One half of electro duo F*** Buttons, Benjamin John Power’s ‘job on the side’ is Blanck Mass. A reasonable sized crowd, ‘early doors’ in a freezing Academy, saw Mr Power deliver an ambient delight of layered sounds that were at times delicate and, at others, thunderously loud. The light show enhanced the set as the only other onstage activity was Benjamin crouched behind his lap top and effect pedals, swigging on his beer. 


Newcastle’s own Lanterns on the Lake had an even more respectable crowd and played a superb set. Perfectly suited to a larger stage with their cinematic songs, they stormed through a 30 minute set. Also nice to see guitarist Paul Gregory in full flow in front of an amp covered with the Flag of Texas. Memories of SXSW came flooding back.


Having only seen Explosions In The Sky at festivals before, I was looking forward to experiencing the indoor power of the band. As they took the stage at 9.30pm the venue, now pretty much full, at last held some heat. The band said they were amazed that their music can fill this particular venue, and thanked everyone for coming. They graciously thanked Blanck Mass and Lanterns On The Lake. Done with the niceties, they reminded the audience, “We are Explosions In The Sky from, Texas, U.S.A” and proceeded to shake the walls of this venerable venue for the next 90 minutes without another word.


Being up close you can feel the gentle moments and see the intricacies of the music (I even spotted a tambourine a couple of times) as well as feeling the barrage of sound that they unleash. Expanded to a five piece for the live show, we got a good selection from the entire band’s career and a very satisfying set. Ninety minutes is just not enough though, so perhaps next tour we could do without the support (even though they were both excellent tonight) and have a three hour set…if our ears can handle it.




Postcard From 1952  (Take Care, Take Care, Take Care) 

Catastrophe and the Cure  (All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone) 

The Only Moment We Were Alone   (The Earth is not a Cold Dead place ) 

Be Comfortable, Creature  (Take Care, Take Care, Take Care)

Greet Death  (Those Who tell the Truth)

Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean  (The Earth is not a cold dead place )

Let Me Back In   (Take Care, Take Care, Take Care)

The Birth and Death of the Day   (Reclaiming the Blade Soundtrack)

The Moon Is Down  (Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever  


Please let us know your thoughts if you were there, via our Message Boards



BROOKLYN Mexican Summer Indie ‘REAL ESTATE’ @ 11:45pm with ‘The Babies’ @ 10:30pm  - The shows are coming fast and furious and its time to check off another off the list!

On a cold and snowy night in Toronto, the Babies and Real Estate play Lee's Palace in Toronto, a sold out show that is pretty much a must see as Real Estate have yet to confirm their appearance at SXSW.

Babies are the side project of Cassie Ramone (of Vivian Girls) and Woods bassist Kevin Morby. They have this Melodies/Anti-Melodies style similar to Thurston and Kim of Sonic Youth. As a sweet melodies fan, this meant that for about 25% of their show, I would simply appreciate the musicianship. but for 75% of the show, the melodies and sonic/no wave sound really came through to draw me in. 


These guys are a really solid band and a great way to warm up for Real Estate. A lot of Vivian Girls shirts in the crowd so that would explain why the crowd are so responsive to the band and they put on a great show.

Real Estate had toured fairly recently as openers for Kurt Vile but this was their show and there was very little they could do that was wrong with this crowd. Their polyester shirts and youthful smiles greet the sold out crowd with some beautiful guitar picking and some stunning melodies...these guys work really well together.
For fans of their self titled debut, they were rewarded with a couple of songs from there but for most, they were waiting for songs from "Days”. Another top of the year album for me!   


Lead guitarist/Singer Martin Courtney is a very talented lead and he does command attention though it’s very subtle! With a lo-fi style and a whispering voice. its easy to spend the whole show watching him but the whole band is fun to watch. They are true to the sound on their album and its clear the crowd have their favourite songs.   


About mid way through the set they jump into a great version of "Its Real" which really sparks a response from the sold out crowd and there is no letting up with classic tracks like "Out of Tune" and "Municipality". It’s only now that singer Martin smiles and he can tell there will be very few leaving the show disappointed. If you like a show with lots of noise and in your face singing, this is not one for you but if you enjoy their sound on their releases, the live shows adds to that a new element that makes the trip out on this snowy cold night even more worthwhile.    




Friday night seems to be the night for gigs so far in 2012. Last Friday, it was down to the local Portland Arms (Winter beer festival next weekend 28-30 Jan) for a short of indoor indietracks festival. Three bands started off with an ever improving Model Village, who, from being a bit too twee a year ago (could have been an off night), really sounded great on Friday, delivering some really nice songs in a Rock/Americana type of way.  

Tiger Cats where the high light of the evening. This is a sparking band full of fab tunes, in a Vampire Weekend, Modest Mouse vibe. Lead singer Duncan (in bare feet) has a David Byrne type voice so the songs are sharp clean and hip swaying.  Keep an eye on this lot. 


Standard Fare are on the more the serious (tune wise) side, the songs were darker and the delivery more grungier from this 3 piece. The audience more stood and listened rather than, jigged around. The first gig for the band in a while and I think in a few places that showed. Certainly though, the potential is there, to be a really interesting band. A great show for a fiver!


 First gig of the year brings us to what is becoming one of our most regular and favorite gig venues in London - The Lexington on Pentonville Road. With its well stocked bar (40 different types of bourbon, Camden Pale Ale on tap) and decent food you could happily spend all evening downstairs, however we were there for the music. So after a few rounds the seven of us (it had turned into a bit of a gathering) moved upstairs for the gig (which was an extremely reasonably priced £6 per ticket). 

Woman's Hour were up first - a four piece with a female singer, two guitars and a bass - with no drummer they used a drum machine for their beats. Having heard nothing of the beforehand I have to say that they were pretty excellent - certainly one of the best supports I've seen for a while. Sounding quite a bit like The XX, but also with hints of The Cocteau Twins , they easily held our attention throughout their set - definitely a band you should check out. 

For Trailer Trash Tracys this was an album launch gig, as their debut release 'Ester' came out on Monday. Another four piece also with a female vocalist, they did however, have a real drummer, who at times also used electronics. 

The songs from the album came over really strongly live, especially 'Wish You Were Red' and 'Candy Girl', although the set did lose a bit of momentum as it went on. I thought they'd finished without playing one of my favorites, but they quickly returned to play what was apparently their first ever encore, a great version of 'Dies in 55'. 

Overall a really good night out, and I'm sure you'll hear more about both of these bands as 2012 gets older. 


Trailer Trash Tracys 

Womans Hour


My first gig of the year and, in one of my favourite intimate venues. The Junction 2 in Cambridge is a delightfully small, acoustically fine theatre and just ideal for tonight’s soundscape of a concert.

Fuzzy Lights actually hail from Cambridge itself but, should be a lot better known on the UK music scene. The band really grew into their set last night and. seem increasingly confident every time I see them. With a catalogue of fine songs that as the set progresses, just seep into the mind as you find yourself becoming more and more engrossed.

The band hope to record a new album this year in the meantime, their fine debut album Twin Feathers released in 2010 is still available as is more music on their Bandcamp site. The band’s website is here .


BSP are taking a break from their usual incessant touring schedule for the first half of 2012 but are hosting a monthly club night in Brighton under the title 'Krankenhaus', billed as 'Nocturnal music and arts for all sexes and ethnic profiles'. 

A prompt 8.20 start saw BSP perform one of their increasingly renowned acoustic sets.  In truth 'acoustic' isn't quite the correct description as the band were fully 'plugged in' but the six song set comprised a selection of laid back numbers.  Delivering their songs in this style showcases this band in a different way and emphasises the craft in their song writing and musicianship, an aspect that is easily and frequently overlooked as commentary so often focuses on the anarchic nature of their live performances.

Y Niwi sadly had to cancel so local band Savages played a support set. This was their first ever gig as a band though it was clear these four girls were no newcomers to the stage. With classic guitar, bass, drums and vocal line-up the band played some rockin tunes and the fronting lady certainly could sing. 

Next up was Jock Scott, rapidly becoming a fixture at BSP events.  Jock's lyrical and 'tongue-in-cheek angst' poetry was tonight accompanied by three of the band on drum, guitar and keys providing an entertaining additional dimension for this humorous interlude.

The Haunt is not a big venue, so with little option than to wander to the well-stocked merch table, the crowd remained largely packed into the main auditorium so there was a real feeling of camaraderie and we certainly renewed acquaintance with a number of people we'd only hitherto met at BSP events. Everyone was certainly up for it.  

Consequently the main BSP set was a thoroughly enjoyable canter through the Kranknhaus EP and the Do You Like Rock Music album, albeit not played in order. With the band reverting to their traditional full-on style any newcomers that happened to be there (not sure there were many) were witnessing the band in their pomp.  

A note on the bar arrangements -  Having supped tins of Stella on the way to the gig a tin of Orangeboom was not a great initial choice so we were forced to move on to highly- priced bottles of Calsberg Export. On the plus side the hour immediately after the band left the stage was Happy Hour so the vodka flowed, easing us into the club night phase that saw BSP guitarist Noble attempting manfully to organise a drunken crowd in a mass ping-pong game. Completed Rallys: 1/10, Noble's efforts: 10/10, Bizarre Fun: 10/10.  

Each of the ensuing five nights (Feb to June) promise to comprise different sets.  Having today just realised I have 94 BSP songs on my i-pod my mouth is watering already!


Future dates and tickets here

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?

They sure do rock though!   

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 Naïve 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 Tuesday  night at the end of  November 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.


Kevin Hand & Pete








New Album

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 Hickey on 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 Laurel Canyon 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.


Louise Neilan


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