Category Archives: Music

Farewell to The Thin White Duke

It’s rare that the death of a famous person genuinely affects me but when I found out this morning that David Bowie had lost his 18 month battle with cancer I  was genuinely devastated.

A timeless icon of music, film, art and fashion he has never stopped reinventing and challenging himself – becoming ever more relevant year after year, decade after decade. He was the ultimate king of effortless cool. I guess I kind of thought he’d live forever and the idea that he is no longer with us breaks my heart.

Rest in Peace Ziggy Stardust. Gone but never forgotten.


GIG REVIEW: Wolf Alice at Brixton Academy – 26 September 2015

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…

My top 10 movie rock stars

If there’s anything I love as much as movies, it’s rock music and the crazy folk who make it (hey, I married one). So I have picked out my top ten rockers from the movies. I am totally aware that not everyone who appears on this list is a “star” per say but they all embody some of the qualities that it takes to be a devotee to the gods of rock. For the purpose of this list I have included fictional musicians only.

Scott PilgrimScott Pilgrim
Played by: Michael Cera
Film: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Band: Sex B0b-Omb
Instrument of choice: Bass
Most rock ‘n roll behaviour: Playing self-indulgent, miserable songs
“Scott Pilgrim: We are Sex Bob-Omb and we are here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff.

Russell HammondRussell Hammond
Played by: Billy Crudup
Film: Almost Famous (2000)
Band: Stillwater
Instrument of choice: Guitar
Most rock ‘n roll behaviour: Relentless groupie shagging
“Russell Hammond: I am a golden god!

Robert FishmanRobert “Fish” Fishman
Played by: Rainn Wilson
Film: The Rocker (2008)
Band: A.D.D.
Instrument of choice: Drums
Most rock ‘n roll behaviour: Refusing to grow up
“Curtis: I thought you were supposed to be the responsible adult.
Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman: Oh I’m responsible alright. Responsible for partying till my nuts catch fire!

Played by: Steve Buscemi
Film: Airheads (1994)
Band: The Lone Rangers
Instrument of choice: Bass
Most rock ‘n roll behaviour: Humping his guitar on stage
“Chazz: Who’d win in a wrestling match, Lemmy or God?
Chris Moore: Lemmy.
[Rex imitates a game show buzzer]
Chris Moore: … God?
Rex: Wrong, dickhead, trick question. Lemmy *IS* God.

Nigel TufnelNigel Tufnel
Played by: Christopher Guest
Film: This is Spinal Tap (1994)
Band: Spinal Tap
Instrument of choice: Guitar
Most rock ‘n roll behaviour: Owning an amp that turns up to 11
“Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

Played by: Matt Damon
Film: EuroTrip (2004)
Band: Lustra
Instrument of choice: Voice
Most rock ‘n roll behaviour: Performing a graphic song about the girl he is secretly shagging… in front of her boyfriend
“Donny: [singing] Scotty doesn’t know that Fiona and me do it in my van every Sunday. She tells him she’s in church, but she doesn’t go, still she’s on her knees and Scotty doesn’t know…

Dewey FinnDewey Finn
Played by: Jack Black
Film: School of Rock (2003)
Band: School of Rock
Instrument of choice: Guitar
Most rock ‘n roll behaviour: Making absolutely everything about him
“Dewey Finn: God of Rock, thank you for this chance to kick ass. We are your humble servants. Please give us the power to blow people’s minds with our high voltage rock. In your name we pray, Amen.

Curt WildCurt Wild
Played by: Ewan McGregor
Film: Velvet Goldmine (1998)
Band: The Rats
Instrument of choice: Voice
Most rock ‘n roll behaviour: Exposing himself on stage
“Curt Wild: Listen, a real artist creates beautiful things and puts nothing of his own life into them, OK?”

Played by: Tia Carrere
Films: Wayne’s World (1992) and Wayne’s World 2 (1993)
Band: Crucial Taunt
Instrument of choice: Bass and voice
Most rock ‘n roll behaviour: Wearing lingerie on stage
“Cassandra: Yeah, and if a frog had wings it wouldn’t bump its ass when it hopped.
Wayne Campbell: Interesting. Where did you learn English?
Cassandra: College… and the Police Academy movies.”

Aldous SnowAldous Snow
Played by: Russell Brand
Films: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and Get Him to the Greek (2010)
Band: Solo artist
Instrument of choice: Voice
Most rock ‘n roll behaviour: Convincing a journalist to smuggle his drugs through an airport… in his bottom
“Aldous Snow: This is it, Aaron. This is rock n’ roll. Did you enjoy the party?

My top 10 movies about music

When it comes to the great passions in my life, music is definitely right up there with film, fashion and food (things that start with F clearly very popular) so movies about music is one of my favourite genres. Here are my top 10:

twenty4_hour_party_people_va_WTetBa_Poster24 Hour Party People (2002)
About: Tony Wilson and Factory Records, the record company that brought the music of Manchester to the world including mega influential bands like Joy Division and The Happy Mondays.
Starring: Steve Coogan, Andy Serkis, John Simm
“Tony Wilson: Factory Records are not actually a company. We are an experiment in human nature. You’re labouring under the misapprehension that we actually have a deal with, er, with our, our bands. That we have any kind of a contract, er, at all, and I’m afraid we, er, we don’t because that’s, er, that’s the sum total of the paperwork to do with Factory Records, deal with, er, their various bands.”

the-story-behind-get-him-to-the-greek-07-420-75Get Him to the Greek (2010)
About: Fictional out of control musician Aldous Snow, who has to be shepherded from England to the Greek Theatre in LA by a young music executive so he can play an anniversary gig.
Starring: Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Sean Combs
“Aaron Green: I think I just got raped.
Aldous Snow: [handing him a joint] Only one thing to do.
Aaron Green: [taking a hit] Uh, guys? What is this stuff? My heart’s going really fast.
Aldous Snow: Oh, it’s a bit of this, a bit of that. It’s called a Jeffrey. It’s mostly weed, with a bit of opium as well… ground-up E’s… heroin… Clorox…
Aaron Green: I think I’m having a heart attack.

The-Runaways_group1The Runaways (2010)
About: The rise and fall of all-girl punk band The Runaways and the relationship between guitarist-singer Joan Jett and singer, Cherie Currie.
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon
“Kim Fowley: What in the fuck have you girls been doing over there?
Joan Jett: We’ve been practicing! Like you said.
Kim Fowley: Well, get back to it. You bitches are gonna be bigger than the fucking Beatles!
Joaquin+PhoenixWalk The Line (2005)
About: Country music legend, Johnny Cash and his rise to fame while struggling with drug addiction and winning over June Carter, the love of his life.
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon
“Johnny Cash: Tell me you don’t love me.
June Carter: I don’t love you.
Johnny Cash: [grinning] You’re a liar.
June Carter: I guess you ain’t go no problems then.”

imagesWayne’s World 2 (1993)
About: Inseparable best friends Wayne and Garth attempt to put on a rock festival, while Wayne has to fight to to keep his relationship with his girlfriend alive after she catches the eye of a record producer.
Starring: Mike Meyers, Dana Carvey, Tia Carrere, Christopher Walken
“Del Preston: So there I am, in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, at about 3 o’clock in the morning, looking for one thousand brown M&Ms to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn’t go on stage that night. So, Jeff Beck pops his head ’round the door, and mentions there’s a little sweets shop on the edge of town. So – we go. And – it’s closed. So there’s me, and Keith Moon, and David Crosby, breaking into that little sweets shop, eh. Well, instead of a guard dog, they’ve got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shopowner and his son… that’s a different story altogether. I had to beat them to death with their own shoes. Nasty business, really. But, sure enough, I got the M&Ms, and Ozzy went on stage and did a great show.”

famous090201_280x227Almost Famous (2000)
About: Teenage writer William Miller, who follows fictional rock band Stillwater, on their tour while writing about them for Rolling Stone.
Starring: Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee
“Russell Hammond: And you can tell Rolling Stone magazine that my last words were… I’m on drugs!
[crowd cheers]
William Miller: Russell! I think we should work on those last words!
Russell Hammond: I got it, I got it. Last words – I dig music.
[a few claps]
Russell Hammond: [beat]
Russell Hammond: I’m on drugs!
[crowd cheers]

empire_records_1995_685x3851Empire Records (1995)
About: The misfit employees of a Empire Records stage a rebellion when they discover that their beloved store is going to become part of a chain.
Starring: Anthony La Paglia, Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler, Rory Cochrane
“Mark: [into television camera] Damn the man. Save the Empire.”

control460Control (2007)
About: Ian Curtis, the front man of iconic rock band, Joy Division, and the circumstances that lead to his tragic suicide at 23.
Starring: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton
“Ian Curtis: I struggle between what I know is right in my own mind, and some warped truthfulness as seen through other people’s eyes who have no heart, and can’t see the difference anyway.”

composing-crazy-heartCrazy Heart (2009)
About: Fictional country musician, Bad Blake, who attempts t turn around his life of addiction when he meets a young journalist.
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal
“Bad Blake: I don’t want to talk about Tony.
Jean Craddock: All right, what do you want to talk about?
Bad Blake: I wanna talk about how bad you make this room look. I never noticed what a dump it was until you came in here.
Bad Blake: . I haven’t seen anybody blush in I don’t know how long.
Jean Craddock: I can’t help it if my capillaries are close to the skin.

airAirheads (1994)
About: A fictional wannabe rock band holds up a radio station in the hope of getting their demo played on air and being offered a recording contract.
Starring: Adam Sandler, Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi
“Ian: ”The Lone Rangers.” That’s original. How can you pluralise ”The Lone Ranger”?
Chazz: What’s wrong with that?
Ian: Well, there’s three of you. You’re not exactly lone. Shouldn’t you be The Three Rangers?
Chazz: l have no idea what you’re saying right now.”

My top 10 movie soundtracks

There will be no Film Friday this week. In between not having any internet or Sky for almost two weeks and using up the entire 3G quota on my iPad, I just haven’t been able to fit in the requisite four films. I didn’t want to go for a whole week with no cinematic content so I have decided to go all Cinema Parrot Disco and do a top 10, combining my two greatest loves – film and music.

So with no further ado, I bring you my top 10 movie soundtracks (in no particular order). For the purposes of this top 10 I am considering a soundtrack to be made up of actual songs rather than backing music, which would be a score. I’d love to hear your favourites. (Stuck in the 90’s? Me? Never!)

thecrowThe Crow
Release date: 1994
Iconic song: Big Empty by Stone Temple Pilots
Romeo+Juliet-Soundtrack1William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
Release date: 1996
Iconic song: Lovefool by The Cardigans

tumblr_inline_mho437c8Rm1qz4rgpWarm Bodies
Release date: 2013
Iconic song; Hungry Heart by Bruce Springsteen

Crazy-Heart-Soundtrack Crazy Heart
Release date: 2009
Iconic song: The Weary Kind by Ryan Bingham

BSO_10_Razones_Para_Odiarte_10_Things_I_Hate_About_You-Frontal10 Things I Hate About You
Release date: 1999
Iconic song: I Want You To Want Me by Letters to Cleo

american_pie_soundtrack_aAmerican Pie
Release date: 1999
Iconic song: Mutt by blink-182

863903_01The Wedding Singer
Release date: 1998
Iconic song: You Spin Me Right Round by Dead or Alive (performed by Adam Sandler on the soundtrack)

0000016035_500Empire Records
Release date: 1995
Iconic song: Til I Hear it From You by The Gin Blossoms

Complete+Dazed++Confused+Soundtrack+disc+1+dazedn+and+confusedDazed and Confused
Release date: 1993
Iconic song: School’s Out for Summer by Alice Cooper

500-days-of-summer500 Days of Summer
Release date: 2009
Iconic song: Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths

Spring has sprung at ra ra Retro

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

REVIEW: Frightened Rabbit @ The Forum – 13 February 2013

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.
Frightened Rabbit

REVIEW: American Idiot – The Musical

Last week I went to see American Idiot: The Musical at Hammersmith Apollo. Unsurprisingly, the show is based around Green Day’s American Idiot album and was written by Billie-Joe Armstrong along with Michael Mayer.

The story follows the life of three boyhood friends, Johnny, Tunny and Will who all take different paths as they make the decision to leave their home town. Will gets trapped at the last minute when his girlfriend tells him she’s pregnant. Tunny gets caught up in Uncle Sam propaganda and joins the army and Johnny succumbs to charismatic drug dealer, St Jimmy.

With limited dialogue and the music being provided by a live band onstage, it is an absolute explosion of energy. The constantly evolving set works around dozens of constantly flashing and blaring TV sets and the cast are physically and vocally talented.

While it is without question a very enjoyable show, one can never quite get around the naffness that is inherent in musicals – the wildly exaggerated movements and facial expressions… the kind of “jazz-hands” effect that no amount of flesh-baring, cursing or alternative hair sculpture can quite cover up. I think for those who love musicals, this is part of the charm but for me it delivers a cringe factor that I just can’t banish. I also felt somewhat disappointed that there wasn’t much of a resolution to the story. It ended… I think with hope… but it was hard to be sure.

Overall as musicals go, this is an outstanding production but if you’re not a fan of musicals don’t expect the fact that it’s Green Day to completely win you over.

It's comedy and tragedy. it's Saint Jimmy and that's my name. And don't you fucking wear it out!

It’s comedy and tragedy. It’s Saint Jimmy and that’s my name. And don’t you fucking wear it out!

Wishing you a Ra Ra Retro Xmas

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…

Mr Ra Ra himself

Mr Ra Ra himself

All pictures by Oliver Geier.

Frightened Rabbit: The Highlands Film

Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the pre-screening of the Frightened Rabbit, short film, The Highlands Film. For those of you who have missed out on the wonder that is Frightened Rabbit they are a Glasgow based band of the indie-folk variety, who originally hail from the town of Selkirk and I am outrageously in love with them. To put this into context, when I couldn’t get tickets for their only London show earlier this year, I experienced a level of disappointment close to that of being stood up by my date for the year ten dance…

Anyway, the band recently toured a series of small venues throughout the Highlands that would not normally be fortunate enough to have bands play in their town and made a documentary of their travels. There were two screenings, the London one taking place at The Prince Charles cinema, with frontman, Scott Hutchinson to do introductions followed by a solo acoustic set.

I think it would have been hard not to get swept up – firstly in the beauty of the Highlands – Scott suggested that the company that made the film probably should have been paid by the Scottish Tourist Board… I don’t think he’s wrong, since my first instinct was to investigate the possibility of a Highlands tour of my own – and secondly by Scott’s amazing skill for relaying anecdotes. I can imagine he is the most popular person in any pub he enters.

This started with the incredible story of the Great Appletini, a teenage online gambler they found in Ullapool, who successfully hypnotised guitarist, Andy Monghan, and continued into every subsequent song to the point where Scott would start a song and then have to stop because he had left out some kind of detail.

The acoustic set was broken up into Scott’s choice as well as suggestions shouted out by the audience, his choices being from the upcoming February release Pedestrian Verse . I don’t think anyone was happy when the venue called time but at least we all got to hear Poke, which is what I think everyone was gunning for.

You can watch the film here:

And if you’re not in love with them after that, well I worry about the state of your soul…

REVIEW: Blur, New Order, The Specials, Bombay Bicycle Club at Hyde Park, 12 August 2012

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.

5 Random Songs, 5 Random Memories

I nicked this concept from fellow blogger, Commandpluszed, who put his iPod on shuffle and wrote about the memories that the first five songs that came up inspired. You can read more here. I decided to do the same. These are not quite the first five songs but they’re the first five that actually had memories attached to them. The exercise made me realise that I need to clean-up my iPod since I don’t actually recognise half of what’s on there. I’m kind of hoping this will catch-on since I’d love to know some of your music memories…

 Blue Hotel – Chris Isaak

Anyone who grew up in South Africa will remember that the SABC used to play music videos in between whatever random stuff they were showing (think Neus Chanel 9 from The Fast Show). They generally didn’t have a wide variety of videos so they’d get stuck playing the same one about five times a day. I have a clear memory of it being Blue Hotel by Chris Isaak for a while when I was about seven and becoming obsessed with the song. My mom, who has been instrumental in my musical education, was only listening to rock music at the time and professed her horror that I’d like something so bluesy and bordering on country. My mom hates country. She thinks it is the devil’s music. I still like a bit of country and I still love Chris Isaak. Sorry, mom.

If I Cut My Hair, Hawaii Sink – Chiodos

A few years ago I randomly took my ex to see Chiodos, mostly because he only really likes house music and I figured a night of screamo would piss him off. I’m mature like that. What I remember most about that night was that Skrillex opened for Chiodos. At that point no one had ever heard of him and his record company would not pay for his band to come out with him so he played a DJ set and it was awesome. I also remember that the night ended in some kind of mad house party at my place, where I eventually threw my ex out because he had climbed on the roof of the house.

You’re So Last Summer – Taking Back Sunday

Two memories for this one, one is randomly of singing this to myself while climbing the stairs to come out of Tottenham Court Road on the way to work. The other is of going to see Vampire Weekend on my own at Reading Festival because my camp-buddy, Josh, thought they were rubbish and running into Adam Lazzara and his mom outside the tent they were playing in. I briefly got to hang out with Adam and he was lovely.

When The Day Met The Night – Panic At The Disco

When Pretty.Odd first came out, I hated it. I hated it so much I declared war on Panic At The Disco (they were ! less at the time) and decided never to listen to them and then somehow I ended up leaving the album on while I was doing something else and deciding that I actually loved it more that cats. For about three months I did not listen to anything else. I racked up so many plays, that it overtook all other albums on my itunes play count. I’m still kind of sad that the band split in half and that Panic! At The Disco went back to their old sound.

On & On & On – Streetlight Manifesto

This is another Reading memory of being in the Lock-Up tent with Josh’s sister skanking with a total stranger until I was totally out of breath and had to go and lie on the grass to recover. There is no happier music in the world than ska.

REVIEW: Head Automatica at the Relentless Garage, 6 August 2012

On doing some pre-gig research for Monday’s show, we discovered that the opening act, Worship, are classed by 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 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.

REVIEW: Blink-182 at O2 Arena, 8 June 2012

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.

REVIEW: Twin Atlantic at Islington Academy, 29 November 2011

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.

REVIEW: Bark! at Tamesis Dock

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.

REVIEW: Wireless Festival @ Hyde Park, 3 July 2011

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.

REVIEW: Twin Atlantic @ KCLSU, 13 May 2011

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.

REVIEW: Panic! At The Disco @ Shepherds Bush Empire, 4 May 2011

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.

Doctor Who called, he says to stay out of his wardrobe

The 30 Day Song Challenge – Day 4 – A song that makes you sad

It’s kind of a beautiful sadness…