. They put me in mind of Pavement by way of The Beatles, especially with those harmonies and that two-on-one mic action…the US version of The Coral, perhaps? 

Never mind that few of their tunes are quite as catchy or emotionally engaging as “Oh Mandy”, or that at least one of the shape-throwers plays to the gallery just a little too much for their good (yes, I’m talking about YOU, Thomas Hughes!); just the sheer energy these young bucks can pump out at will is enough to stop the attention-levels flagging, and the fact that they can keep this up for a good hour is impressive in itself.

Will Columbine


The Sleepy Jackson
12.7.06 - The Cockpit, Leeds

We are promised an evening of entertainment with psych-pop guru Luke Steele of The Sleepy Jackson like none you have experienced before. A bold statement and one that ultimately holds true.

Luke is a man whose reputation precedes him. And then some. Renowned for his rambling interviews where he loves to air his views on life, society and religion, regardless of the interviewer's question. So a bit of a surprise to see a rather subdued character sporting a very stolid black shirt and jacket combo. In fairness this is counterpointed with a startling large volumed bouffant hair style which wilts as the steaming air of the Cockpit works its wonders, but I was expecting some kind of wailing banshee.

The venue itself, renowned for being a sweatpot, has now got some immense fans and air conditioning units sorted. Which is interesting because I am used to having my ears ringing after a gig, but not normally during it. The constant hum makes any of the quiet parts of the set a little distracted but I do manage to emerge at the end of the evening with my t-shirt relatively unscathed by the ravages of sweat.

The set itself is made up of The Sleepy Jackson's trademark pop. Rather than gently nodding an acknowledgement to the influence of Brian Wilson, Steele has fully taken him by the hand, bear hugged him and robbed his loose change from his trouser pocket. But the three way harmonies performed by the three guitar players are the thing that manages to drag some otherwise mediocre songs onto a higher level. As a performance, I thought it was pretty ragged in places - botched changeovers between songs, lots of unwanted feedback and an over-reliance on Steele's charisma. But bloody hell, everyone else there seemed to love it. It was like the whole venue had been lobotomised and had the void in the heads filled with an industrial measure of Huxleyan soma. It seems there is still room for unapologetically upbeat psychedelic pop these days, even in Leeds.



Radio 4
31.5.06 – London Cargo 

At Cargo you can get a boiled egg with soldiers for a quid. 


They’re not exactly rigid with the stage times though so it’s much to my surprise that we only arrive in time to catch the last few numbers by the supporting act that aren’t Tits of Death. Can’t recall their name unfortunately….all I can say is they seemed a bit Primal Scream-y. No idea what Tits of Death sound like but they deserve a mention for that name alone. 

I first became aware of Radio 4 when I saw the video for “Dance to the Underground” some years back. A cracking tune and it’s much to my detriment that it’s still the only song of theirs that I know. Tonight reveals that they have several other corkers in their canon, although their secret weapon has to be percussionist P J O’Connor who, when he’s not garnishing their grooves with bongos and cowbell, is jumping around like a sweaty loon. It’s thanks to his exertions that band and crowd find synergy after a slow start and proceedings really start to take off. Always good to see someone enjoying their work, although the rest of the band are certainly no slouches in that department. 

Radio 4 has a reputation for being better live than on record and this they duly demonstrate. A well-oiled unit, they sound like a more danceable Clash and provide solid evidence as to why “Rock the Kasbah” might not have been such a bad idea after all. It’s certainly hard to keep one’s foot still and pockets of the audience are soon jumping up and down with glee. If there was any real justice in the world, these guys would be bigger than Franz Ferdinand. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Will Columbine


Dinosaur Jr
22.5.06 - Birmingham Academy

Okay. Right. The gig's been moved to the smaller 'academy 2' venue. Did they sell enough tickets? Who cares man I'm seeing fucking Dinosaur Jr!

"Jesus! This place is packed. Excuse me? Have you sold out tonight? You have? Man this is going to be a good show!!!!"

And then it isn't.

I'm a big fan of the band and have been for a while. I was well chuffed when they reformed so I could lay my hands on a reissue of 'Dinosaur'. They walk onstage amongst half a dozen marshall stacks (did they really need all those amps?!) to a VERY excited crowd.....And then they bugger about on the stage for a few minutes sorting out their cables, etc. Not the hard hitting opening I was hoping for personally.

Fuck it, who cares, they're playing 'Bulbs of Passion', now it's getting good! But it doesn't. About 4 or 5 songs in it takes a serious nose dive. There's no interaction with the crowd or energy, this is a bit disappointing. They're not even going to play some of their best songs because "Lou doesn't know how to play them". That's really not the kind of response you want to hear from a band you never thought you'd get to see.

Despite that, they do play solidly, and those guitar solos still go on forever. I don't think most of the crowd really cares whether they're on form or not tonight, they're just happy Dinosaur Jr are playing again. But the band really don't seem to be enjoying it. Lou seems to start thrashing about every now and then, but that all packs in after one of his bass heads breaks down. I'm glad that happened otherwise we wouldn't of seen the man with funny hair who runs out to change the amp head. Heh heh! Funny hair!

The only thing that seems to make sense, is that Dinosaur Jr. aren't cutting it as a headline act tonight. I would of thought they'd have enough experience under their belt to carry themselves, but tonight the show just isn't going anywhere good. The opening 5 songs or so would of been great if they were supporting someone else. But they just can't seem to carry a 70 minute set, or seem bothered about wanting to carry it.

I pick up a flyer, "Holy shit! It's £16.50 advance for tonight" And I'm really sad to say, that it just doesn't seem worth it for me (glad I got in for free!)

As they skulk off the stage without a word, I sip the last of my can of extortionately priced carling. I wait five or so minutes while everyone else chants: "More! More!" Fuck it. I'm off home. They're not coming back on. They know it was a disappointing show. Saying that, I still listen to 'Bug' all the way home. What an album!