gig reviews - 2010
+ 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
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.
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
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.
18.3.10 - O2 Academy, Leeds
(click on thumbnails to open full size images in new windows.
All photos courtesy Daniel Heaton: www.flickr.com/photos/danielheaton)
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
Sunshine Underground + Cosmo Jarvis + Club Smith
click on thumbnails to open full size images
in new windows. All photos courtesy Daniel Heaton: www.flickr.com/photos/danielheaton
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
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
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
With my original opinions thoroughly thrown out of the window
I am now officially a fan.
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: www.flickr.com/photos/danielheaton
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
click on thumbnails to open full size images
in new windows
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
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.