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)

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25: Ulrich Schnauss
Hackney Oslo (February)

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26: Blurt
Islington Lexington (October)

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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

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

2013: 25 gig salute

2013 has seen the end of the ATP weekenders, which is of course a great shame as they were the perfect destination for a gig adventure. Poor quality chalet-age, freezing December weather, a nearby beach with sand-dunes plus a heavy duty line up of quality bands. What more could you want? Their final weekender was a treat to behold and a superb topper for a fine gigging year.

Gig adventures were not confined to Camber Sands either, as in 2013 I was also fortunate enough to be able to search out great live music in a variety of locations outside London (including the rock n’ roll capital, Stamford in Lincolnshire) as well as in France and Germany. In those locations I can recommend La Maroquinerie in Paris, The Kazimier in Liverpool and the Cookie Jar in Leicester as fine places to see live music.

So, anyway, 2013 then; here’s the very best of times… (all pics by D A Nicholls)

Thee Oh Sees

Thee Oh Sees @ Kazimier

1: Thee Oh Sees. Liverpool Kazimier (May)
Playing as part of the SoundCity festival, the Kazimier is rammed awaiting Thee Oh Sees who begin their European tour here with their merch and equipment having been confiscated or lost en route from their arrival point of France. Nonetheless, using borrowed equipment, they whip up a fire in a manner to which repeated viewers of their live shows have become accustomed. Perfect festival set from a band at the height of their powers.

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White Fence @ Tufnell Park Dome

2: White Fence. Tufnell Park Dome/ ATP @ Camber Sands Pontins (May/November)
“On record, White Fence’s sound can be quite gentle, bobbing along like a message in a bottle, but live there is a vigour that comes from the wall of sound created by the three-guitar set up. It’s a woozy psychedelic swirl which captures a punk abandon vocally, and some Beefheart/post-punk eccentricity in the guitar textures. Glorious, in short”. FULL REVIEW.

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Michael Rother @ Wrexham Central Station

3: Michael Rother. Wrexham Central Station (April)
Backed by the Berlin-based band Camera, Michael Rother continues to bring the best of his back catalogue to audiences old and new. Here, as part of a Welsh music conference, he demonstrates why he is a pivotal figure in the world of kosmische musik, having been a member of Neu!, Harmonia and for briefer periods, Cluster and Kraftwerk. This is not just a history lesson either, with the motorik beat thunderous and Rother’s guitar shimmering like winter sun over a series of classic instrumental pieces.

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Do Make Say Think @ Field Day

Do Make Say Think @ Field Day

4: Do Make Say Think. Field Day @ Victoria Park (May)
Undulating, oscillating, climbing, crashing, Do Make Say Think occupy a point somewhere between Tortoise and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. As they finished, and the cheers bellowed out, a stranger and I turned to each other in agreement that this was by the far the most exhilarating thing we’d seen all day. You can’t see everything at a festival, of course, but other turns will have had to have gone some to top it.

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5: The Pop Group. ATP End of an Era Part 2 @ Camber Sands Pontins (November)
With a background of Mark Stewart having gone hatstand on the social networks two nights prior to their set, calling out Barry Hogan of ATP, and festival curators Loop as being “cunnts”, there was some speculation that The Pop Group would not be appearing. However a deletion and apology the next morning meant we were all systems go, and HOW. A ball of energy, this was not some nostalgia trip, as much as being entirely relevant right HERE right NOW. Spectacular.

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The Intelligence @ Lexington

The Intelligence @ Lexington

6: The Intelligence. Islington Lexington (June)
Chances are if you’ve taken your guitar to the back of the room and are currently tight-rope walking on the bar seating area then your gig is going quite well. Lars Finberg has got every right as The Intelligence meet the anticipation of their first London show (a previous attempt to play this venue three years ago having been curtailed by the minor issue of them apparently being refused entry into the UK) head on with an hour of to-the-point buzzing garage rock n’ roll.

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7: Verity Susman. Queen Elizabeth Hall (June)
Pretty much the same set as made the list last year but this was the fourth time I’d seen it since and here in a large room, the vocal loops filled the space beautifully. With the sax squawks at the start and the repetitive Siri-speaks-slash-fiction unafraid to test patience, it all builds to the topper twin-set of The Phillip Glass Ceiling and To Make You Afraid which simply blow the lid off. REVIEW OF CAFÉ OTO SET EARLIER IN 2013.

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8: The Magic Band. Chelsea Under The Bridge (March)
Turns out there is something to admire about Chelsea FC – a very handsome venue in a basement beneath one of the stands. This show was the final show on the Magic Band’s latest tour. I have now seen the Magic Band on several occasions and this gig in terms of atmosphere must rank it up there amongst the very best, certainly since the departure of Gary Lucas’ from the group. Erik Klerks may about as much connection to the original group as I have, but the boy can play, and facilitates John French, Denny Whalley and Mark Boston showing how it was done when the Captain was still around. Key track: Hot Head

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Chrome Hoof @ Lexington

Chrome Hoof @ Lexington

9: Chrome Hoof. Islington Lexington (October)
“Now, of course, this [accessibility] may not be an ideal development for many sympathisers, who may want their business as usual. They’ll be happy to know though that there remain many layers to the Hoof’s operation, with death metal grunt, predatory P-funk, kosmische swirl and heavy duty prog tangents still underpinning the silver-glitter, disco-ball strut”. FULL REVIEW.

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Goat @ ATP

Goat @ ATP

10: Goat. ATP End of an Era Part 2 @ Camber Sands Pontins (December)
Context is all. Their Electric Ballroom set earlier this year which has been captured as a live record was fine, but the further back you are from the spectacle, it loses something. Here, right next to a speaker and close to the veiled and masked troubadours, the spirit of the live performance transmitted straight down into the feet. With a veritable queue of crowdsurfers taking to their air, this was wne of those experiences that you only really find at a festival.

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Teeth of the Sea vs Wire @ Cafe OTO

Teeth of the Sea vs Wire @ Cafe OTO

11: Teeth Of The Sea vs. WIRE. Dalston Café OTO (March)
“After an awkward soundcheck in front of a shuffling, encroaching, excited audience here in the bijou confines of a packed Café OTO, Teeth of the Sea and Wire come together for a twenty-minute version of the latter’s track Drill. It is a Drill so powerful as to put the earth’s core in jeopardy, spinning and piercing incessantly and feverishly until Colin Newman raises his hands to ask “If this is not an exercise, could this be a drill?” It is, and an astonishing one”. FULL REVIEW.

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Nisennenmondai @ La Maroquinerie

12: Nisennenmondai. Paris La Maroquinerie (June)
“With their most recent material prior to latest LP ‘N’ , the set with which they toured triumphantly round Europe and America in 2011 (captured on their ‘Nisennenmondai Live!!!’ recording), it was mostly the case of a fast rhythm grinding abrasively, stabbing guitar (or Korg synth) weaving its way in and around the bass and percussion, taking it’s time to reach the springboard, the metronomic bass-thump and hi-hat rave-beat greeting the extra drums when it kicks on, but with this new record they are seemingly happy for soundscapes to travel without such frenzy and with a flattening of the peaks and troughs”. FULL REVIEW.

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AKDK @ Southsea Fest

AKDK @ Southsea Fest

13: AK DK. Southsea Social Club (September)
Festivals will give you moments like this, where a band sweeps an audience who, by and large, will not have heard of them, off their feet and into abandon giddier than the situation has any right to be. This was one of those, taking those in the downstairs room of Southsea’s Social Club, when they could have been in any number of the other venues taking part in Southsea Fest, well into their bosom. New found affection abounded.

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Kim Ki O @ La Maroquinerie

14: Kim Ki O. Paris La Maroquinerie (June)
“Having made the journey [to France from the protests ongoing back home in Istanbul] it is clear this is not business as usual as their voices crack with emotion as they speak of police brutality and a refusal to give up the fight for the secularist community….Of course, all this creates quite a poignant atmosphere in the room and elevate their tunes to a sum that is perhaps greater than the parts.” FULL REVIEW.

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Housewives @ Lexington

Housewives @ Lexington

15: Housewives. Islington Lexington (June)
Relentless, energetic post-punk, the wild abandon from a fledging group immediately impressing.

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16: Destruction Unit. Shoreditch Old Blue Last (October)
Hugeness. A no-encores set of about 40 minutes with two, perhaps three numbers (certainly Slow Death Sounds and Night Loner were in there) stretched out to become crushing, brutalist wrecking balls thumping ‘the soundscape’ square in the face. Lighting rigs were hung from, guitars attacked and rock n’ roll made intense and startling with no quarter given.

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Orchestra of Spheres @ Power Lunches

Orchestra of Spheres @ Power Lunches

17: Orchestra of Spheres. Dalston Power Lunches (December)
The costumes betray a place at the B-52’s/Devo ‘fun-time’ end of post-punk, whilst the ‘biscuit tin’ guitar whirls through Afrobeat, psychedelia and good ol’ rock n’ roll. Punk-funk, glam and detached disco all feature and thus an hour of top flight dance action gradually builds with the in-round singing of Mind Over Might taking it to another level still.

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18: White Hills. Shoreditch Cargo (April)
Entering to a quiet London crowd giving off a not untypical ‘go on then impress us’ air, they left 75 minutes later to feverish cheering, having impressed us thoroughly and beyond expectation.

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19: Cosmonauts. Hoxton Macbeth (August)
Barely pausing to catch breath over the course of 45 minutes, this was rumbling psychedelic rock done to perfection.

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napal11

Napalm Death @ Cafe Central

20: Napalm Death. Weinheim Café Central (January)
“The rhythm section looks exactly as an extreme metal rhythm section should look: portly, goateed and appearing to be combating a migraine throughout. Bassist Shane Embury, the sole member to date back to 1987 debut LP Scum is still billowing out an unkempt wafro, but these days pattern baldness has rendered a kind of reverse-Mohawk parting of the red sea, the bubbling follicles hanging round his ears like palm leaves”. FULL REVIEW.

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21: Eat Lights Become Lights. Rough Trade East (July)
Muscular psychedelic krautrock grooves powered by not one but two drummers.

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Moon Duo @ Tufnell Park Dome

Moon Duo @ Tufnell Park Dome

22: Moon Duo. Tufnell Park Dome (July)
Now a duo of three being augmented with a live drummer but although this was the best I’ve seen of Moon Duo that was more to do with personal positioning as the performance as a stage-lip berth meant I could watch Ripley Johnson work his psychedelic solos at close range. Key track: Catch As Catch Can.

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23: Purple Pilgrims. Shacklewell Arms (November)
A short set with a minimalist set up. Two people, two guitars, two voices, and one box for the rest. Uncluttered, breathy, glacial, ethereal, all of these things and much much more than the sum of the parts.

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24: Colin Stetson. Dalston Café OTO (October)
Harsh and abrasive, yet haunting, Colin Stetson’s virtuoso displays of circular breathing and using all the sonics of his instrument, making it appear as though he is playing three or four patterns at once. How he manages this without looping technology is beyond my comprehension really, so both impressive as a human feat and as a series of pieces that can capture isolation and hope in equal measure.

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25: The Octopus Project. Highbury Garage (October)
It is possible to be oddball and cohesive at the same time. Largely instrumental business with theremins and cinematic scope, like a knockabout Yann Tiersen. Very entertaining in support of Man or Astroman?

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Honorary ‘Not Sure If You Can Call That A Gig Really?’ Award….

Neon Neon. Village Underground (June)
If you’re going to write an album entirely about the life of left wing millionaire publisher and activist Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, I suppose it makes sense to perform it live as part of an immersive theatrical show with extra vignettes acted out, and the audience required to move about as the stage itself moves amongst them. Plus with a victorious encore from their first LP which, incidentally, was all about John DeLorean. Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip don’t do things by halves.

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Il Sogno del Marinaio (Mike Watt) @ Cookie Jar

Il Sogno del Marinaio (Mike Watt) @ Cookie Jar

Other highlight tunes from the year’s gigging
Anna Calvi, Eliza (Wilton’s Music Hall)
BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Doctor Who Theme (Rough Trade East)
Bilge Pump, final song of set with drone section (Leeds Brudenell Social Club)
Black Sabbath, Behind The Wall Of Sleep (The O2)
British Sea Power, No Lucifer (Derby The Venue)
Brown Brogues, I’m Not A Crane (Old Blue Last)
Cable, Honolulu (Highbury Garage)
Charles Hayward, My Madness (Old Blue Last)
China Drum, Cloud 9 (Stamford Voodoo Lounge)
Civil Civic, Airspray (ATP End of an Era Part 2 @ Pontins Camber Sands)
David Byrne & St Vincent, I Should Watch TV (Roundhouse)
Deerhoof, Basketball Get Your Groove Back (Queen Elizabeth Hall)
East India Youth, Heaven, How Long (Heaven)
Gary War, Pleading for Annihilation (Shacklewell Arms)
Il Sogno del Marinaio, Partisan Song (Leicester Cookie Jar)
James Yorkston, Tortoise Regrets Hare (Field Day @ Victoria Park)
Jeffrey Lewis & The Rain, History of the French Revolution (Latitude Festival @ Henham Park)
John Grant, Marz (Latitude Festival @ Henham Park)
Kandodo, Lord Hyena, 3am (ATP End of an Era Part 2 @ Pontins Camber Sands)
Kraftwerk, Spacelab (Latitude Festival @ Henham Park)
Low, Murderer (Cambridge Junction)
Man Or Astroman?, Antimatter Man (Highbury Garage)
Mega Emotion, Shapes (Courtyard Theatre)
My Bloody Valentine, Soon (Hammersmith Apollo)
Robyn Hitchcock, Wreck Of The Arthur Lee (Rough Trade East)
Savages, Flying To Berlin (Lexington)
Shrag, Faux-Coda (Lexington)
65daysofstatic, Sleepwalk City (Rough Trade East)
Steve Mason, Am I Just A Man? (Record Store Day @ Berwick Street)
Talk Normal, Shot This Time (Sebright Arms)
Terakaft, Tirera (Electrowerkz)
Trust, Bulbforms (Electrowerkz)
Wilko Johnson, She Does It Right (Rough Trade East)
Wire & The Pink Flag Orchestra, Pink Flag (Heaven)

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All Our Yesterdays – The Top 5’s

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 @ Primavera Sound
3: The Fall @ 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 30, 2013 Posted by | Yearly lists | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2012: 25 gig salute

Looking at this list of my 25 top gigs (well, sets really) of 2012, it seems I have much to thank the curators and bookers of the festivals I went to, with ATP festivals in March and December, as well as Field Day, Lovebox, Apple Cart and the BT River of Music (Africa Stage) represented robustly here.

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Thee Oh Sees @ Hornstull Strand

Interesting, to me at least, is that the act at #1 would, the first time I saw them, have won my ‘Most Disappointing Gig Of The Year’ garland, were I the spiteful type to dole those kind of things out. Just goes to show first impressions don’t have to last.

So, anyway, here’s the best of ‘em…

1: Boredoms. ATP @ Minehead Butlins (March)
Five drummers, twelve guitarists, and leader EYE at the centre of the storm, conducting with body rather than baton. We were promised an “energy orb”, and it becomes just that, with EYE’s intonations and sonic crashes blowing minds all around.

2: Thee Oh Sees. Stockholm Hornstull Strand (June)
Playing third on a four band bill at 20:15 might seem like a thankless task but while Brian Jonestown Massacre and Kurt Vile & The Violators may have been bigger draws at this special ‘What We Do Is Secret’ summer event, Thee Oh Sees go beyond ‘warming up’ the crowd to the point where the energy they generate on stage and in the crowd would be enough to keep the Stockholm street’s lit through a long Scandinavian winter. Highlight: The Dream.

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Watt & Hurley @ ATP

3: Mike Watt & George Hurley play the songs of The Minutemen. ATP @ Minehead Butlins (March)
After a rare mistake, Mike Watt remarks “you know we practise, and practise, and practise, but we’re still missing our guy”, acknowledging the D. Boon shaped hole in this set-up. Boon died in 1985. Watt & Hurley refused to replace him, or use the Minutemen name without him, and this is a very rare duet, but these are their songs re-shaped for a bass guitar and a drum-set only, and it is both a tribute to an absent friend and yet electrifying in the here and now.

4: The Ex & Brass Unbound. ATP @ Camber Sands (December)
The Ex can now officially be called staples of my end of year list having appeared here in 2010, again with Brass Unbound, and last year in tandem with Getatchu Mekuria. This, though, was the best of the lot.

5: Group Doueh. ATP @ Minehead Butlins (March)
It’s the end of a long weekend. Long, but great. Just as the body is beginning to give up, it gets a recharge from Western Saharan rock troubadours. Like a psychedelic wedding band with a bosomy Auntie on backing vocals and excitable frug. Electrifying, at just the right time. A fine way to finish off an ATP.

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The Fall @ ATP

6: The Fall. ATP @ Minehead Butlins (March)
Continuing a rich run of astonishing Fall gigs, by no means a guarantee, with one of the very best yet.

7: Liars. Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)
“Never ones to sit still, new LP WIXIW is yet another change of direction, and they showcase it here, thunderous beats and ambient electro building up from the wide-pupilled alt.rock foundations, and occupying a world of its own”. FULL REVIEW. Highlight: Brats.

8: Turing Machine. ATP @ Camber Sands (November)
So, you go to a festival, and you do your research, see what’s good for checking out n’ that. Ramping up to the Shellac-curated ATP, Turing Machine’s record stood head and shoulders above other unfamiliar acts that were previewed. With expectations thus running high, it was bound to be a let down, right? Not a bit of it. Utterly electrifying.

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Liars @ Field Day

9: Black Sabbath. Birmingham O2 Academy (May)
“Throw in the fact that Ozzy Osbourne has been a cartoon character with a shot voice for many years, while guitar hero Tony Iommi has been stricken with cancer of late, even the fact that my first experience of Sabbath live, twenty years after they first entered my record collection, would be a warm-up show in their home town in a venue far too small to accommodate demand, felt tinged by an sense of disappointment. One hour and forty-five minutes of some of the finest hard rock anthems later however, all those misgivings were blown away.” FULL REVIEW. Highlight: The Wizard.

10: Evangelista. Brussels Les Ateliers Claus (September)
“However, it is Winds Of St Anne that takes the prize as the set highlight, as it crawls through the haze of an Arabian desert-scrape, ridden with the impact sweat of the dry heat, the lyrics anticipating a new life in preparatory stream of consciousness (“When the wind blows, there are no rules”) as the bursts of excitement leaving a tension in their wake” FULL REVIEW

The first time I saw Carla Bozulich playing the music from her Evangelista album in 2007, if it wasn’t life changing then it was certainly eye-opening and EAR-changing. I’ve seen Carla in duos, trios and with the full Evangelista group on several occasions since, but it was probably this show that got closest to matching the intensity of that first show.

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Evangelista @ Les Ateliers Claus

11: Verity Susman. Dalston Birthdays (June)
Thirty minute sonic adventure taking in squalling sax, vocal loops, dancefloor beats all weaving in and out of Seven of Nine based lesbian slash fiction read sonorously by a disembodied ‘Protect and Survive’ style narrator. Startling and arresting.

12: The Pre New. Social (August)
Chaotically immense. Was it not ever thus?

13: Bo Ningen. Rough Trade East (October)
“With each Bo Ningen gig I have attended, they have been twice as good as the previous occasion. If these trends continue, they will become the greatest band in the world about four gigs from now”. FULL REVIEW.

14: Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat. Apple Cart Festival @ Victoria Park (June)
“I’ve never done this before sober” says Aidan Moffat as he shuffles onto the stage, followed by the band and the eccentric looking figure of Bill Wells who takes a back-seat on stage. Yet it is his piano lines as much as anything else that causes my flesh to goose into bumps on at least three occasions. It is Jubilee weekend so they play their Glasgow Jubilee with prefaced warning to the parents at this ‘family’ festival that it may get a little x-rated. Also, with the rain hammering down incessantly outside, their drawled cover of Bananarama’s Cruel Summer is entirely apt. Highlight: Let’s Stop Here.

15: Melt Banana. ATP @ Camber Sands (December)
Down to a core duo, but no less intense. It required a shower and a change of shirt for me directly afterwards, involved me carrying two crowd surfers on my head at one point, and one bloke left afterwards minus the set of specs he went in with. Bedlam and thus brilliant. Highlight: Free The Bee.

16: R. Stevie Moore. Field Day @ Victoria Park (June)
“Dressed in sweatpants, and sporting the kind of facial hair you can usually only get away with if you have an army of elves in your employ, the eccentricity is clearly of the cuddly ‘hey everybody, I’ve just dyed my beard blue’ kind. R. Stevie projects a wavering baritone onto his sharp rock and his pop whimsy, but then unleashes a growling bark that Jazz Coleman would rank amongst his best. A reason to be cheerful, certainly”. FULL REVIEW. Highlight: I Like To Stay Home.

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Bo Ningen @ RTE

17: Andrew W.K.. Kentish Town Forum (April)
Sometimes you just need to check your brain in at the door and surrender to ridiculous, gonzoid, cartoon rock. What better time to do this than with Andrew W.K. in town, with full band, performing his superb record of feel-good PAAAAAAAARRRRR-TAAAAAAYYYYYY anthems, I Get Wet in its entirety to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Damn good fun.

18: Victims. Stockholm Hornstull Strand (June)
From Nyköping, Victims play a brand of punishing hardcore punk rock that gives no quarter, and barrels into the audience like a rolling dust cloud of thrown fists and kicking legs. First on Victims own the Strand stage and both Bombus and American veterans Poison Idea couldn’t follow them.

19: Gallon Drunk. Hoxton Macbeth (November)
“There’s nothing stand-offish about Gallon Drunk. More stand in-ish, as frontman James Johnston spends the entire set indulging in some front-row frottage whilst slinging his guitar about with such carefree abandon that the less attentive audience member remains permanently in peril of a blithe biffing” FULL REVIEW.

20: Peepholes. Scala (August)
“Peepholes can be a little awkward in their stage craft which isn’t helped here by a fidgety drum set causing continual trouble. However a packed Scala forgive these minor shortcomings and raise the roof on their departure, having been blown away by a peacock display of assertive synths, rattling drums and a psychedelic yelp” . FULL REVIEW.

21: Angélique Kidjo. London Pleasure Gardens (July)
When your playing at a day of African music and the moment legend of African music Hugh Masekela joins you on stage isn’t anywhere near the highlight of your performance, it’d be fair to say you’ve turned it on proper. 52 years of age but performing with the zeal of a teenager, Angélique Kidjo stole the Saturday of the BT River of Music’s Africa stage from under the noses of King Sunny Ade and Baaba Maal. Highlight: Move On Up.

22: The Magic Band. Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (March)
Crowd turned from quiet and respectful to hollering and hooting in the space of two energetic sets. Your favourite band gets booked into your favourite venue, what better excuse is there for a trip back home?. Highlight: My Human Gets Me Blues.

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Angélique Kidjo @ BT River of Music

23: Hot Chip. Lovebox @ Victoria Park (June)
Humbled by the honour, Al Doyle announces this is the first time Hot Chip have headlined a festival, and they don’t waste the opportunity afforded them. Being a fan of both Pet Shop Boys and Devo, it is difficult for me NOT to have a soft spot for Hot Chip, who also apply a subtly arched eyebrow to spirited synth-pop. Here it is also aligned with a monogamously romantic soul sound, and no small dose of party funk. The hipster chess club nerds own the field as the sun goes down, stacking the bases for a triumphant closing medley of Ready For The Floor, Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere and Hold On. Highlight: Over and Over.

24: First Aid Kit. Rough Trade East (January)
Often bands playing Rough Trade comment on the lack of raucousness in the audience. This was one where a quiet, appreciate, record shop crowd probably fitted the occasion. They still look about 12, but the two ladies of First Aid Kit have a maturity of performance and harmonisation well beyond their years. Highlight: The Lion’s Roar.

25: The Invisible Republic of JuJu. London Pleasure Gardens (July)
Formerly of Jah Wobble’s Invaders of The Heart and collaborator with Robert Plant, Brian Eno and Tinariwen, Justin Adams has also worked recently with ritti player Juldeh Camara, bassist Billy Fuller and drummer Dave Smith as JuJu. For the River of Music Africa Stage they surrounded their desert psych and jazz drone with a number of North African guest players and singers for a glorious union celebrating the ‘the invisible republic’ of collaborating musicians and interacting cultures.

‘Gigs 2012’ Spotify playlist

 

Ooh, so close: A Place To Bury Stangers (Cargo), Beach House (Brighton Haunt), Hejira (Bethnal Green Sebright Arms), Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (ATP @ Butlins Minehead), K-X-P (Corsica Studios), Lower Dens (Islington Lexington), The Megaphonic Thrift (Shoreditch Old Blue Last), Scratch Acid (ATP @ Butlins Minehead), Squarepusher (Hackney Empire), Underground Railroad (Hoxton Macbeth)

 

other song ‘highlights’ from the year’s gigging

American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
Beak>, Yatton (Islington Lexington)
Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves Of Destiny, Sweet tooth Bird (Apple Cart Festival @ Victoria Park)
Billy Bragg, Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards/I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles/A New England (Apple Cart Festival @ Victoria Park)
Bis, Eurodisco (Lexington)
Blurt, Enemy Ears (Lewisham Fox & Firkin)
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Merciless And Great (Hackney Empire)
Dead Rat Orchestra, the one with the percussion provided in the beer garden via axes and a log (Lewisham Fox & Firkin)
Hejira, Litmus Test (Bethnal Green Sebright Arms)
Here We Go Magic, Make Up Your Mind (Field Day @ Victoria Park)
The Hives, Walk Idiot Walk (Roundhouse)
The Imagined Village, Bending The Dark (BT London Live @ Victoria Park)
James Yorkston & The Athletes, I Know My Love (Cecil Sharp House)
Jeff Mangum, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
Joanna Newsom, Inflammatory Writ (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
The Levellers, One Way (BT London Live @ Hyde Park)
Low, Murderer (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
Megadeth, Never Dead (Download @ Donington Park)
Metronomy, Love Underlined (Brixton Academy)
Ministry, N.W.O. (Kentish Town Forum)
MJ Hibbett & The Validators, Easily Impressed (Wilmington Arms)
Moon Duo, I Can See (Elephant & Castle Corsica Studios)
New Build, Do You Not Feel Loved (Rough Trade East)
Nina Nastasia, Jimmy’s Rose Tattoo (ATP @ Camber Sands Pontins)
Public Image Limited, Death Disco (Rochester Castle)
Robyn Hitchcock, Uncorrected Personality Traits (ATP @ Minehead Butlins)
Soundgarden, Black Hole Sun (Download @ Donington Park)
Toy, Left Myself Behind (Shacklewell Arms)
The Wedding Present, Corduroy (Los Angeles Troubadour)

 

All Our Yesterdays – The Top 5’s

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 @ Primavera Sound
3: The Fall @ 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 @ Guilford Festival
3: The Monsoon Bassoon @ Highbury Garage
4: Muse @ Portsmouth Guildhall
5: Ed Harcourt @ Guilford Festival

December 20, 2012 Posted by | Yearly lists | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2011: 25 gig salute

If my calculations are correct, I made it to 139 gigs/festivals/in-stores/bandstand busks in 2011 (a great many being free entry thank goodness), comprising 379 ‘sets’. Of those, here are the best 25, with a few bubbling under ‘momentary highlights’ and gig-like experiences of note.

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.

1=: King Creosote & Jon Hopkins. Union Chapel (May)
A sold out Union Chapel, candles flickering and, come the end, a standing ovation all round. Turns out collaboration between a modern folk troubadour and an electronica everyman works beautifully live. Key track: Bats In The Attic.

1=: Nisennenmondai. Kentish Town Forum (November).
Pretty much the same set I saw them do a year ago in support of the Ex at Tufnell Park Dome and again it was a 50 minute support slot, albeit to a far larger crowd, with four ‘pieces’ taking up the entire stint. Theirs is a powerful music, but without need for racking up the distortion or applying any extraneous vocalisation (their set being entirely instrumental). Nisennenmondai’s strength comes from danceable car-chase hypnotics, drama and energy building in the cyclical compositions as they jut out but roll fluidly.

The Magic Band

3: The Magic Band. Nottingham Rescue Rooms (December)
I followed this tour about a bit, and I would nominate the whole ‘gig experience’ of doing so but my damned rules determine a single show to be chosen. So I will choose Nottingham for the extra treat of a version of Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning played by way of tribute to Wolf’s guitarist Hubert Sumlin. Also seen at London Scala, Dublin Button Factory and Leeds Irish Centre.

“Thankfully, French is an excellent blues singer in his own right, taking his cue from Van Vliet in much the same way as Van Vliet did from Howlin’ Wolf. Whilst he hasn’t got quite the same range, the growl is as hearty as you need to capture the essence of what watching Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band live must have been all about.” [FULL REVIEW]

4: Gaggle. Rough Trade East (April).
Like the old school Top 40 this, something coming in low and climbing as it begins to bed in. Gaggle performing their rework/remix of the 1969 feminist cantata ‘The Brilliant & The Dark’ was at #17 in my 2010 top gigs list, but that was in front of a ‘home’ crowd at the Women’s Library. Here, dropped like a cluster bomb into the midst of a packed Rough Trade East on Record Store Day, the themes of the piece were even more arresting and thrilling. Also seen at: Royal Albert Hall Elgar Room.

5: Kap Bambino. Krems Messangelände (May)
“So, after a weekend that has often been about the art of music, we are brought to a flurrying dervish of a climax by a band for whom the body response is of equal validity to the effect upon the mind.” [FULL REVIEW].

6: PJ Harvey. Mile End Troxy (February).
The album Let England Shake was a remarkable piece of work and was rightly showcased in its entirety (albeit not in order) and interspersed with material from across her canon. On Battleship Hill was the standout moment, as its intro broke away to Peej’s piercing Kate Bush-esque falsetto, and hairs jumped to attention upon many a nape. Also seen at: Alexandra Palace

7: The Fall. KOKO (June).
Three great Fall gigs in a row for me, and all when the set is chock heavy with material from the brilliant Your Future Our Clutter LP. The Fall will never be a band that treads water or looks backwards at old glories, but part of me wouldn’t be disappointed if they toured this record in perpetuity, especially on this form. Key track: Cowboy George. Also seen at: IndigO2.

8: Paul Simon. Roundhouse (July)
Beginning strongly with Crazy Love Vol. II, this was a two hour tour through Simon songs old and new. A quarter of that time was the two encores finishing with a riotous You Can Call Me Al but containing a brilliantly arresting solo rendition of The Sound Of Silence and a voluptuous Boy In The Bubble.

Factory Floor @ Alexandra Palace

9: Factory Floor. Alexandra Palace (July)
Sixth time I’ve seen them and while a hard sound as relentless and unflinching as theirs might lose its impact on multiple viewings, if anything the opposite is true. The perfect late-night-at-a-festival (on after the headliners) group. Also seen at: Krems Messangelände, CitiPost Building and Highbury Garage.

10: Low. Barbican Hall (June)
After an awry start where Alan Sparhawk’s voice goes all over the place during Nothing But Heart, they pull it back swiftly with the first of three goosebump moments as Nightingale follows. Especially Me and (That’s How You Sing) Amazing Grace are the other standout flesh prickling moments in a gorgeous nigh-on two-hour set. Also seen at: Brighton Old Market.

11: Blanck Mass. Shacklewell Arms (December)
Perhaps one man with a laptop and a table of buttons and dials should not make for the most gripping live spectacle, even with bespoke visuals projected to grab the attention. Yet gripped we were, by a brutal, bone-rattling sensory experience.

12: James Yuill. City Arts & Music Project (May).
Electro pop so perky you could hang yer coat on it and an ideal way to get the dancin’ feet moving at the end of a Stag & Dagger night where they’d been wearied by walking between venues in Shoreditch, Hoxton and Spitalfields. Key track: On Your Own

13: Charles Hayward. Catch (August)
“My maaaaad-ness” he begins, the glint in his gaze increasingly vivid, before moving smoothly into a groove that feet can respond to. A kindly, mildly eccentric presence, he later rises from his stool to pause one song for a good thirty seconds just so that he might peer out at us incredulously.” [FULL REVIEW].

14: Portishead. Alexandra Palace (July)
In the London bus approach to gigs, ticket holders for ATP’s I’ll Be Your Mirror weekender were treated to rare giggers Portishead curating, and topping the bill, on both the Saturday and Sunday. As the sets were identical, I’ll have to pick the Saturday as my choice as the impact of Silence as a set opener was all the more powerful for it being their reintroduction to the UK stage. Commanding and captivating.

15: The Antlers. Heaven (May)
Would the appearance of a set of new songs dilute the power of the tunes from their astonishing ‘Hospice’ record? Not a bit of it! Also seen at: Borderline.

Carla Bozulich works the room @ donaufestival

16: Carla Bozulich. Klangraum Krems Minoritenkirche (May)
“Entitled ‘Eyes & Ears 5: Under The Skin’ it would continue a series of site specific performances that Carla has put together, and use the resonant monastic space to its full potential, rather than having the stage as the sole focal point. In that respect it worked wonderfully, the audience on being allowed to enter wandering between players arranged around the room, with films projecting across the space onto side walls, and also so that flickering images cascaded down the central pillars, encasing us as though in a cage of static electricity.” [FULL REVIEW]. Also seen at: Dalston Café Oto (as ‘Evangelista’).

17: Omar Souleyman. XOYO (December)
I find it nigh on impossible to not have a good time at an Omar Souleyman show. Those who have seen him will know what I mean when I say “Yeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaah…YALLA!” The joie de vivre that sweeps the room is highly infectious and impacts directly on the hips and feet. Key track: Leh Jani

18: Micachu & The Shapes with Brotha May. Plastic People (March).
It’s one thing collaborating with the London Sinfonietta to create an hour long suite entitled Chopped And Screwed, but alt.pop hero Mica Levi’s aspirations aren’t all towards ‘high’ culture as to accompany the release of the recording of this orchestral collaboration was a grime mix-tape version. This show in basement club Plastic People was to launch that recording and featured Mica, Raisa and Marc on lap-tops and synths in the DJ booth rather than their usual stage set up, and with grime MC Brotha May doing his thing from the step behind them. Idiosyncratic enough to begin with, this was them indulging their esoteric passions with some aplomb.

19: The Books. Klangraum Krems Minoritenkirche (May)
“Cult-like propaganda videos, golf tutorials, the dark thoughts of unknown children captured on found Talkboy tapes featured among the collaged ‘samples’ that play out in synchronicity on a screen behind The Books. These found visuals and sounds are the kind of foundations upon which our three players build their jazz-trained whimsy beyond-New-Age expanse towards a 21st century folk music celebrating the technology as well as the spirit of the age.” [FULL REVIEW]. Key track: Cold Freezin’ Night. Also seen at: Alexandra Palace.

20: Laura Hocking & The Long Goodbye. Union Chapel (July)
Modern folk-pop groups led by singer songwriters can feel a bit ten a penny at times. However when they hit the right emotional note they can make an entire audiences jaw drop, and it certainly felt like this was happening when Laura Hocking followed her announcement that the next song as being about her autistic brother’s simultaneous responses of eagerness and fear to Firework Night, and wanting to capture that in song, with the astonishingly good Strongmen & Acrobats which, although I’m not intimately involved with the Hocking family, felt absolutely perfect.

21: The Ex + Getatchew Mekuria. Rich Mix (December)
The Ex are a fine, lively post-punk outfit in their own setting, however collaborations with brass sections seems to give them a mesmerising extra dimension. They ended up in my 2010 end of year ‘best gigs’ list with their set with Brass Unbound and this year’s entry again finds them in collaboration, this time a set with septuagenarian, Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria and his colleagues.

Ghostpoet @ Stag & Dagger

22: Ghostpoet. 93 Feet East (May)
Another highlight of a year of wise choices made whilst staggering around Shoreditch and Spitalfields for Stag & Dagger. Ghostpoet’s winning demeanour and electrifying sounds which defy simple categorisation was a winning combo for attracting the attention of a wanderlustful crowd. Key track: Us Against Whatever Baby. Also seen at: Thames Festival and Scala.

23: The Lampshades. Arnold Circus Bandstand (December)
One of the most unexpectedly beguiling sets I’ve seen in the semi-regular (and free) Sunday afternoon ‘Bandstand Busking’ series.

24: North Sea Radio Orchestra. St Giles-in-the-Fields (July).
Delicate, caressing and sweeping chamber orchestra in an ideally ornate setting. With material from the I A Moon amongst older pieces, an additional element of motorik krautrock (Berliner Luft) was added to their sumptuous ensemble sound. Highlight: Kingstanding. Also seen at: St Olave’s Church.

25: Mugstar. Rough Trade East (April).
Instrumental hardcore psych delivered with the emphasis less on whirlwind swirl as a tidal wave crashing forward. Also seen at: The Lexington.

honorary ‘gig’ of the year
Not a live performance, but Chris Watson’s sound-art installation at Donaufestival (Krems Kunsthalle, May) of sounds found on an expedition to Antarctica was also a further sonic highlight of the year. Invited to lie down on cushions, his collection of recordings such as pressure ridges, glacial caving, melt water and deep ocean current via quadraphonic sound attacked and doused as water and ice collided, capturing the ebb and flow as a force of seismic change rather than something gentle and calming.

Radio session of the year
Deerhunter’s session for Marc Riley on 6Music was simply incredible and I had not, previously, been that taken with them (and that’s with having seen them live before as well). Re-investigation required.

other song ‘highlights’ from the year’s gigging

Aiden Moffat & Bill Wells, The Copper Top (Cargo)
Architecture In Helsinki, I’ve Been Thinking About You (XOYO)
Beach House, Zebra (Alexandra Palace)
Bearsuit, Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop (Old Blue Last)
Blurt, Enemy Ears (Deptford Bird’s Nest)
Bug Prentice, Get What You Pays For (Rich Mix)
Cocknbull Kid, Cocknbull Kid (City Arts & Music Project)
Destroyer, Savage Night At The Opera (Heaven)
Dom Coyote, song using verbatim text from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (Union Chapel)
Dutch Uncles, The Ink (Rough Trade East)
Electrelane, Smalltown Boy (Scala)
Elbow, Lippy Kids (The O2)
Fuck Buttons, Surf Solar (Kentish Town Forum)
Grace Jones, Slave To The Rhythm (Hyde Park)
The Hidden Cameras, In The NA (Barbican Hall)
The Irrepressibles, Nuclear Strike (donaufestival)
John Maus, Keep Pushing On (Rough Trade East)
Julianna Barwick, White Flag (Rough Trade East)
Ladytron, Discotraxx (donaufestival)
Liars, Scissor (Alexandra Palace)
Lydia Lunch, Atomic Bongos (donaufestival)
Marissa Nadler, Fifty Five Falls (Rough Trade West)
Matt & Kim, Yeah Yeah (Highbury Garage)
Max Tundra, Which Song (Kingston Fighting Cocks)
Phoenix Foundation, Bitte Bitte (Rough Trade East)
Planningtorock, Doorway (Rough Trade East)
Pulp, Sunrise (Hyde Park)
Still Corners, Cuckoo (Rough Trade East)
tUnE-yArDs – Do You Want To Live (Scala)
Underground Railroad, Russian Doll (Rough Trade East)
Wanda Jackson, Funnel Of Love (Scala)
The Wedding Present. Quick, Before It Melts (Dingwalls)
Wire, Bad Worn Thing (Rough Trade East)
Zea, Armpit Elastica (Café OTO)

All Our Yesterdays – The Top 5’s

2010
1: tUnE-yArDs @ Shoreditch Cargo.
2: Low @ Primavera Sound
3: The Fall @ Primavera Sound
4: Edwyn Collins @ Bowlie II (ATP)
5: The Hidden Cameras @ Shoreditch St Leonards Church
(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 @ Guilford Festival
3: The Monsoon Bassoon @ Highbury Garage
4: Muse @ Portsmouth Guildhall
5: Ed Harcourt @ Guildford Festival

January 1, 2012 Posted by | Yearly lists | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Magic Band UK & Ireland tour 2011

Continuing this site’s ‘new music’ tradition, ahem, we follow Wanda Jackson, Blurt and Charles Hayward (the youngest of which being the latter at 60) with the Magic Band who contain three members pitched in the sexagenarian age bracket. Clearly being born before 1952 is a requirement for getting a review on this site these days.

The Magic Band.
London Scala. 30nov11.
Dublin Button Factory. 02dec11.
Nottingham Rescue Rooms. 07dec11.
Leeds Irish Centre. 08dec11.

What sells the Magic Band as being something more than merely a Captain Beefheart tribute act is the fact that they contain some genuine ‘originals’, people who recorded and played out Don Van Vliet’s music with the man himself at the helm.

The stories around the recording of their most celebrated LP, Trout Mask Replica, where the band were essentially contained within a house under Van Vliet’s sometimes brutal dictatorship for nine months until the complicated sounds were tightly perfected, are sometimes exaggerated, but not by much. Two of the soldiers that went through those productive, but harrowing, POW-like experiences are represented here in the form of bassist Mark Boston (named ‘Rockette Morton’ by Van Vliet) and drummer John French (aka ‘Drumbo’).

John French @ London Scala

With Van Vliet not only retired from the music business since 1982, but also departing this mortal coil in December of last year, you have a team without their captain, but with French as the most ‘loyal’ Magic Band member (in terms of albums recorded and tours undertaken, and the man often charged with turning Van Vliet’s unorthodox creativity into a readable musical ‘score’), it is appropriate that he should fill those big shoes.

Thankfully, French is an excellent blues singer in his own right, taking his cue from Van Vliet in much the same way as Van Vliet did from Howlin’ Wolf. Whilst he hasn’t got quite the same range, the growl is as hearty as you need to capture the essence of what watching Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band live must have been all about.

I was four years old when Beefheart retired and as such relish any opportunity to witness what is as close to the real thing as you could get. Okay so previous ‘Magic Band’ tours have seen a full complement of former colleagues in the Beefheart line-ups (Gary Lucas and Robert Williams no longer being involved), and are now augmented by drummer Craig Bunch and guitarist Erik Klerks, the latter of which was just one when the last Beefheart album was released, but with French, Boston and Denny ‘Feelers Rebo’ Whalley still in place, ‘experienced’ hands still remain on the tiller.

John French reported two years ago that there would be no further Magic Band tours as it was just too complicated to generate sufficient interest from promoters. However, a calling to play at another All Tomorrow’s Parties event has meant a return to touring action. However, with the prospect that the curtain may come down again at any point, I was determined to make the most of this seven date tour, arranging to attend four.

One thing you notice when witnessing the same set four times in eight days is that the highlights will not always be the same. In London, When It Blows It Stacks was of most significance as it marked the point the band settled into their rhythm. Prior to that, for the first twenty minutes, they looked very much like a band who hadn’t played on stage together for a good couple of years, and were undergoing some first night nerves. After that hurdle was overcome however, we were treated to nigh on a further two hours of Beefheart music played beautifully.

The roar after Big Eyed Beans From Venus closed the set, well after curfew, was testament to the excitement with which this return to the stage was being met. Naughty boys that they are though, as French attempted to meet the demands for an encore with an un-set-listed version of the a capella piece Orange Claw Hammer, the plug was pulled on the amplification. Does what is essentially a spoken word piece actually count as breaking the terms of the live music license?

It was over to Ireland for the second date of the tour, and here Clear Spot was raising its head above the parapet, whilst it was also becoming clear that while the start of the set was now coming out with requisite confidence, Steal Softly Through Snow might not be the most effective set opener, even if it does set up some of the more intricate playing that we can come to expect later on.

Whilst tunes like Click Clack are in the set for fans of the bluesier end of the material (French: “they say you’re not a blues band unless you got a train song”), there is also Hair Pie and Smithsonian Institute Blues for those keener on the jagged psychedelia side. Midway through the set, during a winding coda to Kandy Korn, French takes over the drum-stool for an instrumental set. Rather than being half an hour for the musos, for me this is one of the most exciting parts. After all, if you’ve paid, partly, to see ‘Drumbo’, Captain Beefheart’s ‘senior’ drummer, you want to see him, well, drum. In the midst of this is a solo which might be viewed as indulgent but actually fits perfectly between On Tomorrow and Alice In Blunderland. French’s drum stool slot ends with My Human Gets Me Blues which in combination with the subsequent Suction Prints would probably be my favourite part of the set, taken over all four nights. Two pieces which fly off in odd directions and go atonal to a certain degree and yet make the feet twitch. Who says you can’t dance to Beefheart? This is the finest dance music ever made.

The Magic Band @ Nottingham Rescue Rooms

In Nottingham, the band added Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning to the set to pay tribute to Wolf’s guitarist Hubert Sumlin, who had died earlier that week; their anecdotes about meeting him touchingly showing that, at heart, they were as much giddy fanboys as those of us turned out to watch them.

On the final night of the tour, in Leeds, French admitted to pulling on the glottal reserves after a heavy personal workload on stage over the course of the jaunt, but the on stage energy did not lapse. Taking place in a working mens club style venue with Christmas decorations obliterating the ceiling, and festive trees upon the stage, the atmosphere took on an added sense of celebration. Here, Nowadays A Woman’s Gotta Hit A Man took on highlight duties, possibly helped by the fact that more ladies were evidence in the audience, and indeed down the front in Drumbo’s eyeline, than at any other show.

Further quality moments were ones we’ve come to expect from a Magic Band set: Floppy Boot Stomp heaving into view like a Fiat Punto through a front room window; Circumstances taking cheeky liberties with two false endings but also taking no prisoners with the force of the inhale/exhale harmonica; Electricity which isn’t hurried, allowed to ebb and pulse tantrically, elongated as though it is suddenly a new age club anthem, and finally Big Eyed Beans From Venus where Denny Whalley’s lunar note floats with a similar sense of forthcoming ‘release’.

So, was it worth seeing them so often in the space of just over a week? Without doubt, as Beefheartian sounds are always ones which reward repeated listening, and the Magic Band perform that material with a real gusto, making it come alive in a way that records can only suggest.

December 11, 2011 Posted by | new reviews | | 1 Comment