Vanity Project

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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]
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2: Murkage
Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)

DSC02672 (779x1024)[Field Day photo album]
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3: F-F-S (Franz Ferdinand & Sparks)
Kentish Town Forum (September)

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

DSC00138 (640x506)[full photo album]
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5: White Fence
Brighton Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar (January)

whitefence[full photo album]
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6: Future Islands
Camden Roundhouse (March)

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7: Death
London 100 Club (December)

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[full photo album]
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8: Wire
Manchester Academy 3 (April)

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9: Basement Jaxx
Southsea Victorious Festival (August)

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10: John Grant
Rough Trade East (October)


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[full photo album]
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11: Anonymous Bash
Dalston Café OTO (February)

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12: The Sonics
New York Irving Plaza (April)

DSC01538[full NYC photo album]
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13: AC/DC
Wembley Stadium (July)

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14: Public Enemy
Rough Trade East (July)

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[full photo album]
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15: The Magic Band
Chelsea Under the Bridge (November)

DSC04769 (737x1024)[full photo album]
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16: Johnny Marr
Southsea Victorious Festival (August)

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17: The Ex Hex
Rough Trade East (February)

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

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19: Therapy?
Camden Electric Ballroom (December)

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20: Vuelveteloca
Shacklewell Arms (September)

DSC03923 (737x1024)[full photo album]
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21: Radar Men From The Moon
Shacklewell Arms (March)

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22: Golden Teacher
Dalston Birthdays (May)

DSC02388 (1024x996)[full photo album]
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23: Pond
Rough Trade East (February)

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

DSC02961 (1021x1024)[full photo album]
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25: Ulrich Schnauss
Hackney Oslo (February)

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26: Blurt
Islington Lexington (October)

DSC04397 (1024x729)[full photo album]
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27: Jane Weaver
Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)

DSC02834 (1024x975)[Field Day photo album]
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28: Lower Dens
Brighton Green Door Store (May)

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29: Petite Noir
Rough Trade East (September)

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30: La Hell Gang
Shacklewell Arms (March)

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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

2014
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)

2013
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)

2012
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)

2011
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)

2010
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)

2009
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)

2008
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

2007
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

2006
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

2005
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

2004
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

2003
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

2002
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

2001
1: Cardiacs @ London Astoria
2: Lonnie Donegan @ Guildford Festival
3: The Monsoon Bassoon @ Highbury Garage
4: Muse @ Portsmouth Guildhall
5: Ed Harcourt @ Guildford Festival

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

2014: 30 gig salute

The customary end of year list of the finest and most exhilarating live sets witnessed during the preceeding twelve months. By my reckoning, I saw 329 ‘sets’ (if not the entire set, then a good sized chunk) by 293 bands in 2014, here’s the very best 30 of those.

Neneh Cherry @ Field Day 2014

Neneh Cherry @ Field Day 2014

1: Neneh Cherry & Rocketnumbernine.
Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (February)
Tinkering with various collaborations in the last decade, the Blank Project record made in collaboration with Walthamstow duo Rocketnumbernine has very much shone the spotlight back on Neneh Cherry. It’s been a long time since her two pockets of Top 40 fame, but this record allows Neneh to exercise new creative muscles, rather than rest on laurels. The record is very good indeed, but this last-minute free show in Portsmouth ahead of the tour proper beefed up the sound from ‘stimulating’ to ‘completely irresistible’. NOTE: If anything her set at Field Day was of equal stature, energy and excitement to this, but the element of ‘surprise’ wins it for Portsmouth. Either way Neneh Cherry & Rocketnumbernine were packing the thrills in 2014.

2: Human Hair. Soho Madame JoJo’s (July)
Never easy for a band playing after the ‘main attraction’ of a night. Still, even though most of the crowd cleared out after Tricot’s splendid set, Human Hair’s commitment to wild, giddy abandon despite it all was a joy to behold. Reminded me of the first time I saw Earl Brutus, at Phoenix Festival in 1997. Which is high praise indeed.

3: Gallon Drunk. Islington Lexington (April)
The four minutes of Bad Servant are so electrifying, so exciting, so explosive, it kind of doesn’t really matter how well the rest of the gig around it went. As it happens it went very well. Plus it was my birthday, I can’t think of more exhilarating way to top it off than be down front watching James Johnston in full flow.

4: Gene Clark No Other Band. End of the Road @ Larmer Tree Gardens (August)
Wall-to-wall star names of modern Americana in this super group paying tribute to Gene Clark’s lost 70’s classic LP ‘No Other’. Iain Matthews (ex-Fairport Convention), Hamilton Leithauser (The Walkmen), Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes), Daniel Rossen (Grizzly Bear), Cricket Arrison, Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), Victoria Legrand (Beach House) and Tony Drummond (Celebration) all on hand to provide lead or backing vox. Four bassists gave the title track some impressive welly, but it was Robin Pecknold’s vocals on ‘Strength of Strings’ that impressed the most. Astonishing to get all of the component parts of this band together on this side of the Atlantic.

Human Hair @ Madame JoJos

Human Hair @ Madame JoJos

5: Thee Oh Sees. Shoreditch Ace Hotel (August)
The last minute cancellation of the Jabberwocky Festival had the potential to be a weekend ruiner. However with all the replacement gigs that were hastily put together I was able to see Thee Oh Sees twice in a weekend. One of my favourite live bands of the past two years (see previous lists), this was a real treat. While the Saturday night in the 600 capacity Higbury Garage was good, the following night in the much smaller, low-ceilinged basement of the Ace Hotel was the real deal. Electrifying, magnificent; felt like ‘a happening’. Great times.

6: Janelle Monáe. Brixton Academy (May)
Live music usually gets flattened out on television. Not so Janelle Monáe’s Glastonbury set in 2011 which bowled me over, particularly as I’d not been familiar with her work before. Nearly three years later, finally getting the chance to see her incredible live turn in the flesh could have been anti-climactic but it was, as anticipated, a tour de force.

7: Future Islands. Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)
One of the years buzz bands due to their performance on Letterman going viral and it’s clear a great many in the filled-well-beyond-capacity tent here at Field Day are here mostly to see ‘the moves’. I first saw them in 2009 and remember them playing to about 40 people at the Brighton Freebutt. I retain a major soft spot for them despite the fact neither of their subsequent albums has come close to touching 2010’s In Evening Air but their live shows were always a ball of energy – Sam Herring played to those 40 people in Brighton in exactly the same way as to the several thousand in and surrounding the second stage tent they were headlining here. Never half-arsed and unashamedly pop (with the guttural vocal twists here and there), this was a crowning moment for the hard-workers and the good guys. The whoosh of joy when the chorus on the viral hit Seasons (Waiting On You) kicked in was goose-bump stuff.

Gallon Drunk @ The Lexington

Gallon Drunk @ The Lexington

8: The Hidden Cameras. Bush Hall, Shepherd’s Bush (January)
“For all that the sound and tone is shaded around the edges these days, Gibb’s ability to write enrapturing pop songs remains undiminished as he continues to add an admirable breadth to his canon”. FULL REVIEW.

9: The Fall. Brixton Electric (September)
New song ‘Dedication’ buzzed like a chainsaw and put itself in contention as a new epic set closer. A stretched-out krautrock version of White Lightning also gave that particularly well-worn cover version a new lease of life.

10: China Drum. Highbury Garage (December)
I don’t listen to a lot of stuff of China Drum’s ‘type’ these days, but their 1996 debut LP Goosefair remains one of my all time favourites. With the Garage about a third full, it didn’t feel like a night that would hit the heights, but the band came on and ripped straight through four of the best tunes from that record beginning with Cloud 9 and I was bellowing along in seconds. Nostalgia-fest perhaps, but that opening salvo was simply magnificent.

11: Girls Names. Luton UK Centre for Carnival Arts (February)

12: Seun Kuti & Fela’s Egypt 80. Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)

13: Mclusky(-ish). Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach (November)

14: Swans. DRILL Festival @ Hove Old Market (December)

15: Yamantaka // Sonic Titan. Brighton Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar (May)

16: Therapy?. Scala (April)

17: David Thomas Broughton & Juice Vocal Ensemble. End of the Road Festival @ Larmer Tree Gardens (August)

The Chills @ Brudenell Social Club

The Chills @ Brudenell Social Club

18: The Chills. Leeds Brudenell Social Club (July)

19: John Grant & The Royal Northern Sinfonia. Royal Festival Hall (November)

20: AK/DK. Shoreditch Old Blue Last (April)

21: The Cravats. Buffalo Bar (April)

22: Evil Blizzard. Islington Electrowerkz (January)

23: Thurston Moore. Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)

24: Melt Banana. Southampton Joiners Arms (June)

25: ESG. Queen Elizabeth Hall (June)

26: Tune-Yards. End of the Road Festival @ Larmer Tree Gardens (August)

27: Crispy Ambulance. Islington Lexington (September)

28: New Build. Shoreditch Basing House (October)

29: The Cult Of Dom Keller. Bethnal Green Sebright Arms (April)

30: Imprints. Hoxton Courtyard Theatre (April)

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Therapy? @ Scala

other song ‘highlights’ from the year’s gigging
The A-Lines, Day One (Islington Lexington)
Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath (British Summer Time @ Hyde Park)
British Sea Power, Mongk II (Northampton Roadmender & End of the Road Festival)
Carla Bozulich, Time Of The Preacher (Dalston Café OTO)
Charles Hayward, Abracadabra Information (Hackney Oslo)
Chrome Hoof, Drobe Out (Hackney Oslo)
David Thomas Broughton & Juice Vocal Ensemble, Unshaven Boozer (End of the Road Festival)
First Aid Kit, My Silver Lining (Royal Albert Hall)
Fumaça Preta, Fumaça Preta (Spitalfields Rough Trade East)
Gary War, Pleading For Annihilation (Dalston Victoria)
The Hare & Hoofe, Crab (Islington Lexington)
John Grant, Marz (Bexhill-On-Sea De La Warr Pavilion)
The Magic Band, When It Blows Its Stacks (Aldershot West End Centre)
Motörhead, Ace of Spades (British Summer Time @ Hyde Park)
The National, England (British Summer Time @ Hyde Park)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Love And Only Love (British Summer Time @ Hyde Park)
The Neutrinos, Shake The Egg (Edinburgh Summerhall)
The New Pornographers, War On The East Coast (Manchester Gorilla)
Paul Vickers, Mother Shipton (Edinburgh Espionage)
Pond, …tune that morphed into Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’… (Field Day @ Victoria Park)
The Pop Group, We Are All Prostitutes (Islington Assembly Hall)
Pow, Hope Dealers (Dalston Victoria)
Public Image Limited, This Is Not A Love Song (Indigo @ The O2)
Ravioli Me Away, Cat Call (Brixton Electric)
Ruts DC, Babylon’s Burning (Record Store Day @ Berwick Street)
The Space Lady, (Ghost) Riders In The Sky (Brighton West Hill Hall)
Ye Nuns, Oh, How To Do Now (Brixton Electric)

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All Our Yesterdays – The Top 5’s

2013
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)

2012
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)

2011
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)

2010
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)

2009
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)

2008
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

2007
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

2006
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

2005
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

2004
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

2003
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

2002
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

2001
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 21, 2014 Posted by | Yearly lists | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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


Footnotes

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

Future Islands, Ear Pwr, Shield Your Eyes @ Brighton Freebutt

Future Islands, Ear Pwr, Shield Your Eyes.
Brighton Freebutt. 15sep09.

Judging by their opening couple of numbers it might be easy to cast Shield Your Eyes as just another run-of-the-mill post-punk/hardcore band. However, little bits of Hendrix-like magic squeeze out amidst the only-vaguely-in-control scream of vocalist/guitarist Stef Ketteringham. The guitar work and the bass are lithe and intense, but it is drummer Henri George that is in charge here. Usually all eyes are on whoever has got their mouth to the mic but this evening it is the man with the sticks that demands the attention with his percussive dexterity. He raises the bar and Ketteringham and bassist Tobias Hayes come to meet his challenge.

earpwr2

A solid foundation for the evening having been laid, Ear Pwr then come on and immediately own the dance floor, if for no other reason than they set up their table-top operation in the middle of it. Devin Booze flails around the arc of punters to the point where the stale sweat of the sleeping-in-the-van-and-travelling-light-clothing-wise US-band-on-tour becomes all too evident. He ensnares several front-rowers with the loop of the mic cord, whilst Sarah J. Reynolds hops up onto the stage for a short visit, before collapsing to the commandeered dance-floor singing into her partner’s mic now dangling down by her face. The songs such as I Like Waterslide and Future Eyes swirl around, all echo and pulsating electro, morphing together into one long, chaotically exhilarating performance.

Baltimore’s Future Islands are returning to the UK not long after their long-stint travelling around as part of the Wham City collective with Dan Deacon, and continue to offer more bounce and durability than an inflatable castle at Fat Camp. A Future Islands show is all about the fling, both in terms of Sam Herring’s infectious physicality, and the way the playschool chirp of J. Gerrit Welmers’ synth lines and William Cashion’s bass collide with Herring’s lyrical melancholy and arresting vocal performance that veers from a Rex Harrison-like waspishness to a Joe Cocker-esque dry growl.

Welmers and Cashion are studious behind their instruments whilst Herring bounds around like an uncaged ape, a ball of energy dripping with a quota of sweat usually attributable to a nelson of wrestlers after a particularly rigorous battle royale. They require two attempts at single Pinocchio after the bass amp switches off mid-way through take one, Herring quipping, “if it doesn’t happen next time, that’s it for Pinocchio. That song will be dead to me.” Happily, the amp plays ball when the eventually return to it, as it is, along with Tin Man, a clear highlight of their set.

They finish with their haunting ballad, Little Dreamer but are then requested to return for “one more…and make it a feisty one” from a particularly demanding audience member. Clearly a giving band, Future Islands were more than happy to oblige.

More gig pictures at SongKick
Future Islands @ MySpace
Ear Pwr @ MySpace
Shield Your Eyes @ MySpace

September 16, 2009 Posted by | new reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Dan Deacon & The Wham City Ensemble, Future Islands, Adventure, Teeth Mountain @ ULU

Dan Deacon & The Wham City Ensemble, Future Islands, Adventure, Teeth Mountain
University of London Union. 05jun09.

This four act Hubbubalooza has been touring around the US, Australia and Europe for three months now, the three support acts doing their shtick prior to linking up with Dan Deacon to flesh out his gonzo-electro party sound. One sensed no weariness either, when it was announced that one of the players was having to leave the tour tonight, he was spirited to the back of the room on audience hands, then back to the stage, as was another player celebrating their birthday.

It was that kind of night, Dan Deacon being not only a manipulator of sound, his own voice and light (the bureau in front of him used, amongst other things, to control a number of small spotlights across the stage, not to mention the glow of a neon green skull) but also of audience. The ensemble comes largely from Baltimore’s Wham City collective that has precious little agenda aside from, it appears, to create and encourage further creation in others. Tonight that collective gets a few hundred extra members, as the band are as much a stage turn for us, as we are a live floor show for them.

The start of the show was a protracted thing; Dan requested that we all grab the back of the head of a nearby person, stare into their eyes and repeat after him. Several hundred people thus delivered a mantra into the eyes of their friends, a mantra that began “Fuck you!”, weaved through vengeance, bloodshed and the acquisition of the Austin Powers box-set, and appeared to be an affirmation of fraternity and love.

We were then required to countdown from 40, although we were allowed to miss out numbers 39-14, building up our voices so that by the end they were a formless caterwaul of noise. This provided the perfect crackle and buzz for the band to step their great leap forwards and into the start proper. It was a euphoric moment, a festival moment, only in a sweaty room. Which is better.

Dan Deacon is an unlikely looking figure to be in command of all this. Whilst setting up the stage he appeared in his massive 80’s breakfast telly specs, balding pate, insubstantial beard, rather more substantial tub of a belly, hole-ridden t-shirt and baggy cardigan. Yet come show-time he, along with the rest of his players, were transformed into white jumpsuits and looking like a kind of experimental showbiz army. Certainly the four guys around the massive table of synths looked like generals in a war-room; generals able to cut a little rug anyway. Behind Dan there was also a three-strong percussive attack, and two xylophones on the go, amongst other things.

The show continually broke off into what can be only described as Butlins camp games at verbal gunpoint. We were asked to form a circle in the centre of the room [see above], in which a couple of folks were pulled out to lead the room in interpretive movement, like ad-hoc Lizzie Webbs. Dan then split the room in two for what became a tag-team barn-dance-cum-break-dance face-off. All the rooms a stage. Not just the room either. Later we were required to form an ever growing guard of honour that snaked out of the room, down the stairs, out the building and round the corner (despite the rain) before curving in on itself.

The result of these clusterfuck parlour games means that curfew was broken by a good half an hour, a situation celebrated with a song that flashed up the slogan “All Night Party” on the back wall accompanied by Dan’s manipulated uber-Chipmunk squeak suggesting the same. Good times had.

What of the supporting players though? Teeth Mountain played a drone that was both glottal and reedy, like throat singing, only reached with violins, autoharp, saxophone and laptops. Over the top of this was a spirited tribal thwack from the two percussive rumblers. Their second piece featured more conventional instrumentation (albeit with a 3rd lap-top added along with a guitar) and twinkled like a solitary wind chime in an otherwise foreboding Un Chien Andalou wind-tunnel. They took the whine of guitar and the stage whisper of distorted voices and build it up into a wall of intense noise.

Before placing eyes on him, Adventure (aka Benny Boeldt) sounded a lot like Kraftwerk if they were fat guys in Hawaiian shirts playing high-octane Tetris. The loud garmenting was in place once I took up a spot with a view, but there was certainly no Teutonic discipline in Boeldt’s carry. Boeldt often played his synths seemingly one handed like a snooker pro feigning nonchalance and fond of a behind-the-back trick shot. As he came to a conclusion, the projection behind him shouted in five foot capitals “FUCK YES” which is probably a better summary than I’ll manage if I keep writing all day.

The most beguiling of the supports though were North Carolina’s Future Islands [see pic above]. Gerrit Welmers was make his synths talk in hi-energy electro-pop, William Cashion, with a dream catcher hanging off the end of his bass and a polite moustache on his friendly round face, was supplying a post-punk-funk bounce whilst up front squat vocalist Sam Herring was owning the stage like AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, yet supplying a energetic take on Joe Cocker’s phlegmy croon. It made for a peculiar mix, but not an incompatible one.

“Looks like I may have had a pants malfunction” said Herring early in the set, but this didn’t cause him to reign it in any, gripping onto his belt as he threw his swarthy and chunky frame around the stage. They often talk of football coaches who “head every ball.” Herring, by the same token, manages to drag in the charming sweep of each synth hook with his relentlessly hammy stage-prowl. Joy unconfined, in short.

Dan Deacon @ MySpace
Future Islands @ MySpace
Adventure @ MySpace
Teeth Mountain @ MySpace

June 6, 2009 Posted by | new reviews | , , , | Leave a comment