There was a time where I went to loads and loads of gigs. I think in my peak year of about 2008 I went to close to 50. As time when past this little hobby of mine became less sustainable. Gig tickets became prohibitively expensive, they closed quite a few of my favourite venues (RIP both Astorias, I will never forget you) and I started to lose touch with up and coming bands – probably because (according to my friend, Paul’s theory) – I grew up and out of my rock ‘n roll angst. Although I have been to see a few bands over the past couple of years – some of which Mr O wasn’t even in – I haven’t really felt a great desire to review them until I saw Wolf Alice on Saturday night. Read more…
It’s always hard when a band you really like breaks up and you feel like you’re going to miss out on hearing a really unique voice – I guess you hope they’ll pop up again somewhere else with a new project but it so often doesn’t happen. When I first heard We Are Young by fun. I was immediately struck by its earworminess but also convinced that I had heard that particular voice somewhere before. It took me just a little longer to figure out that the person belting out the massive chorus was Nate Reuss erstwhile frontman of The Format, a lovely little indie-folk-pop band that released two charming albums in the mid-noughties and then vanished.
With that in mind, I was thrilled when I was offered a chance to check out fun. headlining The Hammersmith Apollo. There was a time where I had my ear to the ground of the sub-pop music scene and would have known what a massive crowd to expect, but since I now live under a rock, I don’t think it had fully sunk in just how big fun. are.
And so they should be. I had managed a couple of listens through both of the studio albums they put out so far pre-gig but I will openly admit that I didn’t go in knowing ever word of every song. The reason I mention this is because I always think it’s a excellent indicator of a band’s goodness, no matter how big they are, if you can get sucked into the show without already being an uber-fan.
Fun. have several really powerful weapons in their arsenal. The first is indubitably, Ruess who is an absolute pocket-rocket. His endless energy and enthusiasm is infectious and his absolute colossal voice sounds as good live as it does on the biggest of singles. They’re also blessed with a heady indie-pop-rock sound that artfully blends 80’s guitar solos with brass interludes and some funky percussion. Pair all of this up with lyrics that manage to be uplifting but ultimately very real and great band chemistry and you can’t possibly go wrong.
They got the pacing of the show dead-on, keeping the audience fully engaged throughout with the added coolness of an awesome backdrop that included a brilliant animated city scape, complete with metro train running along the middle of the stage.
The sing-along inspired by Some Nights is quite potentially one of the most satisfying I have ever experienced and I will admit to a tiny tear in my eye for The Gambler, but ultimately the climax of the show was always going to be the encore of We Are Young. The only bum note was the seemingly odd decision to follow up We Are Young with Stars as the finale. After the climax of We Are Young it meandered somewhat and left the audience rather restless.
In conclusion fun. are exactly what they have obviously set out to be be – about as much fun as you can cram into 90 minutes.
Despite the current weather not being very springy at all, last week saw us pile into the Cavendish Arms for the ra ra Retro Spring Ball to celebrate the relaunch of our favourite retro-vintage-indie-mod shop’s new website. Do go and check it out, even if just to stare at Paul Ra Ra’s gorgeous mush, since he has plastered the whole site with it. Hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Carrying on from the success of the Christmas bash, the event promised an evening of music, boozing and of course, natty threads – with all the bands dressed in ra ra Retro gear… except DJ Mishima who went for Aladdin chic, but that’s another story…
First up were Paul Ra Ra’s own band, Mother Majesty, in only their second ever live performance. With their confidence boosted by a little previous experience, the whole band seemed more comfortable on stage and shy singer, Liz even managed some convincing audience interaction. As before, their grunge-influenced 90’s inspired tunes, got the crowd going and although there’s room for improvement, they were the perfect rough and ready openers.
Next up were Moon Visionaries, fronted by Greg Dearing, wearing a particularly lurid ra ra Retro shirt. The London three-piece brought a kind of dreamy Britpop feel to the night but somehow it felt like their hearts weren’t in it. Probably unsurprising since we later found out they are in the process of splitting up.
The evening closed with Penge’s finest The Red Lapels. With enough rock ‘n roll swagger to conquer the toughest of crowds, honey-voiced, Rich Maddy soon had the whole of the Cavendish Arms in a bit of a frenzy. We even saw dancing at the back – you know who you are. The Red Lapels have that rare quality where every one of their songs sounds different but there is a cohesiveness that gives them their own distinctive sound. There is no denying that they have a strong vintage bent with a bit of rockabilly flavour, evidenced by their stonking cover of I See a Bad Moon Rising. The concensus from the crowd was that we’ll definitely be checking out The Red Lapels again.
All pictures by Robin Lanes
Getting Frightened Rabbit tickets is an ordeal in its own. When they played in London last year, the tickets sold out in the pre-sale. Their show last week was slightly easier to get into since they played in a much larger venue but the insane eBay ticket prices, a gauntlet of touts outside The Forum is evidence that their Stateside popularity has finally made its way to the UK.
We arrive halfway through Washington Irving’s set. It’s hard not to notice immediately that they sound like Mumford and Sons. The music is passionate, folky and intense, with lots of loud jangling guitars. In terms of uniqueness though, it would be difficult not to make comparisons with the giant phenomenon that is Mumford. However, there is always room for similar bands in most markets, especially if they’re as good as Washington Irving.
Next up is Canadian band, Wintersleep, who manage to sound like REM and James at the same time, which is no mean feat. Their vocalist has an unusually captivating voice, which works well with their rather dreamy sound. It’s definitely something I could imagine myself listening to – both soothing and invigorating.
It’s not often that you can declare that a band is playing to a genuinely adoring crowd but there is no question that everyone in The Forum is bristling with excitement that Frightened Rabbit is in front of them in the flesh. With two weeks having past since the release of Pedestrian Verse the eagerness to hear the new material live is obvious and the excitement mirrored by an equally excited band. And they don’t disappoint. The set is well balanced between old favourites and the more anthemic new tracks. Vocalist, Scott Hutchison, charms the crowd with his usual humble, slightly bumbling sweetness, creating an electric atmosphere where everyone dances, claps and sings along at a volume that is almost, but not quite unpleasant. I can only imagine that Frightened Rabbit will get bigger and more people will catch on and that tickets will be even harder to come by but if you do get the chance, go and see them and in the meantime, make sure you download Pedestrian Verse, it’s the kind of album you press repeat on the minute it finishes.
Last week fledgling vintage fashion brand, Ra Ra Retro, held its Christmas party at the quirky Tamesis Dock, a 1930’s Dutch Barge converted into a floating pub. The intention of the party was to showcase some of the awesome men’s shirts, coats, tees and jackets available, while also having a right old knees up.
First on stage was the newly formed, Mother Majesty, playing their first ever gig and bringing a kind of grungy vibe to the boat. Although most of the band is relatively inexperienced, they managed to get the crowd going. While their sound could do with some polishing, they showed promise so let’s look out for what they do in the future.
Things really kicked off when Desert Ships got on stage. Strongly channeling the early 90’s, they managed to get the audience moving and even inspired some slightly off the wall antics…
As you can see it didn’t take long for Paul Ra Ra, as frontman, Mikey Buckley calls him, to clamber up onto the upper deck of the boat.
Not to be outdone, Mikey was soon up after him and found, what looks like the perfect performance spot.
The set was eventually thrown into confusion, when a drunk member of the London fire department (yes really) decided he wanted a cuddle off the band but was brought back to an inspired end when Paul suggested and then lead a Parklife cover.
From then on nothing was left to do but dance, drink and celebrate the success of Ra Ra Retro. The stragglers were booted out at 1am, carrying the last of the music equipment. We’ll be ready and waiting for the first anniversary party. Let’s just hope no one streaks…
All pictures by Oliver Geier.
I will start by saying that I’m glad we got to Hyde Park relatively early as the park once again seemed to be completely overwhelmed by the number of people the organisers had decided to sandwich in for the day. We arrived at 1:30pm and still found ourselves pitched up quite far from the stage. That said the vibe in the park was pretty electric and a lot of the Olympic goodwill had unquestionably spilled over into the Closing Celebration Concert (not be to confused with the actually closing ceremony, which apparently featured Jessie J screeching along to Queen).
The actual musical programme, so to speak, kicked off at about 4:30 with Bombay Bicycle Club. During the set I discovered that I actually knew one Bombay Bicycle Club song, which was nice. With their overall mostly summery, Vampire Weekend-y kind of sound they were a good match for the mid-afternoon – sunshiney and not requiring too much concentration. I found Jack Steadman’s smiley delivery of all his lyrics, quite endearing but not everyone in my group was as forgiving. Despite their set list varying massively in song quality, they were enjoyable enough – I might even try to find out what that song I know is called…
We were surprised that New Order was up next, as we expected that they’d be second-to-last on the bill, but considering that they are looking quite old, they might have needed an early night. I don’t think I can quite call their delivery energetic but they have a wonderful universally dancey quality that means you don’t actually have to know any of their songs to be able to join in and by the time they played True Faith and Blue Monday most of the audience had been swept up and were happily dancing, just like the old Ibiza days. They cemented an excellent set by finishing with Love Will Tear Us Apart and I will admit getting serious goose bumps when dear Ian Curtis appeared on the back drop. I would like to know what Bernard Sumner was up to though since he kept interfering with everyone else’s equipment.
If you’re going to see The Specials, I think you’re going to expect them to play Ghost Town, so when they finished their set without playing it there was a collective sigh of disheartenment from most of the crowd, and particularly the kids next to us, who decided to do their own rendition. It’s hard not to bear that in mind when considering the whole set. I loved that they played Monkey Man and A Message To You, Rudy but the set felt like it dragged a bit and was possibly a little bit inaccessible to non-fans. Not that it was bad, because I mean, ska is always fun, it just didn’t have the same impact as the New Order set.
When it came to Blur’s arrival, on a set that made them look like they were playing under an underpass, it was suddenly very evident that the sound just wasn’t cutting it. We were probably in the front third of the audience and struggling to really hear. I can imagine that the people at the very back must have been a bit disappointed, but then as I’ve said many times before, a park is a terrible place for a gig.
Shoddy sound aside, it’s hard to fault Blur. They have an extremely wide range of fans to accommodate – from ubergeeks like my B-side collecting husband, to the French bloke behind me singing the chorus of Country House at the top of his lungs. Getting together a set list that would satisfy everyone must have been a quite a challenge and from the perspective of what I suppose could be classified as a mid-range fan, one that they rose to. The uber-fans got their B-sides and random tracks off 13 and Think Tank, the tourists got Girls & Boys and Parklife (with real live Phil Daniels and Harry Enfield, inexplicably dressed as a tea lady) and I got No Distance Left to Run and End of a Century.
After recent questions about Damon Albarn’s vocal ability, last night it was evident that he’d put the work in and both the very old and the very new sounded good. His humility and adoration for the city of London and all things British was both touching and galvanising and I think a lot of people had a little cry during Tender. There is no question that Blur is still very much alive and kicking and I am grateful to them for letting me realise a dream that my fifteen year-old Britpop loving self never could have imagined possible. Now let’s just hope they stay that way. I’m off to buy Under The Westway.
On doing some pre-gig research for Monday’s show, we discovered that the opening act, Worship, are classed by last.fm as “doom metal”. It doesn’t sound very promising, does it? We were expecting beards, and not the good kind. Imagine our surprise when Worship turned out to be three skinny indie lads from Reading and apparently not the band referred to on Last.fm. We were even more surprise when they turned out to be kind of brilliant. Imagine if HIM mated with White Lies and spawned a kind of weird electro, metal, funeral dirge baby. I think their sound could best be described as mesmeric and I can’t argue with The Guardian’s description, ‘sounds like a sonic cathedral.’ I suppose the only concern is that they’ve potentially stuck themselves with a bit of a naff name and they might need better stage banter than, “We’re selling vinyl. We don’t know where it is.”
So with the unusual occurrence of a brilliant opening act we expected great and wonderful things from Head Automatica. It appeared that Head Automatica also expected great and wonderful things from the audience. Unfortunately they decided to play a set comprised almost entirely of songs from an album they recorded but never released in 2009. Consequently it was material that was very familiar to the band but completely unfamiliar to the crowd, leaving both sides increasingly more frustrated with every song. It might have worked if the new material was electrifying but it all spiralled off into some kind of Howard Moon-esque 80’s jazz trance that was almost unlistenable.
To add insult to injury,when they did decide to play known material they went for unusual arrangements that rendered the original songs almost unrecognisable. For the most part the new arrangements were… ponderous. The Razor was brilliant. Beating Heart Baby was a disatrous. Half way through people started walking out, much to Daryl Palumbo’s evident disgust. It was genuinely one of the most bizarre and self-indulgent gigs I’ve ever been to and from the post-gig twitter comments, the feeling was shared by most of the audience. When a band performs only for their own entertainment, they can’t be annoyed when the audience fails to be entertained. Somehow I can’t imagine we’re going to see Head Automatica back in London anytime soon or that anyone will care.
After waiting almost a year for the rescheduled London dates heralding the return of infamous pop punk legends, Blink-182, I think it’s fair to say that the atmosphere in the O2 was electric on Friday night.
We were unfortunate enough to find our seats in the highest of nose bleeds, which didn’t do much for my vertigo. I’m convinced it’s not entirely safe up there. We were comfortably early so we got to see Four Year Strong open. It’s a well-known fact that venues never put the good sound on for bottom billers and in a venue as cavernous as the O2, it really shows. The band seemed to be getting a pretty good response to their energetic brand of pop punk but the very back of the Arena was not the best place to get to know a band you don’t already have a strong feel for. With that in mind I can’t really comment on the strength of the performance. It was like watching ants jump and down in the far distance.
Second up were The All American Rejects, who I do know a lot better having seen them headline twice. They benefit not only from having a hearty back catalogue of radio hits but also an extremely charismatic front man in Tyson Ritter. I’ll admit that I found the new material a bit boring but I couldn’t resist a singalong to Swing Swing or Dirty Little Secret or a giggle when Ritter went off on a tangent about the people in the private boxes. I’ve sat there… it’s not that great. Overall a solid performance, worthy of the positive response from the audience apart from one guy slightly in front of us, who booed throughout. Probably the type who bottles people at festivals.
What can one say about Blink? After a five year hiatus, I think I half expected them to come back Green Day style and explode in an American Idiot kind of way. Unfortunately unlike Green Day the members of Blink genuinely appear to hate each other… well Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge anyway. If you’ve hung out with a couple who are about to break-up, you’ve probably got a good idea of what the onstage vibe was like, with both front men hurling thinly veiled barbs at each other. It wasn’t that they played badly, it was just an extremely uncomfortable experience. Their early material relies heavily on dick and fart jokes, which was funny when they were twenty-three (as the song says) but with all three pushing forty, it’s a bit tragic watching them trying to capture a level of silliness unbecoming to husbands and fathers. The new material and the songs from their eponymous final pre-split album fare better but when the overriding feeling is that the light show was great, I think things have gone wrong. I suppose one can hope that they’ll get over their differences and create something epic but I think it’s relatively unlikely.
Ah Islington Academy, the only music venue in a shopping centre. That’s where we were on Tuesday to catch Twin Atlantic on the second date of the Free-Ze Tour.
It’s been quite a while since I saw a really good opening act and I have to say that Tuesday’s gig did little to end the drought.
We arrived just after the start of Arcane Roots’ set to find them heartily attempting to be Biffy Clyro. Unfortunately Biffy Clyro are already Biffy Clyro and they’re quite good at being Biffy Clyro. Arcane Roots, just aren’t and the strange little wanders into Incubus didn’t help much either. I might be wrong since a fair junk of the audience seemed to be loving them. I just wasn’t.
We then got Dinosaur Pile-Up attempting to be Weezer. It was quite fun to start out with but after three songs we realised that every single one of their songs sounded identical and had blurred into one endless whinge, with properly adolescent lyrics. They weren’t horrible – I just don’t think I’d care if I never heard them again.
This is the first time I’ve seen Twin Atlantic really touring Free hard and I have to say it was encouraging. There’s a new confidence in their delivery and they appear almost to have “relaxed”. This could have translated badly, because you never want to hear that a band has lost its edge, but this is more of a case of them feeling more comfortable in their own skins. The new stuff has more polish and while Vivarium and earlier offerings were laudable in their aggression, the band is definitely growing up. It did make me smile that the audience seemed most excited by the early tracks, showing that they’ve been loyal. In the past the band has been openly derisive about London audiences but it seems the endless moshing, massive sing-alongs and on-cue crowd surfing might just have changed their minds. Long may Sam McTrusty leave London venues with a smile on his face… now if he could just remember all the words. Go and see Twin Atlantic. You will like them. I promise.
It’s not every night you get to go to a gig on a boat but Thursday night was one of those nights, as I was lucky enough to get an invitation to Bark! Bark! is a regular music night hosted by a collection of likely young chaps and chapettes who like noise, beer… and it seems boats. This round of Bark! takes place at Tamesis Dock a moored boat between Vauxhall and Lambeth Bridges. And if you’re ever looking for it, trust me you can’t miss it. It’s all done up in fairy lights like a Christmas tree.
The venue is not without its charms. The upper deck boasts an awesome view of the river and the wildly eclectic décor inside is a talking point on its own. Not that we’re forced to talk about the décor since there’s some rather good music on offer.
First up are the folk stylings of Alistair MacKenzie accompanied by Ben Edgington. It is instantly obvious that MacKenzie is a bit special. His voice is soulful, rich and unusual – somewhat reminiscent of Scott Hutchinson. Both play acoustic guitar but MacKenzie is particularly animated when he picks up his banjo and there are feet tapping along throughout. I particularly like The Mess We’re In, a frank song about unrequited love and the cruelties of karma. You can download a little free EP from his website now, so get on it.
Next up is Exiles, a magnificently noisy trio of Southend lads full of grungy aggression and political lyrics. There is something very sincere and real about them and they’re perfect for the rough and ready “homemade” vibe of Bark! The entire set is played with the aforementioned Ben Edginton lying on the floor with his feet up against the drum kit to stop it from skidding across the floor due to the odd angle that the boat has grounded itself at. And we’re all treated to handmade copies of an Exiles single with a masking tape title. It must be mentioned that one member of the audience becomes so caught up in the set that he swings from the rafters and snogs my husband. When I chat to bassist, Rob Glenister, about this over a smoke on the deck, he says, “I always knew we were a band that could make things happen.” He might just be right.
We slip out while the tunes are still going. The CD decks have fallen through and Sam Bowcher is frenetically DJing off an array of iPods and phones collected from the audience. It works surprisingly well because he’s playing the music that everyone in attendance loves.
I leave hoping that the next Bark! is soon. I can’t wait to see what the venue will be.
There is no way I can do a review of the third day of the Wireless Festival without mentioning the insane queue that we all faced to get in. I understand that it’s important to check what people are bringing into a festival but the level of searching going on could have given an airport a run for its money and considering that half the festival was off its tits on various narcotics and there were glass vodka bottles on the ground, I don’t necessarily think it worked that well.
After an hour and a half of waiting we eventually got in at about five, which meant that we missed Metronomy but caught half of The Horrors’ set. Unfortunately The Horrors did nothing to change my opinion that they’re *horrifically* boring live. I like The Horrors but they’re so deadpan live that it’s almost impossible to pay attention to them for more than a few minutes at a time.
In direct opposition, The Hives, came on and tore the whole festival apart. Goodness knows what possessed them to wear top hats and tails in 27 degree heat but they’ve never been known for their “sanity”. Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist was on top form rambling and leaping around, attempting to convince the audience that a lack of adequate response was not only a danger to their personal safety but also denoted low intelligence. There is no question that every Hives song sounds virtually the same but they brought the energy that Wireless needed and got everyone smiling and dancing.
TV On The Radio followed with a sublimely bluesy soulful set. Sticking to the more upbeat side of their repertoire, Tunde Adebimpe’s powerful vocals swept across the crowd at the main stage, bringing out the best of the sundrenched early evening. Wolf Like Me was particularly triumphant but I would have loved to have heard some of the slower more low key songs. Probably not the best for a festival though.
From there we headed to the Pepsi Max tent to check out Foals. It was a bit of a mixed set. While the crowd was definitely into them, I found the twenty minute long shoegazy jam session they indulged in a bit much for seven in the evening, but then if I was off my face I would have loved it. Unfortunately we never got to find out what was next because their bass drum broke and proved impossible to repair cutting the whole set short.
The Foals’ disaster gave us the opportunity to stroll back to the main stage and catch the end of Grace Jones’ set. You have to hand it to her; she’s 63 and looks better in a thong than most twenty year olds. I can’t tell what was going on and why she had a hula-hoop on the go for the last two songs but she’s impossible to ignore. Go on Grace, you mad old bird!
Of course the band everyone was there for was Sunday’s headliners, Britpop sensations, Pulp. Charming from the little lyric snippets they projected on the backdrop before their grand entrance, it was hard not to get caught up the in the hysterical nostalgia. Although I wish the woman behind me had gotten slightly less caught up since she was managing to drown out the band. Seeing Pulp live reminds you just how filthy their lyrics are but watching Jarvis Cocker leaping around like that maths teacher you never should have fancied couldn’t help but inspire a teenage frisson of excitement. The set was hit-laden with old favourites like Pencil Skirt, F.E.E.L.I.N.G C.A.L.L.E.D. L.O.V.E., Misshapes, Bar Italia, I Spy, Babies, Sorted For E’s And Wizz and Disco 2000 inspiring massive sing-alongs before the inevitable crescendo of Common People brought it all to an end in a hail of tickertape. There is no question that Pulp still have it… probably more than any of the other reunited 90’s bands I’ve seen in an attempt to relive my Britpop youth. Long may they continue to tour.
By the time we arrived in the Kings College Student Union (famed for sweaty surroundings and cheap beer) we’d missed the first opening act, whoever they wer, but fortunately we were in time for Derry trio, Fighting With Wire, who are absolutely bloody brilliant, largely because they’ve figured out a handy trick that bands with twice their experience often take years to crack. It’s spelled C.H.O.R.U.S. Fighting With Wire are masters of the catchy chorus and a couple of minutes into each song they have the whole audience singing along, whether they’ve heard the songs or not. Added to that front man, Cahir O’Doherty, combines a powerful voice with a natural knack for banter that can’t be taught. Their new album, Bones Of The Twilight, is out imminently. I would suggest checking it out. They might just be the next big thing.
I’ve seen Twin Atlantic at KCLSU before but at the time they were opening for Say Anything and it appeared that in the audience no one but me had ever heard of them. Friday’s gig was a completely different experience. I think I might now know how one of those kids that puts their birthday party on facebook, only to have the whole county turn up, feels. It’s a strange dichotomy for every hardcore music fan… when the band that was your secret favourite band really breaks out of the home crowd/word of mouth stage (Twin Atlantic’s new album Free made it onto the top 20). There is the elation at the idea that everyone agrees with the genius you’ve uncovered as well as the joy of seeing a group of people that you’ve come to care about being successful. There is also the sadness of letting go of a level of intimacy that you can no longer have once a fan base gets to a certain size. Friday’s gig was the moment that I officially had to let go.
That said, it was an incredible gig. Apart from one of the peripheries I was squashed into, the entire floor erupted into a moshpit with a level of aggression that unsurprisingly matches that of the new album. Every song, new and old, was sung in unison by the adoring crowd and front man Sam McTrusty actually miraculously declared that he thought this particular London crowd wasn’t that awful. I suppose it was deserved since he managed to get fully upright when he did a stage dive worthy of Matt Schultz.
Twin Atlantic is still my favourite band… it just turns out now they’re everyone else’s too. I will never forget the first time I saw them in the Water Rats Theatre (opening for the now defunct, Armor For Sleep), almost three years ago to the day. Where Ross and Barry joined the mosh pit with their guitars and Sam played parts of the set lying in the middle of the dance floor. And just in case anyone wants to remember it with me, here’s a little piece of nostalgia from me to you.
Going to see Panic! At The Disco is always an interesting experience. The first time I saw them almost five years ago they were in full make-up and top hats surrounded by circus performers. The next two times they were in jeans and check shirts. And I suppose this parallels the vast differences between their first two albums.
With album three, Vices And Virtues, a lot more Fever than Odd it’s unsurprising that last night’s Shepherd’s Bush outing brings bowties, suspenders and skinny suits. For Paul, who had never seen them before the combination of instant fashion-gasm and some pretty enthusiastic performance makes it a great show but I’m less convinced.
Because I miss Ryan Ross.
For those who don’t know in 2009 the original Panic! split in two with Singer, Brandon Urie and drummer, Spencer Smith continuing on as Panic! and guitarist, Ryan Ross, and bassist, Jon Walker, leaving to starting the Young Veins.
The split has definitely changed things. Panic! traded on the chemistry between lifelong friends Urie and Ross and without that it’s unquestionably the Brandon Urie show and he’s loving it. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but the band feels a bit unbalanced. The two charisma-free automatons that are filling the empty spots aren’t really bringing anything special to the party.
Added to this the song-writing has suffered. With Ross no longer holding the pen Vices And Virtues isn’t bad but it has neither the morbid melodrama of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out nor the psychedelic folksy buzz of Pretty Odd.
The gig makes it very clear that the split was down to creative differences. Urie relies heavily on Fever and Vices and only makes a nod to Pretty Odd by reluctantly playing Nine In The Afternoon and This Green Gentleman about an hour in. The irony is that it’s Ross’ rambling Beatlesesque tunes that provide the best showcase for Urie’s extraordinary voice.
All of that said there are some glorious moments. Camisado has the audience in a froth (possibly because Urie is demanding nudity) and Kill Tonight is the highlight of the songs from Vices, with Urie’s frenzied dancing being matched by the crowd. The now customary cover version is How Soon Is Now? and despite Paul’s assertations that no one should ever cover The Smiths, even he has to admit that Urie has the voice for it.
I leave satisfied but unsure. Maybe it’s time to go and check out the Young Veins.
We start off with Zebedy Rays, who are one of those rare things in rock, completely unselfconscious. Towards the tail-end of a two week tour including glamorous venues such as the Wimbledon Watershed and The Walsall Wharf, they clearly haven’t quite hit the big time yet but our hopes are high. With a drummer whose limbs are clearly too long for his body and a singer/guitarist prancing about on stage, shirtless like James Blunt in the throes of crack psychosis, what could go wrong? Mostly we had no idea what was going on and every song sounded completely different from the next with flavours of grunge and bluesy folk thrown in. It certainly wasn’t a beautiful sound but it was fucking cool, anything that ends with the singer climbing the scaffolding has to be.
Next up were Gentlemans Pistols (err euphemism much?) who were in full 70’s revival mode. Now I normally like anything that references classic rock of the Hendrix, Cream, Who variety. Wolfmother, anyone? But with this lot something just didn’t click and it sounded like bad karaoke.
After a long wait, Terrorvision burst out with mad enthusiasm, front man Tony Wright (in a not very rock ‘n roll salmon pink t-shirt) alternating between bouncing around like he had springs in his joints and shaking his arms like someone with early onset Parkinson’s. Unfortunately unlike some of the other 90’s bands we’ve seen recently Terrorvision, and their music, have not aged well. In the absence of Reef’s grungy surfer sun-baked charm, Suede’s painfully introverted lyrics and Kula Shaker’s otherworldly antics, they seemed dated and honestly just a bit naf. As a more sophisticated listener than the fifteen year old self that feel in love with them, I realised just how absolutely dire their lyrics are. As much I loved seeing Celebrity Hitlist live, I almost wish I hadn’t seen them because it was ultimately depressing, proving that some things are better left in the past. They have new material out but Demolition Song sounded like a bad Green Day knock off and sadly I can’t imagine them drawing anyone except the most hardened or sentimental fans.
Last night Paul and I braved the fog and headed to The Peel in Kingston to see Twin Atlantic (for me the tenth time since May 2008). For those who are unaware of The Peel, it’s a bastion of rock in deepest darkest suburbia, well known for showcasing up and coming bands both signed and unsigned on their way to the top.
We were on time to see both the opening acts, Scholars and Straight Lines, neither of whom wowed me. Scholars sounded a bit like a watered down version of Kids In Glass Houses minus any of the charm and while Straight Lines had a bit more substance and a singer with a particularly cool little voice, I was still bored. I feel like I’ve seen both bands a hundred times before in the same outfits with the same chords, just slightly different (bad) lyrics.
It was very evident that the crowd had come for Twin Atlantic and Twin Atlantic alone and no one seemed more surprised by that… than Twin Atlantic. I’m not sure the Glaswegian natives knew they were still in London, where they have a pretty good underground following, because front man, Sam, kept mentioning his surprise that anyone had turned up at all and appeared even more baffled that the whole audience was singing every song back to him.
TA have complained about London crowds being lacklustre before but the Kingston crowd brought it in a whole new way, turning the entire floor into a mosh pit. It was obvious that the band was visibly delighted and Sam played grinning from ear to ear throughout the entire set, eventually doing a full on stage dive and playing aloft in the arms of the adoring audience. Was I surprised? Hell no! Twin Atlantic are incredible and it’s about time everyone got swept up in their awesomeness… and also the awesomeness of drummer, Craig’s, new tash, which must be mentioned!
New songs did not disappoint, revealing a cool grungy edge that seemed to come out even in the old material, which was played with a renewed dark gusto. We were particularly taken with The Ghost of Eddie. We left before the encore because Paul was feeling a bit ropey but the new album Free is out on 2 May and I can’t wait! In the meantime you can check out the video for their new single Edit Me. I just wonder how many more gigs we’ll get to see in small venues before they truly take off.
On Tuesday night Paul and I went to see Suede at the O2 in yet another case of 90’s bands attempting to return from the grave.
We arrived in time to see New Young Pony Club, who were alright but kind of boring. Lots of atmospheric keyboards and insane dancing from their frontwoman apparently wearing a curtain and a pair of tights while the also female keyboard player was wearing what looked like a schoolgirl outfit… I suppose it was music from that indie-electro fusion genre that I’m not quite cool enough to dedicate time to. Bless them they did try in the face of an admittedly lacklustre crowd.
Suede was by no means sold out; in fact the top tier had been curtained off to make it appear less empty. I guess it’s a reminder that out of the Britpop Big Four, Suede always had step-child status to some degree. This didn’t seem to bother a whippet-thin, relatively fresh-faced Brett Anderson, who exploded around the stage with a level of glee I had not been expecting and launched into what I can only describe as the “David Bowie Workout for the Androgynous Man”. Just like when we went to see Kula Shaker, it kind of felt like nothing had changed. Anderson’s voice is still sumptuous and full and clear as a bell and he still knows how to work the audience. There was little time spent on chit-chat as the band whirled from one song to the next with barely a pause between them. Cleverly, they remained in early Greatest Hits territory, keeping the crowd going, while using massive projections of their album and single covers to remind us just what disaffected romantics, Suede stood for now and in the 90’s.
Who knows whether Suede will release new music or possibly even tempt Bernard Butler back? I kind of hope they don’t do either but I sure am glad I got to see them.
Last night David and I went to see Adam Lambert on the last night of the Glam Nation tour at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. In a way it was a miracle we actually made it to the show. There was yet another tube strike last night. We spent about an hour and a half waiting for a bus at Oxford Circus in the arctic cold before splitting a cab with a lady who lives in Shepherd’s Bush. Thank god we did though because the show was definitely worth the extra £6 in cab fare.
There is no question that Adam Lambert has a flair for the dramatic. I think anyone who watched his stint on American Idol will know that that was what made him stand out from the usual talent show dregs (I’m talking to you Matt Cardle). With a full stage to command, there is no question that he comes into his own. Flanked by four exceptional dancers and a band that could stand on their own (including a drummer in a cage), a lesser vocalist could be overwhelmed by the over the top costume changes, homoerotic onstage snogging sessions or the weight of his own eye make-up but Adam’s voice is goose-bump inspiringly jaw-dropping. You get the feeling that even if he wasn’t breathtakingly beautiful or about twelve feet tall that you’d still be in awe.
Preaching love and acceptance to the rather odd audience… we expected hysterical girls and pretty gay boys but not middle aged builders… the mix of up-tempo dancy pop songs and heart-rending ballades was perfect and by the time he strutted out to cover T-Rex’s 20th Century Boy for his encore (can you think of a better theme tune?) I had fully made up my mind that if I were a boy, I’d be gay for Adam Lambert. He surely has a very long career ahead of him and I can imagine right now he’s grateful that he escape the Idols curse and avoided selling his soul to SiCo!
Just another little review I did for GigJunkie…
In our stroll up to Hoxton Square we have the pleasure of encountering opening act, Stagecoach busking joyfully in front of a camera crew. And while the skinny Shoreditch vampires that seem to generally haunt the place aren’t exactly charmed, the atmosphere inside The Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen is somewhat different when the Cardiff locals take to the stage.
Sounding like Los Campesinos! minus the girls and the violins but with the added power of a bald, burly male mandolin player, their quirky lyrics and wolf “howls” soon get everyone interested and paying attention. There’s no question that singer, Luka and Mandolin player Tom are having a good time, audience invasion, songs about bad heavy metal and bandana losses notwithstanding and so are we. We want to see them again. They’re great!
Next up is Dog Is Dead are without question trying to make an impression on everyone they play for. They’ve obviously spent time as choir boys as their blistering vocal harmonies bear testament… although if you didn’t notice that, they kindly open their set with an intro straight from Last Choir Stranding. As the set continues with instrument swaps, jazzy saxophone interludes and loveable lyrics, I can’t help getting the impression that Dog Is Dead are showing off a little. It’s obvious that they have a natural musicality and that they’re channelling everyone from Paul Simon to the Mystery Jets so why the smugness. You’re not the average band, you’re great, we get it, there’s no need to go over the top. That said, they’re easy to get lost in and with that much raw talent, they’re surely on the road to bigger and better things. We leave still not sure if vocalist, Rob, is more concerned that we know that they come from Nottingham or that he’s mentioned Nottingham too many times because everyone one of the (five or so) times he mentions they’re from Nottingham he also says that he thinks he’s mentioned it before. What I do know is that their cheery gospel choir jams have a quietly melancholy edge and they’re one to watch in the upcoming music scene.
If anyone wants to read the formal review I did of Redfest, you can pick it up on Gigjunkie, which is the lovely live music site I often write for. In that review I got into detail about the bands we saw and the atmosphere of the festival but I know that’s not what y’all want to hear about. So this little memoir of the festival is all about being a backstage virgin.
On arrival at Redfest (pathetically hungover and out of love with life on my part) we discovered that there was no “press area” and that the only option other than “general festivalgoer” was a full backstage pass, which Paul and I were granted with barely a glance at the list. In fact they initially seemed to think we were in a band called Gigjunkie and asked us what day we were playing on.
It took us a while to actually pluck up the courage to go backstage out of fear that we would stick out like sore thumbs and possibly embarrass ourselves… but there’s only so long you can resist the lure of possibly clean toilets (although that turned out to be a pipe dream).
We sat around for a while drinking cans of Red Stripe, which were considerably cheaper than the beer available in the festival, and gawking at the shininess of the Enter Shikari tour bus before Sam McTrusty of Twin Atlantic came loping over for a cuddle and a chat. It was a bittersweet reunion. I always love seeing Sam. He’s impossibly charming and open and even if I wasn’t wholly obsessed with his band, he’s just fun to hang out with. However, it was him who ended up breaking the news to me that my other favourite band, Envy On The Coast, is no more. I mentioned in a previous blog the connections between the bands and my connection to EOTC and hearing that I’ll never get to see them perform again was a massive blow. Although I suppose if you have to hear that your favourite band has split up the best person you could get the news from is probably the front man of your other favourite band.
It was at this point that we realised that knowing one of the bands means that everyone assumes you’re important and one of the “gang” that includes journos, photographers, brand reps, crew and of course musicians. With Sam sitting with us we got chatting to everyone from the festival organisers to the head of marketing for Fender to eventually Chris from Enter Shikari. And once they started treating us like one of them, we just acted like we belonged. After all I had a notebook and pen and Paul had a camera, of course we belonged. People gave us their cards and asked us our opinions… in between Sam attempting to karate chop all of the wasps that kept descending on our table. It all gets a bit hazy because the Red Stripe was flowing like water but in the end we even netted an invite to the Enter Shikari after show tour bus party. But after two days on the lash and the 4000 photos Paul took, bed was calling.
Day 2 was significantly more subdued. Twin Atlantic and Enter Shikari were gone and I had reached a level of lethargy that creeps in when you’re almost thirty and you haven’t had an opportunity to lie on the couch and contemplate the meaning of life for a number of days. Several of the friends we’d made the day before recognised us though and we ended up being adopted by a raucous band of barristers who were backstage for reasons yet unknown, and kept us in stitches for most of the evening.
I think Paul fared slightly better than I did, chatting pretty much every band that played on the day, including the ridiculously cool, Little Comets, who I have intentions of adopting. But in the end we were both agreed, beyond a shadow of a doubt that backstage is where we’re meant to be…
All photos kindly courtesy of the lovely Paul Osbiston
One of my “pro” reviews. Clearly I am pretending that I write for the NME:
When seminal Britpop band, Blur made their 2009, it was only a matter of time before a slew of 90’s bands with fans still young enough to go to gigs started to crawl out of the woodwork, hungry for to capitulate on their former success. So far we’ve seen Suede and Reef sell-out reunion gigs and Bush hot on their heels promising new material. I’m not one to complain as an expat with a long love affair with British music, I didn’t get to see a lot of my favourite bands the first time around and it’s hard to resist the car-crash fascination of whether they’ll still be as good on round two. And really there is a lot to be said for going away and growing-up… after all look at what happened to Oasis.
Last night it was the turn of mystical rockers, Kula Shaker, famed not only for their flirtations with Eastern rhythms but also for their oh-so-posh front man, Crispin Mills’ occasional bizarre comments about Swastikas.
Unsurprisingly the sauna-like Relentless Garage is backed with ageing hippies and several bemused teenagers who have been dragged along by their parents. It’s a die-hard crowd since the tickets were the product of a fan-club competition and although we are all so hot that the sweat is sliding off the walls, Kula Shaker come out looking crisply cool, as if they’ve been beamed in straight from the 90’s… or is the 60’s since there’s a distinctive air of Sergeant Pepper in their outfits… either way no one appears to have aged.
Mills is instantly charming and the band’s energy is infectious. I don’t find myself quite in the throes of an apparent religious experience like the gentleman next to me but it’s easy to bounce along to old and new songs alike. We are treated to a series “of badly rehearsed” songs from the new album, Pilgrim’s Progress. One of which Mills claims to have forgotten the words to. The Eastern influences seem to have melted out in the new material but it still has that slightly trippy 60’s element and is sufficiently folky that you can imagine it providing the perfect soundtrack to a hazy summer BBQ. By the time they close with Govinda, the audience is drowning out the band, Mills is waving his arms around like a swami and the corpulent middle aged man next to me has gone into a state of existential ecstasy.
Whether Kula Shaker will inspire a legion of new fans is up for debate but I leave feeling like the old fan in me has been awakened and eager to add Pilgrims’s Progress to my summer soundtrack.