Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Rumble Strips / The Little Ones / Pull Tiger Tail / Blood Red Shoes Birmingham Academy 2 Monday 28th May 2007

Good sound tonight. Rather random statement to start off with, but so many gigs are ballsed up by dodgy sound (either down to the venue or the bloke asleep at the mixing desk after sparking up a fat one and chatting to the roadies about that Motorhead gig in 1982). Tonight it was all as clear as bell. So well done Mr Soundman, whoever you may be.

Anyway. The music. Tonight was yet another NME tour. This time the 'NME Topman New Music Please Buy Our Magazine Oh Go One We'll Give You A Free White Stripes Single' Tour. I still buy the bloody thing though...mainly 'cos I've got into the habit of chatting to the newsagent dude every Wednesday. Sorry, the music, right...

I've reviewed all of the bands before (bar the first one), so I'll keep things snappy, pithy almost...whatever that means. Openers Blood Red Shoes (pictured above...with a punters head in the shot too...I'm such a pro)were a band I'd fancied seeing for a while and they were rather fine. Avoiding obvious comparisons with the White Stripes (boy/girl...guitar/drums...t'other way round in this case though) I'd pitch 'em at a more indie rock kind of place. Female Shoe Laura-Mary looks really sweet and innocent until she unleashes some mighty guitar work and rocky vocals. Little Steven (drummer Shoe) has more energy than the Duracell Bunny on speed (he actually came on during every other band's set tonight too to jig about or hit stuff) and adds a more urgent vocal delivery. Impressive.

Saw The Little Ones a while back at the Bar Academy (dodgy sound ahoy). Great fun, summer anthems, sweet harmonies (they still remind me of The Spinto Band) and better than I remember them being last time.

Next up...they're grrrrrrrrreat. Oh yes. Pull Tiger Tail are probably one of my favourite bands around at the moment. Let's Lightning, Mr 100 Percent and Animator are as classic a trio of tracks as you're likely to find (in a new indie-ish vibe anyhow). Newer track (newer to me anyway), Hurricane, has some lush Editors-ish guitar stuff on it. Yay!

Which just leaves us with The Rumble Strips. Third time I've seen them and they're just consistently ace. They're a sweeter Dexy's really...soulful, yearning, passionate and deserving of a much bigger audience than they're getting. Perhaps they're just too good. Motorcycle is being released again maybe the wider world will finally wake up to them. If not then I despair...really I do.
All round a bloody ace gig. Even met a nice man in the loo who wanted to wash my hands for me...he was one of those after shave selling, I wasn't people have filthy minds.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Datarock / Velofax / Ottogono / Annuals Friday 25th May 2007 The Rainbow...then the Barfly...I'll explain

Taking my tally of bands in just over a week to a mind melting 37...tonight I hit a newish venue for me, the Rainbow pub in dear old Digbeth. I'd been there once or twice back in the day to see bands but hadn't returned for some reason. It's now an altogether better place to see music as they've kind of converted the yard out back. The roof is perspex, so you get natural light...which is all a bit weird as most venues are as dark as hell. I really rather liked it's got a coolness that's shared by The Sunflower Lounge. I only got to enjoy it for one band though. Velofax. They're a totally new band to me, but really rather great. Vocal duties are shared between two chaps, one of whom (the bass player) has the coolest hair in the world, a 'tache and a rather high, disco camp voice. Musically they've got slightly jazzy / rocky / wigged out bits that recall the Mars Volta on a good day.

Next up I was looking forward to Chungking, responsible for Making of my fave tracks of all time. However...just as the band were finishing their soundcheck there was a muffled bang, all the power went off and a slight whiff of burning wire pervaded the room. Balls. Not sure what happened but I feared the whole gig was now off. To the immense credit of the Chicks Dig Jerks people (the promoters) they somehow moved the gig to the nearby Barfly and off we all shuffled. I arrived there just in time to catch Ottogono (there was a battle of the bands kind of night going on and they were the sixth and final act). Very entertaining. A bit Oasis...a bit Small Faces...a bit Led Zepp...the lead singer kept making a gun shape with his two fingers then miming blowing off his own head. At other time's he'd mime fellating a giant cock. Sadly they didn't win...but I'd like to see them again (they gave me a free CD too...).

I was still hoping to see Chungking...and spotted their lead singer supping a pint across the room. She was really sweet and said they probably couldn't play now but if they did it would be after promised to hang(over) around...

Time for the main event, Datarock, purveyors of the finest tune Talking Heads never recorded Fa Fa Fa. To be fair, Fa Fa Fa isn't really indicative of their sound. They're a lot 'rockier' in the flesh. Predictably Fa Fa Fa got the biggest reaction of the night (it really is seriously great) and a number of the audience joined them on stage for a Fa Fa Fa dance party (I remained draped over the barrier like a discarded coat, fearing that too much bouncing and too much cider may not be an ideal combination).

I thought that might be it for the night but the stage bods started bringing more gear on. Like I said earlier, we'd kind of crashed the Barfly so I wasn't sure who was coming next. By this stage in the evening / morning many people had melted away which was a real shame as the final band of the night were quite beautiful. It was totally the wrong audience for charmless drunken buffoon staggered up to me mid set and said 'they're crap...they Coldplay'. They weren't. I suggested he get up there if he could do any better...or perhaps he'd like to give them direct feedback. He declined to take up my advice and shuffled away again...presumably to be sick in his mum's handbag.

Anyway the band played just four or five tunes. At one point four of them played drums, creating a wonderful wall of sound, with the lead singer screaming his vocals like an animal in pain (given the audience apathy I felt like joining him). At other times we were treated to the kind of harmonies that Brian Wilson would give his sandpit for. After they left the stage I was so ashamed at the poor reaction that I ambled off to find the band (a) to thank them for a great set and (b) to apologise for the audience (bear in mind that this band had come all the way from America only to end up playing at 1.30 am to a few people...most of whom couldn't care less).

They were really sweet and accepted that some gigs were just like that...but I could tell they were a tad upset (as you would be). As I was parting I asked the name of their band...'we're called Annuals'. This band are attracting some serious press at the moment, drawing favourable and justifiable comparisons with Arcade Fire. I've seen their name mentioned all over the shop, but not had time to investigate them. And here they were. Standing right in front of me. Some time later one of the band came over to us and asked 'would you like a CD?'. Off he went and came back with an EP for me and Lady, gratis and for nothing. Beautiful music, beautiful people.

The next hour or so was spent bouncing up and down like an idiot to a variety of cool toons until we were almost alone and decided it best to leave before it got light. A strange night in many ways, but then the most memorable often are...

Candie Payne / The Draytones Birmingham Bar Academy Tuesday 22nd May 2007

Hot on the heels of The Great Escape I was off again...oh my ears. Anyway, I'll keep this as short and sweet as the gig was (and it was pretty short and sweet).

Openers The Draytones are as 60's as they get (even down to the clobber). Kind of like The Coral in places and even the mighty Buff Medways in others (check out Keep Loving Me). The sound wasn't the best, but then that's the Bar Academy for you. Nice harmonies and guitar solos and a great way to unwind after the artrock/rap fest of The Great Escape's final day (a musical sorbet then).

Candie Payne played a short (30 minutes or less) set that didn't showcase her voice (think a lighter Dusty Springfield)as well as it might (down to the sound in the venue, not the artiste herself). Many of the tracks sound as if they belong to some kind of really cool '60's spy flick starring Michael Caine (or Cayne in this case), a bevvy of dolly birds and blokes called Bert the Brick who are 'propa bad un's' . I kept wanting some horns and strings to kick in (there were none tonight but they are there on the recorded toons). Listen to I Wish for classic Payne and I defy you not to fall in love with it all.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Great Escape - Day Three Saturday 19th May 2007

Day that's what they call synergy (probably). After seeing 17 bands over the first two evenings I was determined to step it up a gear and try to hit 30 over the whole fest. How did I do...are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

Artrocker (the magazine) were putting on an afternoon of...well...artrock. So, after an all you can eat Indian buffet lunch (pretty much my first proper meal for two days) we hit the Kabuki club (I think this is Japanese for an activity that involves a young lady and lots of excited men...who express their excitement all over her...hey, it wasn't my idea...). We got there just in time to see Rattatag. Can't remember what they were like and can't find a track by them to refresh my ailing brain. But I do recall tapping my foot a lot. Which can only be a good thing unless I have some form of degenerative affliction.

Die! Die! Die! (I think they want us to die) were up next. All the way from NooZeeland too. Drumming reminded me a bit of Joy Division, singing a bit like Placebo. Lots of leaping about and spunk...back to that nasty Kabuki business again.

BIB...the singer reminded me of a cross between Ian Curtis and Borat, the guitarist wore a red string vest. That gets them 6 points for coolness straight away. The music had a distinct New Order-ishness to it in places, but then they go and play Tear Up The Streets, which is all grrrrrr! I became really fond of BIB during their set and purchased my first CD of the weekend...most of Brighton's 'record' shops have now turned into boutiques or places that sell veggie Y-fronts. It's official then...BIB are great.

As are Tiger Force. Shouty electro boy/girl combo. They sound a bit like being locked in a loo at a metal gig with two teenage lovers who have just discovered that young love ain't all it's cracked up to be and that blazing rows are just par for the course. Which is good.

Shrag. Despite sounding like some kind of vile 70's carpet they were yet another great 'artrock' find (this was rapidly turning into a great afternoon). Post punk (I bet you were wondering when I was going to roll out the old post punk thing again weren't you?) five piece with a girl that looks like the one that was in Bless This House with Sid James. They have a track called Mark E Smith too...but it's not as good as Talk To The'll never indulge in sextalk (whatever that may be) with a lady again.

Finally (for the Artrock afternoon anyway) we entered the land of MIT. Japanese/German electro with cow bells. Everyone likes cow bells. After 3 hours of solid artrock you start to go a bit bonkers but even now, in the comfort of my porno loft, I'm still experiencing a gentle tingle listening to MIT. A German Foals with knobs on. Das ist very jolly good indeed.

With the clock ticking and the number of bands under my belt standing at 23 it was going to b a busy (and late) night that began with another dash across town to join the queue at Pressure Point (a 250-300 ish venue on the outskirts of the city. We got there at around 6.45, doors opened a little after 7.30...the first real queueing we'd had to do throughout the entire Festival (the point of highlighting all this will become clear later). First up were Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip. For the uninitiated Le Sac and Scroob are a late 20's two piece. Le Sac 'plays' an Apple Mac, Scoobius Pip raps. Scroobius Pip has an impressive beard and a slightly nerdy Essex boy accent. They have attracted a lot of attention for the track Thou Shalt Always Kill. They were, without doubt, one of the highlights of the whole festival. I was kind of expecting 'the hit' to be the only track worth listening to, but old Scroob has a winning way with lyrics (listen to Angles if you get a mo - the English version of Eminem's Stan?) and an even better live 'stylee'. Using the periodic table to illustrate a song was inspired and, like Jeffrey Lewis, the Pip loves flip charts, making the whole gig seem like a lesson in cool. As with Eternal Erection on Day One, purists will probably hate it, but balls to 'em. DLS vs SP are ace...not 'just a band'.

Whilst trying to recover from the majesty of Dan and Scroob (how many different ways can you write their for all the family on a wet Sunday afternoon) I was clobbered around the head, heart and unmentionables by the mighty, mighty, mighty (god they were mighty) threesome Bonde De Role. Straightoutta Brazil, they rap in a mix of Brazilian, English and gibberish, backed by a mash up of all sorts of tracks (including Europe's Final Countdown...nice), pounding basslines, funkin horns, old skool electro...the whole kit and caboodle (with extra caboodle thrown in). The act is sex soaked, lots of groin grabbing and crotch thrusting, attempts to pull down each others pants...sweat, spunk and rock n' roll. I've not been able to witness CSS live yet, but I imagine they have a similar impact on UK audiences...muchos booty was shaken let me tell you.

Kate Nash next. Slightly more delicate in the flesh than on whatever you listen music on these days, but still glorious. Elements of Lily Allen and Regina Spector but a bit sweeter than both. She played an acoustic version of Caroline's A Victim (my personal fave track) that perhaps hints at her future direction being more traditional than I first expected (the recorded version of Caroline is all electro and shouty). It's early days to watch.

After the reverie of the early acts, it was all getting a bit mellower and Mr Hudson & The Library took it down a notch further. They're an odd proposition really. Quite laid back in places, piano and vocals that reminded me of Thomas Dolby in his less synth moments...then there are some pretty reggae-ish moments, soul stuff...I guess you could call it a melting pot. It confused me a little, but not in a bad way. It was pretty hard following the SacMeister and his Pipness (there's another one) and Bonde De Role was at this moment that I realised I'd seen 26 bands in the last 60 hours or so. Like a kiddie in a sweet shop you get to a point where, even though you love choccie bars, you realise that you're in danger of either being sick or exploding. Mr Hudson coincided with this moment...not their fault, and the reason why I was perhaps less receptive to their music than I could've been. It was also very well performed. Again, this ain't a criticism, but after a lot of 'rawness', the polish just seems a little too clean. Listening back to some of their tracks again (in the cold light of day), they deserve to be one of the sounds of the summer. The Feeling of 2007. Mr Hudson is from dear old Birmingham too...which automatically gets him several brownie points. I'm looking forward to albums two and three 'cos I reckon they're one of those rare bands that could improve with age.

As the band finished the lights went on. S'funny I thought. 'Everyone out' shouted security, 'you've got to leave now'. Now, one of my other reasons for picking this venue for our last night were the triple bill of Spleen, Lethal Bizzle and Black Twang. We'd already had texts telling us that every other venue was rammed. So, if we did leave, that would be it. No more festival and an early night. Many of the audience were happy to leave. Several were not. We joined them in asking why we had to get out. It was down to the organisers we were told. The second part of the evening was a rap gig, people were queueing outside to get in, so we had to get out. If we wanted to get back in again we'd have to queue. Given that we were told there were '2,000' people waiting outside, this seemed an unappealing prospect. Now, I'm a pretty reasonable soul, but if you've paid £40 for your festival pass, queued for nearly an hour to get in and behaved yourself, being asked to leave when the headline acts are about to come on was, well, taking the piss. If people wanted to see the acts in question they should've got there earlier. I wanted to see CSS on Thursday night, I got there too late, so I left and went elsewhere. I didn't expect (nor would I have been happy) if I only got in at the expense of someone else being ejected. Things quickly got heated. One or two people were arguing quite forcefully. I chose the Gandhi approach an just sat down. Pretty much everyone else had left, security approached us and asked us to leave. We refused. 'If you don't, we'll call the police' came their response. Now this is what you call raising the stakes a little. Whilst the world is full of kiddie fiddlers, gun toting nutjobs and people (of all colours, cultures and religions) wanting to kill each other for no reason whatsoever we faced being arrested for paying for our tickets, waiting in a queue and giving all the artists on the bll so far our undivided attention and respect.

'Ok'. I replied. 'You do understand that the police will come and arrest you?'. 'Yes'. This stumped them a little. I think they were expecting me to start whimpering or something, but I felt fairly safe in the knowledge that I had done nothing wrong and that, if they did decide to waste police time, the boys in blue would merely eject me. Lady Baron didn't want to chance it, so I agreed to leave, shook hands with the various security staff who were towering over us and accepted that they were just doing their job. Slowly we wandered downstairs and loitered around a bit as one of the people who had been arguing rather more than us was still debating the toss. He eventually left. we were about to do likewise when the lady who seemed to run the venue came after us. 'Listen' she confided 'you're nice people, stand over there and you can stay in'. Hurrah! Gandhi was right all along! Listen world. Peaceful protest is the way forward. Put down your bombs and guns and sit down on the M25 for a few days. If 10 million people did that I can guarantee their demands would be met a lot quicker than any other means.

We had a nice chat to the security staff who, just minutes earlier, had been threatening to bang us up in the slammer and lovely people they were too. Just doing their job. As was I.

Right, back to the music. I like some rap, dislike other rap (mainly the inane 'yeah, yeah look at the size of my cock' variety). I'm not an expert, but I've enjoyed the few gigs that I have been to. So, tonight I wanted to catch a flavour of some of the best stuff around. Spleen was a great start. French rapper with a real jazzy feel (think a cooler Outcast). Shades of Omar in there too. My musical palate well and truly refreshed. Next up was Lethal Bizzle. Bizzle (like Spleen actually who has collaborated with CocoRosie) has recently hooked up with Gallows. I'm all for this cross genre stuff. Good music is good music. I don't give a damn if it's classical, jazz, metal, rap, Algerian folk...whatever. Anyway, Lethal Bizzle. Garage Rap that's as fresh and of the moment as anything you'll like to find, Bizzle Bizzle got the crowd jumping and we didn't stop. The next time someone gets on your tits go round their house and play the Dickhead chorus (the spoken word bit near the end of the track reveals Mr Bizzle to be an altogether sweeter man than you might expect) outside their house...glorious.

Finally, for the night and the festival itself, band/act number 30! Blak Twang. Mr Twang has been around for a number of years now and raps about loads of different issues...kind of a rap Billy Bragg if you will. He's clearly a deeply articulate and passionate soul and you can't help feeling that if if the government made him Minister for Youth they'd be far less trouble 'inna ingland'. Again he got the crowd jumping from start to finish and some of us ended up sharing the stage with him at the end (me doing that strange bobbing around thing that white guys do whenever they hear rap music...forgive me world).

And that, in a nutshell (albeit a bloody huge nutshell) was that. The Great Escape Festival...great by name and (all together now...) great by nature. Brighton...I will be back.

The Great Escape - Day Two Friday 18th May 2007

Day Two and up with the larks (if larks get up at 10.36am and watch Homes Under The Hammer these days). Lady Baron went off to meet Lady Baron Senior, I followed up a lead from the text message thingy and found myself watching an interview between Mr Fat Boy Slim and Sir Rob Da Bank. The audience was pretty sparse for this one, but it was quite an interesting chat really. Rob (who must be one of the most laid back dudes around) and Fat (who's had a fair number of emotional ups and downs by the sounds of it) nattered away for nearly an hour. Not much new to report, except Fat's doing Glasto again, is busy-ish recording a new album which might be released under any one of his many guises and his last remaining ambition is to do the soundtrack for a film...ideally by Spike Jonze, who I know is a regular reader so, how about it Spike? Right...

With the chat finished (for now anyway) I settled down to a trio of French artistes kicking off with Barbara Carlotti (classic French female voice, slightly 60's, a bit like listening to a glass of red wine...I'll leave you to ponder that one). Dominique A was next. Powerfully voiced bald mo fo who did that thing where you record bits of yourself then multi layer it so you end up, in essence, playing with yourself...stop giggling. Can't find a My Space page for him and his site is all in French (quite reasonable really), so I can't track down a track for you to listen to...but if you I imagine he's more of a live force though. The final artiste Francais was the delightfully named Emily Loizeau, which I think means bird. She has the voice of a bird too. A nice one...a songbird...not a crow or Lesser Spotted Black Backed Gull. She looked as fragile as a bird as well, but, on her last song she came to the edge of the stage and, sans microphone, kept us entranced with a track called I'm Alive. One of those hair on the back of the neck moments. C'est fantastique.

Next one of the funniest and most bizarre interviews in history. Howard Marks (legendary drug smuggler and all round nice, seriously, he is) and Shaun 'I ingested Factory Records' Ryder. Howard makes his living chatting nowadays but could he get a word out of Shaun...could he bollocks. They spent most of the time looking at each other, once in a while Shaun (who is now 'clean' for reasons he wouldn't divulge) would say 'yeah' or 'dunno' whilst Howard tried every trick in the book to get him to open up. They're good mates so Shaun wasn't being awkward...I just think he hated the whole get up on stage and talk about yourself bit. Very funny for all the wrong reasons.

Young Soul Rebels next (another 'street' gig) this time in Traidshop (a sort of Oxfam). Couldn't see a great deal and old men's cardies don't really do much for the acoustics. They seemed ok. A little ska punk-ish in places. Hard-Fi wouldn't be a bad comparison.

Dashed over to another venue (Brighton just has loads of 'em) in time for a bit of The Pistolas. Like Bloc Party lost in the K-hole. Dancey art punk is, so it seems, the way to describe their sound. Good, strong set, well worth seeing again. Tipped for 2007 too...

Across town to a pub for Sex Panther (sounds like some kind of fetish club for people who dress up as cats and lick cream from...places). Fearsome female punk four piece from Oz who have a delightful track entitled for your granny there. I really liked the Panther, but then I have a thing for girl bands, especially the punk variety. Fair dinkum.

Lawks...this is taking ages to write up...time to employ...ONE LINE REVIEWS! Hurrah for all concerned!!

Help She Can't, not an incident off Brighton Pier...a band. Sparky, Bis-like and bouncy, bouncy.

Johnossi...all male White Stripes from Sweden. Rocky, bit blues...very impressive actually.

The Hat...hippy-ish, rap-ish, trip hop-ish, zappa-ish...bits of everything-ish really. Couldn't totally get right into it on the night but warming to it more now, especially the track Open Hearts. Probably not the right venue for them (big crowd of slightly drunk dancey folk). A grower I'd say...balls..that's a lot more than one line...

Finally, for Day Two at least, Kitty, Daisy and Lewis (pictured above). Teenage Anglo Asian 50's rock n'roll band featuring their mum and dad. No, seriously. Sounds bloody actually bloody great. How people this young get to be this good is a mystery to me. Kitty is now 13, Lewis is 15 and Daisy an OAP-tastic 18. They all seem to be able to play each other's instruments. In fact almost every track saw someone swap something. Listen to Mean Son of a Gun and tell me it doesn't stand up to any of the great early rock n'roll tracks...awesome.

Coming soon...DAY THREE! (can you contain yourselves?)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Great Escape - Day One Thursday 17th May 2007

Oh so many bands. So I've decided to split this review into three (one for each day...clever eh?). I could write a small novel about the whole thing but you and I both have much better things to do with our time, so I'll keep things short and snappy.

It all kicked off on the it should do really...with the wonderfully named Eternal Erection. Fronted by a larger than life character called Rick Lover, they're a glorious band that put the F - U - N back into FUNK. Purists may scoff, but hey, I'm a music whore. Next up was one of these new fangled text message 'street' gigs. Peggy Sue and The Pirates in a Toy Museum. It was hotter than hell in there and all I could see was the back of a someone's head, but it all sounded bloody good. As I 'writted' before they're (two girls...not really pirates after all...swizz) a lovely mix of Kate Nash and Regina Spector...or a chav Lily Allen as the programme referred to them as. Onwards and upwards to Peter Van Poel. French singer songwriter. Nice but, well you know, difficult to stand out...unlike 586. Bloody loved 'em. Kind of a Flying Lizards for the 21st century in places, or a bastardised version of the 'Are You Being Served' theme tune (oh I really should do this for a living). Anyway, please listen to them, especially Money Is The Drug and We Got Bored (love the screamy bit in this one). Lush. Still with me? Good. Les Breastfeeders (pictured) were up next. French Canadian garage punk. Sound good on record but many times better live. Mainly due to the guy in the sheepskin waistcoat who looked like he was going to pass out / away at any minute...and they gave me a beer. Result! Fans of The Hives will love 'em.

After scooting across town we managed to get in to see The Foals. I raved about them at The Sunflower Lounge and they were just as good this time round. Playing in a much bigger venue it wasn't quite as special, but then I'm just being a fussy bastard. Post Rave Artrock/Math Rock / Whateveryouwanttocallit Rock for people who want to dance in that kind of strange twitchy way that Ian Curtis made all his own.

Right...Gallows...this is where it got a bit messy. I love this band. They're one of the few groups who you can imagine dying for their music. Not in a Kurt Cobain 'blow your own head off 'way, but in a kind of 'if you try to stop us it's a case of us or you' kind of way. Yes, they're hardcore punk. Yes Frank has more tats than most people have hot dinners, but he seems a genuinely decent, passionate bloke. As I've said before...REAL. And in a world of Celebrity Size Zero Super Hidden Camera Make Me A Camel Factor, that is a rare and beautiful thing. Seriously. So, anyway, on they come. There are some 14 photographers in front of a 4ft barrier separating us from the band, plus three or four 'security' dudes. Now, Frank's a hands on kind of guy. Their music is there to be experienced as well as listened to. Almost every shot you see of him, he's right there in the crowd. So, naturally he doesn't like barriers. The gig kicks off and Steph, Frank's brother, gets knocked out (it seemed to be by one of the other acccident obviously). Blood spurts out of his head. He's carried off. Frank runs off to the side to check the damage and we all fear / expect that the gig will come to a swift end. But no. In seconds Steph is back, a makeshift dressing keeping his skull together.

Frank comes to the edge of the stage and tells us his bro is okay, but will need a trip to A & E that's dedication. Frank eyes the photographers, barrier and security. '14 cameramen, security guards, a barrier...but that doesn't have to stop you from joining us up here on stage' (the crowd cheers). 'DOES IT?!' (more cheeering). The next song starts. Now, don't ask me was just the moment I guess, but I knew I had to try to get up there on stage. Normally I wouldn't dream of invading a band's space, but tonight it almost felt like disrespect to not try to get up there. One other brave (foolhardy?) soul tried across the other side of the room and was taken down before he'd cleared the barrier. So, taking a deep breath and mustering as much energy as I could I vaulted the barrier (that could've gone oh so wrong) and lept onto the stage. Within about 2 seconds the inevitable happened. Security. Arms up the back. Marched downstairs and kicked out. Lady Baron found all this hilarious / cool at the same time. I'm still undecided. It appears that after I left Frank (who lept in to the crowd again just as I got onto the stage) asked 'Did someone just get up here?' 'Yeah' said one of the band 'but the fucking security dragged 'em off again'. 'In that case' said Frank 'I'm gonna play every song...twice' (crowd cheers some more). I sit outside for a couple of songs then wait for the security guard to turn his back and stroll back in again. I think it's what Frank would've wanted...

Coming soon...DAY TWO!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Julian Cope / Dan Whitehouse Glee Club Birmingham Wednesday 16th May 2007

Guess who's back...back again...Shady's back...well no, I am... but that doesn't mean a great deal. Oh dear. I can't get into a review without waffling can I?

The Great Escape Festival was, well, great. No, make that GREAT. I managed to cram in a mighty 30 gigs and 2 interviews (watching them..not doing them) over the three days. A review (in some form or another) will will certain liver failure. Not big or clever. This week sees another orgy of gigs (if I go to them all that is... or indeed make it through the night). If music be the food of love...I'm a big, fat biffa.

Anyway, enough of my gibber jabber. Just before The Great Escape (the night before in fact, planning has never been my strong point) there was another kind of great escape (I should write for a free local newspaper or something shouldn't I?) in the form of the mighty Julian Cope (ably supported by opener Dan Whitehouse who I reviewed on this very site just a few weeks ago...lazy? Moi?). Mr Cope is another one of those British legends who we just don't seem to treasure enough. Mad as a badger on acid he may be, but he's done some cracking stuff over the years from the poppy 'smash hits' of The Teardrop Explodes through to the spaced out early solo stuff, back to 'smash hit' territory with World Shut Your Mouth, then all over the shop with heavy metal albums, books about stone circles and Krautrock, he's writing a musical called A Dick in the Underworld...

He's also been responsible for one of my best ever gigs many moons ago in Wolverhampton (early 90's), but I don't think he's really toured much since then. I heard a bit of him at Glasto a few years ago (he was playing the 'acoustic tent' which was as full as an egg) and he seemed to be doing his best to annoy the audience with some weird folk stuff (although the scrumpy might have just addled my brain a little). Tonight however he was on fine form. Half stand up, half gig he played tracks from pretty much every phase of his career...none of the really obvious stuff, but 'Out Of My Mind On Dope And Speed' got an airing, which is good enough for me. He played a new track too (new to me anyway) called Living In The Room They Found Saddam In, all about the times he spends locked in his little room writing his books, musicals, music and god knows what else. Classic Cope.

Although it was billed as sort of a solo/acoustic show he shared the stage with some impressive speakers...the 'threat of bombast' as he called them. Every once in a while he'd plug himself in and unleash the threat a little bit. Then he'd go into a story about his wife summoning up spirits (the subject of the track O King of Chaos...about a spirit called O...and yes, he's a King of Chaos) or how he's writing a massive tome on Japanese rock music. Then he'd hop onto the mellotron for some spaced out stuff. Back to a story about Courtney Love, a bit more fact the whole evening (a value-tastic 2 hours 20 minutes)was a pretty accurate reflection of what make JC such a just never know what he's going to do next. If you've not listened to much Cope I can heartily recommend pretty much everything...but start with 20 Mothers...a great mid career (up to this point at least) album that didn't really get the success it deserved. Keep your eyes out for the world premiere of A Dick in the Underworld'll sure beat the hell out of Scooch the Musical (I bet Ben Elton's working on that one right now).

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Split the difference

Bands come and bands go. But the last week or so has seen three bands at totally different stages in their career go 'down the dumper'. The Cooper Temple Clause were first to bite the dust. They'd been around for a few years, flirted with success, then kind of fizzled out. Fair enough. Then came New Order. A bit of surprise really considering the forthcoming Joy Division movie is bound to create more buzz around the remaining members. The final one, and the one which got to me more than most, was Larrikin Love (that's a picture from their Happy as Annie single...classy eh?). I'd only seen them once, but thought they were pretty great. They seemed to have the kind of dedicated fanbase that The Libs had too. A smattering of singles, one album and...that's it. Curtains. Odd really. It's strange the impact that a band splitting up can have on you. If it's a band I really like I kind of feel a bit let down. Selfish I guess, if the band can't stand each other you can't expect them to keep plodding on for your sake. But, in all of these cases, 'musical differences' doesn't appear to be the reason for taking the needle off the record for the last time. Conversely bands that do keep 'plodding on' get my complete and utter admiration. The Bluetones spring to mind. Despite largely (and unfairly) being dismissed by the eNeMEy they're still touring, putting out records and doing their own sweet thing. Bands, like the rest of us, have a pretty predictable career pattern. Tour the toilets/work in a call centre. Then, if you're lucky, hit the big time/get a job in middle management. And finally back to the toilets / working in a call centre again. Maybe Larrikin Love just couldn't face the inevitable decline and fall? And perhaps Peter Hook fancies a stint answering billing enquiries at Global Power Tech (£6 per hour, breast feeding breaks for new mums and all the instant coffee you can stomach)?

Anyway, on to cheerier things. I'm off! "Hurrah!" shout dozens...oh alright then 3 or 4...oh bugger maybe even less than that...of devoted readers. But soft, what light on yonder window breaks (nope, no idea why I wrote that either) ? I'm not actually off for good...just off to sunny Brighton for the orgy, literally, of musical yumminess that is The Great Escape Festival. 200 bands, one pair of socks and a Kiss Me Quick hat. I've not been before but it all looks like jolly good fun. Expect a series of random outpourings upon my return.

In the meantime hugs and kisses to the ladies..and manly back slaps to the chaps.
ADDED BIT>>>whilst in Brighton I discovered that Ladyfuzz (another great new band) split up in April too...not good news. It seems to me that a load of bloody ace new bands are releasing funking great albums that get nowhere whilst the mainstream music biz gets ever more mundane and run by computer companies....aaaaaaaaaaggghhhhhhhhh!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Ganders / The Riptides / Strangeways The Flapper (yes...I know!) Friday 11th May 2007

Ahhhhh, The Flapper...or The Venue Formally Known As The Flapper & Firkin. Memories, sweet memories, cue sepia tinged flashbacks of a younger me getting down to the sweet melodies of young bucks like Add N to X, Arab Strap, Idlewild (on the first date of their first tour), Acid Mothers Temple, Catatonia and a whole host of fab local bands, step forward Twist, King Adora, The Palantines, Misty's Big Adventure, New Electrics...I could go on (oh please do I hear you cry), but I won't. So there. Anyway, the point of all this reverie is that The Flapper & Firkin was a fave haunt of mine back in da day, I'd not been since I saw The Editors there a while back, then it closed...but now it's back BACK BACK! It's My Space page promised new toilets...hmmm...not really new...just cleaned. In fact much of The Flapper was pretty much how I left it, particularly the bottom bit where the bands play. But I liked it then and by jingo I like it now. Before we were blessed with the Barfly and Academy (Bar Academy...not the big one...that's a hole...literally) loads of up and coming touring bands would play at the Flapper & Firkin. Now, alas those days are gone. The all new Flapper would seem to be a perfect warm up venue for local bands though. So perhaps that's its 'USP' (my old marketing lecturers would be dead chuffed with that).

Anyway, the review. This is the first time in ages I've just gone along to see some bands without really knowing what to expect. In this era of My Space or yours it's just too easy to click and you could end up missing a great live band just because their demo's a sack of you know what. First up were Strangeways who don't seem to have logged into their My Space page since 2006. I'm guessing they don't gig much at the moment...or maybe they have a virus...perhaps they just can't be arsed. Live they were okay, reminded me a little of a rockier Charlatans in places. There's only one track that you can listen to online and I don't think it's their best...if you read this Strangeways, put some more stuff up you naughty chaps!

Next, The Riptides, who quite impressed me on a few tracks, Give Me a Reason (I think that was the title) was the highlight of a sparky set (yes, sparky) with lead singer Aaron twitching all over the shop like Ian Curtis on acid. If you're going to be a frontman / woman give it a bit of oomph that's what I say, and he did. Musically they have a rocky vibe going on with some electro keyboard stuff that gives it a nice twist (a touch Killers in places). Again, just one track to listen to on ver Space. Again, not their best.

Finally The Ganders. By this point I'd had a half or two (bottles...of red wine) washed down with some I was feeling in a 'mellow' kind of mood. I was also soaking wet (rain, nothing else, I have perfect bladder control...too much information?)...and a little peckish. So I could've been forgiven for being less than enthusiatic as the night wore on. But The Ganders were an unexpected treat. Good old fashioned (and I mean that in a positive way) blues rock that wouldn't have been out of place on The Old Grey Whistle Test next to Rod and The Faces, Whispering Bob Harris and Shouting Phil Gooseberry (I made one of those up, can you tell which one?). Lead Gander, Daz, has a solid bluesy voice and he's backed by an equally strong musical 'rock machine' (hmmm). Like fellow Brummies, Fillmore Gears, they're tapping into the '70's, but doing it well. Check out Black Sun (Live Demo) for some classic Ganders. In fact you could say (are you ready for this?) they're well worth a...(oh, you've spoilt it now) gander.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Schwefelgelb...oh so wrong...but oh so right. German techno at its very best - Fischer Spooner meets Kraftwerk...das ist guht (not sure if that actually means anything in German, but it sounds like it could do.

Happy May Day!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Royalties killed the radio star...

God there's so much music out there. It's scary. If you ever find yourself in need of a new radio station to listen to head over to Live 365, which claims to offer an ear crippling 260 different genres of music and thousands...literally...thousands of stations. I'm currently getting down to a bit of Hardcore J (not what you're thinking, you mucky pups) a station devoted to J Pop, as in J for Japanese...clever that. Amongst the more eclectic genres we have Bachata (which is a bit Latin I think), Halloween (beats me...) and Rainy Day (a collection of stations to listen to've guessed it...a rainy day). I'm thinking of suggesting a few new about X Pop (a collection of stations that only play records by bands whose name begins with an X), Charity Shop Pop (stations that only play records that they've bought from their local branch of Help the Aged or some such worthy cause) or Alcho Pop (stations devoted to records by artists who like a drink or two)?

On a vaguely serious note it appears from our chums at Live 365 that a big increase in royalty rates for online broadcasters is threatening to shut down the likes of Destination Doo Wop and Moods of the Moon...which would be a real shame.