Saturday, June 30, 2007

Glastonbury...some music stuff...and a few more reflections

S'funny really. I've spent the last week chatting to people about Glasto. "Will you go again?" they all asked. "Possibly not" I've replied. "Ahhhhh, that's 'cos you're getting old" they all say. Cobblers. It's got bugger all to do with that. A few things happened this year to cast a doubt over Glasto 2008. The weather was one of them (coming after years of mud, another one was just taking the piss really). But the weather I can cope with. Second was the increase in the number of people on site. It made the shuffling around just that bit slower and the crowds for the 'big acts' just that bit bigger. Who knows, will next year see the capacity rise to 200,000? Where will it all end? Will it take over the whole of Somerset one day? There was the mind melting array of acts and stages on offer too. We all like a bit of choice, but hell, it took three days to trawl through the programme. You can easily spend a few hours just spinning around in a mire of indecision (wearing Kylie...I'd look good in hotpants you know...I have the ass for it...). Finally, and this really hit me on the Sunday evening, if you do choose to go and see one of the 'big' acts (which I wouldn't normally go and see, but because they, and I, are there, I will do at Glasto) unless you get into position a good hour or so early, or try to shoehorn yourself into the crowd, you end up watching most of the action on a giant screen. Hmmmm. I could do that at home and spend my £200 on going to see bands 'in the flesh' instead. Anyway, for what it's worth, those are my thoughts on Glasto 2007 as an 'event'.

Time to talk about the music. Rather than bore you with a 10,000 word dissertation on The Hair of Amy Winehouse and the Decline of Western Civilisation I'll just briefly focus on a few highlights. Musically speaking (or listening) my best bits probably took place in the Leftfield Tent on Thursday night. They had CUD, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Glen Tilbrook on (all of whom were ace). Best of all though was Kid Harpoon. His voice kind of sounds like a teenage boy who's just discovered bourbon and wild, wild women. There's real ooomph behind his live performance that perhaps doesn't come across on some of his recorded stuff. There's a strong folky / sea shanty kind of feel to the music that makes it all sound timeless, there are echoes of laughing Lenny Cohen on some tracks (indeed he covers Len's First We Take Manhattan...and makes it his own). He has this curious dancing thing too where he sort of recoils from his mic stand like it's about to lamp him one. Brilliant...and worth the price of the Glastonbury ticket on his own.

Friday kicked off with a Guilty Pleasures set (hosted by 'DJ' Sean Rowley). This was basically a house band fronted by a different vocalist for each track (all covers of golden oldies that some would consider 'guilty pleasures' ...clever eh?). The crowd was fairly thin, so we got right to the front to see The Magic Numbers, Tim Burgess, Les (from The Bay City Rollers) and Suggs (pictured above) amongst others. Great fun.

Another unexpected highlight was the lovely Lily Allen. In between swearing like a trooper and chatting about big cocks, she introduced Lynville Golding (ex The Specials) as her special guest. I love The Specials and pondered aloud how great ot would be to see Terry Hall up there too. Then, as if by magic, Lily, in a Jim'll Fix It stylee, introduced Mr Hall too for a blistering version of Gangsters (which you can see here!)

Finally (like I say, these are just the edited highlights) I was blessed to see !!! (the band...I've not gone to sleep and leant on the ! key...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...sorry, I did then). They're a lot 'camper' in real life than I was expecting but the music is pure 'art disco' (what do you mean there's no such genre). If you want to know what makes them so great just listen to Must Be The Moon...a tribute to the Who's late drummer...probably...(I spotted, well he was standing right next to me so it wasn't hard, politicomic god Mark Thomas jigging to the !!! vibe too - good taste fella).

Right, that's it. Gotta dash. Off to another festival. Rootsvile this time. They're promising shelter from the predicted 2-3 inches of rain that's predicted today. Gawd bless 'em. Eavis, are you listening?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Glastonbury...some muddy thoughts.

Well, I survived. Glastonbury number 10 well and truly under my belt. Weather wise it was probably the worst. Not as spectacular as Brown Friday (2005), but just as destructive. Aside from odd bursts of sunshine it petty much drizzled/pissed it down for four days. To some it's all part of the fun. I think it depends on how often you've experienced this kind of 'fun'. We got chatting to a real veteran (who'd been going since 1985) whilst sheltering from a particularly nasty downpour. He was pretty pissed off by the whole thing. In fact we concluded that the last really sunny Glasto was 1995. "Why doesn't Eavis move the bloody thing" he moaned. He has a point. Whatever your view of spending four days up to your knackers in mud may be, the plain fact is that it's far nicer sitting on the grass in the sun. Strangely Mr Eavis was quoted in the Glastonbury Daily (the onsite festival 'newspaper') as being sort of glad that it rained so that he could test out the new drainage. Hmmmmm...not really with you there Mr E. Don't get me wrong, I still have a real affection for Glastonbury. To me it's the best festival of its kind in the world. The organisation is mind blowing, many of the acts are amazing (often the ones on the smaller stages), you meet some great people...but why oh why can't we just have a dry one? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaghhhh! I guess it all kind of came to a head when our tent finally gave way on Sunday and the water flooded in. Later we spent an hour plodding through the mud in the pouring rain to get to the coach station for 2am. Then we waited for an hour in the pouring rain to get on the coach. Then we spent nearly five hours sitting on the bloody coach in an atmosphere that can only be described as ripe cheese. So, forgive me. A more positive, music related review (yes...there was music too) will follow just as soon as I've got the trench foot out of the way. Peace.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rootsville...and a bit of a rant...

I've not 'gigged' for two weeks now. A musical detox if you will (and I'm sure you will). To make up for it, as well as the festival who's name I promised not to mention again, I've just purchased tickets to something called Rootsville. I think it happened last year (on a much smaller scale) and sold out. This year they've pulled together a fairly eclectic, but pretty cool sounding, line up including The Inspiral Carpets (yes...THE Inspiral Carpets...I can do my patent 'baggy' dance last seen in The Gloucester - Brighton 1990 - all over again), Misty's (yay!), The Destroyers (yay!), The Presets (yay! get the idea), The Ripps, The Dholblasters and Chrissy Van Dyke (who I last saw in Plutonik...the most remarkable Drum n'bass band ever who deserved to be megastars...but weren't...booo hisss to the music biz). Early bird tickets are a bargaintastic £15 and are / were still available yesterday from my chums at Swordfish records. It seems that some of the festival is taking place under one of the many railway arches in Digbeth. Cool idea. One of the things I really enjoyed about the Great Escape Festival in Brighton was the variety of unusual venues by the seafront. We've got just as many great buildings here in last some are finally being used. Hurrah! On a more worrying note Pete Ashton has commented that residents of some of Digbeth's swanky new apartments are a tad unhappy with music and stuff going on in 'their' neighbourhood and they're muttering about getting things shut down. As a regular of The Fiddle & Bone, a beautiful canal side pub and music venue in the heart of the city that was shut down by some of the...sorry...I'm going to swear here...wankers...who moved in to the apartments that overlooked it, this is worrying news. Now, I like my peace and quiet at home as much as the next bloke. That's why I live in 'leafy' Bearwood. The junkie crack whores keep the place lovely and quiet. If I chose to move in to, say, the NEC, I would expect a little noise now and then. And if, just as Birmingham is starting to develop a decent arts scene, it was shut down by people who choose to live slap bang in the middle of its beating heart then I will weap. Seriously. Right...where was I? Oh yes. Rootsville. Looks good. Just the kind of pan genre (nothing to do with real pans...although that would be kind of interesting...can pans be a genre? Discuss) musical event that the world needs more of. That's it. I'm unlikely to post again until after the festival who's name I'm not mentioning again...'cos I'm a workshy fop. So, until we meet again...ta ra bab (the bus driver said this to Lady Baron yesterday and it made me feel all warm inside...).

I can almost smell it...

...oh so close to Glasto now. I've spent many a happy hour reading the festival message boards and the 'blitz' spirit is well and truly in operation. The weather this week has been shite. Not as shite as the apocolyptic flash flood of 2005, but still pretty grim. Given this I've invested in a natty pair of waterproof golfing trousers (£5.99 from Sports World) and some brand new wellies from a shop called Giant Shoe Bargains (£4...a steal). There, now The Hearing Aid has turned in to a cut price fashion site. I am the new Trinny and Susannah...or maybe that Gok bloke who gets people to pose in the buff. Anyway, the point of all this (good grief...there's a point is there?) is that this is the last mention of Glasto...until I return. Promise. There. To make up for boring the tits off anybody who isn't going I've found a lovely picture of a young lady who's appearing in Trash City...a new 'nightime' Glastonbury venue that promises 'an intergalactic red-light district'. For once I am lost for words...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Long, long a galaxy far, far away...Stirchley in fact...I saw a band. An ace band. A bostin band. A band that made the kind of classic pop music that makes you just feel good. The band were Dodgy. I'd come to them through buying a white label single for 50p. I just liked the graphic on the sticker and, in those days, the only way to hear new music was to buy it or tape it off your mates. I thought it was going to be a dance track, but it was pure a good way. It turned out they were from Brum too. Result. Over the next year or so I saw them a couple of times at The Hibernian...then Dr Fame (I always figure fame would be a Dr...with mad hair and a lab a kind of madder version of Phil Spector...jeez what is that guy on?) came a calling and they played gradually bigger venues before finding their natural habitat on the Festival scene. Classic single followed classic single...then...just as they were really getting somewhere the lead singer, Nigel, quit. Bugger. At the time he said he wanted to go off and do stuff with samplers. The other two members of Dodgy, Matt and Andy, seemed genuinely gutted...and a bit confused. They kept the name and formed a new version of the band...not bad...but the lead singer had more of a bluesy, rock voice...totally unsuited to the sweet harmony kind of stuff that the band were famous for. Nigel followed his sampler route...hmmmm. I saw both factions at the time..and I've seen Nigel quite a few times over the last 9 years...each time asking myself 'when the hell are they going to reform?' His debut solo album released earlier this year, 21st Century Man, made me ask the question once again, because he's gone back to what he does really well. Listening to the album it's pure Dodgy. Clearly the original three members of the band have reached the same conclusion cut a very long story short...they're back...BACK...BACK!

Having lost a couple of great bands in the last few weeks (Larrikin Love and Ladyfuzz) it's nice to have one back again. If you're 30 something you'll know (and possibly love) tracks like Staying Out For The Summer, Lovebirds, In a Room, Good Enough...if you're not...well they're well worth a listen. There's an intriguing rumour that they might be playing Glastonbury too...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Glastonbury...the countdown begins.

Well, just over a week to go. Whatever you think about Glastonbury (overhyped sell out or the greatest music festival in the world?) one thing's for's gonna rain. The only year that I've been when it didn't rain was, strangely, my first year. It was as hot as hell, we were totally unprepared and had very little money. Hayfever kicked in, which, combined with chronic sunstroke and a mild case of dehydration, made the whole experience a bit of an ordeal. Over the last 8 Glasto's we've kind of honed our craft, although this year we've been thrown a bit of a curveball by being forced to travel by coach (these were the only tickets available). We set off from Brum at 4.30 pm on Wednesday...and arrive some time after that. We depart at 3.00 am on Monday morning. At first I thought this was a typo. Surely they meant 8.00am or 13.00 hours...or even 3.00pm? But no. It's 3.00am. On the plus side this should get up home by 7.00ish so we can delouse ourselves, flop in front of daytime telly and try to recover what's left of our braincells. On the minus side this means trying to take down our tent and find the coach after 6 gallons of scrumpy and some 'erb (sage obviously). Should be fun. Talking of which, Mr Eavis has outdone himself this year and put on even more stages than ever. This will make the 'what do we see now?' game even more amusing. There's always a great moment when you sit down with your handy timetable amd optimistically plan your days knowing full well that, once the skies open and the entire site turns into a curious mix of mud, cow shit and human waste (of all varieties) trying to get from A to B will become pretty impossible. There are plenty of other great moments the first visit to the toilets...although they are a lot better than 'back in the day'. At our first Glasto the 'deposits' in some of the loos rose above the seats like that mountain in Close Encounters. You had to kind of wedge yourself above the steaming mass in order to do 'your business' and hope you didn't slip. Now they're much cleaner...well, a bit. What else do I look forward too? Ahhhh the Cider Bus. That's normally my first stop. Grab a pint of trad. scrumpy, sit on the grass and have a chat to some bloke called Dave who's come from Milton Keynes. Heaven (not Dave, the Cider). The Hare Krishna free food tent is a pretty cool too. That's 'free' and 'food'...two of my favourite words. Although this will be our tenth Glasto I always leave feeling that I've not 'done it right'. You hear tales of people who've been up for 96 hours (sadly I need some sleep godammit) partying with the Scissor Sisters and 'that bloke from Big Brother'...or 'happenings' that you've missed where 15 student nurses got naked and handed out bags of drugs that they'd nicked from A & E. Whether any of this is true or not I'll never know...then again...maybe this could be the year to find out?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hurrah! Devotchka is coming!

I don't normally make a big song and dance about bands and tour dates because lots of other people do it so well...but I'm making an exception this time. Regular readers will recall me wittering on about Devotchka when they supported Dresden Dolls last year. Down to earth as ever I urged people to quit their jobs and follow them around the world...'cos they were that good. At least 16 people lost their homes, careers and sanity as a result. If you've ever watched Little Miss Sunshine (a truly great little film) you will also know them as they provided most of the music for it. Anyway they are great. And they're coming back to England. In August. For just 3 dates. AND ONE OF THEM IS IN BIRMINGHAM! Oh joy.

August 2007

20th London 93 Feet East (is that a map reference?)

21st Birmingham Bar Academy (hmmm sound issues ahoy)

22nd Manchester Academy 3 (Manchester gets 3 Academys...lucky old Manchester...still not the second city yah boo and sucks to you).

Oh, I've still not said what they're like yet have I? Hmmm, well the recordings don't really do them justice...they're kind of Eastern European, a bit gypsy...a bit jazzy...there are and whistling...quite a bit of whistling...go and have a listen for yourself. Maybe I was gripped by some kind of emotional 'thing' at the time but it was one of the best gigs I've ever seen (and I've seen one or two). There. Promotional rant over. I expect a free Devotchka T-shirt in the post in the morning.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Seasick Steve / Duke Garwood MAC Birmingham Saturday June 2nd 2007

Outdoor gigs. Great idea in principle...seldom much cop in dear old blighty. But last night...well thank the Lord...the sun shone...the clouds pissed off and, for once, the only blues I felt were musical (as opposed to that tingling sensation you get just before frostbite sets in...Glastonbury here we come!).

Opener Duke Garwood was clearly a step too far for a lot of the audience. Psych Blues that sort of drifted into the air like smoke from a campfire as if it wasn't quite sure where it should go. He's got a way of playing that's a little like tuning up and soundchecking...which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy it (I did), but the venue was probably a little big and the audience a little too mixed to work out right (once people start nattering it tends to spoil the 'vibe').

On to the main event. I almost hesitate to review Seasick Steve at all. It doesn't seem right to put a man who clearly belongs to a pre computer era on the net in any way, shape or form. Maybe I should write the review on a piece of old wood and nail it to an oak tree somewhere...or maybe I should just get on with it? Okay. The blues can, in this modern era, seem pretty remote and difficult to identify with. Not so with Seasick. He's there. He's a real as you can get. And he's got a song about his dead dog. How blues can you get? It's not just the songs that made tonight such a great gig though, it's the little stories too. Like Julian Cope a few weeks ago, each track was put into context. We knew what it was about, why it was written, how it fitted in to his life. You got to feel like a friend, not just a member of the audience. Extraordinary. He just looks the part too. Long grey beard, fading tattoos, dungarees, baseball cap, battered guitar, wooden box to stamp his foot on...every inch the hobo tramp that he was and still is...although now he gets a lot more than just loose change for his performancs. It was the end of the set that really got me though. Although I'd been told about his customary shaking the hands of the audience at the end, I didn't really expect him to go climbing over seats and shuffling through row upon row of people. But he did. Until he'd shaken the hand of each and every person still there. Then he sat and signed stuff. The fact that this guy had a major heart attack a few years ago makes this all the more remarkable. Too soon to call him a living legend? Probably. After all the first time most of us saw him was on Jools Holland's last New Year Hootanannyididdleeydo. I'm sure there are other Seasick's out there who also deserve their time in the sun too. Although whether they would have the presence, dignity and respect for their audience as this one is another matter altogether. But, whatever you want to call him, if you get the chance to see Steve, take it. The blues have never been so dang hot.

Mr Derry / The Gravity Crisis / Untitled Musical Project / Zebedy Rays Flapper Friday 1st June 2007

Gigs that I go to at the Flapper buses etc etc...after not going to the place for about 3 years I've been there twice in about three weeks. Maybe I'm trying to recreate my mispent youth? Anyway, speaking of youth, the drummer for Zebedy Rays looks mighty young. Dwarfed by his kit in fact. This didn't stop him playing a blinder though. If there was a prize for enrgy tonight the Rays would've walked it. Lead ray Ad, started off in the crowd, beating a drum like his life depended on it, the rest of the band on stage also drummed like men possessed. It was all a bit mariachi to begin with in fact. Musically they settled in to a sort of new wave blues vibe (now there's a genre waiting to be discovede by NME). Only a year old they're an intriguing proposition and well worth checking out live.

Untitled Musical Project, a band that I'd be promising myself I'd see for months, were as much of a slap up the chops as I was expecting. They're the kind of band for whom the word 'cult' was invented. I could almost see myself watching them in 20 years time (obviously I'll be in a wooden box by then, but hopefully Lady Baron will wheel me around to check out the latest sounds...). Uneasy listening for sure, metally (yes, metally) riffs, pounding drums and lots of screaming...and feedback...and blood. Yes, blood. Kieren sliced his finger open on the first track (not literally on the track...although how cool would that that made your fingers bleed?), but manfully played on smearing the red stuff all over his guitar as the set wore on. Beastie Boys. Sabotage. Yes...Untitled Musical Project remind me of the Beastie Boys track Sabotage. Hmmm...maybe just me on that one. Anyway, as a fan of music that rearranges your internal organs like a Hotpoint on full spin, I rather liked UMP. It'll be interesting seeing them in a larger venue at some point...I get the feeling they'd be even better with a bit more room to breathe...and scream...and bleed.

Next up, The Gravity Crisis. Buzzcocks-y vocals with a hard, fast and dirty...oh so dirty...musical heart. The kind of band that make you want to buy a motorbike and drive across America drinking Jack Daniels and snorting Ajax (it cleans the sinuses a treat so I'm told). Ace.

Finally, Mr Derry. They got better and better as the set rolled on. And they were chuffing great to start with. Chunks of country, blues, rock and indie popped into a blender, switched to full on and transformed into a fine musical smoothie. So, four bands, £3 (with a flyer) and yet another brilliantly entertaining night of local music.

It's pretty clear that (as the mainstream press keep pointing out) we're living in a golden era for live music that's partly being fuelled by the wonders of My Space (where every band can do their own marketing, build a loyal fanbase and promote their gigs for nowt). It's just a shame that the charts (what's left of them) are generally full of complete and utter shite, the 'majors' (again, what's left of them) can't afford to sign anyone who makes music that can't translate into a ringtone and the whole music business is going to drown in a sea of forth rate dance acts, novelty records and talent show rejects. That's when it's going to get really interesting...

Personally I'm still in favour of the flat monthly fee, dowload everything you want model. Perhaps bands could charge a bit more for tickets too...just as long as the Government / ebay / the rest of us take out the online touts with a machete.