2013: 25 gig salute
2013 has seen the end of the ATP weekenders, which is of course a great shame as they were the perfect destination for a gig adventure. Poor quality chalet-age, freezing December weather, a nearby beach with sand-dunes plus a heavy duty line up of quality bands. What more could you want? Their final weekender was a treat to behold and a superb topper for a fine gigging year.
Gig adventures were not confined to Camber Sands either, as in 2013 I was also fortunate enough to be able to search out great live music in a variety of locations outside London (including the rock n’ roll capital, Stamford in Lincolnshire) as well as in France and Germany. In those locations I can recommend La Maroquinerie in Paris, The Kazimier in Liverpool and the Cookie Jar in Leicester as fine places to see live music.
So, anyway, 2013 then; here’s the very best of times… (all pics by D A Nicholls)
1: Thee Oh Sees. Liverpool Kazimier (May)
Playing as part of the SoundCity festival, the Kazimier is rammed awaiting Thee Oh Sees who begin their European tour here with their merch and equipment having been confiscated or lost en route from their arrival point of France. Nonetheless, using borrowed equipment, they whip up a fire in a manner to which repeated viewers of their live shows have become accustomed. Perfect festival set from a band at the height of their powers.
2: White Fence. Tufnell Park Dome/ ATP @ Camber Sands Pontins (May/November)
“On record, White Fence’s sound can be quite gentle, bobbing along like a message in a bottle, but live there is a vigour that comes from the wall of sound created by the three-guitar set up. It’s a woozy psychedelic swirl which captures a punk abandon vocally, and some Beefheart/post-punk eccentricity in the guitar textures. Glorious, in short”. FULL REVIEW.
3: Michael Rother. Wrexham Central Station (April)
Backed by the Berlin-based band Camera, Michael Rother continues to bring the best of his back catalogue to audiences old and new. Here, as part of a Welsh music conference, he demonstrates why he is a pivotal figure in the world of kosmische musik, having been a member of Neu!, Harmonia and for briefer periods, Cluster and Kraftwerk. This is not just a history lesson either, with the motorik beat thunderous and Rother’s guitar shimmering like winter sun over a series of classic instrumental pieces.
4: Do Make Say Think. Field Day @ Victoria Park (May)
Undulating, oscillating, climbing, crashing, Do Make Say Think occupy a point somewhere between Tortoise and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. As they finished, and the cheers bellowed out, a stranger and I turned to each other in agreement that this was by the far the most exhilarating thing we’d seen all day. You can’t see everything at a festival, of course, but other turns will have had to have gone some to top it.
5: The Pop Group. ATP End of an Era Part 2 @ Camber Sands Pontins (November)
With a background of Mark Stewart having gone hatstand on the social networks two nights prior to their set, calling out Barry Hogan of ATP, and festival curators Loop as being “cunnts”, there was some speculation that The Pop Group would not be appearing. However a deletion and apology the next morning meant we were all systems go, and HOW. A ball of energy, this was not some nostalgia trip, as much as being entirely relevant right HERE right NOW. Spectacular.
6: The Intelligence. Islington Lexington (June)
Chances are if you’ve taken your guitar to the back of the room and are currently tight-rope walking on the bar seating area then your gig is going quite well. Lars Finberg has got every right as The Intelligence meet the anticipation of their first London show (a previous attempt to play this venue three years ago having been curtailed by the minor issue of them apparently being refused entry into the UK) head on with an hour of to-the-point buzzing garage rock n’ roll.
7: Verity Susman. Queen Elizabeth Hall (June)
Pretty much the same set as made the list last year but this was the fourth time I’d seen it since and here in a large room, the vocal loops filled the space beautifully. With the sax squawks at the start and the repetitive Siri-speaks-slash-fiction unafraid to test patience, it all builds to the topper twin-set of The Phillip Glass Ceiling and To Make You Afraid which simply blow the lid off. REVIEW OF CAFÉ OTO SET EARLIER IN 2013.
8: The Magic Band. Chelsea Under The Bridge (March)
Turns out there is something to admire about Chelsea FC – a very handsome venue in a basement beneath one of the stands. This show was the final show on the Magic Band’s latest tour. I have now seen the Magic Band on several occasions and this gig in terms of atmosphere must rank it up there amongst the very best, certainly since the departure of Gary Lucas’ from the group. Erik Klerks may about as much connection to the original group as I have, but the boy can play, and facilitates John French, Denny Whalley and Mark Boston showing how it was done when the Captain was still around. Key track: Hot Head
9: Chrome Hoof. Islington Lexington (October)
“Now, of course, this [accessibility] may not be an ideal development for many sympathisers, who may want their business as usual. They’ll be happy to know though that there remain many layers to the Hoof’s operation, with death metal grunt, predatory P-funk, kosmische swirl and heavy duty prog tangents still underpinning the silver-glitter, disco-ball strut”. FULL REVIEW.
10: Goat. ATP End of an Era Part 2 @ Camber Sands Pontins (December)
Context is all. Their Electric Ballroom set earlier this year which has been captured as a live record was fine, but the further back you are from the spectacle, it loses something. Here, right next to a speaker and close to the veiled and masked troubadours, the spirit of the live performance transmitted straight down into the feet. With a veritable queue of crowdsurfers taking to their air, this was wne of those experiences that you only really find at a festival.
11: Teeth Of The Sea vs. WIRE. Dalston Café OTO (March)
“After an awkward soundcheck in front of a shuffling, encroaching, excited audience here in the bijou confines of a packed Café OTO, Teeth of the Sea and Wire come together for a twenty-minute version of the latter’s track Drill. It is a Drill so powerful as to put the earth’s core in jeopardy, spinning and piercing incessantly and feverishly until Colin Newman raises his hands to ask “If this is not an exercise, could this be a drill?” It is, and an astonishing one”. FULL REVIEW.
12: Nisennenmondai. Paris La Maroquinerie (June)
“With their most recent material prior to latest LP ‘N’ , the set with which they toured triumphantly round Europe and America in 2011 (captured on their ‘Nisennenmondai Live!!!’ recording), it was mostly the case of a fast rhythm grinding abrasively, stabbing guitar (or Korg synth) weaving its way in and around the bass and percussion, taking it’s time to reach the springboard, the metronomic bass-thump and hi-hat rave-beat greeting the extra drums when it kicks on, but with this new record they are seemingly happy for soundscapes to travel without such frenzy and with a flattening of the peaks and troughs”. FULL REVIEW.
13: AK DK. Southsea Social Club (September)
Festivals will give you moments like this, where a band sweeps an audience who, by and large, will not have heard of them, off their feet and into abandon giddier than the situation has any right to be. This was one of those, taking those in the downstairs room of Southsea’s Social Club, when they could have been in any number of the other venues taking part in Southsea Fest, well into their bosom. New found affection abounded.
14: Kim Ki O. Paris La Maroquinerie (June)
“Having made the journey [to France from the protests ongoing back home in Istanbul] it is clear this is not business as usual as their voices crack with emotion as they speak of police brutality and a refusal to give up the fight for the secularist community….Of course, all this creates quite a poignant atmosphere in the room and elevate their tunes to a sum that is perhaps greater than the parts.” FULL REVIEW.
15: Housewives. Islington Lexington (June)
Relentless, energetic post-punk, the wild abandon from a fledging group immediately impressing.
16: Destruction Unit. Shoreditch Old Blue Last (October)
Hugeness. A no-encores set of about 40 minutes with two, perhaps three numbers (certainly Slow Death Sounds and Night Loner were in there) stretched out to become crushing, brutalist wrecking balls thumping ‘the soundscape’ square in the face. Lighting rigs were hung from, guitars attacked and rock n’ roll made intense and startling with no quarter given.
17: Orchestra of Spheres. Dalston Power Lunches (December)
The costumes betray a place at the B-52’s/Devo ‘fun-time’ end of post-punk, whilst the ‘biscuit tin’ guitar whirls through Afrobeat, psychedelia and good ol’ rock n’ roll. Punk-funk, glam and detached disco all feature and thus an hour of top flight dance action gradually builds with the in-round singing of Mind Over Might taking it to another level still.
18: White Hills. Shoreditch Cargo (April)
Entering to a quiet London crowd giving off a not untypical ‘go on then impress us’ air, they left 75 minutes later to feverish cheering, having impressed us thoroughly and beyond expectation.
19: Cosmonauts. Hoxton Macbeth (August)
Barely pausing to catch breath over the course of 45 minutes, this was rumbling psychedelic rock done to perfection.
20: Napalm Death. Weinheim Café Central (January)
“The rhythm section looks exactly as an extreme metal rhythm section should look: portly, goateed and appearing to be combating a migraine throughout. Bassist Shane Embury, the sole member to date back to 1987 debut LP Scum is still billowing out an unkempt wafro, but these days pattern baldness has rendered a kind of reverse-Mohawk parting of the red sea, the bubbling follicles hanging round his ears like palm leaves”. FULL REVIEW.
21: Eat Lights Become Lights. Rough Trade East (July)
Muscular psychedelic krautrock grooves powered by not one but two drummers.
22: Moon Duo. Tufnell Park Dome (July)
Now a duo of three being augmented with a live drummer but although this was the best I’ve seen of Moon Duo that was more to do with personal positioning as the performance as a stage-lip berth meant I could watch Ripley Johnson work his psychedelic solos at close range. Key track: Catch As Catch Can.
23: Purple Pilgrims. Shacklewell Arms (November)
A short set with a minimalist set up. Two people, two guitars, two voices, and one box for the rest. Uncluttered, breathy, glacial, ethereal, all of these things and much much more than the sum of the parts.
24: Colin Stetson. Dalston Café OTO (October)
Harsh and abrasive, yet haunting, Colin Stetson’s virtuoso displays of circular breathing and using all the sonics of his instrument, making it appear as though he is playing three or four patterns at once. How he manages this without looping technology is beyond my comprehension really, so both impressive as a human feat and as a series of pieces that can capture isolation and hope in equal measure.
25: The Octopus Project. Highbury Garage (October)
It is possible to be oddball and cohesive at the same time. Largely instrumental business with theremins and cinematic scope, like a knockabout Yann Tiersen. Very entertaining in support of Man or Astroman?
Honorary ‘Not Sure If You Can Call That A Gig Really?’ Award….
Neon Neon. Village Underground (June)
If you’re going to write an album entirely about the life of left wing millionaire publisher and activist Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, I suppose it makes sense to perform it live as part of an immersive theatrical show with extra vignettes acted out, and the audience required to move about as the stage itself moves amongst them. Plus with a victorious encore from their first LP which, incidentally, was all about John DeLorean. Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip don’t do things by halves.
Other highlight tunes from the year’s gigging
Anna Calvi, Eliza (Wilton’s Music Hall)
BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Doctor Who Theme (Rough Trade East)
Bilge Pump, final song of set with drone section (Leeds Brudenell Social Club)
Black Sabbath, Behind The Wall Of Sleep (The O2)
British Sea Power, No Lucifer (Derby The Venue)
Brown Brogues, I’m Not A Crane (Old Blue Last)
Cable, Honolulu (Highbury Garage)
Charles Hayward, My Madness (Old Blue Last)
China Drum, Cloud 9 (Stamford Voodoo Lounge)
Civil Civic, Airspray (ATP End of an Era Part 2 @ Pontins Camber Sands)
David Byrne & St Vincent, I Should Watch TV (Roundhouse)
Deerhoof, Basketball Get Your Groove Back (Queen Elizabeth Hall)
East India Youth, Heaven, How Long (Heaven)
Gary War, Pleading for Annihilation (Shacklewell Arms)
Il Sogno del Marinaio, Partisan Song (Leicester Cookie Jar)
James Yorkston, Tortoise Regrets Hare (Field Day @ Victoria Park)
Jeffrey Lewis & The Rain, History of the French Revolution (Latitude Festival @ Henham Park)
John Grant, Marz (Latitude Festival @ Henham Park)
Kandodo, Lord Hyena, 3am (ATP End of an Era Part 2 @ Pontins Camber Sands)
Kraftwerk, Spacelab (Latitude Festival @ Henham Park)
Low, Murderer (Cambridge Junction)
Man Or Astroman?, Antimatter Man (Highbury Garage)
Mega Emotion, Shapes (Courtyard Theatre)
My Bloody Valentine, Soon (Hammersmith Apollo)
Robyn Hitchcock, Wreck Of The Arthur Lee (Rough Trade East)
Savages, Flying To Berlin (Lexington)
Shrag, Faux-Coda (Lexington)
65daysofstatic, Sleepwalk City (Rough Trade East)
Steve Mason, Am I Just A Man? (Record Store Day @ Berwick Street)
Talk Normal, Shot This Time (Sebright Arms)
Terakaft, Tirera (Electrowerkz)
Trust, Bulbforms (Electrowerkz)
Wilko Johnson, She Does It Right (Rough Trade East)
Wire & The Pink Flag Orchestra, Pink Flag (Heaven)
All Our Yesterdays – The Top 5’s
1: Boredoms @ Minehead Butlins (ATP)
2: Thee Oh Sees @ Stockholm Hornstull Strand
3: Mike Watt & George Hurley play the songs of The Minutemen @ Minehead Butlins (ATP)
4: The Ex & Brass Unbound @ Pontins Camber Sands (ATP)
5: Group Doueh @ Minehead Butlins (ATP)
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 @ Guildford Festival
3: The Monsoon Bassoon @ Highbury Garage
4: Muse @ Portsmouth Guildhall
5: Ed Harcourt @ Guildford Festival