Vanity Project

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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)



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)


All Our Yesterdays – The Top 5’s

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 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