gig reviews - june/july 07
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I attended the triple pop action of
Boat, Balún, and Walker Kong (plus some deeply mismatched local
singer-songwriter) on a recent summery Friday night.
It’s a crying shame that Walker Kong rarely play outside their native
Minneapolis as it’s been three years since I saw them open for Camera
Obscura; a gig at which they floored me despite opening for one of my
favorite bands and despite terrible, horrible heat! It’s also a shame that
they were the first band on the bill as there were few people there to
appreciate just how fantastic this band is. I hate to use the adjective
“tight” to describe them, but that’s just what they are! There are five
members of the band and they’re heading towards gender parity with women on
drums and keyboards/tambourine. Yes! They play upbeat indie pop, but pop
that is rich with soul. They are not dissimilar to Belle and Sebastian, but
they are more consistent than them. The bass and the drums are locked
together, and you can’t help but dance to just about every one of their
songs. They really deserve to be fawned over.
Next up were Balún, a foursome from Puerto Rico who I was dead excited to
see. I could hardly believe that a group from Puerto Rico would play dreamy,
twinkly, indie pop for starry nights! But that they did. They were utterly
charming, soft without being naïve, lovely without being cutesy, and sweet
without being overly saccharine. They made their songs danceable, and it was
delightful to see them dancing and smiling to one another. The affection
they shared for each other was evident. Highlights for me were “People”
(probably their danciest song) and “Be Careful When You Walk” (in which
Andrés’s guitar mimics the melancholy mood of so many songs by one of my
favorite bands of all time, The Wake). With heaps of knowledge poured into
their programming, accordian(!), music box, omnichord, tiple, and guitars,
Balún were a sparkling revelation to me.
I hadn’t listened to Boat yet, but because they’re friends with the fabulous
Tullycraft (and are the only band linked through their blog!), I thought
they’d be quite good. While they didn’t disappoint, they were the most
traditional, straightforward band of the night: four guys with guitars.
Mind, the bassist was rather attractive and all! And the humor was high. I
love a band who can all gab and crack jokes among themselves. The singer
used to live in Chicago and a few of his songs featured Chicago landmarks
that always rank well with locals.
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I recently decided to take a chance
and see two bands I had heard very little about: My Teenage Stride and A
Sunny Day in Glasgow.
The gig was at South Union Arts, a derelict church near the University of
Illinois-Chicago. I’ve never been to this venue and I’ve been told it is
soon closing. They put on shows infrequently and it seems difficult to drum
up attendees at this location. It was a unique place for a show, which I
appreciate, but it’s poorly run with no signage as to where the entrance is,
no posting of show times, and a seeming inability to start a gig anywhere
close to the advertised time.
Finally, after catching some outside air in between two opening acts (it was
positively sweltering inside with it being 90 degrees+ outside, and NO fans,
open windows, or air movement at all inside), My Teenage Stride came in to
set up. This is the band I had come to see. I had listened to the songs on
their MySpace and was smitten. This shit was right up my alley. Jangly pop,
David Gedge guitars, and chiming sounds that make you want to skip around
like a fool.
They did not disappoint and I completely fell for them. I’ve no idea how
they stayed upright on stage when it was so disgustingly hot and still, but
the lead singer, Jedidiah (best name ever) was spot on and totally
crush-worthy. All the songs I’d listened to were played – Reception, That
Should Stand for Something, and Reversal. They ended far too early with To
Live and Die in the Airport Lounge.
I was ready to keel over by the time A Sunny Day in Glasgow came on, and
couldn’t bear the feeling of sweat running down my back. I had listened to a
few songs of theirs on MySpace as well, but I hadn’t been taken by them. The
elements are there, but they’re messy. They just need a focus, a target, a
melody and then I’ll probably be there for them.
I stayed for a few songs and was impressed enough to buy the tour-only EP.
One of the sisters wasn’t along for the tour, and maybe it helped them to
tighten up. They sounded far more melodious in the few songs I heard, rather
than a sprawling mess. Isn’t that odd? Usually it’s the other way around;
solid recording, messy live gig.
Well now, this has been a long time coming. Having, like many people,
discovered Converge around the release of the seminal 'Jane Doe' album, I've
been waiting a few years to see this lot live, and finally here I am.
Unintentionally well timed as well, seeing as their latest effort 'No
Heroes' is a blinding album (possibly even their finest moment to date), and
I'm looking forward to hearing the new material live.
Unfortunately I arrive too late to catch Rainydayfuckparade, I've been
hearing lots of good things about them of late so I'll definitely have to
check them out next time they're in town. This is Animosity's 3rd ever gig
in the UK, so they're keen to make an impression and see what the UK crowds
are like. Well, the crowd isn't massively enthusiastic, but the band give it
their all with their blend of hardcore tinged death metal ala The Red Chord.
Main tour support Rise and Fall play an energetic set of furious hardcore,
which gets the crowd going and both sides are clearly enjoying themselves.
Another brief 15 minute wait, and suddenly Kurt Ballou walks out on stage
and ploughs out the depraved riff to new tune 'Plagues', and suddenly
EVERYONE is paying attention and running to claim their place in the pit.
Anyone who has seen Converge's dvd release 'The Long Road Home' will know
exactly what to expect tonight: 45 minutes of no frills, no holds barred,
blistering metallic hardcore. And that's exactly what we get. As the rest of
the band enter to frenzied cheering, frontman Jacob Bannon bids us a warm
welcome (and moans about the barrier) before the pounding drum intro to 'No
Heroes' kicks in, and the place erupts. A mixture of songs from the previous
3 albums follows, including a handful of tunes from the underrated 'You Fail
Me'; experiencing the ferocity of these songs live has now fully convinced
me that this album is up with the best of Converge's releases. The energy in
the Basement tonight is quite something, helped in no small part to the
sound quality being pretty much spot on.
After thanking us "so much, we truly appreciate it, once again" 58 times in
a row, we finally get another tune, and it's back to the old school. Good to
hear them still playing material from the Poacher Diaries, and when 'Locust
Reign' kicks off with Jacob's high-pitched bark, the crowd goes bezerk once
again. This is the tune I'd been waiting for (myself and everyone else
tonight apparently), and the venue is suddenly transformed once again into a
writhing pit of flailing arms and thrashing bodies.
We're treated to some more recent material tonight, and the bassist gets the
crowd going again by stating that "this is a fucking hardcore show not a
goddamn museum!" in between new pair 'Heartache' and 'Hellbound'. And for
the last song of the night? "This one's called... Concubine" announces
Jacob, and that's all he needs to say. Probably their most well known song,
Jane Doe's infamous opener gets the most riotous crowd response of the
night, and by this point it's amazing the venue hasn't caved in and entombed
Going off stage for a couple of minutes, the crowd begin chanting and it's
obvious what we all want to hear for the encore. "What if it's not The
Saddest Day, do you still want to hear one more?" jokes Jacob. Of course we
do. Ok, it would have been amazing if they'd played it, or perhaps the title
track from 'Jane Doe', but I can hardly complain. Closing on the epic 'You
Fail Me' marks a great end to a fantastic gig that saw Converge at their
finest, and hopefully they'll come back for more in the not too distant
future. See you there.
Eagles Become Vultures
The Broken Vow
You Fail Me
26.6.07 - The Scala, London
If the diminishing size of the venues Dinosaur Jr play
each time they return to these shores proves anything, it’s that, for them
at least, the value of the nostalgia buck has steadily declined since that
infamous reunion two years ago. Subsequent to those initial sold-out shows
at The Forum I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them play twice more, but
whilst their equally dysfunctional peers the Pixies casually pack out the
“Enormodome” of various cities around the globe, Mascis, Murph and Barlow
must now make do with the more “snug” environs of The Scala. Where, as Alan
Partridge once said about something completely unrelated, is the justice in
As we walk in, supporting three-piece Tab are launching
into their final song, a cover of “Helter Skelter”. Now, if you were going
to cover any of the Fab Four’s 200-odd classics, why pick the one where
McCartney discovered that he wasn’t cut out to be Pete Townsend? Even Oasis
had better taste…oh, sorry, my mistake! Obviously then, this is the
preferred choice for unimaginative meat ‘n’ two veg rockers and that’s
exactly what these guys are.
They fuck off and, as roadies begin to swamp the stage,
it looks as though Dino’s star power may have waned even further than I
first thought: punters are thin on the ground at this point. However, true
to form, the band keep us waiting longer than is strictly necessary
(possibly because they have so many amps and FX to be fiddled with), and by
the time they appear and launch into a pummelling rendition of “Almost
Ready” the place has packed out to the rafters. It’s a predominately male
audience, I might add. Do any girls actually like Dinosaur Jr? Are the few
in attendance tonight just keeping their boyfriends company? I, for one,
would like to know. Answers on a plectrum, please…
With a new album to promote, it’s no surprise that
Mascis and his partners-in-RAWK lean heavily on material from “Beyond”,
rattling through what seems to be the majority of the album in customary
loud and distorted fashion. In a smaller club such as this you’d think the
legendary volume levels of the Amherst trio would be unbearable but
surprisingly this is not the case. Perhaps I’ve become desensitised to it
(or simply more deaf!) over the years. At one point, I notice My Bloody
Valentine front man and occasional Mascis-collaborator Kevin Shields leaning
against the far wall and looking on approvingly. I never knew he smoked.
Maybe it’s the earplugs they all wear or just an
unwillingness to stray from the script…either way, Dinosaur aren’t doing
requests tonight which is a shame for the guy screaming “LET IT RIIIIIDE!!”.
I figure after the twentieth or so time that he’s fairly keen to hear it.
Still, there are other gems from the back-catalogue to be played: “The
Wagon”, “Out There”, “Feel the Pain”, and of course the obligatory but never
unwelcome “Freak Scene”, by which point the moshpit is in full swing. People
are actually crowd-surfing…now when was the last time you saw that?!
Evidently infused by the joyous vibe, the band rewards us with not one but
two encores, signing off with their signature cover of “Just Like Heaven”.
Tell you what, chaps…if the downsizing continues, you’re more than welcome
to play my living room next time.
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All photos: Elizabeth Chadwick
Band Of Horses
25.5.07 - Manchester Music Box
1.6.07 - Estrella-Damm Primavera Sound
Having arrived at MusicBox with mere
seconds to spare before Band Of Horses take to the stage (an event that is,
as most of my closest friends will testify, occurring with alarmingly
increasing frequency), the photographer and I experience what can only be
described democratically as ‘guestlist issues’. What follows is much frantic
head-scratching from the doorstaff, one thousand airings of the voicemail
belonging to the Band Of Horses tour manager, and the kind of apathetic
‘look, we’re trying really hard to sort this out’ dashing around that I
imagine is employed to pacify Tom Cruise on a regular basis.
Finally, after a dash down the
stairs into the basement of Jilly’s, the Manchester club that hosts the
MusicBox night, we arrive inside the venue only to find that in those
previous minutes spent above ground, half of Band Of Horses set has already
passed us by. And so I have failed to be present for what would be my first
live review in just under two years, which aptly encompasses all that I have
been doing in the time between then and now, oddly enough.
Not all is lost however; in just
over a week Band Of Horses play the Estrella-Damm Primavera Sound festival,
Barcelona’s city central, sun-soaked reply to the sodden festivals of its
northern European counterpart, for which both photographer and I happen to
possess tickets! I set my watch an hour forward immediately to avoid any
recurrence of tonight’s debacle, and prepare for a cut-and-shunt review of
the two shows. It is in no way ideal to review a band at a festival as they
rarely do themselves justice in an environment where sets are as short in
length as cheap hostel rooms are in supply, and the experience is almost
about everything except the music. But between two languages, 1200 miles and
ten suspicious-looking tapas dishes, I decide that I can do whatever the
hell I like.
Jilly’s is a venue that is if not
administratively at least spacially efficient; resembling something John
West might package his products in, the low rafters (which find me in that
rare position of being delighted that my growth spurt in my late teens
appeared to end several years too early) and thin dimensions do not exactly
make sense of the generous 350 capacity that it claims to possess above the
entrance. Despite these flaws it seems like the perfectly intimate setting
for Band Of Horses barfly ballads and steel-heeled stomps, and so located in
the first few rows stage right, we arrive just in time to catch the closing
of “The First Song” followed by “Our Swords”, track three from “Everything
All The Time”, the Horses debut record which blew most everything else away
last year, which was akin to Iron And Wine songs with nostalgic, homely
themes played with The Shins instruments, and blackened at the edges by the
same candle that was held to The Arcade Fire’s first LP.
Neither band nor audience seem to
have hit their stride by this point, and although I figure the set is
already halfway in this is forgivable; the former is the first track from a
debut record and comes across exactly in that manner and the other, although
feet tap and hips sway, is played by only three of the six Horses, hence is
naturally under-whelming. However when the achingly uplifting ending to the
following song “Monsters”, the unofficial ending to the LP, kicks in as
lukewarm as the can of Red Stripe I am holding, it is obvious something is
amiss tonight. My eyes are drawn to the dancing usually reserved for School
Disco clubs and the football chant-like singing from the majority of the
first few rows, and it becomes apparent that Band Of Horses are playing to
an audience that cares little for the substance of these songs, and more
about the ticket stub that will in future act as proof that they witnessed
this band with days to spare prior to their ‘breakthrough’.
Like South Carolinian neighbours and
friends Iron And Wine, Band Of Horses create for the most part prolonged,
slow-burning canvases of melancholy and longing, this sense of loss sketched
over by the hushed coos and lilting exclamations of lead vocalist Ben
Bridwell. Unlike the works of Sam Beam though, these songs have a drive and
energy that whilst engaging the listener and amplifying the intensity of
their message tenfold, makes their inner fragility far more subtle to
detect, leaving them open to be dissected by a lack of care and
understanding. Thus the new songs tucked into the set are used by many as a
break in which to journey to the bar and when one breaks down halfway
through, the band hastily scrap it and move onto first single “The Funeral”,
which with its softly bruised verses and swelling choruses becomes an excuse
for drunken embraces and the kind of dancing that should have been retired
long before Gary Lineker did.
And so disappointment is over-ruling
all else this evening, with the Horses trying too hard to impress this new
audience with an efficient performance yet distribute the personal content
of their works, and finding no compromise. The effected precision that was
so well employed by producer Phil Ek on record works against them here;
every time Bridwell appears to relax a little he eschews his smile for
greater focus, and I am left void of the feeling that I first felt driving
along the empty Lincolnshire roads listening to “Everything All The Time” by
moonlight, a setting that made such content far easier to relate to than
Eight days later, and it is the
second day of the Estrella Damm Primavera Sound festival. After burrowing a
way down to the front through the Black Lips set at the ATP stage (who might
I add were incredible), I assume a comfortable position on the barrier,
central to the stage. After a lengthy wait the Horses appear, shirts
clinging in a mixture of humidity and the chilling winds from the
Mediterranean, which convulses and sprays as a moody blackened mass a mere
fifty feet behind the stage.
Playing what seems to be an
identical set to that which was hastily ran through last week, the Horses
put their best foot forward first, plunging straight into album centrepiece
“The Great Salt Lake”, heavy and light in turns with the momentum of its
bass-tom focused verses and climaxes of panoramic innocence. The feel to
this set is already the polar opposite to Manchester; the songs have space
to breathe in the open air, the effected echoes of the vocals from the LP
lent their natural equivalent, and although everything that could go awry
this evening does, the smile that breaks onto the Horses faces during this
opener never fades for a second. Even though the same new song breaks down
halfway through, the audience reassure the band and they attempt it again,
and this time despite error it slips neatly and seamlessly into the set
along with the other fresh material earmarked for the second LP, which is
due out this October.
Perhaps the defining moment of this
set, and perhaps of Band Of Horses entirely, is when Bridwell’s microphone
cuts out during the opening verse to the “The Funeral”, having been
threatening to do so for the majority of the evening. He looks distraught at
this, a job done carelessly potentially ruining what could define his band
for a continent, and kicks the microphone stand over in a misunderstanding
moment of rage and frustration. But just then he turns his face up to the
audience to find thousands of faces singing his words for him, as if the
messages that couldn’t be decoded in Manchester are being received loud and
clear, and skips over to use bassist Rob Hampton’s microphone just as the
chorus comes crashing down all around us, echoing the Mediterranean in wave
after wave of desperation and anguish.
Those few seconds encapsulate the
hopeful anxiety of Band Of Horses for me, and thankfully allows blame to be
laid for the sterility of the Manchester performance on the fickleness of
certain types of audience, and the pressure put on such bands to succeed.
Tonight, the Horses are in an environment and with people that regard their
music as if it is a part of themselves, of their lives. And sure, you could
argue that a band should do this to you whatever the nature of the show, but
after closer “Part One” lulls the set to a close and the house lights lift
up to reveal a multinational audience enraptured by the simplest of
songwriting formats freshened in the most subtle manner, it is obvious that
it is more rewarding this way.
Just like the feelings that lay
behind the will to conceive such songs stir those same emotions in us, the
works of artists such as Band Of Horses need our care just as much as we
need theirs to hear it in the first place. And so I hope to see the
following disclaimer on the sleeves and tickets of anything they are
involved with: “Enjoy with friends. Air regularly. Treat Responsibly.”
14.6.07 - ULU, London
My esteemed colleagues, my research has shown that a person's experience
at a gig can be affected by 3 elements. I present my findings to you here,
citing as an example my experience of going to see the Aliens.
The Day Leading Up To The Gig
Discretion prevents me telling all, but I had spent the previous twenty four
hours having not slept due to trying to get help for someone with mental
health problems. Unfortunately the NHS weren’t too helpful and I had to deal
with the person having another ‘episode’ whilst I was in the venue,
necessitating me rushing out to speak to the police. All very stressful and
not the best beginning to a night out. This was further compounded by my
name not having been put on the guest list and having to wait for 40 minutes
to get in (hence my review not having anything to say about Pete & the
Pirates or TG & DC – sorry guys!) So, I wasn’t in the best mood when I got
Fortunately, my dark mood going in was lifted by a bloody brilliant
performance by the band. The set opened with the five note theme from ‘Close
Encounters of The Third Kind’ and a short film made up of clips from shows
such as Star Trek). They then proceeded to play an energetic set, with
Gordon Anderson playing harmonica, singing through a loudhailer and wearing
lights on his head for ‘Robot Man’ (combined with his untamed hair, quite a
sight), and John Maclean coming across like a keyboard playing Bez. They
rocked out on ‘Caravan’, pleased the crowd with ‘The Happy Song’ and for
their encore ‘Rox’ morphed into a medley, including ‘Higher Than The Sun’
(Primal Scream), ‘She Loves You’ (The Beatles) and a wild guitar solo. The
only real misstep was Gordon’s bizarre ramblings involving two inflated
surgical gloves that he had drawn faces on. This went on for an age and the
crowd became restless. Having recently read an interview with the fella re.
his ‘troubled’ past, and given the events leading up to my arrival at the
gig I began to wonder if all was ok, but they soon returned to ‘normal’.
Otherwise they were great, but that leads me to...
What was going on there? The place was packed, there was an interesting mix
of young trendies and older folk and yet the atmosphere was as flat as a
pancake. The band tried to get the crowd going, trying to start up a
sing-a-long, engaging with the audience but no-one was having it. They were
there to stand still and stare at the front and no one would persuade them
otherwise. Maybe they’d all had a day like I had?
This year’s mighty Meltdown is being curated by
legendary Sheffield sleazemeister Jarvis Cocker, and while such acclaimed
acts as The Stooges, Motorhead, The Jesus & Mary Chain and notorious 60’s
acid casualty Roky Erickson are wowing the crowds elsewhere, tonight is
Cornershop’s second appearance at the festival (they were also booked by
John Peel back in 1998). They obviously have something special.
Or do they?
First up though is Jeffrey Lewis, one of the leading
lights of the New York anti-folk scene. For the uninitiated, this is a genre
that attempts to mock both itself and mainstream folk by adopting the
political stance and rawness of punk and then playing the result as
amateurishly as possible. It has the potential to be ghastly, but Jeffrey
has been in the game for almost ten years and is an acclaimed comic artist
to boot. Hence he downs his guitar mid-gig to manipulate a laptop slide-show
of his drawings which accompany the song about a huge, people-eating brain,
and very good drawings they are, too. He also has a satirical ditty called
“Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror” about spotting someone who he thinks is
said bearded alt-country figurehead on the tube and ending up getting kicked
and tied to the tracks by the bearded loon. A cover of an early Nirvana
track also has a bunch of Cobain-inspired sketches to go along with it.
Jeffrey is an affable, outgoing personality, obviously very talented, and
the whole spectacle is a lot of fun.
Scary to think that it’s almost ten years to the day
that Cornershop released “When I Was Born for the 7th Time”, their best and
most well-known effort, and yet it’s just as heartening to hear how fresh
and inventive the music still sounds. In fact, it’s now clear how pivotal a
release it was, bridging the gap between Beck’s groundbreaking “Odelay” and
those initial, genre-defying Beta Band EPs. So they have the songs, a
selection culled from their last three LPs, and, while the band’s numbers
may be swelled with session musician scum, they have no trouble performing
them either (a special mention must go to the sitar player). Unfortunately,
there’s a big black hole at the front of the stage and its name is Tjinder
See, you’d think after fifteen or so years in the music
biz Tjinder would be used to performing in front of a crowd, but the body
language on display is that of someone who…well…let’s say the phrase
“reluctant front man” is a severe understatement in this case. Obviously
finding the spotlight a little on the glaring side, he can’t sing a single
line without turning away from the mic immediately afterwards, and seems
forever mired in a state pitched somewhere between shyness, nervousness and
discomfort. Some would be able to turn this peculiar state of affairs to
their own advantage – there’s nothing like a bit of mystique to get the
audience hanging on your every mumble – but Singh can’t even muster up the
odd “thanks” between songs. The bizarre thing is he has such a good voice.
Eventually the freakin’ maraca player takes matters
into his own hands and implores the audience to take to their feet and shake
a little booty, not that they haven’t been gagging for it for the past hour.
Tjinder, meanwhile, slinks offstage before the final blast through “6 A.M.
Jullandar Shere” has come to a close. An enjoyable if rather perplexing
evening which ultimately left me wondering; should a certain ‘Shop keeper do
a Brian Wilson and stay at home from now on?
Throughout the whole of Friday I was incredulous that I
was actually going to see the Jesus and Mary Chain, live, in 2007.
I feared I’d miss the train, be stuck somewhere due to
floods or worse, the band wouldn’t turn up. However, there they were,
amongst the smoke, lights and noise. Before that, though, there were The
Pastels. Chilled out and beautiful and with the presence of two members of
Teenage Fanclub playing with them, the Pastels played a short set, which
suited me fine.
The whole setting seemed kind of strange to me: the
Mary Chain playing at the Royal Festival Hall, which was slightly posh for
them. Or not? I’d always imagined seeing them live during the late 80s, in a
grotty little venue, with massively distorted guitars and the Reids with
Robert Smith-like hair dos.
William Reid still had his awesome hair do. Jim seemed
a bit tired, or maybe he was checking if the amp sound was alright. He
stopped the band a couple times, which seemed to annoy William, as he left
the stage. I thought that would be the end of it. Upon William’s return, Jim
said ‘we do get on, really’.
Even though the audience had to stick to their seats,
it was thrilling to hear many hits such as ‘You Trip Me Up’, ‘Some Candy
Talking’, ‘Never Understand’, and ‘Cracking Up’, amongst many others. Then
there was the near disaster of ‘Just Like Honey’. There was a special
(female) guest on stage, which sounded like a really good idea. But then Jim
was very particular about how the song came out and the band stopped and
started twice. In a way, perhaps he wanted it to sound perfect. To me, it
didn’t. I felt slightly embarrassed. I wanted to be right at the front,
jumping and screaming, but I was sat beside some bloke who kept checking his
phone. Not sat, literally, but still, I had to restrain myself a bit. The
whole gig was a bit of a contrast to me- mixed feelings about it being 2007
and my ultra high expectations, which musically the band did fulfil.
‘Reverence’ sounded amazingly loud and echoed the essence of the band, the
same way that ‘You Trip Me Up’ did. Gerard Love, from Teenage Fanclub, was
standing in the corridor near where I was sat, during most of the show. That
moment I wish I was a mind reader, to find out what he thought. Standing
there was the man who was around ‘back in the day’ and who’d be much more
qualified in commenting on what was going on. I wish I’d had the chance to
ask him what his thoughts were.
Did it feel strange?
Even within this misplaced feeling, there’s all
certainty for me in saying that the Mary Chain sounded as loud as their
hardcore fans remembered, despite what the cynics may say.
Pull Tiger Tail
20.06.07 - Joiners, Southampton
It’s a warm, balmy evening in Southampton. Sadly,
inside the teeny tiny Joiners, this equates to a hideously hot, moist
evening in Southampton. The venue itself seems to be actually sweating… or
at least there’s something dripping from the roof, and it certainly ain’t
The trio are one of NME’s latest indie darlings,
although tonight’s set reveals they actually owe more to pop punk rather
than indie, particularly noticeable in lead singer Marcus’s Fall Out Boy-esque
vocals on set opener and highlight, Mr 100 Percent. However, the indie
trademarks are still there, including a bit of synth and some sharp angular
sounds as opposed the easy on the ears pop punk riffs.
And, in case you were wondering, the band do actually
like tigers, even wearing their own tiger merchandise masks that were being
handed out, and bassist Davo declares that he came up with the band’s name,
and is rather proud of it.
In a frenzied but tight set the band storm through tune
after tune, all of which the crowd (mainly young indie whippersnappers) seem
to be familiar with. Their instantly catchy riffs are mixed with syncopated
rhythms and nice vocal harmonies, giving them the edge above some of their
more one-dimensional contemporaries.
Pull Tiger Tail are certainly a band worth getting hot
and bothered for.
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So I thought I would go see The
Pipettes and Smoosh play last week. I had minimal expectations as I owned
nothing by either band. I’d heard a few Pipettes songs (“ABC” and “Your
Kisses are Wasted on Me”), which actually grated on me a bit, and I knew of
the hype about Smoosh being very young girls.
Having no discernible expectations of either band, I was mightily impressed
by Smoosh. The girl who sang lead also played keyboards. The drummer was
fantastic. She played as complicated of rhythms as anyone twice her age
would. They were joined by an even smaller girl on bass guitar for a few
songs. I believe they are sisters, but I’ve yet to confirm that fact. They
weren’t simply plodding along, hitting one piano bar, or banging the snare
drum monotonously; they mixed everything up into proper songs! I’m totally
amazed by their talent and, yes, because of their age. Of course, kids the
world over have taken up instruments from young ages, but it is still
surprising when a young girl takes up the drums rather than, say, the
violin. I want to see more young girls do this.
The Pipettes couldn’t have contrasted more with Smoosh in their lineup and
presentation. From a feminist analysis perspective, Smoosh are girls who
play all their instruments, write all their songs, and seem to have done so
from their formation (which must have been pre-adolescence!). The Pipettes
are three beautiful girls (Rose: Will you be my wife?) backed by a faceless
group of male musicians, while the girls sing, dance, and occasionally
tinker a keyboard (all of which they do very well, of course). I don’t know
the band’s bio here either, but to the casual observer, it would seem that
the girls are the performers while the boys are the musicians. I wonder how
Smoosh feel about The Pipettes. Do they think you have to be pretty to get
press in the indie music world? What do they think will happen once they
reach the age of consent? Will they one day be turned into sex objects? It
was interesting to see this juxtaposition of ‘chops’ and ‘looks,’ and it
inspired a good discussion on the walk home.
Despite my feminist radar going off, I adored the Pipettes. It is so rare to
see performers on stage confident, happy, and dancing, particularly in my
world of mopey, introverted indie pop. I was completely envious of them, and
wanted to be shimmying and pulling jazz hands with them onstage. Their
vivaciousness was infectious, as evidenced by a horde of people (ok, mostly
dudes) dancing round the room, which is extremely rare in hipsterville.
Despite the extreme heat and lack of moving air, the girls never faltered in
their moves or harmonies, and maintained their energy throughout their
They closed their main set with the top song “Pull Shapes,” and an older
fella behind me yelled the words to this song louder than I’ve ever heard
someone sing along at a gig before. Awesome.
I went to the third annual Nottingham Dot to Dot music festival
yesterday. It was alright I suppose. It was the usual organizational
disaster zone with bands dropping out due to lack of communication, a lack
of timetables to actually tell you when people were on and where, bands
being put forward at the last minute, then back, without bothering to inform
people, massive overpopulation in some venues, a dearth of humanity in
others, over runs, under runs, running free, the Wombles of Wimbledon common
are we (this lead me to missing Yo Chomsky! a regret I will almost certainly
carry to the grave). Sartorial extravagance and heavy grooming appear to be
the order of the day as usual with there being an abundance of glow sticks
(sponsored by myspace) in evidence. It’s bigger and more expensive than ever
as the entire George Aitken Nottingham imperialist music empire plus Lee
Rosy's tea shop and Nottingham Trent student union co opted for the event.
Also it's raining, so you see a lot of people with fly away flick fringes
being sheltered by inside out pound shop umbrellas all day.
Here is some of the musics I saw during the day. Sorry for brevity of
descriptions but parts of the evening appear to have been replaced with a
sign saying 'technical error please consult vendor' due to twelve hours of
warm red stripe.
First band of the day is at the Social and it's Nottingham’s finest comedy
rap alt country pop/rock three piece, the Grave Architects. I miss half of
them due to lengthy queuing up in the rain for a wrist band. Boo. As I come
in singer Matt Williams and I exchange waves for no particular reason and
one of his trademark lengthy stage anecdotes meanders pleasantly on. They
play a new song. Sometimes I wish sometimes they’d learn the songs they’ve
already got probably rather than writing new stuff, but then you wouldn’t
get something like their new Magnus Opus, a song about learning to ride a
bike (later stolen) which is rendered a poetic metaphor for the heart break
of life. There is also rapping from each member. This song is performed to
Matt William’s dad, who is the oldest person here by about thirty years.
They’ve got tunes, if they cut down on stage banter they could probably play
them all, but then they wouldn’t be the Grave Architects. They always look
genuinely delighted to be here, which is just lovely. The drummer is
brilliant by the way.
A trek to the Nottingham Trent Union is in order, via the pound shop that is
doing a roaring trade in umbrellas. I end with nineteen hipsters impaled on
the end of it by the time I arrive due to attempting to keep the rain out my
eyes whilst also trying to stop the umbrella falling apart. Whoops. When we
get there someone called Radar are playing. They sound like Audioweb (ask
your dad / Chris Evans). We realize we are in the wrong place and head to
the 800 odd capacity downstairs bit (current capacity 50) for Fanfarlo. They
push all the right buttons, very arcade fire via broken social scene, David
Bowie is a fan apparently. It’s a bit polished for me but it has some
splendid moments like the excellently named ‘You Are One Of The Few
Outsiders Who Really Understands Us’. My friend says they sound like
Coldplay but he’s wrong. Just the right side of epicish, polished pleasant
We wander about for a bit at a lose end. We fancied some dancing so we go
and see Paul Thomson from Franz Ferdinand. He’s not there though. They’re
playing some generic banging dance shit. Two people are dancing but because
I am old I am no longer able to differentiate between ironic and non ironic
dancing. Coldplay friend pretends to break dance. I fear he will not last
the evening. A fear that comes to be realized soon enough.
Next band I see are Architecture in Helsinki again downstairs in the Union.
Fuck me it’s busy, my full bladder will have to wait. They come on late
dressed like people with learning difficulties and looking a bit like most
of them have eaten nothing but gravy granules for the last year. Seriously
lads, eat some fruit or something. I saw them a year or so back and they
were great. Enthusiastic and a multi instrumented, instrument swapping
danceable indie pop whirlwind. Since then they’ve sacked the two
enthusiastic pop girls because they wanted to stay indie pop and gone for a
more dance related sound. I think they sound like the klaxons crossed with
Banarama. I want the old architecture in Helsinki back but looking around I
seem to be in a massive minority. Ho hum, ho hum.
Broken Family Band are on next. I don’t think they know why they’re here and
neither do the crowd, who thin from about a thousand to about nine. They
take the piss out of hipsters in general some of whom take offence and
rather lamely tell him to play some jonny cash and later call them ‘emo’
because they play a song you can’t dance to. Idiots. It seems to fire them
up and after offering them out for a fight, they seem bloody musically
furious and launch into a livid musical aural blitzkrieg. They would
probably say they don’t play country music but there do (a bit), mixed up
with some old fashioned rock n roll, a bit of art pop and a sprinkle of
heavy metal. One of their songs features the line “What do we do when the
booze runs out?” Brilliant. My friend wants to see some chancer called Kap
Bambino at Stealth though, so we leave early to brave the rain.
We get there to be confronted with a vision plucked from Dante’s inferno.
It’s impossibly rammed with youths going mental with glowsticks everywhere.
Kap Bambino appears to be Avril Lavigne with glow sticks and is jumping up
and down proclaiming something like, “who do they think they are anyway?” I
blame Peaches. And lack of national service. We leave immediately. Returning
to the union we wait upstairs feeling like the oldest people there (I’m 26
in a week *sob*).
Oooh, it’s The Thermals. The Thermals are the reason why the port side of my
head can’t hear anything except a lingering buzzing noise as I type this
nearly 24 hours later. Permanent deafness is a small price to pay for this
though. I had forgotten how much I like this lot. They plough through a
succession of sub three minutes post thrash indie pop rock with barely a
pause for breathe between each one. If I wasn’t chronically middle class I
would have done a slam dance or something. The vocals are a bit muddy but
when you have some splendid poundshop Buzzcocks tunes (this is good thing)
you care not. ‘No culture Icons’ is particularly brilliant. I get a track
list off them for about the first time in the past five years of gig going
and a girl to the left of me calls me a cunt. Charming!
Bearsuit are the last band of the night and they’ve all dressed as
majorettes including pink hats and epaulettes. Heh. They play a load of new
stuff and some old; it doesn’t matter as they all sound great any hows. They
play ‘Itsuku Got Married’ and Jesus cookie something or other and lots of
discerning drunken people go politely mental. They’re fucking well cute with
their stop / start, scream-noise quirky electronic melodic indie pop. This
is what Architecture in Helsinki should sound like instead of the sodding
Rapture or something. The new album will probably be a corker if my
untrustworthy memory is anything to go by. Hurrah, now we have a choice of
milling around at stealth or going home. I buy a kebab. Easy on the salad.
Home by twelve, marvellous.
30.05.07 - Joiners, Southampton
In a somewhat sparsely populated Joiners (we’re looking
at a 1:4 band member/punter ratio here. And there’s only four band members),
B.C. Camplight takes to the stage for the first date of his UK tour. After
swanning around the venue with no shoes and consuming several glasses of red
wine it appears B.C. needed a little sobering up time, taking to the stage
15 minutes later than billed with a large glass of coke.
A merry fellow, B.C. seems unphased by the low turn out
and proceeds to perform a set list featuring tracks from his two albums,
Hide, Run Away and Blink of a Nihilist. On the surface, his perfect pop
songs all seem sugar and nice, but they carry lyrics of some rather nasty
affairs, such as death, destruction, and what people tell you when you’re
posing as a volunteer in a jail.
Playing a miniature upright piano, B.C. also brings a
band with him, featuring a bassist with a rather spectacular beard. They
produce a wall of sound which the small venue doesn’t really do justice to,
as the sound is often a little over whelming.
flawless, super friendly, and full of brilliant tunes, B.C. et al are a
talented bunch, and their next tour deserves to be a sell out.