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gig reviews - 2010



Teeth + Is Tropical + New Young Pony Club
27.3.10 - Cambridge Junction

It’s seven thirty. The lights go down on a very sparsely populated room. The echo of Teeth’s war cry, “You all think we care, but we don’t...” rings throughout the Junction. And then the war cry of the fire alarms start up sending the entire human contents of the Junction spewing out of the front doors into the freezing cold. After a few minutes of the phrases “what the hell is going on?” and “worst gig ever?” making their way around the lips of the mass of people outside, we are all finally allowed back in to continue with the night’s events. And no time is lost as Teeth jump back into the stage again and start their electronica ferocity all over again. Arms thrashing and cymbal crashing, Teeth launch an attack on your ears and hold nothing back. Even if only armed with a laptop, half a drum kit and a very boisterous front woman, no expense is spared with enthusiasm. Circle pits, mosh pits and group hugging were all attempted in vain with the small crowd even though they were doomed to fail. Teeth are maybe not the best band in the world, but they are bloody fun to watch.

Second band to brave the stage at the fine young hours is IS TROPICAL with their oddly lovable Sega style synths and retro scarves. Suddenly, the small crowd has started to get much more substantial as beeps and bleeps resonate around the room. The trio swiftly soar through bass line, guitar hook and cymbal crash and integrating everything with reverb and distortion, creating a strange electronic bliss. ‘When O’ When’ is a definite high point with the gentle beginning rioting into a deafening climax that ruffles the ear drums. Gliding effortlessly from one track to another with gusto, ending on ‘Seasick Mutiny’ seems logical, it being as gloriously noisy as ever. Unfortunately, those who only arrived to see New Young Pony Club missed out on the best band of the night.

Finishing the night is New Young Pony Club, pinups of mainstream Buzzcocks indie. They have the lights, the entertainment and the dance moves, but not the heartfelt vigour to match. Every step, every word and everyone seemed far too rehearsed and wooden. Maybe the support bands were too passionate or too keen but this is lacking. The first few tracks seem shy and lacklustre, the band holding something back. The staple classic of ‘Ice Cream’ hits the crowd just right with an increase of arm waving and body bobbing waking the band up and shaking them into gear. Alas, this new found sense of fun stays for the next three songs before we slip back into wooden puppet mode. They have the tunes for certain, everything is loud and unmistakably catchy, but the delivery is all wrong. Basically NYPC are like a painful pair of shoes. You can dance and have a stupidly good time, but unfortunately, the blisters are too excruciating to be worn again.

Eloise Quince

Two Skies
27/3/10 – The Fuzz Club, York

The Fuzz Club in York is what would be described as an ‘intimate’ venue. Hardly enough room for, at a guess, 50 people, it limits any playing bands audience significantly, but it also allows them to connect with those people present in a way that perhaps a larger venue wouldn’t.

Tonight, as Two Skies step out to entertain the 30 or so people in tonight, it’s difficult to imagine that their own brand of soaring psychedelic prog rock is best suited to this venue. From the very opening riffs it becomes plainly apparent that it most certainly is. The 3 piece band, consisting of drums, bass and guitar, create a noise so much greater than the sum of its parts. The drums are manic, the bass throbs and pulls you along by your balls and the vocals fill the small room.

Many of the audience here are people that clearly know their music. You get the impression you need to be such a person to even be aware of this little club. And they are appreciative of Two Skies efforts. From the very start knowing glances are exchanged and as the closing track finishes there are whoops amongst the furious clapping that sees the band leave the stage.

Two Skies are a band with a sound that can, and no doubt shortly will, fill bigger venues. Much bigger venues. But tonight, here, in this cosy, intimate and close gig they showed they can play music of the masses to the few as well as the many. A live experience that at least matches, and in several parts, surpasses their recently released EP.

This band will not be playing gigs this small for much longer. I would strongly recommend you get them seen before they explode onto the bigger stage.

Jim Johnston

The Twilight Sad
24.3.10 - Garage, London

There’s something about watching the Twilight Sad that’s a little bit like being involved in a cult. To begin with, they’re four burly men from Glasgow, which is terrifying in itself. But there’s something about lead singer James Graham’s eyes. Once you’ve looked into them you’ll never quite be the same again. And even though you know their ridiculously high sound levels are almost certainly doing lasting damage to your eardrums, once you’ve been sucked in by one live show, you’ll be back for more, along with everyone else.

As soon as the band step on stage who can already tell who’s previously been sucked in the Twilight Sad ether. They’re the guys rammed in at the front, even though there’s plenty of space in the Garage this evening. But with a sound as powerful and encompassing as the Twilight Sad’s, there’s no danger of the place feeling empty, and certainly no escape for the onslaught of heavy, hypnotic, distortion-drenched threatening anthems.

The band set features highlights of both their albums, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters and Forget the Night Ahead, which segue together perfectly into each other. Sadly, there’s no new material, but with the slightly unnerving nature of their music, it’s probably just as well. ‘I Became a Prostitute’ and ‘Walking for Two Hours’ are highlights, as well as the epic ‘I’m Taking the Train Home’.

James Graham doesn’t even need to deliver any subliminal messages to win over the audience to the Twilight Sad side. His stage banter consists of a smattering of one ‘We’re the Twilight Sad from Glasgow, Scotland’, and a smattering of ‘thank yous’. The rest of the time he’s either facing the side of the stage, so deep into the music that it would probably need an earthquake to shake him out of it. Not that you’d be able to feel the earthquake over the bass.

Just over an hour slides by, and as the band leave the stage the audience are left to shake their heads, nurse their ringing ears and wonder exactly just what they’ve got themselves involved with.

Catriona Boyle

Is Tropical
23.3.10 - King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow

Glasgow often has the reputation as a wondrous place for the bands stopping through to play there and many yarns have been spun about the friendliness and enthusiastic nature of Glasgow crowds (always ironic given that Glasgow also enjoys the same reputation as regards petty street violence). And while this is mostly true for those bands that have either made it or those who are just about to do so, take a look three or four rungs down the gigging ladder and the reaction is generally a lot more restrained. So, being sandwiched between TSSth and New Young Pony Club on a rather quiet looking Tuesday night, it was going to be interesting to see how Is Tropical would acquit themselves.

The band filter on a rather cramped stage filled with NYPC’s gear, looking like outlaws and festooned in an array of head and facewear that served to shield their identities from the punters, but did nothing to disguise the fact that they are three skinny, young (probably good looking) white males, one of whom sported a suspiciously plummy accent. They kicked off, rather admirably, with a meaty stomp led by a large keyboard squelch with a crappy casio keyboard over the top. It is a very good thing. The drummer at an early stage loses his identity-protecting facewear which, given that he is equipped with a fringe so large that he is barely able to see the drums that he plays let alone anyone in the audience being able to see him begs the question of why he bothered with such an encumbrance in the first place.

There is much switching of instruments and a general air of sloppy freedom is cultivated, somewhat artificially it must be said, as it is quickly apparent that under the shambolic veneer Is Tropical aren’t really particularly lo-fi, but more like a slick operation that has a fine ear for creating somewhat hypnotic works that parasitically crawl inside you and become resident rather quickly.

That said, they begin to lose you somewhere from the fourth song onward. “When O’When” is their best known song, and should be a punch in the air moment but falls flat and seems to divide the room for some reason. Those in the audience that have obviously followed the band for a while begin moving around a bit more vigorously while the rest of the crowd seem to stop nodding as much as they did earlier on. And the briefness of the last song seemed a disappointing afterthought rather than being anything that gave a feeling of rounding off things.

Did they pull it off? Yeah, to an extent they did. Support slots are always a poisoned chalice and despite the poor second half and possible time constraints that maybe contributed to that unresolved feeling from the last song, there were moments that certainly made you perk up. They also had a bundle more presence than many bands that are more than willing to do without disguising themselves. Is Tropical will never get to the top of those rungs on the gigging ladder but that would perhaps be missing the point of the band in the first place.



Frank Turner
18.3.10 - O2 Academy, Leeds

(click on thumbnails to open full size images in new windows. All photos courtesy Daniel Heaton:

Having not been a huge Frank Turner fan before this gig I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, the friends of mine who'd heard of him told me of Million Dead and other 'post-hardcore' punk bands which didn't fill me with a great deal of confidence. So what greeted me as I walked through the doors of the Academy in Leeds was not what I'd expected.

Opening proceedings were Crazy Arm. Hailing from Plymouth this multi-influenced four piece sound like a cowboy punk band and it's easy to see why they've been labelled 'Country-punk' but there's a depth to their songs that belies the the box into which they've been placed. Politically motivated songs on subjects like Nick Griffin and the BNP are belted out at a pretty decent sized crowd for an opening act and overall they go down well. Then again, being label mates of the headline act helps and it has to be said that they're a pretty good fit for the crowd.

Main support Chuck Regan carried on the folky vibe with his own mix of bluegrass, folk and country rock. During the set I couldn't help but be reminded just a little of Springsteen when he's in one of his solo blues/folk moods with the addition of a great fiddle player and double bassist. While not quite to my tastes, Regan was good and the crowd certainly enjoyed themselves.

Frank Turner certainly looks the part as he wanders onto the stage in a dour black shirt and acoustic guitar slung around his neck. Opening up with 'Photosynthesis' you immediately get the feeling that this gig is going to be a cracker. The crowd hangs one every wry lyric and through some parts you can barely hear the vocals over their chanting, not that Turner seems particularly put out by this show of affection from the packed 2600 capacity crowd. Next up is 'Try This At Home', a piece of two minute up-tempo self-deprecating perfection. As he sings “There's no such thing as Rock Stars, there's just people who play music, and some of them are just like us and some of them are dicks” you can't help but fall in love with the honesty and wit on show.

The thing that impressed me most about Frank Turner's set was not the quality of the songs performed but the quantity of pure gold sing-a-long crowd pleasers, from my favourite track of the night, 'The Real Damage', to 'Long Live The Queen' and 'Isabel' the crowd were in full voice and by the end anyone not already sold on Turner's brand of English country music was part of a rapidly dwindling minority.

With the remainder of his pretty much sold-out UK tour and more dates around the world ahead of him in the coming months Frank Turner is certainly not one to shy away from the hard slog needed to make a name for oneself in the music industry today. Combine this with his song-writing ability and flair with witty honest lyrics and it's not hard to see things getting better for this former punk rocker turned folk sensation.

Daniel Heaton

Emma Pollock + Josh Pyle + Heart Shaped Things
15.3.10 - Bristol 02 Academy

So I walked into the Colston Hall looking for Emma Pollock. There, at a table near the door, were a group of people wearing tartan scarves and drinking Irn Bru. Obviously Scots, and I asked if they were in any way connected to this evening's performance. Blank looks and English accents all round, and who was Emma Porrock? 10 minutes later and the enquiries desk put me right, Emma Pollock was in fact at the 02 Academy, less than 100 yards away, and had I seen that evening's show at the Colston Hall I would in fact have spent an hour or two in the gently sardonic company of former Suede manager Ricky Gervais.

Which I might do on some other occasion, but I am in Bristol for music, as opposed to large scale Hollywood standard spoken word comedy, and the confines of the upstairs hall at the 02 are perfect for the acoustic harmonies of Heart Shaped Things, who are Jane and Emily, plus Steve and Chris, and whose finely crafted harmonies and alt.folk whimsy had me recalling Tegan & Sara, Peggy Sue, even as far back as Tracy Thorn and Ben Watt. Cheerful, charming and refreshingly unpretentious, the quartet made for a more than agreeable introduction to the evening's entertainment.

Josh Pyke hails from Sydney, is a singer/songwriter in the manner of Jeff Buckley or Ryan Adams, and he's brought around half of Bristol's Australian student community along with him. 'Anyone here from Sydney?' asks the guitarist of the crowd, and the resultant cheer probably loosened one or two Academy roof tiles, which is something, given that there are less than 100 people in the venue. Josh Pyke's music has a rousing singalong quality to it which certainly gained an enthusiastic response on this occasion, and the queue for actual autographs at the end of his set confirms that Pyke himself is a quite real star in the making, at least in Australia and possibly beyond.

Josh Pike sharing the headline slot on this tour with former Delgado and qualified physicist Emma Pollock, performing songs from her recently released 'Law Of Large Numbers' album alongside a number of backing musicians, and struggles with a tempramental keyboard notwithstanding, the remaining audience are treated to a round half an hour of smartly turned outand subtly barbed literate adult indie pop, and Emma Pollock seems none the worse for the sudden exit of around two thirds of the audience, quite the opposite actually, deciding to treat the gig as a rehersal for upcoming shows in Oxford, Manchester and her home town of Glasgow. The relaxed between song banter cooly juxtaposes the songs themselves, the nervy energies of 'Hug The Harbour' draining into the darkly post rock tensions of 'Chemistry Will Find Me', and the histrionic impulses of set closer 'The Optimist', from her 2007 album 'Watch The Fireworks'. After over a decade as a member of the underrated Delgados, it's very apparent that Emma Pollock has been saving her best to the very last, and why she isn't a more visible figure in our music world continues to baffle me, although the obvious answer to that question is that Emma Pollock herself is choosing to do things her way and hers alone, and could always take up a lectureship if the guitar stops paying the bills. Everything you could want from one of our most inventive and resolutely individualistic musicians, hear her whenever you can.

Jon Gordon

You Me At Six
12.4.10 - Manchester Apollo

The Apollo is more full than I have ever seen it. Not just filled with people, but teeming with people. They're packed together and are a throng as Forever The Sickest Kids play pretty generic pop-punk. The crowd of teenagers (mostly girls) look like they are having the best time ever and sound like a jet plane taking off. I was happily reminded of how amazing the first few gigs you go to are and it's genuinely lovely to see people so eager to have this much fun. It must be wonderful to play in front of and Forever The Sickest Kids don't deserve this. They're tacky, contrived and obvious.

We The Kings are much better, the crowd exponentially louder and more eager to swell, writhe, jump and scream to them.
They're all about the pop-punk too, but it's possible to do more than FTSK, who sound tired and lame. It helps that they cover Jimmy Eat World's 'The Middle' but they're also a better band. Both bands know to tell the whole crowd that they're beautiful and I haven't made my mind up whether that is helpful or cynical. Tonight makes me hopeful that whatever they mean, the kids will take it as the former.

It is palpably obvious that though willing to yell and dance for the support, the crowd is desperate for YouMeAtSix. Screaming, fainting heart-brokenly desperate. It would be almost impossible for a crowd this hyped to be disappointed, but a terrible shame if the band they're giving their hearts to weren't up to it.

Fortunately You Me At Six are a band primed for the next step. They have stage craft, an understanding of showmanship, a genuine appreciation for this solid-gold gift-of-a-crowd they've earned and some really really great examples of modern 'pop-punk'.
As much as there are great things to say about every member, especially their guitarist Chris and lead singer Josh, it is that they are so clearly a band that makes this a wonderful night. They aren't too noticeably choreographed and sometimes bump in to each other...but that's the charm. They move out of the way for each other, Josh lets the bass player past him and when the bass player jumps onto Josh's little podium Josh stands next to him and it's one of the nicest scenes I've seen on a stage.

What's even nicer is that from start to finish Josh seems to go out of his way to touch any hand offered to him, changing direction to return to someone. At the very worst it's a beautiful subterfuge. I haven't been to a gig so full of kids since I was one. I had a fantastic time and I'm glad that people still do stuff like this. Some of these kids will form a band. I am OK with tonight not hanging my life because I'm OK that You Me At Six seem worthy of changing other peoples. I would, however, like to thank them for reminding me that I have always been a little pop-punk. I am other things too. But I have always been pop-punk. And I will always want to jump around.

Christopher Carney

Wild Beasts
March 2010 - Waterfront, Norwich

Some bands cannot help but wear their influences round their necks. Yet, Wild Beasts bring such diverse inspirations that to claim that they’re merely treading old ground is both lazy and unjustified. They’re as much Talking Heads as they are Grace Jones, as full of the melon collie of The Cure as they are the beats of New Order. To describe them as a subdued Rapture isn’t far off (cheers, Tom). But let’s desist with the comparisons.

For Wild Beasts, this is a sort of homecoming, having recording their second album just outside of Norwich. Listening to their latest offering Two Dancers, it’s hard to imagine how they’ll work live, yet Wild Beasts give a performance that the new album only hints at. Drummer, Chris Talbot, fits the same human drum machine mould that Stephen Morris has long made his calling card. It’s quite the mesmeric performance. Between songs Tom Fleming and Hayden Thorpe switch instruments and vocal duties. Both have their moments to shine, Fleming through the beautiful All the Kings Men, and Thorpe with the chant along Hooting and Howling.

This is a band that knows how to build a set, raising the audience with each number. The bass line to opening number, The Fun Powder Plot, is a dereliction in itself. It’s Thorpe’s tenor voice that has garnered much attention, but Fleming can switch from baritone sorrow to swooping high notes with ease. If there’s a complaint to be made it is that Wild Beasts feel, at times, to rest in a comfort zone. Few songs expand on those that precede or follow. Why mention this? Well, here’s a band who give the impression that the best is yet to come. 7/10

Sean Gregson


The Sunshine Underground + Cosmo Jarvis + Club Smith

click on thumbnails to open full size images in new windows. All photos courtesy Daniel Heaton:

Having released their second album and follow up to critically acclaimed debut 'Raise the Alarm' on 1 February 2010 The Sunshine Underground hit the Leeds Academy on the final stop of their UK tour. Given the adopted sons of Leeds' popularity in their 'home town' it's no surprise that tonight is a sell out with a 2600 capacity crowd. I have to admit that I've never really been that 'into' The Sunshine Underground writing them off as just another Leeds Indie band riding the coat tails of the Kaiser Chiefs but, with a packed house and the potential for a real atmosphere, I'm ready for my mind to be changed tonight.

First on the bill is Club Smith, a relative unknown hailing from Leeds this band look and sound unpolished yet, amid the bluster, there is real potential. With a sound not too dissimilar from tonight's head liners mixed with a tablespoon of White Lies and a dash of Editors their songs feature big choruses, real depth and grace as well as the obligatory hook which keeps you interested. The sparse crowd which is gathered this early in the evening is receptive without being enthusiastic but given that most of them are gathered by the bars it's no shock that they're not really paying attention. With their first headline tour booked in for March I'm looking forward to hearing a lot more from this band.

Second up is Cosmo Jarvis a self styled singer songwriter with real ambition or perhaps just delusions of grandeur. First line of the description on his website reads “Cosmo Jarvis is a new kind of artist, for whom one world will never be enough “, this in itself is perhaps misleading but enough to tell you that 'Cosmo' won't settle for support slots in the long run. Hailing from Devon this acoustic troubadour's sound doesn't quiet suit the large live set-up used here with backing band. His song's of gay pirates and lost love fall aren't received that well by a crowd who are only there for The Sunshine Underground, this being a gig where you could probably have dropped the support slots entirely without anyone in the crowd really being that bothered.

The real stars of the show, The Sunshine Underground, hit the stage in darkness to screams and whoops from the assembled masses. Opening up with 'Coming to Save You', lead track from new album 'Nobody's Coming to Save You', the thumping guitars and catchy lyrics have the crowd wildly dancing around from the off and the relentless assault of 'Indie funk-rock' doesn't stop there. Cycling through their hits with well practiced flair The Sunshine Underground treat their fans to the full works. Favourites 'Borders' and 'Commercial Breakdown' are fitted in amongst a raft of new tracks such as 'In Your Arms' and 'The Messiah' with which they deftly close out the main set.

During the brief pause ahead of the inevitable encore I have to reflect on the fact that, outside of Leeds, The Sunshine Underground would never expect to pull a crowd the size of tonight's. Opening their tour with dates in venues with capacities of 1500 or less it's easy to see that outside of the Leeds Music Scene bubble The Sunshine Underground aren't as well known as they should be. With some huge anthems and real dance floor fillers the band has a chance to be not only filling out venues of this size on a regular basis but a real mainstay of the British music scene.

Rejoining their reverent fans Craig Wellington and the boys bounce back onto the stage to treat us to two more songs, 'Here It Comes' and an extended version of the big favourite 'Put You In Your Place'. There is no doubt that the huge adoring audience has made this gig the success it has been but The Sunshine Underground still needed to perform and they have done so with some style.
With my original opinions thoroughly thrown out of the window I am now officially a fan.

Daniel Heaton

NME SHOCKWAVES TOUR 2010 with The Maccabees + Bombay Bicycle Club + The Big Pink +The Drums
19.2.10 - Cambridge Corn Exchange

click on thumbnails to open full size images in new windows. All photos taken from NME Shockwaves Tour in Leeds on 7th Feb 2010 courtesy of Daniel Heaton:

The NME Shockwaves Tour is a tour with a reputation like none other. Fights, drunks and true love are in the shortlist of that notoriety, but nothing can overshadow the mind-blowing performances given every night. And tonight was no exception.

The Drums kick things off with their razor edged surf pop gliding around like a beach boy riding the wave of a tsunami. The front man dances like Ian Curtis’ and Freddie Mercury’s love child, delighting the audience with his camp robotic shake. But this is show business and competition to pull the best shapes is evident as the guitarist, affectionately named ‘Tambourine Man’, manages to jump three feet in the air, whilst playing the jangly circle, like a musical pencil on magic mushrooms. The Drums even manage to showcase some new material, such as ‘Best Friend’, but clearly ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ has stolen the show tonight, with its catchy-as-hell riff making arms wave and heads bob like it’s the mid-60’s all over again.

The strobe hits you like a lightning bolt in the face and the distortion deafens you. The Big Pink are not here to mess about. A far cry from the glee of The Drums, here enter several darkly clad figures with darkly clad melodies to match. Not the most inspiring performance ever as the distortion rattles on and the vocals continue their monotonous drone. It really makes you wonder what all the fuss is about with this band, even if they do have some incredible lighting. It doesn’t matter how loud the crowd sing ‘Dominoes’, it won’t ever make you interesting. Sorry.

Moving proceedings along swiftly, is Bombay Bicycle Club. Opening on a furious blend of guitars and cymbals crashes, this is a phenomenal performance from the word go. And when they not all throwing themselves into their instruments, they are delivering tender vocals that fill the room and spread euphoria like a disease. ‘Magnet’ and ‘Dust on the Ground’ are definite highlights, sending a surge of frantic dance around the room with trademark fiery choruses.

The band everyone are really waiting for tonight are The Maccabees. Taking to the stage, the crowd create cheers that haven’t been heard with such gusto since we won the World Cup; but it is easy to see why as each Maccabee swaggers effortlessy around the stage. Swirling through oldies such as ‘All In Your Rows’ and the wonderful ‘Precious Time’ as well as playing tracks from the new album with pomp and vigour, this is band who know how to deliver a show stopper. ‘Wall of Arms’ is a gem tonight with a brass piece ringing through the Corn Exchange and twirling in your ear cavity. ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ is beautiful too, and creates such a stir in the crowd they can be heard in Berlin. But being on such a roll won’t stop the Maccabees now as they are called back with passion by the crowd who are chanting ‘MACC-A-BEES, MACC-A-BEES’, literally at the top of their lungs. So, on burst Orlando and company with a new energy, diving straight into ‘Bag of Bones’, as gorgeous tonight as ever. A surprise this evening for the baying audience as the band dexterously sashay through a cover of Orange Juice’s ‘Rip It Up’, much to everyone’s delight and a good sing-a-long ensues. After being thanked, Cambridge are told they are letting The Maccabees ‘indulge’ themselves and the first chords of ‘Love You Better’ buzz through the walls, allowing the band (and everyone else!) to leave on a well deserved high.

So, it remains to be asked; the same again next year?

Eloise Quince

Rebel Alliance Tour (Random Hand +The Skints + Mouthwash + Chris Murray)
16.2.10 – Leeds Cockpit

There were two gigs on at the Cockpit on Tuesday which made for a slightly hilarious mixture in the queue between punks and hipsters, and it also meant that by the time we actually got inside Chris Murray was already on stage. He was joined by Jon and Jamie from the Skints, and played an enthusiastic set of his upbeat ska. He bantered with the crowd and deserves a lot more recognition than he’s currently getting.

Mouthwash were up next, and had guitar troubles almost from the off. I’ve seen them once before and couldn’t stand them, but I was prepared to change my mind. I almost did, since the first three songs were really good, including a brilliant version of ‘That Girl’. However after that all the songs began to blur into one loud punk mess and it resulted in an overly-long set that I didn’t much care for.

The running over of Mouthwash meant that The Skints didn’t get as much time as they should have, and this was definitely a shame. The Skints play soulful reggae and they deserve to be as big as friends and allies The King Blues. They are always tight, and drummer Jamie sings amazingly, backed up by the wonderful Marcia. She plays a punk rock flute, and that alone should be enough reason to check out their album Live. Breathe. Build. Believe.

Random Hand were as heavy as ever. It was their drummer Joe’s last gig; he’s had enough of touring, not that it showed. It seemed like a definite high to go out on. Highlights were starting with ‘Scum Triumphant’, the always amazing ‘Anthropology’ and a new song called ‘Start the Fans Please’. An enthusiastic mosh pit from a local crowd meant that Random Hand left to a lot of applause, and were excellent.

Rebecca McCormick

The Wave Pictures + The Miserable Rich +Lisa Mitchell
10.02.10 - The Borderline

The HMV-supported Next Big Thing thing attracts folk from as far away as the armchair, the Time Out music guide and (probably) leafy Surrey to the Borderline, a venue that The Wave Pictures have played before (and will probably play again). They play ‘The Airplanes at Brescia’ for us, again, and it is brilliant. Funny, about to be dapper, tonight, playing songs from some new EP, rocking, being brilliant. I get talking to XFM DJ John Kennedy. “I think they sometimes work against themselves…”

He tells me, Lisa mitchell…a girl…from Kent, via Australia…or vice versa? She sings a cover of Dire Straits’ ‘Romeo and Juliet’… XFM DJ John Jennedy tells me he’s had her on his show…that it’s something, some pointless word like ‘ironic’, that the Wave Pictures, who’ve been playing together “for ages”, are headlining on a bill including her, Lisa Mitchell. And John Kennedy thinks it’s ironic, that her band has been assembled together shambolically, with a guitarist bobbing in a fun, I Was In The Feeling, I Was In Franz Ferdinand, way. But really, it wasn’t that bad. I mean, she didn’t sound Kentish. One song was on an advert. A very pretty song with a ‘ba-dum-ba-da-da-da-dum’ rhythm that we had bugging us the next day.

But, first of all, there came The Miserable Rich. The thing to relay to you about their band is the singer’s face…and his voice matches, by the way. A laissez-faire approach to singing, leaning forward, rocking slightly, wine in hand, a relaxed feel. “This song is also about substance abuse.” He has a very… good face. Maroon 5 by a gentleman. Double-bass being swayed by a man – a boy – whose eyes are closed pretty much throughout. Self-indulgent in a sense – that’s not a pull-quote. With a cellist, with soft, wine-fuelled, middle class (sorry, that fell in) midnight tones, they’re like Mumford & Sons for evenings; reflective, brooding, yeah, great.

Phil Coales

Garden Of Awen
7.2.10 - Bath Chapel Arts

I never really get to hear spoken word performances nowadays. There was a time when it seemed that practically every bar or performance space had a platform night dedicated to poetry, or storytelling, or comedy try-outs and of course these still exist, it's just that I never seem to find myself in that particular audience. Then there was the night I went to see the Libertines, in Edinburgh in the autumn of 2002, and was intrigued to discover that the band's support was provided by not one but two performing writers, perhaps as the gig was taking place in the last week of the Festival. And there were the numerous mixed media events I attended at the Permanent and Grey Area galleries in Brighton, although this didn't happen last weekend. So the Garden Of Awen opened its gate to the mildly curious, whom I chose to number myself amongst, and enter I did, and was I enlightened?

Well, MC for the evening is Kevan Manwaring, who manages both the evening and the Garden Of Awen publishing house, and Kevan is a Romantic Poet of the extremely old school, to a point where it's quite easy to imagine him quaffing brandies and damning Napoleon alongside Keats and Shelley in a Wiltshire roadhouse, while the horses paw at the mud and press gangs lurk in the hedgerows. Performing from memory and only recoursing to his notes during one poem, the tone of the evening was set quite resolutely, and helping to sustain the mood, a stage backdrop of scarlet cloth and empty birdcages. There are however two stages and, to my left, a platform is set up, covered with ivy and garlanded with roses and it is from here that Wayland The Skald regales us with a tale of country oddness involving white bulls and perilous tasks that had me wishing I'd brushed up a little on my folk tales, just so that I might catch more of the reference points, eg: white bulls - these are, I expect, a bit difficult to ride, even emasculatedly docile ones, and there were other ideas and images which I realised were quite definitely outwith my own experience. I felt like a bit of a townie, really, and the fact that Wayland himself is something of a soft-spoken chap only added to my sense of mild confusion.

So I was grateful to Widsmith and Deor for both their enthusiasm and ability to tell a story and make it interesting. The Devon based duo are, if you ever get to see them, genuine entertainers and quite adept at both switching characters, either through an assortment of headwear or just by standing on opposite sides of the stage. Viking epics, tales of kings and princesses, knights in disguises, you might think you're much too cynical and urbane to give any of that mediaeval stuff a proper hearing, but the duo certainly kept my attention during both of their performances. It's Grimm up Exeter, and no mistake.

Next, I was privileged to witness the very first (?) ever performance by Jack Dean, a stand up writer and present holder of the title 'Bard Of Bath', who uses the Garden stage to add a touch of modernism to the mostly (so far) Arcadian atmosphere of the show. Tales of street life and a bit of gritty realism is the Jack Dean experience, and the laddish grin partly hides the message behind the stories of taxi ranks and lost mobiles: there is a darker side to the Garden, but also a strange morality at work within it.

So to the music: from Oxford, Matt Sage, joined by cellist Brian Hanlon, is an energetic troubador who very deftly fingerpicks his way through 7 or so songs, with Hanlon's melancholic cello providing an austere if not sombre backline to the witticisms and Dylanesque turns of phrase that Sage has succeeded in mastering. They make for an odd contrast, the dapper and seriously brow-furrowed instrumentalist remaining entirely stoic while the guitarist and his songs turn ever more spirited, and there's a gleeful energy throughout Matt Sage's set that skilfully avoids losing its cohesion. Already rated by such luminaries as Giles Peterson, Sage is a genuine talent and knows exactly how to keep his not inconsiderable energies in check.

Lastly this evening, Saravian brings to the Garden exactly what it needs and wants, a gentle yet subtly powerful mixture of part improvised vocal and minimalistic guitar. A quite real mystery girl, she has the ability to expand her presence which all of the really good recent female singer/songwriters, from PJ Harvey to Rachel Michaelson, are able to do, and her vocals are really quite remarkable, moving from near falsetto to softly darker tones and without ever making this sound either forced or overly dramatic, with the emphasis on the lyric rather than the actual sound of her voice. Saravian's songs are partly rehearsed and also partly improvised, and this gives her performance a sparkling energy that ends the show on an agreeable, paradoxically subdued note and leaves the Chapel Arts audience more than satisfied with their guided tour of the grounds.

So, a mixture of risk taking, traditional folk and some quite charming eccentricity. Exactly what you might expect from a show of this kind, including the continous element of surprise that began to conjure the atmosphere of a big top, with Kevan Manwaring the Byronic ringmaster holding the reins of a disarmingly eclectic array of talents. It wasn't quite Pete Doherty at the Belle Angele, 7 years ago: what it was though, was a lot more than just another rock n roll circus.



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Future of the Left + Kong + Chickenhawk
22.1.10 - The Cockpit, Leeds

Gah! The curse of Chickenhawk strikes again. After spending all week listening to their stuff and watching the excellent video to ‘I hate this, do you like it?’ I managed to miss the buggers for about the third gig in succession. It must have been an early start because even after the slowest guest list confirmation on the door ever (long list or illiterate door staff, you decide) we still got in by 7.45. Despite the early slot, the general sweatiness and happy faces seemed to indicate a thumbs up for the Chickenhawk boys.

And so onto Kong. To anyone who has never heard or seen Kong, it’s hard to describe them adequately. Just listening to their visceral brand of punk rock is scary enough – at their most accessible they approach the roarest Bleach era Nirvana sounds with their equivalent three-pronged attack. But at their least accessible it’s like having your ear lobes cheese grated. Add to this concoction their macabre stagewear of red boiler suits and plastic clown masks and you have yourself one freaky set up. Everything about their set was slightly otherworldly, right down to threatening inter-song banter. I don’t think I could go as far to say that a Kong gig is an entirely enjoyable experience, but it is certainly an experience which everybody should have at least once in their life – just for the sake of being exposed to something like this. It left me feeling like I did last time I left the doctors after an anti-cholera vaccination.

But if Kong were the unpleasant inoculation then Future of the Left are the elixir vitae of the night. With a vicious live show which has been honed over years of near continuous touring and a back catalogue of tracks to make most of their contemporaries ashamed, FotL are a band at the top of their game. Which is odd – because for all the celebratory rigour in tonight’s show, there’s also an underlying melancholy and the sense of an end of an era. Have they decided to call it a day, take a break or what? There’s a few well placed comments but no firm sign – hmm, better freak out as though they are never going to play again then.

It’s my third FotL gig and this is by far the best – great atmosphere and the hits just keep coming. Kicking off with last year’s ‘Arming Eritrea’ there’s no let up - the jerky synth rock of ‘Manchasm’, crowd favourite ‘You Need Satan More Than He Needs You’, and the mosh-mongous ‘Small Bones, Small Bodies’. Not that the crowd needs much encouragement tonight – it seems like about half the audience are close personal friends of the band. Maybe they are(it was a long guest list after all) or maybe that’s just the sort of following you get when you put your heart and soul into a performance like this. There’s even an unusually sympathetic nod to the foolish hat-wearing heckler who unwisely chose to verbally spar with Falkous. Don’t bother – you’ll never win.

Future of the Left manage to give off the air of an efficient gigging machine, blistering tight performances and the crowd eating out of their hand while still maintaining an endearing and unscripted ramshackle nature between tracks. I’m aware that I’m gushing here but this really is the complete package. And the complete gig package requires the suitably demented finale which FotL are able to give us tonight. The otherwise omni-gurning drummer Jack Egglestone churning out a thumping drum outro accompanied by Kelson’s bass destruction, all the while hiding the not insignificant fact that Falko is slowly dissembling the drum kit and moving it off the stage. When only one drum is left and Jack is playing on his feet, the otherwise mute drummer suddenly unleashes a banshee howl and performs a solo vocal version of the Doctor Who theme tune – I didn’t see that coming. Finally as Falko lifts the one remaining drum out of the range of the leaping Jack the gig comes to an end and the room empties out with disbelieving eyes staring at each other as they leave. Yes – Future of the Left really were that good.