My final gig of the year on Saturday night - White Lies in the shed at Wembley Arena. First shock was that I drove there and it only took 1hr 10 minutes from the depths of Essex, I was prepared to be parked on the North Circular in Christmas traffic!
First up on stage was The Chevin: I loved them, very similar to Boxer Rebellion’s first album. Upbeat and with a good on stage presence, definitely a good live band, their opening song lasted about 10 minutes and I never tired of it. Their debut EP is here.
Duke Spirit: loud and in your face with a dynamic lead singer. this band have been around far longer then White Lies, I guess will less hit songs, I wonder if that plays on a band’s mind?
Its been a long summer...and Fall and now winter is approaching so when a promoter friend invited me to join him and some friends at his last big show of the year, the timing was perfect.
Having been a fan of the Wye Oak cd "Civilian" for some time, and having missed the band the last two times they appeared in Toronto, I knew I had to get to this show early enough to see how they would do. The venue, our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs arena, the Air Canada Center, would not be your first choice to witness this two piece but it turns out that with the strength of Jenn Wasner's voice and the power of this indie/folk/noise pop band, you need not be concerned. The songs i loved so much from the new cd sound even better live, even here! As their set progressed....I could see Wye Oak's "Civilian" moving higher in my top tens. My only regret is that I had not seen them the last two times they were here...but will be planning to see them again soon!
Neko Case is nice enough to visit us in Toronto often. She bounces onto the stage with her full band, including Calexico's John Covertino on drums, as comfortable and alluring as she has ever been. Her powerful voice, brilliant band, and wit displayed in conversations between her and her muse, Kelly...filled the arena setting with a perfect set. Hre set consisted of plenty of classics to keep everyone happy but also reminded everyone that she had not produced a solo album since 2009. Those concerns drifted away with the addition on two new songs that sounded incredible as well as a gorgeous cover of The Awkward Stage's "We Dreamt of Houses" all of which I hope make the new cut for the new cd as all the new "songs are splendid!.
Tom Ravenscroft’s Christmas Party – Corsica Studios, London
A trip to the wilds of south London brings us to Corsica Studios. Built under the railway arches and decorated (I use the term loosely) in best shabby chic fashion, the venue holds about 450 people, with 2 rooms for performances and one reasonably-priced bar.
Walking inside I’m immediately transported back to SXSW earlier this year – the place has exactly the same feel as some of the smaller venues you get in Austin, with a buzzy atmosphere and people moving from stage to stage to see the acts. Even the smoking terrace outside (i.e. the backyard) was like something you’d find on Red River or 6th Street.
The line-up was put together by Tom Ravenscroft to feature some of his favourite artists from his BBC 6music show (essential listening for me – if you’ve missed it so far catch it on Friday nights 9-12pm). The smaller of the two rooms hosted the electronic / dance acts, starting off with a great set by NaÃ¯ve Machine. This duo played some tracks of their ‘Robot Ramification’ EP, and some stuff I didn’t know, through possibly the loudest, most vibrating bass speakers I’ve ever stood in front of. Young and talented, they’ll be one to watch in 2012. Next in room 2 was Kutmah (an interesting character, read his bio here: I don’t know if he was playing his own stuff, other people’s, or a mixture of both, but whatever it was, it was really good.
We missed Paul White as we were in the other room, but we did catch some of Slugabed’s set, which inspired the most dancing of the evening – and not just from us!
First up in the main room were Maria & the Mirrors – a trio featuring 2 women, and a bloke banging away at the drums in what appeared to be a Captain Caveman outfit. Even to my eclectic ears they were a bit of racket, but things improved when Sea Pinks arrived. Another trio, with the frontman sporting a fetching Where’s Wally jumper (was it actually fancy dress and nobody told us?) they played spiky, jangly indie guitar music.
Next up were Peter and Kerry, the highlight of the evening. Their mixture of interesting melodies and caustic lyrics really work well, especially when the pair are singing together. My favourite track of theirs, ‘Knees’, sounded even better live than on record, but overall the whole set was full of highs and no lows. They’re currently working on an album which will be a must-have when it’s released next year. Sadly we had to leave before the end of Two Wounded Birds, but we really enjoyed what we heard of their set – a bit like ‘50s surf city songs mixed with The Vaccines.
Apparently Tom is planning more of these nights next year – if they’re as good as this (and as good value – a fiver for 8 acts) then I recommend you try one out.
A chilly damp Tuesdaynight at the end ofNovember does not usually see us jumping for joy at the prospect of heading out into the night but, The Lovely Eggs are err, just lovely and it’s another excellent night from the local promoters, Crushing Death and Grief.A bit more…poppy perhaps than their most recent shows, but still experimental and high quality.
Violet Woods started, just their second show – mind, their first was a support in front of hundreds of people. Made up of members of ace local bands Fuzzy Lights, Puncture Repair Kit and Bouvier, with Xavier from Fuzzy Lights fronting and playing superb psychedelic guitar over some powerful songs.
Anguish Sandwich are from Northampton, with shrill jangling simple tales of mice and the Bermuda Triangle. Good putdowns of the noisy heckler who questioned the reality of the singer’s hair (the drummer said he gets that all the time).
The Lovely Eggs have a short 45 minute headline spot but, put their all into it. Hailing from Lancaster in Lancashire, they have a great sense of humour a a real desire to perform. An armoury of power quirky pop songs delivered with vocals, guitar and drums are gratefully received by the smiling crowd.
I can safely say that The lovely Eggs (who I first discovered via a U.S. NPR SXSW podcast) are a unique band with a bright future ahead, hopefully.
Not sure if it is me but, are headlining bands coming on later at London shows at the moment?
Lanterns On The Lake, were on stage at 9.50pm last night following, a set from The Pattern Theory. The latter being a 3 piece, all in bright shiny gold jackets, playing a mix of post rock, prog rock and jazz for forty five minutes.
Lanterns On The Lake are a sexet from Newcastle, led by Megan Hickeyon vocals and guitar. and they all just about managed to fit on the tiny Lexington stage. The band have a fine album and a couple of eps to their recorded credit so far and the Lexington crowd on this Tuesday night, get over the hours’ worth of those records.
Lanterns on The Lake who, although looking a bit tried, delivered an uplifting set. Louder and rawer than on record the show was short but superb and had me thinking, Twelve months down the road, headlining, say, The Koko or Shepherds Bush Empire, with lights and cinematic backdrops, they will be a sight and sound to behold. Just catch them now whilst you still can in the smaller venues!
Jonathan Wilson – Hoxton Square Bar and Restaurant (Monday 21 November 2011)
You may never have heard of Jonathan Wilson. But a lot of the bands you listen to have heard of him. In fact many of them know him very well. His CV, if he had one, would sound like a Who’s Who of American singer-songwriters and folk musicians. He’s performed with and/or produced a huge range of musicians including J Tillman of Fleet Foxes, Roy Harper, Crosby Stills and Nash and Jackson Browne. Most recently he supported Wilco on their European tour, and he is credited with revitalising the LaurelCanyon scene along with many of his musician friends.
Which all in all makes it quite extraordinary to see him play his own album – Gentle Spirit – in a tiny room in Hoxton with barely 100 people. Someone with his credentials, you think, might be used to greater things, but there was no sign of anything but pleasure as he played a ninety minute set to a receptive audience.
Gentle Spirit has been described by Kitty Empire in the Observer as 'like getting a free reflexology treatment and a small dose of diazepam combined'. It is certainly relaxing, with repetitive lyrics, lengthy guitar solos, and a summery haze that forces you to slow down, whatever you might be doing.
Live, however, the music is far from sleepy. With an extra guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and a keyboardist joining Jonathan Wilson on the tiny stage, the sound is strong and loud. With the heat of the small room, and the unique sound of a Mellotron accompanying many tracks, I was transported to an imaginary sweaty beachside bar in early 70’s California. I could almost feel the sand between my toes as the band sauntered through tracks like ‘Can We Really Party Today’? and title track ‘Gentle Spirit’.
It was a wonderful night, only slightly tainted by what to me seemed like the stringing out of every song with over-enthusiastic guitar playing. But that was a small price to pay for such an evocative and enjoyable performance.
Jonathan Wilson will return to London on January 31st 2012 when he plays the Scala. If you need warming up in the midst of a cold midwinter, I can think of no better way.
Let me take you to two concerts by the same artist, playing the same album, thirty five years apart.
Peter Frampton: Frampton Comes Alive
Wembley Empire Pool – Saturday 23 October 1976
Cambridge Corn Exchange – Saturday 12 November 2011
Well what can I remember of that night back in 1976. Peter Frampton was at the height of his worldwide fame. Almost every home in the western world that loved rock music and owned a record deck, would have had a copy of ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ in their collection.
Wembley Empire Pool (now Arena) was packed (imagine the scene with the Artic Monkeys playing the same venue today). More long hair in the place in those days, sweet smoke (that’s not dry ice) filled the place. Support was keyboard maestro Garry Wright ex- Spooky Tooth, who had a popular album out at the time called Dream Weaver but Frampton got all the God like treatment. A full on 70’s Rock Show and a band in their prime. Ticket price £2.40 (yes, Two Pounds and Forty Pence).
Fast forward Thirty Five years, No support this time but a three hour show none the less. Peter has bass player Stanley Sheldon in the band who would have been at that Wembley show as well. Peter’s long blonde curls have gone, receding hairline and turning grey like most of the (this time around, seated) audience from that era, he still plays a mean guitar.
The almost two hours Frampton Comes Alive section of the shows flashes by like a time machine, with some great video backdrops from that 70’s peak. The 2011 band gels extremely well, Adam Lester on guitar is a great foil for Mr Frampton and the album is enthusiastically reproduced. A great two hours!
The second set is a bit patchy, but there is a Humble Pie highlight, a decent cover of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun and some great musicianship throughout and, a few years on, its £27.50 for the ticket.
Cate le Bon kicks off proceeding tonight. a lovely lady, great voice, great songs and a second album surely just around the corner??? Purely on eclectic guitar with an attentive audience, this was a very nice opening set.
St.Vincent, with band (and added Cate le Bon) were visually spectacular and engagingly original from the off, (being part of part of Sufjan Stevens' touring band, certainly has had an influence) with Annie able to draw your attention like a magnet.
A well drilled and extremely tight musical unit delivers a seventeen song set drawn across Annie’s three albums to date. Electric energy abounds on stage. You get the impression that Annie certainly seeks perfection from those around her (even the sound guy!) but sadly the energy is not replicated by an almost reverential seated audience, who I guess at the end of the day, are just awe struck.
Mark Stewart popped up to sing along to the Pop Group’s ‘ She Is Beyond Good and Evil’ which left Annie seemingly awe struck herself and tempted to veer left and play the rest of the Y album!
This was a tremendous show and demonstrated yet again what a unique talent Annie Clark is.
3.Save Me From What I Want
4.Actor Out of Work
5.Chloe in the Afternoon
8.Just The Same But Brand New
12.She Is Beyond Good and Evil ( Mark Stewart Pop Group)
A set lasting two hours and 15 minutes, not bad for a band who have been around in various guises, for over 40 years.Yes provided good coverage of what the crowd wanted to hear, Yours is No Disgrace, And You And I , Roundabout, Wondrous Stories, Starship Trooper were all there, as was the nucleus of the band.
Central focus a wiry Steve Howe, as technical and spectacular on guitar as ever .Chris Squire seems to morph more into Gene Simmons each time I see him. A giant of a man, he stomps and commands the stage with various bass guitars (one upright) churning out a menacing vibe. That’s an idea let’s swap Chris and Gene around ! Alan White, solid if a little stilted is a powerhouse. Time marches on for all of us though I guess.
This was the third night of celebrations for the 15th birthday celebrations of the Fortuna pop record label. Boss of said label ‘Sean’ was the subject of much adulation all night long.
The Ladybug Transistor formed in the mid1990s in Brooklyn. I only discovered the band this year on the launch of their latest album, Clutching Stems. A quite remarkable band, this year’s LP was their sixth! Not a million miles away from the National in sound, but more with a Neil Hannon vocal style and a Belle & Sebastian stage presence I guess. A very nice set, even when they get the said ‘Sean’ onstage for the last song, that he is more than reluctant to sing or play guitar too. Just excellent though to see the band live and hopefully, more next year!!!??
Tender Trap are led by Amelia Fletcher. The five strong band are a bouncy happy smiley indie band aith a great pop spiritso you can forgive some of the odd missed notes and vocals sequence as they jump around the stage. Songs come from the first album Dansette, Dansette plus a new song from the record the band are now recording, which should be out in time for them to conquer the UK festival afternoons next summer .
Darren Hayman(ex Hefner) & The Secondary Modern are a full band tonight (including Allo Darlin’s bass player) and are in prime form. Half a dozen songs played with gusto, banter in freefall between songs it’s a great set of songs from the Essex landscape.
On the Merchandise stand there is a 6 track 10" EP from Darren in a hand screen printed sleeve, which, comes with digital download code and Darren's choice of loose leaf lapsang souchong (I could not make up my mind what the package contained when I got home late last night, so had to look it up) and a recipe for Julia's Christmas Cake. Fika Recordings are here where you can find Christmas in Hayworth.
Allo Darlin' are the epitome of a good night out, bright shiny indie things they had the audience’s toes tapping and hips swaying within minutes of the opening song. Like Tender Trap a second album is underway and with Darren Hayman’s violin player tagging along, he makes it a collaborative night.
Australian singer Elizabeth Morris leads the band with her ukulele ,occasionalelectric guitar and fabulous voice and personality. This band will be around for a long while to come.
All this for £11.50 a ticket. just wonderful and happy Birthday Fortuna Pop!
The thought of heading across to Portsmouth on a Sunday evening is never an exciting one, but the prospect of seeing one of our favourite bands in a small venue made this a must-see gig.
It was the first night of a 16 night tour so the down n dirty surroundings of 'The Wedge' provided a great launch pad and certainly lead us to keep an open mind on what to expect.
Support was Tanya Auclair, songstress hailing from 'West London via Canada and Rwanda' with loads of cleverly used loops using drumsticks, guitar and vocals. She did a 25 minute set; sadly the chatter level grew as her set progressed.
Guillemots took to the stage to a classical music backdrop and launched into Kriss Kross, opening number from their Red album. This is an edgy number and set the tone for much of the set - ie a very together band, individually highly accomplished, delivering a superb show.