|Kings of Leon / The Crimea (London Electric Ballroom)|
From the ashes of The Crocketts comes The Crimea, with long time collaborators Owen Hopkin (drums and deputy editor of The Fly) and Davey MacManus (guitar and vocals). Having done the punk bit, The Crimea is a more mature, more focused proposition. Opening with last years catchy debut single Lottery Winners on Acid they played a set of glorious pop-rock with touches of The Pixies and rockier Coldplay wedded to folkier elements and some country-style guitar licks courtesy of recently recruited Aussie Julia Parker. Add to that some punk sneer and black humour, and you cant go wrong. Forgotten was introduced with its raining financial accountants and is, I was informed by bass player Joe Udwins girlfriend, the lovely Ginny, about September 11th. They ploughed through new single Who Knows, the blazing religious rant Allah Was Wrong and mini-epic set closer and old Crocketts number Opposite Ends. Wonderful stuff. Theyre sposed to be supporting The Stereophonics on some of their arena dates, so at least youre guaranteed of seeing one good band.
So, there were these three squirrel-shootin brothers, Nathan, Caleb and Jared, being carted round Tennessee by their Bible-thumpin Pentecostal pa, who became rock n rollers with their conservatively named cousin Matthew. Well it beats four mates at school form band. Kings of Leon have been hyped out of all proportion (but such is the way of things), apparently wowed people at Glastonbury in the Hairy Hillbilly Tent, effortlessly sold out the Electric Ballroom tonight and the Astoria the following night, and their just-released first album Youth & Young Manhood is being hailed as this weeks debut of the decade.
Tiresomely labelled the Southern Strokes and likened to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Tom Petty (all true), Kings of Leon play gritty 3 minute slices of country boogie rock, Caleb singing like hes about 75, having been breastfed Jack Daniels and given cheroots with his Farleys rusks. There are some great foot-tapping rockers in the likes of Happy Alone and the fantastic swampy Holy Roller Novocaine, Genius thunders along like a locomotive and the jaunty Joes Head belies the fact that its a song about topping your missus and her lover. California Waiting starts with the riff from Union City Blues and Wasted Time owes a debt to Baby Please Dont Go, but the extended bluesy workout of Dusty lost the attention of an audience expecting those Strokes-like bursts of melodic guitar rock. But that was the only blip in a night that otherwise had the crowd eating out of their gun-totin, nicotine-stained hands. Set closer Trani starts off slow and simple, then builds and builds into a Followill Family Freakout and a maelstrom of hair that would make a pack of Afghan hounds jealous. Kings of Leon are as ground-breaking as a rubber jackhammer and have less frills than half a doily, but for sheer energetic back-to-basics rock and roll, they deliver in spades.
|The Suffrajets / Sal / Good Girl Hunting (London, Garage)|
Cardiffs Sal also have a female frontperson but shes completely upstaged by the antics of a lunatic bass player. By song two hes already started on the first of many climbs up the amp stack, vaulting back to the ground like a slack trousered lemming. Hes bloody good but he knows it, all ridiculous bare chested cock rock postures and crowd jumping shame he has hair like the threadbare straw roof of an old cottage. The opening song Fuck You, a storming rock n roll belter is out of place in their rather average rock set and the girl is too likeable, too normal, in desperate need of a lesson in rock star arrogance or aloofness. She cant stop herself from grinning all the time which when youre yelling Fuck You just seems silly. Besides the girl next door never headlines at the Astoria.
Headliners and SoundsXP darlings, The Suffrajets, are more like the real thing. Four feisty cockney rockers, they plough through a set of ballsy rawk n roll and show up the Donnas for a bunch of prissy lightweights. The highlight is the awesome grung mosh monster that is Aphrodite, a song Kurt Cobain would have pulled a trigger for to include on Nevermind. The new single Distinction is another twin guitar ramraiding noisefest, like primetime Hole. Plus the jets shed blood for us tonight, literally, as Alex gets hit in the forehead by part of her own guitar whilst on a quick gadabout in the mosh. Blood and loads of sweat the tears could only from us at the brevity of their set. More please!
Set: hello world, shy, Aphrodite, distinction, butterfly, just good friends, universal, all I ever wanted, car crash, fools.
|Glastonbury - Review #1|
These days youre far more likely to find prawn-sandwich munching, champagne quaffing stockbrokers from Surrey at the UKs biggest and best music festival, than damp shirted, unwashed and unkempt music loving hippies and bean-filled student types. Thats not to say that this years gathering was a disappointment or a wholly middle-class jolly filled with dullard MOR acts and pseudo-metal crapness however. I saw more than enough goodness and light to confirm that the UK festival going punters and bookers havent gone all soft on us just yet.
The madness started with the metal jollity and glam-rock goodness of The Darkness. Despite some God-awful and childlike sound mixing (a feature of the whole festival it has to be said) and the pouring rain the Lowestoft nutcases got everyone slouched in front of the impressive Pyramid Stage up and moshing before even the pubs in down-the-road Bath were open. Not bad and I so love the tassled jumpsuits boys. Meanwhile the cheeky chappies of Athlete were building upon their growing reputation as the shining stars of glowing urban indie-guitar in front of a packed field of punters wallowing in the fresh mud.
The sun came out eventually, as did the ever-improving acoustic minstrels of I Am Kloot on the new bands stage, with a rousing and different performance of swooshing acousticness that would suggest theyre still not receiving the praise and recognition they rightly deserve. Ian McCulloch of Echo And The Bunnymen was his usual effervescent and controversial self this time goading the people of Newcastle about their failed Capital of Culture bid between truly wonderous of standards the Killing Moon and The Cutter, tracks that make you realise why Coldplay admire the Liverpool lads so much. Electric Six gained the love and respect of the energetic crowd including me, although maybe that had something to do with the alcohol. They want to take us to a gay bar apparently. Most people watching are so high theyd go more than readily.
Whilst watching Suede later on in the evening over on the Pyramid Stage the question on everyones lips was What the fuck is this? Jaded, faded and sounding surprisingly dated I think the end is well and truly nigh for Brett and his boys. Or at least I hope so. The New Bands stage meanwhile was resonating with the Scandic popiness of Mew who were carrying on the good work started by the Kloot boys earlier in the day and blessing all present with their own brand of sophisticated indie. Much like The Cardigans only actually worth listening to.
It was left to ill-looking REM to close the days proceedings. Its fair to say though Im not their number one fan and this at times ragged performance did nothing to alter my opinions. The receptive crowd lapped them up though and it became apparent that therell never be anyone who can hold the entire crowd in the palms of his hands like Michael Stipe did again. Or anyone like Har Mar Superstar for that matter who, at the bar we were enjoying a nightcap in, provided visual reassurance that it wasnt all strawberries and ice-cream with some fine drug taking in full view of all and sundry. Hes actually a fine advertisement for the anti-drugs mob if ever there was one. Would you want to end up looking like him? Just say no kids.
Saturday began, rather surreally with the annoyingly wailed Mexican vocals and hip-hop rap shit of Ozomatli that blended, or should that be blanded, into the crooning and pseudo-trendiness of Jools Holland and Co. What is the fascination with the dwarf-like, foul mouthed and piano bothering twat? The Other stage called but sadly The Thrills went and bored me to tears there the lightweight material from the album just didnt seem to work live - and the Joy Division pastiche that was the Interpol set didnt do much to raise the roof surprisingly. I spent their entire sets watching Noel Gallagher tell reporters and security staff to fuck off and Shaun Ryder fall over repeatedly. Much more entertaining and at times, more tuneful. Libertines saved the day though and blasted through an energetic set that was a pleasure to behold.
According to my normally sensible girlfriend Polyphonic Spree were lightweight, too quiet, boring and surreal over on the Pyramid stage, clearly suffering with dreadful sound and equipment problems. But then again she was ecstatic and moshing away during the irksome Supergrass (Pyramid Stage, later that day, utter shit) so make of her comments what you will.
As for the New Band Tent, Kings Of Leon bounced away with their own brand of hill-billy boogie taken from impending album Youth and Young Manhood. One to listen out for definitely. Oh and John Cale, formerly of Velvet Underground, was fucking awful by the way. Keep your eyes and ears on The Stands who were superb however, if not a little overawed by the occasion. Come on lads, its only a tent with a few thousand (or so it seemed) people in it.
Turin Brakes fitted in nicely on the Pyramid Stage, one young lady (estimated age 45) even dancing tits-out to Pain Killer and Underdog making lead singer Ollie forget the words on more than one occasion and quite right too. The real glory though came in the form of The Flaming Lips. OK, they cant sing for toffee but fucking hell do they know how to put on a splendid show. This is what Glastonbury is all about cartoon animals, big fuck off comedy hands, Jo Whiney Whiley prancing about, a sunshine falling off the stage, a rabble of dancing kids, a Pink Floyd cover (a surprisingly faithful yet excellent version of Breathe) and bucket fulls of fake blood. Av it! 'Waiting For A Superman' and Do You Realize? brought tears to my eyes they were that good. Or was it the atmosphere? Truly and utterly magnificent and make no mistake, as a band, the Flaming Lips are simply on fire at the moment
Radiohead were the one band I simply couldnt wait to see and gladly I wasnt at all disappointed. People since the gig have been whining about Thom Yorkes voice during this 18 song set but it was simply sublime if you ask me like everything else about Britains Biggest Band I have to say. If you want to hear a technically perfect vocal performance fuck right off to a Celine Dion gig and leave the real spellbinding Radiohead to those of us clever enough to see beyond the boring tag. Twats. True, Yorke and Co are bordering on early Genesis-like prog rock but even the new material was anthemic on the big stage, and classics like Lucky (in rock-out form here), show closer Street Spirit and an almost heartbreaking performance of Fake Plastic Trees even had Mr Miserable in chief Yorke grinning inanely and a loved-up couple shagging towards the back of the field. Shagging to Radiohead, fancy that. At Glastonbury I dont think anyone else will ever be this good again and thats not hype or hyperbole. Its true and anyone there will, Im sure, agree. Unless theyre one of the aforementioned twats of course.
Curiosity got the better of me on the final day and, like too many others it felt, I had to go and see supposed indie-upstart and former Sugababe Siobhan Donaghy. Whilst shes especially pleasing to the eye and seems to have inherited a bad-ass rock chick attitude and some Darkness T-shirts, her music can best be described as faux. A bit of work to do there love I think and certainly no place for you at the SoundsXP Inn just yet. Cerys Matthews on the other hand has gone all nicey-nicey on us and is much better for it too, outshining any of her former bands performances with a summer and country-tinged set. The acoustic tent was so packed during her performance I couldnt even get in for most of it, though her heavily pregnant belly was still visible above the sea of heads and that voice was, of course, clearly audible above the rabble (and an interested James Dean Bradfield of the Manics).
Another new act, The Star Spangles were piss poor four chord drivel in the new band tent with those horrid shouted choruses popular only in alehouses just before closing time. The same could also be said for former Prodigy man Keith Flints imaginatively titled Flint. Lots of drums hit very very hardly, amps turned up to 11 and a very angry man shouting lots of swear words into two microphones wont get you anywhere young man- now back to the Prodigy you go! The Delgados were magnificent on the same stage earlier in the day though with their string laden and hook heavy set that had feet tapping and heads bobbing.
The best way to describe US rockers Grandaddy is interesting. On the Other stage they seem rather out of place for some reason and each song seemed to plod and shuffle by, only the excellent Hewletts Daughter woke everyone from their final day slumbers. My enjoyment of their set wasnt helped by the group of three lads next to me shouting shit over and over again. I wonder if they thought Thom Yorkes voice was a bit crap too? Twats. Feeder strolled though a greatest hits set as the sun went down though once again their performance was severely blighted by some terrible technical problems and a hell of a lot of flag waving mostly by the group of young lasses immediately in front of me. If I ever see a Welsh flag as such close quarters again I swear Ill fucking burn it. Tolerant? Me?
Another band to equally annoy and please the watching unwashed and probably constipated masses at Glasto were the Manic Street Preachers. Their performance though was the best Ive seen from them for some time now and I apologise now for saying, this time last year, that they were finished. Motorcycle Emptiness was as powerfully angry as it was beautifully melancholic and oft-overlooked classic Stay Beautiful had almost everyone at the entire festival moshing and singing along gladly, with James Dean Bradfield in mighty fine voice indeed. Even new song Everything Will Be was highly impressive. I sense theres life in the old political dogs yet, even if Nicky Wire did tell us all to fuck off more than once. Bet you didnt see that on the BBC. Bring on the new album, released later this year.
Im sure youll understand that I gave Moby, the questionable closer of the whole she-bang, a very very very wide berth indeed. I mean, Moby for fucks sake? Instead I was basking in the celebratory glory that was the Doves on the other stage. The Manc boys can be a bit hit and miss live at times, almost shambolic in fact but this was a glorious and career defining performance. From Catch The Sun to Pounding and all tracks in between (especially an awesome The Goes The Fear) this was an energetic, resurgent, fun, brilliantly and passionately performed and spine tingling set that surely should have been in Mr Mobys place over on the Pyramid Stage. Its clear we love the Doves and, from the look on Jimi Goodwins face, its clear they love us too. Bravo!
A very fitting loved up ending to Glastonbury 2003 then, all that was missing was a sunset and for Moby to shut the fuck up. And maybe some champagne for those stockbrokers.
(Thanks to Sophie and Dan for being where I wasnt and helping me write this shite)
The first day of music at the festival and Im already recuperating from two nights of madness. Oh well, Im not going to complain am I? This is the best Glastonbury line-up in years, and the only problem this causes is getting to see everyone I want to see in between doing other stuff. Oh well, here goes .
Managed to get up in the morning to see Har Mar Superstar, and hes a great way to kick things off. Some might see him as a joke, a novelty, but so what? Hes entertaining, and his karaoke Prince/Beck tunes sounded pretty good from where I was stood. Then the rain started and I got this awful feeling of déjà vu. People were suddenly wearing ponchos and Echo and The Bunnymen were playing the Pyramid Stage. We hid in an info point and got interviewed for the forthcoming film to be made about the fest. Which was nice.
Next up, De La Soul. A friend of mine remarked that De La Soul are one of those bands people would expect to make the sun come out, but that that would be impossible as no band has a weather machine. Well, he was wrong, as, thankfully, the sun shone on De La Soul and continued to shine for the rest of the day. I found them a bit disappointing though, not enough from 3 Feet High And Rising and they seemed to spend ages reciting the alphabet.
Mogwai followed immediately after, which I had been looking forward to for ages. It was a pretty strange setting for a band so synonymous with darkness, to be playing at tea-time, but they didnt disappoint. A transcendental (as always) Helicon 1 and Kids Will Be Skeletons nearly had me in tears and Braithwaite destroying his guitar at the end of My Father, My King will stick in my mind for a long time to come.
The Music, unbeknownst to many, replaced Zwan, and though it has been reported otherwise elsewhere, they put in a pretty damm good show. So Rob Harvey didnt say much in-between songs. Why should he? Remember what the name of the band is, idiots. I did miss the end, however, to catch Electric Six. Maybe it was because, by this point, I was leathered, but they were better than I expected them to be. Especially when you consider theyd sacked and replaced half the band just before this show. A storming garage rock band, with something sorely missing from others of their ilk. Namely humour.
No bands saw I for the next few hours, my mates and I were busy dancing like goblins in a sandpit playing bizarre Russian music. This set us up nicely for tonights headliners, REM. A little older and slower then when they played last in 99. (Stipe looks so old I felt the need to shout Skeletor at him, which I apologise for). It doesnt matter though, as they give us a classic Glastonbury moment, lots of hits and early stuff from Reckoning. Stipe seems genuinely touched, and though his voice gives way during Everybody Hurts, everyone in the field helps him with it anyway. Very moving. And so off we trundled, eyes like dinner plates, to see Donnie Darko. But thats another story.
The eyes of the music world were on Worthy Farm today. The day that Radiohead returned to try and top their headlining performance back in 97. I was there then, experiencing one of my first Glastonbury moments, and I was definitely going to be there tonight as well. First things first though, and I had to deal with Fridays hangover and comedown.
After 10 minutes spent waiting for Tony Benn to arrive in the Leftfield tent, the pressure got too much. Much as I wanted to be there, I didnt have the concentration span necessary to really take anything in. Sorry. Instead, a friend and I decided to tuck our T shirts tightly into our trousers, grab our belt buckles and go a-wandering. I can only recall the afternoon as being one of stoned bliss, in what must have surely been the hottest day Ive ever spent at a festival. But anyway, you want to hear about the bands dont you?
I didnt even get round to watching any until late afternoon, and this band were the band created specifically for Glasto etc etc. Yes, The Polyphonic Spree. And they didnt disappoint. Following a poetic introduction from a bearded town crier. Delaughter and his team of red-robed loved-up choir descended on the main stage. The setting couldnt have been better as the Spree erupted into Its The Sun. Another Glasto moment, definitely, along with Hanging Around The Day. And the new material was excellent, particularly 2000 Places and the stunning closer, which seemed to go on forever, in various sections, before climaxing in an utterly joyous rendition of Its The Sun once again. There was no better place to be then there in that corner of time, at that moment.
Ive been to Glasto five times now, yet never made it to the Dance Tent, so I finally went there to catch DJ Swamp, better known as Becks DJ, but a gifted guy in his own right. Only a short set, but good nonetheless, particularly the mixing of Nirvana with Afrika Bambatta. I would have liked to have seen Kings Of Leon again, but it was frankly impossible to get in the New Bands Tent, so instead we asked a fat hippy to play us a song on his guitar. He was great.
One of my top must-sees of the festival had to be Flaming Lips, who were surely going to provide at least one Glasto moment themselves. It only took their entrance to the stage to achieve this. Coyne and co took their now traditional stage setting of an insane party involving large furry animals to the extreme. At this exact moment, strange chemicals were beginning to take hold of my body and brain, which made the Pyramid Stage one of the most hilarious and slightly worrying things Id ever seen. The Lips were on top form, Coyne, like Stipe before him, appeared to have trouble with his voice but he used this to his advantage, getting the crowd to sing as loud as possible. Do You Realize? was probably the most depressing and uplifting song of the whole festival, all at once. Could have done without the frankly scary nun puppet though, Im just glad I wasnt on hallucinogenics.
And Radiohead? I didnt even see them. I didnt want to chance my mood being brought down, no matter how much I wanted to se them, so I decided to catch Aphex Twin in the Glade instead. Yes I know that isnt very logical but there you go. Not quite as good as his storming hardcore gabba/MC Hammer set of last year, but he did play Analogue Bubblebath. Anyway, its not about the bands, maaaaan.
I awake to find myself in a green oven pegged into the ground. It feels as though the skin is slowly melting off my face, and my moth tastes and probably smells like the pits of Hades. Im trying not to complain about the heat, considering the conditions here in the past, but all I want is a place to hide for a while.
Being forced to watch the Waterboys didnt help, to me they seemed not a million miles away from The Corrs and all that riddle me ree doesnt go down as a history making gig in my view. Whole Of The Moon was good though. Perhaps I should have stayed and watched Asian Dub Foundation, then I wouldnt have felt like the only angry person around for miles, but I crave shade.
Alas, this was to no avail, I eventually find myself stumbling back to my tent on my own, nearly being ran over by Phil Jupitus in a golf buggy in the process. Its not very often you get to say a sentence like that is it? I rest my head in a tent flap and prepare to die, before being rescued by a steward. Apparently I have sunstroke, and so have to face the humiliating task of walking to the Medical Tent with him. Because of this I miss Grandaddy, but they sound great from where I am, on a mattress with a fan blowing in my face next to a pan of sick. Im simple, Im dumb, Im at Glastonbury.
By the time I leave the care of the lovely medical crew the heavens have finally opened and I feel like going back in there and complaining Im now too wet, but I resist and go watch Sigur Ros instead. The way Im feeling, they provide a fitting backdrop to the close of my festival, as I lay in the rain and let the gorgeous serenity emanating from the Other Stage wash over me. By the end of their set I wanted to be at the front, lost in white noise, but instead I stay where I am and watch Doves, who surely will be in one of the top slots on the Pyramid Stage next time they come here. Id pick There Goes The Fear over Moby.
And so I survived another Glastonbury without losing my mind or wallet. As I lie in my tent watching an amazing firework display over Pennards Hill, I know its going to take more than some new ticket scheme from Michael Eavis to stop me being there the same time next year.
|Glastonbury - Review #3 (Har Mar Superstar & The Darkness)|
Let not the power of novelty be underestimated. Its difficult to envisage exactly how Har Mar Superstar began his career in the business of show. Is it plausible to suggest that he simply turned up at his local working mens club, mic in hand, clad only in a pink g-string, and demanded a gig? Regardless, the IPC Media Group press have clasped the stout sex kitten to their bosoms upon his route to fame, and for our sins we must take note.
The relevance of the music is questionable at best. While I have no problem in admitting that singles Power Lunch and EZ Pass are what are commonly referred to in music snob circles as Choons, it is hardly Har Mars most endearing quality. With that in mind, what is? Having secured our places on the front row (not, I might add, through expending a vast amount of effort), we have the opportunity to analyse the man, myth and legend in one felled swoop.
Ron Jeremy comparisons are inevitable, and up close and personal with the man himself, I can confirm that his pot belly does spill over his thong in a way that can only be construed as suggesting both Italian and Plumber. What we are looking at is basically the drunken-uncle-at-the-Christmas-party version of Prince, yet much like a motorway car crash, you cant help slowing down to peer out the window and check the damage, pausing for a brief moment to consider the victims and their families.
Mid-set he tears his sweat drenched shirt from his ample frame and (after three attempts), manages to launch it in to the crowd. He climbs down in to the pit to meet his audience, thrusting out his clammy palm to make physical contact with a few hundred lucky punters. Puncturing the sacred wall between performer and spectator, it seems, is not without its creepy side.
In full awareness of our backstage access we place a £5 bet for the first of our group to shag one of his patented Manumission Dancers (this was unfortunately never actualised at any point) who add hope to all that you too can be surrounded by half a dozen barely clothen vixens/harlots (delete as appropriate) by simply knocking out a few power soul ballads and a cover of Stevie Wonders 'Sir Duke'.
Backstage Har Mar mulches around with a plate of chips, and we applaud him for his wise decision to reclothe himself. He seems like a nice enough bloke, although his almost alarmingly constant presence at the bar and eagerness to speak to low-life, bottom rung journos like ourselves (many times) gave birth to the weekends most amusing phrase, "Christ, look busy, Har Mar's coming over again!". Bless, he's probably lost, hungry and frightened outside the bourgeois bedroom setting, and for the underlying innocence, we love him. The endearing quality? Obviously the mullet.
Quite frankly, I am hoping, or rather praying to the Almighty, that my ex-flatmate Andy never gets to lay his eyes on this review because after a year of mercilessly lambasting his less than covert penchant for Iron Maiden, Yngwie Malmsteen and other such cock-rocking luminaries, I have found myself in the rather unfortunate position of having developed something of a serious soft spot for The Darkness. More worryingly, Im almost embarrassed to admit how long it has taken me to get the joke.
I am champion of the introverted underdog, the tortured artiste and the prophet of human alienation. Put simply, I want to hate them for their unashamed attempts to refashionablise the spandex jumpsuit. In this day and age its just not right for a band to be able to kick off their set by demanding the crowd Give me a D! Give me an Arkness! but at 10.45am (where, in the interests of journalistic science, I am five cans of lager in to the day to savour the Glastonbury Experience) it seems almost criminal that the band arent headlining the Pyramid Stage, or at least havent built their own larger stage next door, allowing them to play twenty-four hours a day at a volume loud enough to drown out potential competitors.
Lead singer and self-proclaimed guitar God (probably) Justin Hawkins is quite possibly the ugliest sex icon to have ever graced my visual senses, yet in the midst of another extended solo, this time from new single I Believe In A Thing Called Love, I find it impossible to refrain from waggling my arse like an idiot. This, it seems, is the very essence of their genius. The power to revel in a level of extroversion lost in amongst a decade and a half of post-feminist Morrissey clones and Cobain-inspired social consciences.
Penultimate track, an eighties metal stylee cover of Street Spirit by The Radioheads! is yet another stroke of brilliance. Surely it must have Mister Yorke himself wondering whether the latest ASDA George range stocks butt-hugging leather flares, tight enough to fully accentuate his groin, for every note is met with the kind of ear piercing screech, guitar squeal and physics defying, friction free, knee slide across the stage we all wet-dreamed of achieving in a Ferris Bueller-esque teenhood.
Love On The Rocks With No Ice will close the set, we are informed. But you have quarter of an hour left?! we panic unanimously. Relax, the seemingly endless eight minute outro eases us back in to an altogether less electrifying reality of impending rainfall. Hawkins arm stretched skyward, he thanks us for our applause. The Darkness, we salute you.
|The Tyde/ The Clientele/ Comet Gain (London, Water Rats)|
Three great bands for a fiver! Best deal since 1986. Even if The Music Industry is dying on its venal, corrupt, exploitative feet, as long as independent musicians promoters can offer up a night of quality, effort and above all fun for so little folding stuff, Clear Channel and the like can rot in hell.
I was told that Comet Gain had a single rehearsal before tonight's gig and it showed! They're almost pebble-smooth in presentation and performance. Feck's between songs banter is reduced to a quick linking commentary rather than a way of hiding all the gaps in the set. Feck himself sounds like a more jagged, acerbic Robert Forster. Excitingly, they rely on songs from 'Realistes'. My Defiance is machine gun jerky pop while Why I Try To Look So Bad is soul-strippingly, wrist-slashingly sad. They cover Northern Soul in a Go-Betweens meets the Temptations sort of way on Teardrops and Heartaches while Ripped-Up Suit is them playing primitive Velvetty rock n roll. The brothers Rademaker join the Gain for a slightly unhinged rendition of Movies, complete with Brent Rademaker rap. It builds a momentum that could have lasted all night but ends then, probably for the best, with them high as a...err, comet.
The Clientele play Love songs, whose soft sixties essence turns them into slinky, shimmering fairy steps of pop-psychedelia. Alistair's emotive, resonant voice slips between an impassioned Arthur Lee wail and a more delicate Nick Drake coo. The Clientele are a band who sing about summer from the nostalgic viewpoint of autumn. The new single Doors of Summer is sleepy and captivating and has a decaying grandeur, while other numbers remind you of a limpid Galaxie 500. Meanwhile their closing tune, a cover of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band's Tracy Had a Hard Day Sunday, proves they can make a noise when they please. Its an English psychedelic daydream and mines a cup of mushroom tea.
The Tyde catch a wave tonight and ride it to the max. The double helix of old and new songs works perfectly to emphasise the line of sunshine melancholy that started on Once and continues on Twice. Even their slower songs tonight have the vitality and presence that maybe the recording process sucked from them on Twice. Breaking Up the Band is an end of summer/Big Wednesday song while Blood Brothers is as perfect as the first day I ever heard it, worldweary yet resolute. Shortboard City makes a lot more sense live than on vinyl as they bulldoze the venue with it, all saloon bar piano and Status Quo riffing. The good clear sound brings out the best of the band, highlighting the warm, bubbling keyboards, particularly on the Felt-ish Crystal Canyons. Lawrence was in the audience and I hope he was (a) flattered and (b) very impressed. Meanwhile Rik Menck is the only drummer I can think off that Id ever, EVER, entertain a drum solo from. As I left, the encore of North County Times and tinnitus still ringing in my ears, I reflected that heres a band for whom music = life and a couple of hundred people who feel the same way loved them for it.
Set list: A Loner/ Henry VIII/ Go Ask Yer Dad/ All My Bastard Children/ Crystal Canyons/ Improper/ Memorable Moments/ Blood Brothers/ Breaking Up The Band/ Shortboard City/ New D/ North County Times
|Ted Leo and the Pharmacists / Comet Gain (London, Arts Cafe)|
Some things dont need to be earth shattering. All I ask for is a few decent songs, a band who look keen to play them and a few bottles of beer. Isnt that what rocknroll was meant to be? Teds an ex-punkster (Chisel) whose band plays songs hard and fast and tangled up with a strong strand of melody: a sort of Strokes-y power pop. Ted himself is a genial frontman, throwing himself around and pulling faces, a sort of Glenn Tilbrook for our time, and the music sounds at times like Squeeze, had they abandoned music hall for punk rock. The Pharmacists plays songs from the Hearts of Oak album and its Ballad of a Sin Eater (a stand out on the Yes New York compilation) that steals the show, typically fast and furious with intelligent tho unhinged lyrics. In the end, its fun and entertaining and thats more than a reason to see them.
Comet Gain are less polished than when I saw them the previous week though no less accomplished. Theyre on the other side of a moat of warm lager and there are more gaps in the set filled with Feckist streams of consciousness but the music, when it comes, is perfect soulful pop, including I Close My Eyes to Think of God, Ripped Up Suit and, most perfect of all, You Can Hide Your Love Forever, surely one of the most perfect singles for which vinyl was ever invented. O flinthearts! How could you hear this and not fall in love?
|Kimya Dawson (London Arts Cafe)|
The bohemian sits impassively reading undoubtedly pretentious prose he probably doesnt really understand whilst the antifolk troubadour sits and strums his acoustic on the small stage. Its soooo New York.
Unfortunately for the singer in question, the lesser-known Moldy Peaches member Toby Goodshank, it seems nothing is going to make the book-reading beatnik lift his gaze from the text, no matter how hard he tries. Tracks from his homemade album, Put The Devil Where You Hang Your Hat, like Change Yr Ways and Jack Rabbit fail to disturb him with their understated charm and even the shouting and howling unleashed during the closer fails to elicit a response.
The Larval Organs try a different tack and immediately succeed where Toby failed. Granted, making the opening lines of your set It doesnt matter how pure or righteous you are; theyre going to piss on you! helps you grab the rooms attention. So does singing it over great slabs of woozy stoner guitar noise though and they rarely let the pace or quality drop in the next half hour. If the power-that-would-like-to-be at Kings Reach Towers got a hold of the band and their thankfully less-retro Kings Of Leon hair they could be next on the dusty highway to indie-rock fame.
Kimya Dawson will probably never achieve more success than she did by dressing up as a giant rabbit as a Moldy Peach and, on tonights performance, its a crying shame. Slimmer than before and with her unwieldy afro fashioned into a neat sprawl of bleached dreadlocks, her performances are steadily maturing into the realms of breathtaking. She still scrunches her face up into her gorgeously girlish grin when she screws up the start to Chemistry twice but otherwise its a perfect show. Behind the rapid-fire rhyming and clever couplets lies an aching sadness; exemplified by opener Its Been Raining, a heartbreaking tale of losing loved ones, but later perfected on a crushing rendition of anti child-abuse number Hold My Hand that could move a grown reviewer to the verge of tears.
Its by no means all doom and gloom though. Hadlock Padlock and Velvet Rabbit are as warm and witty as ever and theres a happy ending with a new song about a New York parade and a storming rattle through Everythings Alright. The boho bozo may not have stuck around to see it but he missed a set to treasure. Serves him right.
|Beth Gibbons and Rustin' Man / Sparklehorse (Somerset House, London)|
The end of a beautiful summer's day in the courtyard of Somerset House, the ground underfoot firm and the toilets clean, makes for my ideal open air gig spot. Shuffling out into the late eveining light, Mark Linkous makes the perfect floating alt.rock to ease the sun down form the sky. Like a less tricksy Flaming Lips his Sparklehorse lulls the audience with the gentle beauty of his songs, whether sung sweet and true or through a distortion mic for added pathos. Every so often he ups the tempo, cutting loose a post-grunge rocker that, shock, even starts one or two people dancing. Although affecting a shy style he has a non-partisan audience in the palm of his hand. This is music that transcends genre labels to connect with everyone.
But, good as Sparklehorse are, Beth Gibbons and sidekick Paul Webb plus their cast of, well, several, raise the bar that much higher. Taking cues from folk, blues, jazz, lounge, whatever..., they have created a set's worth of beautiful songs that feel as if they have been around forever. (Or at least since the late 30's - early 70's, which is the same thing as forever if you're too young to remember any of it.) By the time they come on the light has all but faded and the courtyard has a more intimate feel to suit the mood. And the renditions of the "Out of Season" album are magnificent and precise. Beth Gibbons herself cuts a figure twice as shy as Mark Linkous, hunched behind the microphone stand, sometimes turning away from the audience entirely to add an eerie, spectral wail to songs. As she says, between song chat is "not her forte", and she fills the awkward gaps between songs nervously skipping like a little girl with a big grin on her face. But with a voice this expressive and clear, backed with accomplished but never too fussy musicianship, we hardly need banter. We're entranced enough as time and again the hairs on the back of our necks are made to stand up by what we're experiencing. With A Funny Time of Year the set even builds to the sort of delirious crescendo I associate with the Bad Seeds at their very best, Beth hitting seven bells out of an unsuspecting keyboard. For the encore the trademark ciggy is lit, adding to an appropriately smoky rendition of the Velvet Underground's Candy Says. As the gig ends our chanteuse belies her reticence, hopping down to the crowd to, genuinely, thank people for coming along. Believe me, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
|Tricky (Virgin Megastore)|
One of those in-store playings/signings events, which I never thought Tricky would ever do. Yet, notwithstanding the promotion angle, the intimacy of the set up makes sense. It strips away any bombast, the PA doesnt seek to blow you away or lose the music in a cavernous mix. The band are cramped on stage with Tricky in full croaking voice twitching topless at the mike, chips are flying off flailing drumsticks, and the electro-acoustic guitars just hit the right balance of complementing rather than overpowering everything/one else. Here, the claustrophobic rhythms are allowed to brood and menace, beguiling you until you barely recognise the tune bubbling under The Cures Lovecats survives only lyrically, Tricky having stripped it down and spun it around to fuck around with its direction. And when a nu-metal riff emerges on How High it is a sense of holding onto something solid (rather than it bludgeoning the tune) before being brought back to rhythmic bubblings like geysers ready to blow. It is a terrific performance and proof that Tricky is anything but a spent force. Tricky himself is positively chipper lots of thank yous between songs (only the paranoid part of me thinks he may be taking the piss) and is equally pleasant in person amiably posing and chatting with punters like me. Another preconception demolished.