Vanity Project

fanzine archive and photo blog

2015: 30 gig salute

I like to think I put the effort into checking out new stuff. However, in terms of this years stellar gigs, it would appear the old guard have stepped it up more energetically than the young chancers. Prolapse, reforming after 16 years having initially formed in 1991, top this year’s list for a start.

Elsewhere Neneh Cherry, Johnny Marr and Public Enemy date back to the early 1980’s, then also AC/DC, Death and Wire (as well as Charles Hayward  of Anonymous Bash and Ted Milton of Blurt) to the 1970’s. John French of The Magic Band comes to you in a plain brown wrapper from the mid-60’s, and we even have The Sonics, who first saw action not long after the 1950’s important work had been completed. Meanwhile, amongst F-F-S, of course, is ashen-faced Ron Mael, 70.

Not as cutting edge as I’d perhaps hope, hurtling as I am towards forty and some form of musical mid-life crisis. Potentially evidence of this panicked need for contemporary relevance is my selection of Murkage, a young grime act at #2. A genre I know precious little about but I was genuinely taken aback by their energy and their attack, blowing the roof off the bijou Jagermeister shed at Field Day.

Nonetheless the high of seeing Prolapse in a red hot sold out room, showing absolutely no signs of reticence or rustiness after disbanding in 1999, topped all else.

All photos are by Dave Nicholls (2015). Please feel free to use these pictures but a credit as such.

1: Prolapse
Dalston Victoria (May)

DSC02447[full photo album]

2: Murkage
Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)

DSC02672 (779x1024)[Field Day photo album]

3: F-F-S (Franz Ferdinand & Sparks)
Kentish Town Forum (September)


4: Neneh Cherry & Rocketnumbernine
Brighton Prince Albert (January)

DSC00138 (640x506)[full photo album]

5: White Fence
Brighton Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar (January)

whitefence[full photo album]

6: Future Islands
Camden Roundhouse (March)


7: Death
London 100 Club (December)

DSC04924 (786x1024)
[full photo album]

8: Wire
Manchester Academy 3 (April)


9: Basement Jaxx
Southsea Victorious Festival (August)


10: John Grant
Rough Trade East (October)

DSC04028 (1024x833)
[full photo album]

11: Anonymous Bash
Dalston Café OTO (February)


12: The Sonics
New York Irving Plaza (April)

DSC01538[full NYC photo album]

13: AC/DC
Wembley Stadium (July)


14: Public Enemy
Rough Trade East (July)

[full photo album]

15: The Magic Band
Chelsea Under the Bridge (November)

DSC04769 (737x1024)[full photo album]

16: Johnny Marr
Southsea Victorious Festival (August)


17: The Ex Hex
Rough Trade East (February)

DSC00533[full photo album]

18: A Genuine Coming Together perform ‘Music For People Who Like Art’
London Ambika P3 (December)


19: Therapy?
Camden Electric Ballroom (December)


20: Vuelveteloca
Shacklewell Arms (September)

DSC03923 (737x1024)[full photo album]

21: Radar Men From The Moon
Shacklewell Arms (March)


22: Golden Teacher
Dalston Birthdays (May)

DSC02388 (1024x996)[full photo album]

23: Pond
Rough Trade East (February)

DSC00745[full photo album]

24: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Manchester Sound Control (July)

DSC02961 (1021x1024)[full photo album]

25: Ulrich Schnauss
Hackney Oslo (February)


26: Blurt
Islington Lexington (October)

DSC04397 (1024x729)[full photo album]

27: Jane Weaver
Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)

DSC02834 (1024x975)[Field Day photo album]

28: Lower Dens
Brighton Green Door Store (May)

DSC02214[full photo album]

29: Petite Noir
Rough Trade East (September)

DSC03876 (930x1024)[full photo album]

30: La Hell Gang
Shacklewell Arms (March)


other song ‘highlights’ from the year’s giggingDSC01235 (546x800)

Arch Garrison, The Oldest Road (Westminster Kingsway College)
Bamboo, Islands (Dalston Birthdays)
Billy Bragg, Must I Paint You A Picture (Rough Trade East)
Brix & The Extricated, 2×4 (Leeds Brudenell Social Club)
Bryan Ferry, Avonmore (Portsmouth Guildhall)
Calvin Johnson, Selector Dub Narcotic (Rough Trade East)
Gwenno, Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki (Manchester Soup Kitchen)
Ibibio Sound Machine, Let’s Dance (Yak Inek Unek) (Green Man presents Courtyard 2015 @ Lewis Cubitt Square)
Jagaara, Marble Arch (Field Day @ Victoria Park)
Larry Gus, Nazgonya (Paper Spike) (Rough Trade East)
Napalm Death, Suffer The Children (Kentish Town Forum)
Rae Morris, Love Again (Rough Trade East)
Todd Terje & The Olsens, Delorean Dynamite (Field Day @ Victoria Park)
You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons, Seya (Shacklewell Arms)

All Our Yesterdays – The Top 5’s

1: Neneh Cherry & Rocketnumbernine @ Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
2: Human Hair @ Soho Madame JoJos
3: Gallon Drunk @ Islington Lexington
4: Gene Clark No Other Band @ End of the Road Festival
5: Thee Oh Sees @ Shoreditch Ace Hotel
(full list)

1: Thee Oh Sees @ Liverpool Kazimier
2: White Fence @ Tufnell Park Dome/Pontins Camber Sands (ATP)
3: Michael Rother @ Wrexham Central Station
4: Do Make Say Think @ Victoria Park (Field Day)
5: The Pop Group @ Pontins Camber Sands (ATP)
(full list)

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)
(full list)

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
(full list)

1: tUnE-yArDs @ Shoreditch Cargo.
2: Low @ Barcelona Parc del Forum (Primavera Sound)
3: The Fall @ Barcelona Parc del Forum (Primavera Sound)
4: Edwyn Collins @ Bowlie II (ATP)
5: The Hidden Cameras @ Shoreditch St Leonards Church
(full list)

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
(full list)

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


December 18, 2015 Posted by | Yearly lists | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



The Lexington. 21oct15.

You are free to use this photograph, but please credit to Skif (Vanity Project) 2015

November 13, 2015 Posted by | Photo blog | | Leave a comment

Blurt @ Deptford Bird’s Nest

Deptford Bird’s Nest. 28oct11.

Given that guitarist Steve Eagles and Ted Milton (vocalist, saxophonist and the sun around which the world of Blurt orbits) have turned out in suits (albeit with t-shirts rather than ties beneath), it seems slightly wrong that Blurt should be playing out in the alcove of a South London boozer with a gap of about five feet between the stage and the sound desk.

Whatever the space available, it is well filled with bodies gazing intently at the band leader, as his jaw juts out, his face contorts and he taps about like a chap who’s taken a bag of poppers to a tea dance. It’s a home town show for Ted though so he doesn’t have far to walk to sleep it off comfortably.

“Yes! I hear they’ve invented the wheel, since you’ve been away from me” goes the lyric of ‘Plunge’, a highlight of the evening’s set, and indeed most inventions post that epiphanous moment in human history have occurred since Blurt first began troubling audiences. Thirty two years on stage has certainly not diminished Ted Milton’s energy, being the squalling scattergun over the bedrock provided by Eagles cyclical guitar and Dave Aylward’s angsty, shuffling drum beats.

Ted moves between sax and singing regularly with both his instrument and his vocal chords undertaking the same role; howling, wavering, slaloming, shooting and flailing over the sturdy brickwork put up by his bandmates, like a manic Jackson Pollock artwork being superimposed over a stubborn Rothko.

Tonight’s set was less reliant on tracks from 2010 LP ‘Cut It!’ than I’ve experienced in the past, but Blurt have a fine body of jazz-spattered post-punk work upon which to draw and show no signs yet of being satisfied with resting on their laurels.

October 31, 2011 Posted by | new reviews | | Leave a comment

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

Edwyn Collins @ Bowlie II

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.


Blurt @ Offset Festival

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.


The Pre New @ The Lexington

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.


Thee Oh Sees @ Primavera In The Park

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)


Go here. where it’s 2009 all over again




December 25, 2010 Posted by | new reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

2009: 21 gig salute

Shows/live tracks/gig ‘moments’ of the year

1: Amiina soundtrack Lotte Reiniger’s Cinderella Shoreditch St. Leonard’s Church
2: Transglobal Underground. Bethnal Green Rich Mix
3: Future Islands University of London Union & Brighton Freebutt
4: Veronica Falls, ‘Beachy Head’ Rough Trade East & Mile End Victoria
5: Pet Shop Boys, ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This?’ Greenwich O2
6: Fleet Foxes silence the Roundhouse Camden Roundhouse
7: Sons Of Noel and Adrian, ‘The Wreck Is Not A Boat’ Clerkenwell Northampton Square Bandstand
8: Jon Hopkins, ‘Light Through The Veins’ London Queen Elizabeth Hall
9: Therapy?, ‘Teethgrinder/Innocent X’ Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
10: Stuffy/The Fuses, ‘The River’ Brixton Windmill
11: Micachu & The Shapes, ‘Vulture’ Rough Trade East
12: Casiokids, ‘Verdens Störste Land’ Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
13: 9Bach Rough Trade East
14: White Town, ‘Your Woman’ Brixton Jamm
15: Jimmy of the Bobby McGees’s future as a children’s entertainer Hackney Victoria Park
16: About blow Gang Gang Dance off-stage Camden Dingwalls
17: Blurt, ‘Cut It’; Dalston Barden’s Boudoir
18: Micachu & The Shapes & The Invisible, ‘Temporary Secretary’ King’s Cross Scala
19: Lisa Knapp & Leafcutter John London Canal Museum
20: Dan Deacon’s parlour games University of London Union
21: Ear Pwr, ‘Future Eyes/I Like Waterslide’ Brighton Freebutt


The list above represents the highest points of a gigging year that saw me at 120 shows, far far more than usual due to gigging becoming a bit of an obsessive habit again, partly through the marvellous SongKick site keeping me up to date with what’s on, and partly helped by the number of free gigs available within a couple of miles of my Bethnal Green garret. In fact roughly half of those shows came gratis without even the need to blag.

Rough Trade East’s instores, Pure Groove’s intimate bar and the Bandstand Busking events provided a great way to check out new bands without touching the wallet and two that made an instant impression at these were 9Bach and Sons Of Noel and Adrian, both alternative folk acts, the former performing entirely in the Welsh language but so captivating musically as to barely register as ‘foreign’.

White Town and the Pet Shop Boys appearance in the list is, of course, largely motivated by nostalgia (which is pretty addictive, despite being the stick between the spokes of invention). Hearing Your Woman and What Have I Done To Deserve This? played live was a treat largely due to the relative rarity, Jyoti Mishra not venturing out onto stages very often, and the Pets hamstrung in the duet stakes by Dusty Springfield’s death in 1999. Rather than replace her on stage though, her pixelated image was projected dramatically onto the back wall; a brilliant tribute without being cloyingly maudlin.

Going to see Therapy? at my old second home The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth was certainly partly motivated by a wish to relive my teens and early-20s, but 2009 was the year I had rediscovered their 1991 track Innocent X as though it were brand new. The distorted phone line drug comedown confession, the lashing guitar and Fyfe Ewing’s athletic rave-beat drumming sounded as fresh in 2009 as it did almost two decades earlier. This, performed in tandem with another early classic Teethgrinder set a rocket up a, to that point, meandering show and the band kicked on athletically from there.

The Pet Shop Boys was the end to my gigging year, an end that was a reminder of my beginnings (the Pets being my first ‘favourite band’ back in the 80’s) while, by contrast, my first gig brought about an ending; Stuffy/The Fuses bidding a last farewell at Brixton Windmill. The final line of their track The River, “peace at last and it’s all over” took on an added poignancy in the circumstances.

However it’s not been all sad goodbyes and veterans returning to the radar. My usual policy is to try and see loads of different bands rather than the same over and over but there have been a few this year that have made me eager to quickly return to the fold. Firstly Micachu & The Shapes did a turn at Rough Trade East to launch their album and were intriguing leading to captivating, that particular switch flicking when they played the brilliant Vulture.

Then there was Baltimore’s Future Islands, first seen with Dan Deacon in June and then in Brighton three months later (a seaside trip undertaken because I couldn’t make their London show). Part of their attraction as a live act is frontman Sam Herring who owns the stage like a silverback gorilla rising to temper and also reverses the trend of UK singers sounding American when they sing, managing to sound like both Billy Idol and Terry Thomas with his combination of gravely howls and clipped inflections.

Late in the year, Veronica Falls played at Rough Trade to support their appearance on the ‘Indiepop 09’ compilation. The song they contributed, Beachy Head, was an arch and shadowy take on the genre that managed to evoke both The Chills and Phil Spector and has been fired out of my speakers almost every day since.

Other tracks which, after hearing live this year, have gone into the almost too-regular rotation are Blurt’s pushy jazz-melt Cut It, Casio Kids Verdens Störste Land (which absolutely owned a room unfamiliar with them during the Stag & Dagger multi-venue fest in May), Jon Hopkins Light Through The Veins (proving lap-top sets can be gripping) and Ear Pwr’s insistent electro-flail Future Eyes.

At other gigs, there have been moments you cannot just go home and download. Like Micachu & The Shapes and The Invisible encoring at the end of the last gig on their joint tour to perform Paul McCartney’s long forgotten electro abomination Temporary Secretary and also Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold performing Karen Cruel at the Roundhouse un-amplified and silencing 3,000 chattering voices in the process.

For fun times, you’d be hard pressed to top a Dan Deacon show which is roughly 60% tunes to 40% larks, such as choosing one member of the audience to stand alone, in a hastily formed round, and lead the dance moves, or creating a huge ever elongating human tunnel which the audience was required to run through and continue at the far end until such time as the tunnel stretched out of the doors, down the stairs, out into the road and the Friday night rain.

In terms of inappropriate surroundings, watching The Bobby McGees playing to an audience of largely 5-7 year olds as part of a low-key family festival at Victoria Park takes the prize. Mind you they had taken time to alter some of their more troubling lyrics but singer Jimmy (who lets not forget looks like Rasputin dressed simultaneously as Canio in Pagliacci, the groom at a tramp wedding and a dandyish sailor) forgot to apply this to his stage patter. At one point he started discussing the death of grandparents and introduced one song thus, “This song’s called Asshole, but they said we can’t call it Asshole today so it’s called Bumhead.” Which, when you consider the song in question is listed on their album sleeve as Goodbye Blue Monday, was probably unnecessary detailing.

Some shows have been about the whole rather than an aspect of their parts. Lisa Knapp and Leafcutter John’s collaborative ‘waterways’-based hour at the London Canal Museum before the set off on the Grand Union towards Birmingham was enchanting whilst About (a collaboration between Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, pioneering percussionist Charles Hayward, Spring Heel Jack and Pat Thomas) blew Gang Gang Dance off the stage at the Camden Dingwalls.

The two at the top are there because they were simply mind-blowing, but in very different ways. Transglobal Underground were almost my gig of the year simply for the spirit they engendered in the room and, crucially, my legs. Your correspondent found himself gleefully submitting to wild dancing abandon. However it was pipped at virtually the last.

It was the week before Christmas. Snow was falling outside. Inside St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch, tea-lights glimmered along every wall as mulled-wine and mince pies were sold to an audience keeping on their overcoats and gloves. Finnish trio Amiina had come amongst all this to reprise their performance of live soundtracks to Lotte Reiniger’s cut-out animations of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty from the Jersey Branchage festival . Both were wonderful but as the film faded out on the former and the band finished their final overture to a black screen, the emotiveness of the bowed musical saw cut through the cold. A magical moment.

So, not a bad old year all told.

Pics: 9Bach at Rough Trade East; Future Islands at Brighton Freebutt; The Bobby McGee’s at Victoria Park.

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Yearly lists | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Blurt @ Barden’s Boudoir

Dalston Barden’s Boudoir. 29apr09.

Suited and booted and with a wicked grin, Ted Milton blows kisses to the soundman when requesting a little more of himself in the monitor. On the stage, there’s plenty of him (in the ‘visually arresting’ sense), done up like a 30’s stonemason putting on his Sunday best to take his wife down the workies for a basket meal, and frugging like a cocktail-lubricated mafia don at his grand-daughter’s wedding.

Blurt have been doing the rounds now for thirty years, poet and puppeteer Ted experiencing an epiphany on the largely self-taught alto-sax in the late-70’s and forming the group with his brother Jake and Pete Creese. Ted is the only one of the original trio left, now playing with drummer Dave Aylward and guitarist Steve Eagles. There have been times when Ted has not had the energy to Blurt, or even to touch the saxophone at all, but here at 66 years of age, he appears full of pizzazz, energy and a part hidden theatricality you might expect from a puppet-master once known as Mr Pugh’s Velvet Glove Show.

It’s all in the voices, see, and Ted has several. The Don-Van-Vliet-holding-the-‘bat’-of-Bat-Chain-Puller-over-three bars kinda bark, the John-Lydon-going-off-road-with-his-higher-pitched-tones holler and a startled cabaret croon.

His lyrics also betray that poetry back-ground, being figurative, abstract and possibly cut-up. Behind all this, the alt.rock/post-disco guitar and drums provide the tacked-down carpet, over which Ted can tip his magic box of vox and sax. If this is jazz, it is post-punk jazz, scholarly rather than screaming, yet skronky all the same.

At one point, he starts to scat a little before stopping, eyes wide. “What’s the next bit?” he says like he’s woken just prior to the end of dream that was promising to reveal a lifetime’s supply of winning horses and lottery numbers. Someone shouts out “biscuit” and he’s quickly determining if they mean those of the disco variety and if there’s any to be had.

This is reportedly the ‘last, last tour’ but Ted seems to be enjoying the experience far too much to leave it all behind, again. Particularly when the audience response to songs and for encores is as wildly enthused as I’ve seen from a smaller crowd. What we lack in bodies, we make up for in good-will and enthusiasm. I am coming to Blurt for the first time here, aside from a recently picked up single (Cut It, played tonight), but while this feels like a family party, it is of a sort into which one can easily assimilate.

Ted Milton website
Blurt @ MySpace

April 30, 2009 Posted by | new reviews | | Leave a comment