2012: 25 gig salute
Looking at this list of my 25 top gigs (well, sets really) of 2012, it seems I have much to thank the curators and bookers of the festivals I went to, with ATP festivals in March and December, as well as Field Day, Lovebox, Apple Cart and the BT River of Music (Africa Stage) represented robustly here.
Interesting, to me at least, is that the act at #1 would, the first time I saw them, have won my ‘Most Disappointing Gig Of The Year’ garland, were I the spiteful type to dole those kind of things out. Just goes to show first impressions don’t have to last.
So, anyway, here’s the best of ‘em…
1: Boredoms. ATP @ Minehead Butlins (March)
Five drummers, twelve guitarists, and leader EYE at the centre of the storm, conducting with body rather than baton. We were promised an “energy orb”, and it becomes just that, with EYE’s intonations and sonic crashes blowing minds all around.
2: Thee Oh Sees. Stockholm Hornstull Strand (June)
Playing third on a four band bill at 20:15 might seem like a thankless task but while Brian Jonestown Massacre and Kurt Vile & The Violators may have been bigger draws at this special ‘What We Do Is Secret’ summer event, Thee Oh Sees go beyond ‘warming up’ the crowd to the point where the energy they generate on stage and in the crowd would be enough to keep the Stockholm street’s lit through a long Scandinavian winter. Highlight: The Dream.
3: Mike Watt & George Hurley play the songs of The Minutemen. ATP @ Minehead Butlins (March)
After a rare mistake, Mike Watt remarks “you know we practise, and practise, and practise, but we’re still missing our guy”, acknowledging the D. Boon shaped hole in this set-up. Boon died in 1985. Watt & Hurley refused to replace him, or use the Minutemen name without him, and this is a very rare duet, but these are their songs re-shaped for a bass guitar and a drum-set only, and it is both a tribute to an absent friend and yet electrifying in the here and now.
4: The Ex & Brass Unbound. ATP @ Camber Sands (December)
The Ex can now officially be called staples of my end of year list having appeared here in 2010, again with Brass Unbound, and last year in tandem with Getatchu Mekuria. This, though, was the best of the lot.
5: Group Doueh. ATP @ Minehead Butlins (March)
It’s the end of a long weekend. Long, but great. Just as the body is beginning to give up, it gets a recharge from Western Saharan rock troubadours. Like a psychedelic wedding band with a bosomy Auntie on backing vocals and excitable frug. Electrifying, at just the right time. A fine way to finish off an ATP.
6: The Fall. ATP @ Minehead Butlins (March)
Continuing a rich run of astonishing Fall gigs, by no means a guarantee, with one of the very best yet.
7: Liars. Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)
“Never ones to sit still, new LP WIXIW is yet another change of direction, and they showcase it here, thunderous beats and ambient electro building up from the wide-pupilled alt.rock foundations, and occupying a world of its own”. FULL REVIEW. Highlight: Brats.
8: Turing Machine. ATP @ Camber Sands (November)
So, you go to a festival, and you do your research, see what’s good for checking out n’ that. Ramping up to the Shellac-curated ATP, Turing Machine’s record stood head and shoulders above other unfamiliar acts that were previewed. With expectations thus running high, it was bound to be a let down, right? Not a bit of it. Utterly electrifying.
9: Black Sabbath. Birmingham O2 Academy (May)
“Throw in the fact that Ozzy Osbourne has been a cartoon character with a shot voice for many years, while guitar hero Tony Iommi has been stricken with cancer of late, even the fact that my first experience of Sabbath live, twenty years after they first entered my record collection, would be a warm-up show in their home town in a venue far too small to accommodate demand, felt tinged by an sense of disappointment. One hour and forty-five minutes of some of the finest hard rock anthems later however, all those misgivings were blown away.” FULL REVIEW. Highlight: The Wizard.
10: Evangelista. Brussels Les Ateliers Claus (September)
“However, it is Winds Of St Anne that takes the prize as the set highlight, as it crawls through the haze of an Arabian desert-scrape, ridden with the impact sweat of the dry heat, the lyrics anticipating a new life in preparatory stream of consciousness (“When the wind blows, there are no rules”) as the bursts of excitement leaving a tension in their wake” FULL REVIEW
The first time I saw Carla Bozulich playing the music from her Evangelista album in 2007, if it wasn’t life changing then it was certainly eye-opening and EAR-changing. I’ve seen Carla in duos, trios and with the full Evangelista group on several occasions since, but it was probably this show that got closest to matching the intensity of that first show.
11: Verity Susman. Dalston Birthdays (June)
Thirty minute sonic adventure taking in squalling sax, vocal loops, dancefloor beats all weaving in and out of Seven of Nine based lesbian slash fiction read sonorously by a disembodied ‘Protect and Survive’ style narrator. Startling and arresting.
12: The Pre New. Social (August)
Chaotically immense. Was it not ever thus?
13: Bo Ningen. Rough Trade East (October)
“With each Bo Ningen gig I have attended, they have been twice as good as the previous occasion. If these trends continue, they will become the greatest band in the world about four gigs from now”. FULL REVIEW.
14: Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat. Apple Cart Festival @ Victoria Park (June)
“I’ve never done this before sober” says Aidan Moffat as he shuffles onto the stage, followed by the band and the eccentric looking figure of Bill Wells who takes a back-seat on stage. Yet it is his piano lines as much as anything else that causes my flesh to goose into bumps on at least three occasions. It is Jubilee weekend so they play their Glasgow Jubilee with prefaced warning to the parents at this ‘family’ festival that it may get a little x-rated. Also, with the rain hammering down incessantly outside, their drawled cover of Bananarama’s Cruel Summer is entirely apt. Highlight: Let’s Stop Here.
15: Melt Banana. ATP @ Camber Sands (December)
Down to a core duo, but no less intense. It required a shower and a change of shirt for me directly afterwards, involved me carrying two crowd surfers on my head at one point, and one bloke left afterwards minus the set of specs he went in with. Bedlam and thus brilliant. Highlight: Free The Bee.
16: R. Stevie Moore. Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)
“Dressed in sweatpants, and sporting the kind of facial hair you can usually only get away with if you have an army of elves in your employ, the eccentricity is clearly of the cuddly ‘hey everybody, I’ve just dyed my beard blue’ kind. R. Stevie projects a wavering baritone onto his sharp rock and his pop whimsy, but then unleashes a growling bark that Jazz Coleman would rank amongst his best. A reason to be cheerful, certainly”. FULL REVIEW. Highlight: I Like To Stay Home.
17: Andrew W.K.. Kentish Town Forum (April)
Sometimes you just need to check your brain in at the door and surrender to ridiculous, gonzoid, cartoon rock. What better time to do this than with Andrew W.K. in town, with full band, performing his superb record of feel-good PAAAAAAAARRRRR-TAAAAAAYYYYYY anthems, I Get Wet in its entirety to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Damn good fun.
18: Victims. Stockholm Hornstull Strand (June)
From Nyköping, Victims play a brand of punishing hardcore punk rock that gives no quarter, and barrels into the audience like a rolling dust cloud of thrown fists and kicking legs. First on Victims own the Strand stage and both Bombus and American veterans Poison Idea couldn’t follow them.
19: Gallon Drunk. Hoxton Macbeth (November)
“There’s nothing stand-offish about Gallon Drunk. More stand in-ish, as frontman James Johnston spends the entire set indulging in some front-row frottage whilst slinging his guitar about with such carefree abandon that the less attentive audience member remains permanently in peril of a blithe biffing” FULL REVIEW.
20: Peepholes. Scala (August)
“Peepholes can be a little awkward in their stage craft which isn’t helped here by a fidgety drum set causing continual trouble. However a packed Scala forgive these minor shortcomings and raise the roof on their departure, having been blown away by a peacock display of assertive synths, rattling drums and a psychedelic yelp” . FULL REVIEW.
21: Angélique Kidjo. London Pleasure Gardens (July)
When your playing at a day of African music and the moment legend of African music Hugh Masekela joins you on stage isn’t anywhere near the highlight of your performance, it’d be fair to say you’ve turned it on proper. 52 years of age but performing with the zeal of a teenager, Angélique Kidjo stole the Saturday of the BT River of Music’s Africa stage from under the noses of King Sunny Ade and Baaba Maal. Highlight: Move On Up.
22: The Magic Band. Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (March)
Crowd turned from quiet and respectful to hollering and hooting in the space of two energetic sets. Your favourite band gets booked into your favourite venue, what better excuse is there for a trip back home?. Highlight: My Human Gets Me Blues.
23: Hot Chip. Lovebox @ Victoria Park (June)
Humbled by the honour, Al Doyle announces this is the first time Hot Chip have headlined a festival, and they don’t waste the opportunity afforded them. Being a fan of both Pet Shop Boys and Devo, it is difficult for me NOT to have a soft spot for Hot Chip, who also apply a subtly arched eyebrow to spirited synth-pop. Here it is also aligned with a monogamously romantic soul sound, and no small dose of party funk. The hipster chess club nerds own the field as the sun goes down, stacking the bases for a triumphant closing medley of Ready For The Floor, Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere and Hold On. Highlight: Over and Over.
24: First Aid Kit. Rough Trade East (January)
Often bands playing Rough Trade comment on the lack of raucousness in the audience. This was one where a quiet, appreciate, record shop crowd probably fitted the occasion. They still look about 12, but the two ladies of First Aid Kit have a maturity of performance and harmonisation well beyond their years. Highlight: The Lion’s Roar.
25: The Invisible Republic of JuJu. London Pleasure Gardens (July)
Formerly of Jah Wobble’s Invaders of The Heart and collaborator with Robert Plant, Brian Eno and Tinariwen, Justin Adams has also worked recently with ritti player Juldeh Camara, bassist Billy Fuller and drummer Dave Smith as JuJu. For the River of Music Africa Stage they surrounded their desert psych and jazz drone with a number of North African guest players and singers for a glorious union celebrating the ‘the invisible republic’ of collaborating musicians and interacting cultures.
Ooh, so close: A Place To Bury Stangers (Cargo), Beach House (Brighton Haunt), Hejira (Bethnal Green Sebright Arms), Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (ATP @ Butlins Minehead), K-X-P (Corsica Studios), Lower Dens (Islington Lexington), The Megaphonic Thrift (Shoreditch Old Blue Last), Scratch Acid (ATP @ Butlins Minehead), Squarepusher (Hackney Empire), Underground Railroad (Hoxton Macbeth)
other song ‘highlights’ from the year’s gigging
American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
Beak>, Yatton (Islington Lexington)
Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves Of Destiny, Sweet tooth Bird (Apple Cart Festival @ Victoria Park)
Billy Bragg, Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards/I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles/A New England (Apple Cart Festival @ Victoria Park)
Bis, Eurodisco (Lexington)
Blurt, Enemy Ears (Lewisham Fox & Firkin)
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Merciless And Great (Hackney Empire)
Dead Rat Orchestra, the one with the percussion provided in the beer garden via axes and a log (Lewisham Fox & Firkin)
Hejira, Litmus Test (Bethnal Green Sebright Arms)
Here We Go Magic, Make Up Your Mind (Field Day @ Victoria Park)
The Hives, Walk Idiot Walk (Roundhouse)
The Imagined Village, Bending The Dark (BT London Live @ Victoria Park)
James Yorkston & The Athletes, I Know My Love (Cecil Sharp House)
Jeff Mangum, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
Joanna Newsom, Inflammatory Writ (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
The Levellers, One Way (BT London Live @ Hyde Park)
Low, Murderer (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
Megadeth, Never Dead (Download @ Donington Park)
Metronomy, Love Underlined (Brixton Academy)
Ministry, N.W.O. (Kentish Town Forum)
MJ Hibbett & The Validators, Easily Impressed (Wilmington Arms)
Moon Duo, I Can See (Elephant & Castle Corsica Studios)
New Build, Do You Not Feel Loved (Rough Trade East)
Nina Nastasia, Jimmy’s Rose Tattoo (ATP @ Camber Sands Pontins)
Public Image Limited, Death Disco (Rochester Castle)
Robyn Hitchcock, Uncorrected Personality Traits (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
Soundgarden, Black Hole Sun (Download @ Donington Park)
Toy, Left Myself Behind (Shacklewell Arms)
The Wedding Present, Corduroy (Los Angeles Troubadour)
All Our Yesterdays – The Top 5’s
1=: King Creosote & Jon Hopkins @ Union Chapel
1=: Nisennenmondai @ Kentish Town Forum
3: The Magic Band @ Nottingham Rescue Rooms (et al)
4: Gaggle @ Rough Trade East
5: Kap Bambino @ Krems Messangelände
1: tUnE-yArDs @ Shoreditch Cargo.
2: Low @ Primavera Sound
3: The Fall @ Primavera Sound
4: Edwyn Collins @ Bowlie II (ATP)
5: The Hidden Cameras @ Shoreditch St Leonards Church
1: Amiina @ Shoreditch St Leonards Church
2: Transglobal Underground @ Shoreditch Rich Mix
3: Future Islands @ University of London Union
4: Veronica Falls @ Spitalfields Rough Trade East
5: Pet Shop Boys @ Greenwich O2
1: Tilting & Drifting: The Songs Of Scott Walker @ Barbican Theatre
2: Danananananakroyd @ Islington Lexington
3: The B-52’s @ Camden Roundhouse
4: Killing Joke @ Kentish Town Forum
5: Billy Childish & The Musicians Of The British Empire @ Dalston Barden’s Boudoir
1: Carla Bozulich @ Spitalfields The Spitz
2: The Fall @ Hammersmith Palais
3: Rarely Seen Above Ground @ Whitechapel Art Gallery
4: Tim Ten Yen @ Brixton Windmill
5: Yndi Halda @ London Blow Up Metro
1: Cardiacs @ London Astoria
2: Shitdisco @ Liverpool Barfly
3: Only Son @ Liverpool Carling Academy 2
4: Stuffy/The Fuses @ Herne Hill Half Moon
5: Gogol Bordello @ Manchester Academy 2
1: The Magic Band @ Liverpool Carling Academy 2
2: Architecture In Helsinki @ Liverpool Barfly
3: Schwervon @ Liverpool Zanzibar
4: Cranebuilders @ Liverpool Carling Academy 2
5: Thee More Shallows @ Liverpool Hev’n & Hell
1: Charlie Parr @ Leeds Packhorse
2: Soweto Gospel Choir @ Edinburgh St Georges West
3: The Magic Band @ Highbury Garage
4: Nina Nastasia with Huun-Huur-Tu @ Leeds City Varieties
5: Kid Carpet @ Liverpool Barfly
1: Low @ Islington Union Chapel
2: Jeffrey Lewis @ Leeds Royal Park Cellars
3: Olympic Lifts @ Southampton Joiners
4: The Kills @ Southampton Joiners
5: Melt Banana @ Liverpool Magnet
1: The White Stripes @ Leeds Festival
2: Cardiacs @ London Astoria
3: The Polyphonic Spree @ Leeds Festival
4: Motel @ Portsmouth Horseshoe
5: Nina Nastasia @ Spitalfields The Spitz
1: Cardiacs @ London Astoria
2: Lonnie Donegan @ Guilford Festival
3: The Monsoon Bassoon @ Highbury Garage
4: Muse @ Portsmouth Guildhall
5: Ed Harcourt @ Guilford Festival