|The Yeah Yeah Yeahs / Whirlwind Heat (London Monarch)|
A late night flurry trying to order tickets for this semi secret gig bore fruit to see the "unknown" Rabbit Rabbit Rabbits at the Camden Monarch Barfly. This of course is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' last minute warm up for their Forum show on the Saturday. And those lucky enough be in attendance were to get far more out of the night than those will at the dirgesome cavern of the former T&C club.
The late arrangements meant this was the second gig of the night at the Barfly and the support, NME touted 3 piece Whirlwind Heat from Michigan didn't come on until gone 11. Resplendent in their designer Terry Richardson band T shirts the "Wind" singer was extravagantly OTT. Throwing himself around like The Vines Craig Nicholls in between twiddling with his Moog and occasionally touching on a Mark Smith vocal drawl.. The rest of the band, comprising bass and drums, were thudded out enthusiastically. All in all entertaining but samey. They proudly announce they don't play choruses and all their song names are colours. There are no tunes as such in any of their songs. Call it manic punk jazz if you like. Err Nice!
Come midnight we notice disco perve Har Mar Superstar loitering dubiously at the front, he bounces onto the stage to announce the YYYs. Baddielish drummer Brian Chase and Nick "Cave" Zinner with usual inside out T shirt stroll on stage. Karen O sidles on behind them in a fetching multicoloured printed top, drainpipe jeans and skull buckle boots for those Vogue fashionistas out there. They launch into the set with the atmospherically intro-ed Machine then drive on into Man. This is followed by a new, typically hard hitting song then Date With a Night, Kiss Kiss and Shake It. Once warmed up the middle section of the performance is outstanding. The classic Pin is performed by Karen O with typical vigour then seamlessly slipping into the brilliant Rich, Art Star carries on into an uplifting KO visceral caterwaul with echoes of Siouxsie..
Graveyard has a Zepplinesque feel cut with rockabillly interludes. The incomparable Bang follows in a similar vein. Miles Away soars into a superb pinnacle of the performance which has the audience feverishly rutting and Har Mar frotting badly. Maps throbs in and evolves into probably their most heady wall of noise of the evening/morning. Blow Hard is a bluesy rock builder, penultimately Our Time and finally Tick gives us a punky striped gash of sound.
A top range performance by the peerless YYYs with Karen*O on top convulsive form, picking her nose and regularly spewing beer over the congregation. Catch them while you in can in a small venue. Their raw, tight thrilling set is best experienced from close quarters.
The set list - Machine, Man, "New Song" , Date with a Night, Kiss Kiss, Shake It, Pin, Rich, Art Star, Graveyard, Bang, Miles Away Maps, Blow Hard, Out Time, Tick.
More brilliant exclusive pix from the gig can be found here
|Jet / Mower (ULU, London)|
Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands because it was the land that evolution forgot. He would have love Jet. Jet-land is a place where, for millennia, only AC/DCs Highway to Hell and The Stones Goats Head Soup have been allowed to breed and the crown of creation is now manifest in these four charmless retro-rockers. Lyrical and musical clichés are piled on top of each other in an agricultural display of crude rock, more suitable to some outback village dancehall. They come on to Rod and The Faces and we dont progress much beyond the 70s. They even have clap-along songs!
Songs from the Dirty Sweet EP are scattered throughout the set. None of them register apart from Take It or Leave It which is a frenetic frot-rocker and their closing cover of Thats Alright Mama is competent. But The D4 do this so much better and with more style. The unprecedented mid-set queues for the gents and the inter-urinal banter (another first) showed that most people felt let down (again) by the NMEs hype. Ever been had?
Earlier, Mower showed why some British pop needs a strong health warning. Half the set is pompous heavy rock, while the remainder takes a more Kinks-like, song-oriented approach. The latter is better though still spoilt by the preposterous rock shapes thrown by the gawky singer about as rocking as William Hague in a baseball cap. When there are innovative, exciting bands like The Futureheads around, the only question for Mower is: why?
|Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Hammersmith Apollo)|
Nick Cave is such a fixture nowadays that you sometimes wonder what motivates him to keep on turning out and you to keep on turning up. Is it that special blend of loyalty, hope and obsession that keeps me going to see football, even through the dark days that were David Platt's reign at Forest? Well, Sunday night in Hammersmith certainly reminded me of sneaking into the home seats at Spurs - large chunks of the crowd turned up late, surprised by the 8:30 kick off, spent large chunks of their time blocking your view by going to the loo and then left early before the second encore. We even had one of the key players missing - Blixa Bargeld having departed the Bad Seeds and potentially taking with him that edge amongst the supremely skilled musicians that make up the Bad Seeds. But the football metaphor ends there (thank fuck for that - Ed) as Cave went on to prove his point.
Everything felt new. The opener, Wonderful Life, was slick in the best sense of the word, though its crescendos were obscured by the aforementioned latecomers. Red Right Hand was an object lesson in controlled menace, with Warren Ellis justifying his high reputation on the violin for once. Even when delving far into the back catalogue with the slinking Tupelo, Cave brought a new, carefully sung approach to songs. And he was not afraid to reinvent the reinvented, taking the originally warm ballad of West Country Girl from its latter version as a brutal staccatto blast of self hatred to tonight's demented, huge piece of grandiloquent rock. But then disaster nearly struck. A rather worse for wear Chris Bailey, not entirely fresh from his more trad-rocking support set, joined the Seeds on stage for an iffy rendition of the already overly straightforward Bring it On. This seemed to knock them out of their stride, with relatively shambolic renditions of Henry Lee and Alice . Only Cave retiring behind the piano got them back on track - leading to a remarkable version of the now bona fide classic Mercy Seat as a piano ballad builidng to a literally spine-chilling climax. After the impressively spare and doomy Christina the Astonishing, another shift. Suddenly the slickness went by the way and the sort of vicious, spontaneous energy that Cave specifically tried to recapture on Nocturama came to the fore. Ancient genius in the form of From Her to Eternity and the Birthday Party's Wild World were unleashed, snarling and culminating in the sort of barely controlled explosion of sound that has become the Bad Seeds' trademark.
The encores, Johnny Cash's introspective the Singer apart, were vast swaggering pieces of rock n roll - no sensitive piano-based balladry here. Maybe it was people running for the tube or maybe it was the colour supplement element of the crowd fleeing in panic to preserve their more delicate sensibilities and hearing, but the place started to empty. Only two-thirds remained to hear the Ship Song transformed into a full-blooded band piece. Nick Cave keeps going because a performer is what he is, not what he does. And we keep going because he's so fucking good at it. He shoots, he scores!
|The Panthers (Brighton Freebutt)|
On the last date of their British tour, this Brooklyn NY five-piece openly steal from the best, looting the MC5 and their "White Panther" movement for their name, sound, and stance, so it would be easy to think of them as a kind of alternative Bjorn Again. What makes them different is that they're just so damn good, a band clearly in love with playing live, each song an explosion of energy and electricity that gives power to their plaigarism and makes me certain that when they next come to the UK I'll be struggling to see them miles away on a giant stage.
Unlike most Stooges/MC5 influenced bands the Panthers are cocksure enough to do that low, menacing, last-of-the-V8s rumble before the full-throttle crashing-through-caravans carnage. Wandering round the tiny Freebutt venue singer Jayson Greene lets the wattage build until the guitars ambush you like a candy glass bottle to the back of the head and the drummer lets loose bursts like revolutionary gunfire. This band exudes... "cool" is the wrong word, because it sounds effortless and fake, but the Panthers are shot through with something assured and inspirational. I've got to admit, though, for all the band's proclaimed politics I barely discerned a word of the lyrics, getting lost in the guttural howl and white noise of a perfect rock and roll gig. So what? You may not get the number of the car that ran you down, but you sure know it hit you.
|Adam Green (London Spitz)|
Adam who? Oh you know, the bloke in the Robin Hood costume whos one half of New York punky folkers, The Moldy Peaches. So, an evening of comic stream of consciousness lyrics, frequently bordering on the filthier side of disgusting, and a scratchy acoustic guitar for backing, right? Well, only partly so.
If people have come purely on the basis of his or the Moldys eponymous first albums, then theyre in for a shock. Though only released late last year, Adams record was already over two years old and hes made some changes to his set-up. Okay, so having a band of bass and drums behind him for the first time this tour is hardly earth shattering, but who are those four guys in tuxedos who just walked onstage? Unbeknownst to most, his soon-released sophomore album, Friends Of Mine features a string quartet. On every track!
The opening three tracks of the set are also the opening three on the record. Bluebirds and Hard To Be A Girl give the crowd a taster of what to expect but its forthcoming single Jessica that really wins over the doubting hearts. Adams voice is clearly a more striking weapon than ever before and now he has more musical ammunition to back it up. The title track of the album opens with an almost Spector-esque sixties violin swing and must surely follow as a single, and No Legs shows he hasnt lost the ability to be wilfully obscene amongst the more mature song-writing elsewhere.
His old material is also suitably embellished with its smart new stylings. Computer Show and Her Father And Her are great but still cant hold a torch to Dance With Me which sounds all the world like a hit single, though sadly it was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the pre-string Adam. Only once does he return to his roots of battering a solo acoustic guitar; to play a wonderful, word-perfect rendition of The Libertines What A Waster as a request. So we got something old, something distinctly new, something borrowed and something very blue. A marriage made in heaven.
|80s Matchbox B-line Disaster / Queen Adreena / Engerica (Electric Ballroom, London)|
Whats in a name? Engerica doesnt exactly trip off the tongue. It makes you think of energetic and generic, both of which could apply to this Essex trio. Theyre competent enough, enthusiastic enough, but with a punky metal blend of heavier Smashing Pumpkins, and wodges of Placebo, they have yet to find a distinctive voice. That said, Misery Guts was a highlight, and the fantastic Crooked Sex (featured on Fierce Pandas Squirrel EP) shows a definite promise that the voice is on its way.
Ex-Daisy Chainsaw singer Katie Jane Garside and guitarist Crispin Grey are reunited in the visceral, shambolic, horror art-rock Queen Adreena. Garside is a combination of Bjork, Kate Bush, Courtney Love and a howling banshee. By turns elfin waif and deranged demon, she is not of this earth, but a hologram projected from Planet Wasted, spending much of the set standing on or draped over a chair, while the turbulent music goes on around her. Pretty Polly, Pretty Like Drugs; its stark, claustrophobic and brutal, ending with a frenetic Razorblade Sky.
Its time to ditch that pint of lager and grab a bottle of moonshine; Brighton Beasts The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster are back with breakneck speed Cramps meets early Damned psychobilly punk. Demented frontman Guy McNight sounds like Vic Reeves club singer doing Elvis while the guitar onslaught, rumbling bass and tub-thumping drums creates an unholy primal racket. Morning Has Broken, Psychosis Safari and that wonderful, erm, homage to mums Celebrate Your Mother, are belted out by McNight who whacks himself on the head with his mic and promises everyone a free McDonalds (reneged on). If Swamp Thing had a punk band, this would be it.
|Redlands Palamino Co (Borderline, London)|
As a young, emerging band, its one thing to make your debut as headliners. All the additional stress of knowing that people have most likely paid to see you, and not someone else, and the pressure to perform accordingly. Its quite another thing, therefore, to go and choose Londons spiritual home of Americana, the Borderline, to make your bow. So could the capitals brightest alt-country prospects pull it off?
Well, it might have seemed as unlikely as finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but from the moment they break into Temptation, its never in doubt. The packed crowd (no mean feat in itself as no-one has that many mates) may have been disappointed by the no-show of The Broken Family Band and drowned out an unfortunate Virgil Shaw with chatter but theyre soon rapt. Cold and Blue and Doin It For The Country showcase the twin vocal talents of singers Alex and Hannah; his authentic-sounding country burr and her sweet tones belying her Swansea roots until she addresses the crowd between songs. Lap steel player Dave picks up the guitar and vocal duties for a cool rockin Heartaches and Hangovers and then godfather of the local scene, Alan Tyler, comes on to perform a beautiful Make Tonight Last.
Theres still time for more unexpected treats though. Friend Of Gram comes replete with a banjo, handclaps and references to Joni Mitchell whilst, during the encore, they do a glorious cover of The Pixies Here Comes Your Man, that sounds absolutely faithful and twangingly country at the same time. The band look sheepishly stunned by the rapturous ovation after the closing run-through of Goodbye Love, as though they cant quite believe that its all this, well, easy.
The biggest surprise of the night, however, comes at the end of the regular set, when the band are joined onstage by Siobhan Donaghy, once of the Sugababes. A friend of the band, she duets with Hannah on a sweetly harmonic Get On The Train. Judging by her appearance on this mornings CD:UK (with Hannah on backing vocals) Siobhans set for stardom once more. Many more performances like this, and Redlands Palamino Company should become similarly loved.
|The Mooney Suzuki (London Barfly)|
Crowd invasions are normally where the audience want to get closer to the band, not vice versa. But the Mooney Suzuki twist the convention on its head and guitarists Sammy James Junior and Graham Tyler spend the evening leaping into the audience, the last time when the former is carrying the latter on his shoulders, both still playing their guitars!
Its an old shtick but a beautifully rehearsed one. From SJJs dark glasses and leather jacket, they play the New York card to the maximum. Theyve absorbed the stagecraft of James Brown and the call and response of gospel music and married them to the foot-to-the-floor delivery of the Flamin Groovies. The music is garage at its purest, drawing heavily on those mentioned in In A Young Mans Mind - Pete Townsend, Jimmy Page and Hendrix too- with a hefty side order of Angus Young to boot. Most of the set is from the Electric Sweat album, which can make you perspire just by holding it, from the primitive Stones stomp of Oh Sweet Suzanna to the bluesy wah wah insanity of I Woke Up This Morning. The between song testifying makes you forget that the Mooney Suzuki are excavating a well-skinned cat but they do it with a serious sense of fun that has you punching the air in your Mooney Suzuki foam gloves before the nights out. Most entertaining gig of the year so far, without a doubt!
|Clearlake / The Delays (The Garage)|
Critical acclaim. Now there are two words to send waves of pleasure and fear simultaneously down a bands spine. Sure, if youre going to get anywhere it certainly helps to have the press on your side but what if you just cant convert it into meaningful sales. Here tonight, were seeing two very critically acclaimed bands.
The Delays have definitely got time on their side. Just one single into their fledgling career, the general buzz is that were expecting great things. Three songs into their set and that same single, Nearer Than Heaven, is delivered to an expectant audience; half of whom already know it intimately and the other half with that collective look of oh yeah, I heard this on Xfm. They continue on with an energy and verve not seen in a straight-down-the-line indie band, for thats what they are, in some time. Hey Girl features some pretty three way harmonies, but its on Theres Water Here that Greg Gilberts vocals ring through clearest, a passionate, high-pitch reminder of Geneva in their pomp. Its a little early to say whether there are enough killer tunes to carry them to success but the signs look promising.
But if a band knows how to write great tunes without making it to the next level, its Clearlake. Loved by large chunks of the media, and a decent enough fanbase, for their wilfully English sound, they must wonder what more they have to do. Taking to the stage looking quite frankly like a jumble sale version of Interpol, they open, as usual, with the only song to suit their suits, Jumble Sailing. Following it with a slew of songs from their recent album Cedars, they prove theyve lost none of their lyrical directness. Lines like as soon as you raise your voice you lose the argument (Keep Smiling) and its true what they say, you have to watch the quiet ones (Id Like To Hurt You) deal in simple home truths.
The Mind Is Evil sees the first time charmingly affable singer Jason Pegg has to strain to be heard over the swirling noise beneath him but it ushers in a trio of rambunctious numbers as they unleash their powerful side. I Hang On Every Word You Say, Let Go and Come Into The Darkness prove that they are a band that have found their wings and are ready to really soar if given half a chance. Something To Look Forward To and the traditionally gorgeous run through of Winterlight round off another magnificent performance by a band who deserve so much more than critical acclaim. To paraphrase Bros, when will they, will they be famous? Sadly, I cant answer, I cant answer that.
|Mogwai (Leeds Cockpit)|
Its been two years since I last saw them, and the last gigs I saw of them were some of the most incredible experiences of my life, let alone gigs. When Stuart Braithwaite said Music should be felt, not heard he delivered a quote that sums up everything I feel about music. And on this night, lost in the white noise, I am feeling the music so much my trousers are actually flapping from the heavenly racket these boys play.
I spend most of the night with my eyes closed, my friend is tranced out up to the point his ears cant take it anymore and he has to sit at the back in a tiny ball. It doesnt matter that most of the material they play is from forthcoming album Happy Songs For Happy People because it all sounds amazing, particularly Hunted By A Freak and Ratts Of The Capital.
2 Rights Make 1 Wrong extends from the album version into a pumped-up dance tune and I actually find myself, for the first time, properly dancing to Mogwai, I have completely forgotten where I am and it doesnt matter, until they stop suddenly, bringing me back down to earth. The bastards. And theres no Helicon 1, but at least that saves me some tears. Welcome back evil angels, see you at Glastonbury.
|Jeffrey Lewis (London Water Rats)|
Comedic tales all, hes won the crowd over straight away and can now start on the proper stuff. A gorgeously fragile Heavy Heart is followed by a similarly delicate but wonderful rendition of his pièce de résistance The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song. Newies Sea Song and We Dont Need No LSD Tonight show a contrast between serious and sweet and raucously funny and last single Back When I Was 4 quickly becomes a singalong for the knowing fans. Jeffs bassist brother Jack takes over lead vocal duties for crashing versions of The Man With The Golden Arm and Another Girl before support act Herman Dune join in with a joyous pogo-tastic cover of the Television Personalities Part Time Punks.
Theres just time for one more video, the big cheesy grin-inducing Champion Jim, before we hit the venues curfew time. Jeff, however, doesnt feel that hes given enough tonight and announces that the encore will take place on the pavement outside. Litter bins and signposts are duly scrambled upon to catch a glimpse of one man and his acoustic doing The Strokes The Modern Age and the cutely comic Life before calling it a night. With any justice hed be just a few Trabants short of world domination.
|Wipe Out Weekend, Calella, Spain 8-10 May 2003|
This was the first Wipe Out Weekend, a mini-festival of surf and garage bands from across Europe and it dipped its toe in the water with the Tuna Tacos and Chewbaccas playing a small gig on the Thursday night at the Western Saloon. Tighter and harder than their garage and beat influences, The Tuna Tacos had all the right ingredients, the hammond swirls, the fuzz,and the McCartney head wobbles but like the Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones, they just don't quite have the charm of the originals.
The Chewbaccas were a lot more Empire Strikes Back. It would be easy to dismiss this cool and cartoonish band as "Hombre o Astrohombre" but if anything they have a broader spectrum both sonically and musically than their heroes. Surf, samplers and SFX collide with Detroit rock and funky wah bass to provide the perfect soundtrack for a hover car chase. Loud, fast and quirky: the MC5 meet the Munsters at Mission Control. Los Walkysons brought their own brand of hot sauce to the larger La Fabrica Llobet venue on Friday night (This isn't a clever metaphor: they really were selling their own brand of hot sauce) Surf twanging, garage yelping, fezes and tiki masks made this newly-formed Spanish combo everything I'd paid my money for. The Wildebeests are the closest to a Supergroup the British garage punk scene is likely to get, and having made their feelings about surf music clear, gave us the nastiest, most obnoxious racket of the weekend. Cosmonauti's racket was unintentional as the Italian instrumentalists battled with apalling sound problems. Widescreen melodies and spiky-as-a-sputnik guitars won through in the end though.
From a part of England forever California, The Surfin Lungs have held their tiki torch high for years now and splashed out a perfect wave to wash us up on the shore of Saturday morning. After sun and siesta, the Rock-a-hulas and guitar daredevils Los Coronas were more representatives of what must be a rapidly-growing Spanish scene, while snappily-dressed Germans The Montesas' soulful beat included a great cover of Georgie Fame's 'Yeah Yeah', sounding far cooler as "Si Si"...
The Bambi Molesters most definitely weren't what I'd paid my money for. Much as I love surf music, I never expected to hear anything as fantastic as this. If you don't think that a short-lived 60s fad for (mostly) instrumental guitar music can ever be relevant in the 21st century then see this band. Since becoming known outside their native Croatia after supporting REM this four-piece have steered along a road built by Dick Dale through the deserts of Calexico to the dark concrete underpasses of Joy Division. Evoking Roy Budd and Television and free from the usual gimmicks, the honest energy and menacing melancholy of their live sound is as hypnotic as the stage presence of bassist Lada Furlan whose "get you into trouble" eyes and crowd teasing make her the natural focus for bedazzled boys and wannabe girls alike. Bigger than surf. Beyond the sea.
Billy Childish & the Buff Medways were another victim of the PA, but soldiered on (ha) hopping to and fro across the Atlantic between 60s US punk and good old-fashioned English shouting. Childish does this so well by now that as songs like 'Troubled Mind' fizz and clatter, you and half the current crop of garage pretenders forget how hard it is to be fresh yet familiar, dumb yet clever, slick yet sloppy. And no-one sang a line like "deconstruct this anomaly" in '66. And made it scan. Export-strength.