2010: 21 gig salute
Looks like my volume of gigs is likely to reduce significantly in 2011, but I can’t really complain given I’ve overdosed on ‘em in the last year or two. Indeed I believe I made it to 173 gigs and festivals in 2010 (living near to so many free opportunities helps) and I present the foremost 21 here.
1: tUnE-yArDs. Shoreditch Cargo.
One of those gigs where the atmosphere just bristles with ‘this is probably my gig of the year’ vibes all around. Not bad considering it took place in mid-February. Merrill Garbus, like a Tuuvan throat singer, has such an incredible command over her vocal chords, and a percussive bent that aligns neatly with it. Also seen at the Scala.
2: Low. Primavera Sound.
Low were brought to Spain to perform, in its entirety, their album The Great Destroyer, which I had struggled to love in the five years since its release. By the end of the show, the all-seated Auditori at Parc del Forum no longer needed its fixtures, as the entire audience was on their feet acclaiming something just incredible. In terms of the record, I struggle to love no longer. Also seen at Coventry St John the Baptist Church.
3: The Fall. Primavera Sound.
“At the end of 50 mins and a rigorous ‘Wolf Kidult Man’, Mark E. Smith slips back on his black jacket and departs, triumphant; as do I, knowing that so early in the proceedings, I have already had my money’s worth.”
Nothing like seeing your favourite team win away from home, in Europe. Also seen at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
4: Edwyn Collins. Bowlie II.
Teenage Fanclub learning all the tunes to be his backing band for the afternoon, Ryan Jarman of The Cribs turning up in Somerset apparently just to duet on What Is My Role?, Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy of Franz Ferdinand guesting on a few numbers late in the set; this was a vivid exemplar of those one-off sets where the variables all come together neatly, the stars align if you will, for a truly memorable set. Also seen at Rough Trade East.
5: The Hidden Cameras. Shoreditch St Leonards Church.
A special one-off show with an expanded string and brass section to aid the Albert Kennedy Trust. This bigger ensemble and the church setting was perfect for doing justice to the gravitas of the new sounds that characterised their most recent LP ‘Origin: Orphan’. Also seen at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen.
6: Omar Souleyman. Scala.
“When the hard beats kick in over Rizan Sa’id’s chaotic dual-keyboard playing; when one of the bands associates removes his suit jacket to take centre-stage and, like a quiet and reserved uncle startling his family at a wedding, begins to gradually work up a slinky sweat; and when Omar takes time out from low-key cheerleading to fire out the poetry, it’s virtually impossible not to be exhilarated by their projected joie de vivre”. full review here.
7: Blurt. Offset Festival.
Cut It! is an astonishing album to come up with thirty years into a career, and Blurt have not been shy in displaying these great new songs like a jeweller displaying his new intake of Cartier watches. Blurt were the last band on at the Offset, appearing after the larger stages had shut up shop, and seemed to take it upon themselves to show the preceding acts how it really should be done. Also seen at Rough Trade East, Mile End Victoria and Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen. Offset review here
8: Carla Bozulich. Dalston Café Oto (May and October).
“the full callused power of her vocal range…is like a feral growl contained in a rickety cage; burnt yet eager, sharing the kind of ragged timbre one might associate with the Rev. C.L. Franklin as he looms over a pulpit roaring the gospel”. Full review of the May show here.
Two visits to Café Oto this year, with different collaborative works. In May, Carla performed with cellist Francesco Guerri, and in October with bassist Massimo Pupillo as well as violinist John Eichenseer. Difficult to pick one of the two shows for the list but the latter should take the prize simply because it opened with a breathtaking performance of her incredible Evangelista piece.
9: The Manganiyar Seduction. Barbican Theatre.
“Eventually an intense four-drum breakaway builds the pulse-rate, a down-tempo diversion then cleverly counters expectation of this being a non-stop race to the summit before the entire ensemble comes together as a whole for the first time. Naturally, the breath is stolen from us at this point”. full review here.
10: The Pre New. The Lexington.
“Jim Fry, looking like a terrace bruiser in their court suit, does an admirable job of filling shoes and channelling some of the anarchic spirit [of Earl Brutus]…The Pre New are to all intents and purposes an art-school glam band, but one that is piloted by a combination of boilermakers, dockworkers and granite-faced shop stewards, in a dance hall where the glitter balls are lined with asbestos”. full review here.
Members of Earl Brutus in a new band, you say? Right then. If you don’t see me there, you can safely assume I’ve been killed. Also seen at the 1234 Festival and Camden Dublin Castle.
11: Factory Floor. Rough Trade East.
Since seeing them at the 1-2-3-4 in 2009, Factory Floor have come on in leaps and bounds.
Also seen at Offset Festival.
12: The Ex with Brass Unbound. Tufnell Park Dome.
Scratchy Dutch post-punk in collaboration with a party-brass quartet. Also seen without Brass Unbound at the same venue later in the year.
13: The Clean. Brighton Freebutt.
My better half is a big fan of the Flying Nun Records based scene in New Zealand, and was keen to see these veterans of said scene during some rare UK gigs. I’d not heard a note of theirs prior to dropping into the Brighton Freebutt, but came away with In The Dreamlife You Need A Rubber Soul as a persistent earworm. Also seen at Primavera Sound.
14: Hallogallo 2010. Barbican Hall.
Neu!’s influence increases year-on-year so it makes perfect sense that Michael Rother take his work with both Neu! and Harmonia back out on the road, joined by Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and Tall Firs bassist Aaron Mullan. Hopefully this isn’t being seen as a one-off thing and we see him back again soon. Also seen at Primavera Sound.
15: Les Savy Fav. Primavera Sound.
The plan was to watch Les Savy Fav for twenty minutes before checking out something else on another stage. Then Tim Harrington shed his fake fur dog costume and started to see if how far out into the festival he could explore with his extended mic lead. When he’s in that mood, it’s difficult to take your eyes off him and before you know it, their whole hour is done. Also seen at Shoreditch Cargo. review of Cargo show here.
16: Nissenenmondai. Tufnell Park Dome.
Only a support slot, but their captivating electro-kraut piece was the evening’s showstopper.
17: Gaggle. Women’s Library.
Seen them attract the intrigue of passers-by heading back to their tents at midnight at Latitude, and seen them booed by pockets of Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip’s audience during a support slot, but the main highlight will be their ‘remixed’ and updated version of the 1969 cantata The Brilliant & The Dark performed in the perfect setting of the Women’s Library. Also seen at Bush Hall, Latitude and Shepherd’s Bush Empire. review of Bush Hall show here
18: Future Islands. The Old Blue Last.
For many, the combination of sea-sick synths, thundering bass and a voice that sounds like someone’s had at James Mason’s vocal chords with a power-sander will be a horrendous combination. For me, it’s a combination I can’t get enough of. Also seen at City Arts & Music Project and Brighton New Hero.
19: Thee Oh Sees. Primavera In The Park.
Grimey garage rock n’ roll it may be, but they were the ideal band for a warm afternoon watching bands amongst the palm trees at Barcelona’s Parc Joan Mirò.
20: Wildbirds & Peacedrums. Bishopsgate Institute.
Wildbirds & Peacedrums make the seemingly austere combo of single voice and percussion tender and inviting with just those tools, but adding a choir certainly couldn’t hurt, and didn’t.
21: Crystal Castles. Latitude Festival
“To borrow the phrase John Peel once used to the describe the atmosphere at an early Fall gig (and which often still applies), that Latitude set ‘crackled with malevolence’. Partly this was in terms of the pubescent members of the audience getting a little rowdy and letting off some steam. One young fella was seen walking out of the main throng clutching the remaining half of his glasses to his left eye like a makeshift monocle to find his way out. It was like the watching an indie-fest version of Saving Private Ryan’s opening salvo”.
Playing to a family festival crowd between The Maccabees and Belle & Sebastian. What could possibly go wrong? Above quote taken from my review of their Roundhouse show later in the year. Also seen at the Roundhouse & Bowlie II.
**A condition set upon myself for this list was that no band would appear twice, otherwise there are a few entrants who may well have done.**
other song ‘moments’ from the year’s gigging that have stuck in the memory
Alasdair Roberts, Kami Thompson & Munto Valdo, Three Sisters/Babylon (Hoxton Apprentice & Rough Trade East)
Applicants, Evelyn Waugh (Dalston Victoria)
Beach House, Gila (Primavera Sound)
Bis, Eurodisco (Primavera Sound)
Caribou, Sun (Offset Festival)
Cathedral, Rise (University of London Union)
Charles Hayward, “…information rich, information poor…” (Dalston Stag’s Head)
Chrome Hoof, Tonyte (Offset Festival)
Hot Chip, Ready For The Floor (Rough Trade East)
Franz Ferdinand, Matinee (Bowlie II)
Idiot Glee, Ain’t No Sunshine (Shoreditch Old Blue Last)
If…, Beasley Street (Dalston Victoria)
Jimmy McGee, 69 Ways… (Bloomsbury The Lamb)
MJ Hibbett & Steve Hewitt, Literature Search (Edinburgh GRV)
Musee Mecanique, Sleeping In Our Clothes (Farringdon Pure Groove)
The New Pornographers, Challengers (Bowlie II)
The Nuns, Higgle-Dy Piggle-Dy (Tufnell Park Dome)
Public Image Ltd, Warrior (Shepherds Bush Empire)
Shellac, The End Of Radio (Primavera Sound)
Shrag, Mark E. Smith (93 Feet East)
Sun Ra Arkestra, Saturn (Dalston Café Oto)
Therapy?, Innocent X (Kings Cross Monto Water Rats)
Think About Life, Wizzzard (93 Feet East)
The Wedding Present, Brassneck (Tunbridge Wells Forum)
Wilko Johnson, Paradise (Rough Trade East)
Yusuf Islam & Ozzy Osbourne, Peace Train vs. Crazy Train (Washington Mall)