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gig reviews - jan/feb 07


 
 

The Gossip + The Violets
26.2.07 - LMUSU, Leeds

Ahh, the lot of the support band on a reasonably sized national tour. Big venues, half full of thirsty punters desperately trying to guzzle as many cans of Red Stripe before the current turn du jour comes on stage at 10pm. The sound guy doesn't give a shit, you only get a half a sound check and your name doesn't even appear on the bill in the local listings mags.

The odds aren't great and The Violets had to fight against all these maladies tonight to get any attention at all. Funny how everyone clamours for NME approved angular guitar bands then when you get one that takes the the genre to the very limit of its type in terms of rawness and sheer punkiness, nobody bothers to listen. The set opened wonderfully with superb atmospheric guitar work and ghoulish vocal over the top amid dry ice and ghostly lighting. But everyone around me was too busy talking about last night's Hollyoaks to really notice.

The Violets mix up intense stabs of scratchy guitar and jerky vocals to create their own dark brand of punk rock. Sadly it appeared not only too challenging for the audience, but also the soundman as everything suffered from some degree of unwanted feedback. The band battled gamely on with Joe working tirelessly on the guitar to drown out the background noise with clever riffs and  technical effects but even the latest single 'Foreo' sounded a little lacklustre. in fairness to the rudest crowd I've ever had the misfortune to share a venue with, at times The Violets can sound a little thin - short sharp vocals and guitars leave big gaps in the sound where most people expect to hear a bit of bass filling in and providing a bit of variety.

Interesting then to compare with headliners the Gossip who are obviously a very talented bunch and also a threesome like The Violets. Beth Ditto has an amazing voice and charisma, more suited to a Motown classic than uptempo skuz-disco and it hollers out all night like a rock n roll air raid siren. And multi-talented guitarist Deep Purr was highly impressive mixing up fast paced riffs with subtle use of the guitar bridge to create a beautiful chiming sound. There's also no doubt that the current Skins-fuelled single 'Standing in the Way of Control' features a killer riff and the previously moribund audience spring to life with every mundane utterance from Ditto's mouth. It's a bit like being bulldozed into approval. Frankly though, listening to a singer belching on demand and making jokes about periods and farting isn't what I would pay good money to watch. I left feeling a little bit depressed, ruing the way popular culture had fostered near hero worship of the brash but achingly 'now' headliners at the expense of the understated but ultimately more satisfying support act.

SB

 
 

Psapp
12.2.07 - Jazz Café, London 

I always expected the interior of the Jazz Café to resemble an opium den, with groups of hip young things wearing dark glasses sprawled out on bean-bags, chain-smoking and looking suitably wasted. The reality is that it’s just a medium-sized warehouse with a bar in the middle; not the cosiest environment in which to enjoy some groove-based “toytronica”, you might think. Luckily, Psapp have brought all their friends with them this evening. 

“Twee”, “charming”, dotty”, and “quirky” are all adjectives that could be applied to Psapp.  They sound like a dozen music boxes playing at the same time. They like to use random objects (a mechanical chicken that squawks and actually lays little plastic eggs sticks in the memory) to add extra flavour to their light grooves. And when disaster strikes and some intrinsic MIDI item goes on the blink, singer Galia manages to keep the show on track by flinging handmade cats into the audience, telling stories about various acquaintances that are present, and bringing her university lecturer father onstage to tell us the origins of her name. So…with such upper-middle class parentage, how do you explain that pseudo-Essex accent, eh? 

The band are no slouches either, and gamely toss off “acoustic” versions of songs before finally admitting defeat and taking a 10 minute break in which to fix the offending circuit-box. By the time they re-emerge, any momentum they might have built up has now dissipated – a real shame. Still, we are treated to a second take on “Hi” (this time in its full whirring, clicking glory) and a rendition of “Everybody Wants to be a Cat” for which they finally go all out and get a couple of chums up to provide backing vocals. There’s no “King of You” or the one from Greys Anatomy but, considering how bravely they battled tonight against technological gremlins, I won’t hold it against them.
www.psapp.net

Will Columbine

 
 

Mr Hudson & the Library
16.2.07 - Southampton Joiners

On one side of Southampton, the NME Indie something or other tour has rolled up, and cool kids everywhere are using copious amounts of hairspray in preparation the evening’s show. (Spotted: Faris Rotter and co posing in the Oxfam shop, looking severely disgruntled when nobody recognised them).  

On the other side of town, people with a more refined taste in music crammed into the Joiners for a lesson in musicianship, and “how it’s done”. Without even releasing a single, Mr Hudson and the Library has caused quite a furore, but these guys are so laid back they come complete with their own hammock.  

So a rundown of tonight’s instruments. Guitar, bass, keyboards, electric drum kit (which sadly, sounds exactly like an electric drum kit), bongos and… a steel drum. What could possibly go wrong with steel drums on stage? 

Torville Jones, aside from having fabulous hair, has more talent in his piano playing little finger than other bands have put together. He plays brilliantly, especially on their cover of My Funny Valentine, which they “fiddled” with, adding a fantastic off beat baseline to Mr Hudson’s rich vocals. Also worth mentioning is the inspired ad-lib sample of Favourite Things on another track.  

As well as being a master of the steel drum, bongos, and various other percussion instruments I haven’t seen since my school days, Joy Joseph has also got a cracking pair on lungs on her, and provides some superb backing vocals as well as taking lead vocals on one song.  

The impending single Too Late Too Late has already received Radio 1 airtime, and after hearing it live the recording really doesn’t do it justice. One Specific Thing features an incredibly catchy chord progression and an intriguing story about “borrowing” someone’s car and heading out of town.  

This band are utterly sublime. Their songs showcase their incredible talent, as well as being refreshingly interesting and unlike anything else around, something the bands on the NME tour can only dream of.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

GoodBooks + The Maccabees
1.2.07 - Nexus, Southampton 

For a band so young looking, (see lead singer Max), GoodBooks are already hugely accomplished. Already a firm favourite with tonight’s audience, GoodBooks strut onto the stage as if they were headlining. And luckily it’s not a case of all strut no substance. GoodBooks have clearly mastered the indie rock n roll genre, and so foray into some interesting electro/new rave breakdowns. 

 The appalling sound quality in Nexus does them no favours though, and their subtle melodies are often lost in general guitary noise. The band play a punishing set, only briefly stopping between songs, and the audience are kept dancing for a good 30 minutes. GoodBooks apparently have a “real life” guest book, which anyone is invited to sign, for the band to show their grand kids in ten years (surely they must mean at least 20?!) and from the way they’re going it’s going to make good reading.  

And so with the crowd already having a thoroughly nice time, the Maccabees take to the stage, and are rather chuffed that they’ve managed to sell out one of Southampton’s better venues (Joiners) and had their gig moved to a bigger (although somewhat inferior) venue. The significance of half the band having their hoods up is unclear, but this is how it remains for the entire gig. Most stylish band member award goes to Orlando for his glorious bowl cut and spangly cardigan. 

Somewhere between their own chaotic shows and their recent Jamie T support slot it appears the Maccabees have picked up a tremendous following, with the crowd in full sing a long mode. The first crowd surfer of the evening gets to the front, realises there’s no where to go, and heads back again. However those with more cheek simply get straight up on stage, resulting in a steady stream of stage invaders.  

Precious Time, Bicycles and First Love and the winning tracks of the night, but the set doesn’t have any low moments, and is a riot from start to finish. The next time the Maccabees come to Southampton it’ll be an even bigger venue they’re selling out.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Jamie T
30.1.07 - Portsmouth Pyramids

Forget the UN, forget the Good Friday Agreement, even forget Bono. For we have a real peacemaker in our midst In just over an hour, Jamie T has managed to unite the most ferocious of enemies. By the final (and second) rendition of Calm Down Dearest, a beautiful thing has happened. Chavs and indie kids dancing side by side. Where the Arctic Monkeys failed, Jamie T has stepped into the breach and brought these two social sub cultures one step closer together. The indie kids love his catchy riffs and rhythms, and the chavs love his honesty, simple but very funny words, and Fred Perry t shirt. 

 With the amount of alcohol he consumes on stage, it is quite frankly a miracle that he doesn’t slip or stumble over a single word. But all his songs are delivered at tongue twisting speed, raising some serious issues about lung capacity and breathing. 

Panic Prevention has such minimal instrumentation, it was possible Jamie T could simply disappear in bigger venues, inaudible for those more than three rows back.

None of that this evening though, as he arrives on stage with a full band (with some interesting looking characters) and fills the huge space with glorious noise. He has fond memories of Portsmouth Pyramids apparently. Not of seeing a band in the cavernous venue that hosts him tonight, but of the swimming pool next door, where he once got stuck in the slide. Nice to see the media explosion around him down with the kids. 

The cheeky scallywag is capable of putting on a brilliant live show. Each song is bigger and better than the album version, and the crowd have trouble keeping up on Sheila. Although he has a limited repertoire at this point, he still manages to come back on for an encore that features a Billy Bragg cover (and old live favourite) and another bash at Calm Down Dearest in double time, which he somehow makes it through word perfect.  

Contrary to some of his lyrics (“she’s a fat bitch but I’d still give her one”) Jamie T is actually a very nice bloke. He continually checks that everyone’s ok, (which is fairly unlikely with the amount of crowd surfing going on) and at one point stops halfway through a song to tell everyone to calm down. 

Who knew songs about binge drinking and girls in bars could bring people together.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

The Hedrons
24.1.07 – Metro, Oxford St, London

Firstly, I have never seen so many photographers down the front at a venue this small. Secondly, I have never seen so many fat, balding, middle-aged men in the audience for an up-and-coming band. Being an all-girl rock band will get you all kinds of attention. 

Several months ago, I was impressed by The Hedrons debut single “Be My Friend”. The other two good songs they play tonight, “Heatseeker” and “I Need You”, are also singles. The rest, whilst performed with energy and confidence, simply breeze by without leaving any lasting impression. Whilst one could argue that the aim of any true punk band is be instantly disposable, The Hedrons are clearly aiming for a much more commercial platform. On this evidence, they’ll need to come up with a lot less filler to prove themselves anywhere near as potent as their heroes The Ramones. 

They may also want to have a word with their singer, who spends the last two songs leaping around in the crowd and, subsequently, behind the bar. When Iggy does it, it looks cool…when there’s a cameraman glued to your every move, it looks contrived. The others play on regardless, but the whole episode makes me a mite suspicious. The Hedrons: a genuine punk-rock outfit…or one girl and her backing band?

Will Columbine

 

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0º of Separation Tour - Juana Molina + Adem + Vetiver + Vashti Bunyan
20.1.07 - City Varieties Theatre, Leeds

The fading grandeur of Leeds City Varieties theatre has provided the backdrop for such luminaries as Orville, Ken Dodd and is currently listed as the venue with the dubious privilege of hosting a Chumbawamba acoustic set. But tonight such 'legends' of light entertainment are put firmly to one side as the 0º of Separation Tour roles into town for their final date. The tour works on the basic premise of throwing a whole load of new-folk (for want of a better description) artists together to collude and collaborate onstage in what could promise to be an exciting experiment.

In reality, all these acts know each other pretty well having toured together in the past and so any real experimentation is at a minimum and the whole thing has more of a vibe of a folky love-in. The times when all 11 musicians are onstage generally culminate in several players shaking a tambourine or a bell and not really providing any great additional inventiveness at all. Fortunate then that all four individual acts are good enough to hold up a show in their own right.

The format takes the shape of each artist playing no more than a couple of their own songs in succession, some times with accompaniment from the others, sometimes alone. 60s original psych folk crooner Vashti Bunyan cuts an almost apologetic figure on stage and occasionally struggles with the odd note in her trademark choir girl voice. But current favourite from the phone advert, 'Diamond Day' gets an enthusiastic response and her Rolling Stones penned track 'Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind' is given the honour of forming the whole night's encore (though admittedly this was visibly to Juana Molina's discomfort). Personally I find her rather fey lyrics and weak delivery a bit of a turn off. Her subject matter of lost youth and dreams come across more as self pitying than inclusive. But in fairness, the woman is over 60 years old so to be playing a packed out gig in 2007 is still pretty impressive.

San Francisco based Vetiver provide the backbone of the on stage sound with their bass, guitar and drums for a lot of the other artists tracks. Their own work is more the charming homely Americana that forms the backdrop to a good Sunday morning with the papers than some of the more engaging new folk around at the moment. A tried and trusted favourite that a good few of the crowd enjoy in a mild mannered sort of way.

But for me this evening is all about Adem and Juana Molina. This is the first time I've seen Adem and I am completely impressed. He has a creative flair that is almost unsurpassed by anyone else I know and is the one artist tonight who truly appears to have come to terms with the potential of playing with 11 other musicians onstage. At one end of the spectrum is his piece which is built almost entirely around a melody and harmonies hummed by the others and at the other, a solo piece I which he plays hand bells while howling out the vocals with a power that does away with the need for a PA in this theatre setting. His warm and humorous delivery coupled with this obvious enjoyment of the other artists' work make me think that as well as being a talented git, Adem is probably a bloody nice bloke as well.

Yet even Adem is humbled by the pure genius and musical beauty of Juana Molina. Although appearing a little like a school teacher with unkempt hair and A-line velvet skirt, Molina's music was on a whole different level to the others, consistently spell binding the audience into producing ever increasing rapturous applause. Unlike Adem, most of Molina's set is delivered solo (with the notable exception of Micael which benefits from Vetiver's impressive percussion as accompaniment). Her voice is pure yet edgy and her knack of layering guitar parts and her own vocal yelps with some bizarre lo-fi plonks on her keyboard build up a mesmerising sound. Her impromptu explanation for the track 'La Verdad' [The Truth] being about wanting to be told realistic and expert lies if you can't be told the truth, further adds to my suspicions that while she is humorous and warm with the audience, Molina is a pretty intense and driven character. Even the otherwise creaky floorboards of the City Varieties manage to silence themselves for the time Molina is on stage and the format of only playing a couple of tracks in between breaks for the other acts plays right into her hands, leaving everyone baying for more. In the words of Adem, following one of her tumultuous tracks, 'How can I follow that?'. Indeed.

SB

 
 

Biffy Clyro + The Bronx + The Audition + I Am Ghost (Kerrang! Tour)
18.01.07 – Nottingham Rock City

I can only assume that opening band I Am Ghost are some form of comedy cabaret act. The singer spends half his time thrusting his arms towards the crowd pointing at random people who apparently he thinks are really digging it. The fact that nobody's watching with any great interest only makes it funny, in a cringeworthy David Brent manner. Despite being labelled as goth-metal they sound like some badly conceived cross-breed between My Chemical Romance and Yellowcard. For future reference they might want to note that it's not possible to 'rock out' with a violin and be taken seriously.

Next is The Audition and it's a somewhat schizophrenic performance from these guys really. Although the songs seem fairly tuneful, the first half of their set sounds like they're just cheap Taking Back Sunday rip-offs (even my loyal gig-buddy commented that the singer seemed desperate to be Adam Lazzara), then halfway through the singer vocals seemed to morph into an identical copy of The Academy Is. A couple of years ago i would have lapped this stuff right up, but not today. It just seems like there's too many average bands doing this kind of music right now. Oh and someone should tell their singer that calling everyone in the crowd motherfuckers between every song does not equal a stage presence, it just makes you look like a twat.

The last time i saw The Bronx was a few years back when they supported Lostprophets. I was a big fan of their first album, but not so keen on the second (don't get me started on the 2 self titled album thing! i mean come on!). Their set is definitely up a notch or two from the first band's and serves to wake a few people from their slumber. For me personally the newer stuff seems to have lost a lot of the energy that made the band initially appealing. 'False Alarm' and a mildly cheesey rock n roll song that i don't catch the name off are obvious highlights, surpassed only by a frenetic rendition of 'Heart Attack American'. Although the rest of the set is enjoyable some of the songs sound a bit samey and occasionally the songs just seem to blend into one.

Don't worry kids, Biffy are here to save the day! Launching straight into recent single 'Semi-Mental', the boys from scotland set the tone straight from the off. "You shone a light on my life" cries Simon Neil, his words returned in kind by the enthusiastic crowd, and for a wonderful moment it feels as though both parties mean it. I remember seeing them way back when they toured 'Blackened Sky' and its amazing how much they've grown in stature. Tonight they fill the stage with glorious noise; every song a classic, every moment a highlight. From the beautifully poignant 'All The Way Down' to the joyously spastic rhythm of 'Toys, Toys, Toys...' it's an expert display of quiet/loud alt rock.
The songs come thick and fast, with barely a moment's pause for guitar changes between them. The singalong anthem '57' sends a shiver down my spine (the wry smiles from the band as the crowd fill in the doo-doo-doo bits brings a grin to my face too), while 'Justboy' as always is an absolute masterpiece of optimism with its whistful verses and soaring chorus ("I am hoping through the dark clouds, light shall break and bring a bright sky")
The new material comfortably slots right in amongst the old crowd favourites, only really noticable by a slight decline in the number of people who know every single word, yet there are definite signs of progression and a general feeling that this is a band just starting to spread their wings. The trio ooze confidence without overstepping the mark into arrogance and forthcoming single 'Saturday Superhouse' provides some more insight into what we can expect from the new album, while 'Get Fucked, Stud' proves an instant hit with the crowd.

As sad as it is to see favourites such as 'The Go-Slow', 'Questions And Answers' and 'The Ideal Height' missed off the set list there's a realisation that, now on their 4th album, there simply isn't enough time for them to play everything! After a thunderous and screaming finale of 'Bodies In Flight' the biffsters depart the stage, welcomed back moments later by the ubiquitous football chants for their inevitable encore: The disco-tastic 'Glitter And Trauma' and the wonderfully titled and slightly unexpected closer 'There's No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake'. If this is anything to go by then 2007 should be quite a year for Biffy Clyro. Never ones to miss a trick, pikeys greet us outside selling dodgy biffy merchandise and I can't help but smile. You know you've hit the big time when the pikeys are jumping on your bandwagon!

Jam


SETLIST
---
Semi-Mental
Toys, Toys, Toys...
Joy.Discovery.Invention
Saturday Superhouse
My Recovery Injection
Get Fucked, Stud
All The Way Down
57
Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave
Now I'm Everyone
Justboy
Kids From Kibble and The Fist Of Light
Bodies In Flight
---
Glitter and Trauma
Jaggy Snake