Saturday, May 31, 2008

Guile / Mr Derry / Dogfight Revolution / Funhouse Robots @ The Rainbow, Friday 30th May 2008

Mon's been ages since I last 444'd but I'm glad to report that all is still well chez Rainbow (like the French stuff...non? Oh well, tough merde). Anyway, without any further ado, onto le musique pop, or le musique de Cramps in the case of openers Funhouse Robots. Mixing a little rockabilly with a hefty dose of blues punk and a sprinkling of glam they've got a fine bundle of tunes, the pick of which, Sensation Space Station merges glorious 50's bass lines with 70's punk attitude...grrrrrrrrrr (that's me being all rock n'roll by the way). You can here it, and one other track at their Myspace thingy. Oh, top marks for the cover of the Sid Vicious version of My Way, by the way. Loved the hat. Nice touch.

Next up the lower key, slower burning Dogfight Revolution. I was sat right next to the speaker so I caught the full Velvet Underground tinged sonic assault. They've got that great 'chung chung' late 60's psych guitar sound going on together with drawn out, spacey vocals that ignite at the chorus. Oh yes. It's the sort of stuff you want to listen to on slightly crackly vinyl, late at night, with some 'erb. It seems they have a 'drone machine' too. What is a 'drone machine?' Answers on Syd Barretts bike to the usual address...

Talking of 'erb, next up Mr Derry. Nope I don't get the link either but it's all so much more convenient if things link up n'est ce pas? I've seen Mr D quite a few times now and they were every bit as blues rockin' as before. There's a nice touch of The Kills about the band, in other words straight up, adrenaline fuelled rock and mother humpin' roll. They played a couple of slower numbers tonight which showcased Joni's voice in a different way that I rather liked. Sure, she can do the belters but that voice can handle the mellower stuff just as well. I even got to open her beer bottle midway through the set. Glad to be of service. Reviewer and opener of bottles...that should look good on a business card.

Last up Guile. I could be really lazy here and just refer you to their Myspace thingy, upon which resides a review from my good self. Jolly impressive it is too, 'an awesome psych soundtrack to the greatest road movie never made' indeed. I'd stand by that comment though. Great slabs of psych noise, stoner rock god vocals and choruses that build up to a crescendo before fracturing into a million splinters of sound (hey, 'splinters of sound' that's nearly as good as the 'psych soundtrack' bit...I should do this for a living). Love Around Here remains, for me, the pinnacle of their work so far and, generous souls that they no doubt are, they've put it on their Myspace page for you to listen to. Turn it up loud and wake the dead. Speaking of dead, the lighting for Guile was pretty cool tonight. What with all the dry ice and stuff it made them look like shadowy figures from the 'other side' (as you can see from the picture). Cool.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Santogold @ Bar Academy, Birmingham, Monday 26th May 2008

Outside it's raining, but inside it's sang (I think) legends of rap, East 17. And who are we to disagree? Tonight, it was raining outside (what's with the bloody weather eh? I blame the government) and, thanks to the volume of sweaty bodies, it was indeed 'wet'...well moist anyway...inside. No support band (in 20 years of going to gigs I have yet to arrive at the 'right' time) just the main event. For me at least Santogold is another Pig Radio discovery. They've been playing LES Artistes for ages. To be fair it's not really representative of her style. Think more MIA and you'll be on the right lines, banging bass heavy, reggae influenced toons with some more exotic musical twists and turn in the background. Santi raps/sings over the top and was backed by two robotic looking singers/dancers (they were meant to be robotic looking...I'm not dissin 'em or owt). Santi seemed incredibly sweet in real life, far more than her glitter spewing album cover and vocal style hints at, in fact she appeared pretty overwhelmed by the response of a fairly (for Brum at least) enthusiastic crowd. I've not heard all of the album but the tracks I was familiar with (stuff like Creator and LES Artistes) came across really well. Loadsa bounce, strong vocals and plenty of leaning over the barriers to touch the flesh of the fans. It was a pretty short set, but it's all about the quality not the quantity eh? Tonight was (cheesy link alert) pure 24ct Santogold (I did warn you...). Fans of Santogold may want to check out Santi's previous band, the much punkier/ska tinged Stiffed. Good stuff too.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Siege / Bryn Christopher / Jamie Croft / Only The Good @ The Flapper, Friday 23rd May 2008

Good to be back at The Flapper again. It's a great little venue. They've got a bigger 'stage' there now as well, which is a darn good job given tonight's brilliantly eclectic bill. I do like a bit of variety and that's just what we got. We got something else fact Platform Promotions pulled a bit of a coup here...more of that in a moment. But first, break out the bats, it's Only The Good! The lead guitarist's t-shirt summed it up pretty well really, ' Heavy Fuckin Metal'. He was a bit of a star actually, how the hell you do all of that head banging stuff without losing one of your frontal lobes I'll never know. Musically they rocked the Maiden out of the place, plenty of quality fret wanking and bonus points for the feet on the monitors ending. Nice touch.

How do you follow that? A singer / songwriter of course. Local troubadour Jamie Croft played a strong, passionate set of mainly original material (with a cover of 'Help' thrown in for good measure), the highlights of which were the Wild Wood-esque Dance With The Devil and I'll Save You Tonight. He reminded me a little of a (much) younger Van Morrison in places, but that's probably just me. By the looks of his Myspace page he's also got a band together too, High Roller. Hold on a mo, let's have a listen. Woah. Bit of a contrast there. Heavy rock ahoy. There's a good version of Jamie's track, The Feeling, on there.

Okay, this is the coup bit I was talking about earlier on. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Bryn Christopher. Not heard of him yet? You will. There's been a real buzz building around him for a while. Recently signed to Polydor records and featured in The Sunday Times Breaking Act section, he's also toured with Amy Winehouse, just got a record of the week on Radio One and had one of his tracks featured in hit TV show Grey's Anatomy (who says I don't do my research eh?). Oh, did I mention he was from Birmingham too? Ahhh, but is he any good I hear you cry? Well, yes he is. Very. Very, very good. He has one of the most soulful voices I've heard in years. Crystal clear at the high notes (shades of David McAlmont at this level) but capable of the dirtier stuff (you know what I'm talking about ladies) at the lower end of the spectrum. Hark at me, I'm going all muso on you eh? Just listen to the first few seconds of, aptly enough, Seconds Ago. That's some funky shit. Now check out It's Taken Me Over. Heartmeltingly glorious. Needless to say he is going to be a big star here in the UK, but probably even bigger in the US. It's as a live perfomer that he really shines though. Confident without being too showy, totally connected with the music...he shakes a mean booty too. The audience were in the palm of his hand from start to finish and his cover of Portishead's Sour Times WILL be number one if it's ever released as a single. Hell, pretty much every track he played WILL be number one. I was lucky enough to have a brief chat with him at the end of the show and what came across (on top of being a lovely chap) is just how much he loves performing. Sure, it was The Flapper, but it could just as well have been Madison Square Gardens or his best mates living room. Bryn loves to perform and, pretty soon, thousands of people are going to love seeing him every bit as much.

Right. Follow that someone. You had to feel for The Siege, they said as much themselves. But, rising to the occasion, they put on a really good show. Indie rock with more than a nod in the direction of The Verve and Oasis, both of whom I've seen live, and I have to say, I prefer The Seige. No bull. There. If you ever get to read this, The Seige, print that on your posters. "Better than Oasis and The Verve - it's official!" - The Hearing Aid. Check out Riders and Don't Let The World, then tell me I'm wrong. Live they put everything into it and one chap just next to me nearly danced himself into the middle of next week. Job done.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Great Escape 2008 - 17th May (Day Three)

Right day three now. Or day one if you're reading this blog from the top (but it's still day three though...clear? Right?). Anyway, kicked the day off with The Young Republic on the pier. Pour yourself a glass of Jack D and listen to Comes A Time. Beautiful bluegrass tinged country folk with a Beatle-ish knack for catchy, timeless melodies (it seems today they were more 'unplugged' than normal thanks to one of the band walking out before they left Tennessee). The cover of Outcast's Hey Ya was pure genius.

Next up a triple bill of Japanese music, featuring Vola and the Oriental Machine, Levelload and Bo-Peep (we got free sushi and beer too...deep joy). Vola were the pick of the bunch for me. The Japanese take on rock n' roll has always been ball bustingly exciting and Vola were no exception. Iggy Pop meets James Dean shagging the B-52' Tokyo...with free sushi...and the Gang of Four.
Okay, we're into the home straight now. Next Speck Mountain, then The Crash, then loads of dashing about missing loads of bands. Damn those dodgy timetables. Damn! Somehow we lucked out and ended up in a big tent watching band of the moment Bon Iver. Quick history (as I understand it). The lead singer, Justin, get's binned by his girlfriend, fucks off to a log cabin on his own, lives off deer that he kills with his own bare hands then writes a bunch of gut wrenching lost love songs. Not sure that this was the best place to see the band (big tent full of slightly drunk middle aged people...oh shit...that's me isn't it...) but Skinny Love came off really well and I started to 'get' what the fuss was all about. Sure beats James Blunt.

Pitched up at Komedia for The Displacements, then ANOTHER band of the moment Glasvegas (the one band Seymour Stein wishes he'd signed...praise indeed). Imagine a more upbeat Arab Strap with power chords and a large does of The Might Wah! and you won't be too far off. It's good but I'm not sure the critical overkill is totally justified. maybe that's just my cold dead heart speaking...or maybe it's because I prefer Japanese transexuals playing ragga house with a dose of opera thrown in (now there's an idea ).

Knackered yet? Imagine how I feel. But stick with it. I have a final treat in store. After a restorative kebab (heart attack...schmart attack) we caught the tail end of Norwegian pixie Silje Nes before...Nils Bech (pictured). Yes. Nils Bech. I'll say that once more. Nils Bech. That's B E C H. Regular readers will know I love a touch of the camp. Gay disco. Jobriath. That kind of stuff. So Nils was right up my (oh, here we go) passage. It''s...well...funky Kraftwerky, jazzy, synthy experimental pop...Human League meets Miles Davis in a Sauna. Actually he sounds a little like the German officer in 'allo 'allo that fancied Rene. The set was all too short (around 20 minutes) but it goes straight (if that's the right word here) to one of my top 10 gigs of all time. I have to get the album. I have to see him again. I have to get a Nils Bech tattoo in a special place. Lovers of Sparks, Hercules & Love Affair, Anthony & The Johnsons and Marc Almond are strongly advised to follow suit.

After Nils we crawled to bed. The Great Escape 2008. Done.

The Great Escape 2008 - 16th May (Day Two)

Ooooh hangover. Not good. Still time and tide (and Rosie Oddie) wait for no man. Yes, Rosie Oddie. I'm sure the poor girl is fed up of people asking if she's related to Bill Oddie. It turns out she is. He's her dad. Oh goodie. She was all accoustic today, but she's normally backed by the 'Oddsquad (hell if your name's Oddie you might as well go with it). I was actually rather taken with young Rosie. Reminding me of cross between Lily Allan and Macy Gray, she's got a nice smokey quality to her voice with a shade of cockney swagger and a fine bunch of post millenial relationship toons. And she wore a fabulous hat.

One of the great things about The Great Escape are the talks that go on as part of the music conference bit. This year I caught two of them, 20 years of Acid House with, amongst others, Dave Ball (Soft Cell / The Grid), Richard Norris (The Grid / Beyond The Wizards Sleeve) and Phil Hartnoll (Orbital), then a chat between David Quantick and Seymour Stein (Sire Records guru and one of the most important people in music...ever). They were both worth the £35 weekend ticket fee on their own. Intimate chats with people who really know their stuff and, as a huge fan of Soft Cell as well as the New York punk/new wave movement (which Seymour played a huge hand in...after signing Blondie, The Ramones, Talking Heads...oh yes...some bird called Madonna too) I was in hog heaven. Back to the music, caught Eat Sugar then off to Drums of Death. Mental. Drums of Death is a chap in black and white face paint (a bit like that dude from League of Gentleman...the 'You're my wife now Dave' dude) who plays brain melting grime techno and shouts like a headcase on day release. I Loved it. Proper bangin' I believe the term is. Braaaaaaap.

No sooner had the crowd finished asking each other what the fuck that was all about we recieved a good dollop of Bitchee Bitchee Ya Ya Ya (pictured...cheeky) around our chops. Ahhh...Bitchee Bitchee Ya Ya Ya. Bliss. The CSS for 2008...but even sexier...and with better tunes. Signed to 'considerably trendier than thou' label Kitsune they're French, bouncy and scrummy. Cool Euro dance with phat beats, weird bleeps and electric sheeps (probably...I'd had a cider or two by this stage). Drop their name at parties and you'll be the coolest kid in town.

A quick dash across town and we caught Jennifer Gentle (a band, not a lovely lady called Jennifer). A magical blend of garage (60's I'm talking here), 50's rock 'roll, surf music, art rock...oh hell the whole kitchen sink...and purveyors of the truly pant wettingly good 'I Do Dream You', they're what Syd would've sounded like if he had lived in Italy. In 2008. Just listen to Universal Daughter. See? I got a free t-shirt from them too. Result.

Nearly there, Primary 1 were next, then Nila Raja...ahhh...then Bishi. Another highlight here. Pure pop joy given extra spice with Indian rhythms, tabla and, played by Bishi herself, some awesome sitar. Never Seen Your Face deserves to be a blasted from a million rooftops on a hot summers evening whilst we're all spoon fed chicken tikka and chips. She's a surprising one our Bishi though. Just when you've got her nicely pigeon holed she plays something like Three Ravens, which is all folky. Whatever...she's a goddess. Oh yes...a goddess. Why isn't all music this great? Oh, and while I'm at it, is anyone in Birmingham doing this kind of 'fusion' stuff? Let me know...

The Great Escape 2008 - 15th May (Day One...Part the Second)

Oh lordy. Where does the time go? Hmmm still on day one are we, right, hold on to yer hats. Where had we got to? Oh yes...Eugene McGuiness, right, what next? Oh yes. Doll & the Kicks, for the second time in a day. Not many bands would flick my switch twice in one day but D & the K did just that. A slightly rockier set this time, but just as rump shakingly great.

They were followed by Sometime, all the way from Iceland (not the cheapo frozen food outlet I hasten to add, although that could be why mum's go there...). Catchy blend of electro with some wiggly scratching, some Iceland-ish nuttiness and laid back, sensuous female vocals. Think Goldfrapp-ish...but more Icelandic (now that's the kind of cutting edge reviewing you've come to expect eh?). After a quick dash across town we caught a large slab of AA Bondy...who describes himself as sounding like 'creosote and warm skin'. I'd plump more for a chilled, much younger Seasick Steve...covered in creosote.

Right, this could take forever...I'll tell you what, just this once I'll skip through the bands I saw and just focus on the real highlights. Happy? Good. Sunset Rubdown next, then Okkervil River (pictured). Ah...they were very good. Kind of a midwest Joe Jackson, new wave Americana if you will...but poppy too. I've been in lurve with their track 'Unless It's Kicks' for ages which, now I come to think of it, has a touch of Adam Green to it (ie lyrically a notch above your average bear boo boo). Go and listen to it please. It's really rather splendid.
After that Lady Baron came over all queer and had to retire to our boudoir. I, being either (a) totally hardcore or (b) too tight to let any bands escape me, toddled off to see Arun Ghosh. Actually this was another treat, Asian dubby jazz. Arun plays clarinet, backed with bass, drums, tabla and a variety of other wonderful instruments. Distinct middle eastern notes coming through here too. Proof that musical fusion, when done really well, creates something new and, in the words of the kids, phat (hell yeah, I'm down with those kids). Finally, for Day One at least, Nathan 'Flutebox' Lee. Yes. Flutebox. That name might give you a clue. He plays a flute. Ahh, but there's a twist dear reader. He beatboxes at the same time. Hang on. That can't be right. That's not possible is it? Well, yes, it is...somehow. I've seen it with my own eyes. Awesome. Like Arun, he fuses indian influences with all sorts of other stuff, ragga beats, hip hop, jazz. You don't believe me do you? Go. Check out the vids on his Myspace page. With ears full of 'Flutebox' I retired to bed...

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Great Escape 2008 - 15th May (Day One...Part the First)

And so it came to pass. The Great Escape 2008. Regular readers will note that last year saw me being thrown out of a venue for invading the stage at a Gallows gig (at the invitation of Frank I hasten to add) and nearly being arrested for not leaving a venue when the organisers decided to 'change the crowd' for no real reason. Would this year be quite as eventful? Sit ye down and...over the course of many days...I'll tell ye...oh ar me 'arties (it was in Brighton so I've gone all pirate for a moment...blame the cider). DISCLAIMER: these are reviews in the loosest sense of the word...30+ bands in three days is a hell of a lot to take in...and even more to blog about...

First up Brighton's very own Doll and The Kicks. Doll (yes, that's her nom de plume) has a mighty voice, a gorgeous hybrid of Kate Bush, Lene Lovich and Gwen Stefani. The band's got a good half dozen classic new wavey tracks and the whole thing left me panting for more. Yes. Panting. I do love a good pant. So much so that I saw them later the very same day. And they were brilliant all over again. Cue more panting. Go, listen to them now and if you don't love them I'll give you your money back. Just cop a load of Pictures. Awesome. One of the highlights of the whole weekend. Twice.

There's a fair amount of dashing about with The Great Escape. With 30 venues and, in the words of The Two Ronnies, 'a packed programme', it's difficult to avoid spinning around like a top, agonising over whether to watch The Clam Lovers of Mars or Sodomising Jesus. Next we settled for the far more sensibly named Official Secrets Act. I'm getting shades of classic Costello here...clever, spikey late 70's pop. Bonus marks for the 'do do do do do' bit in Girl From The BBC. If there's any justice (NME style cheesey link ahoy) they won't remain a secret much longer (ouch...).

A mad dash saw us witness one or two tracks from Hot Rocket (on the Too little to make a valid comment but they seemed quite good. After a short break and a packet of nuts (I know how to live eh?) it was time for a glass of Eugene McGuiness. Witty and really rather lovable singer songwriter who raised more than one or two smiles with a clutch of songs about girls...and shoes...and more girls.

That's it for now. I can smell my tea cooking...and my head hurts...and the dog ate my homework...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Doll and The Kicks...roll on The Great Escape

It's a sunny Sunday afternoon so what else would I be doing but huddling over a computer in my loft listening to music. There's kind of a method in my madness though. This week's The Great Escape - a 3 day orgy of music in the land of my student days, Brighton. Mind you planning what to go and see and actually seeing what you plan are two completely different things. It's one of those trendy city fests you see, so there are loads of tiny basements and pub backrooms involved. Of course I love the intimate music venues more than life itself, but it does make it a case of pot luck as to whether you get in. One of the bands I'm determined to see are Doll and The Kicks. Lady Baron (who has more time on her hands than me...oh so much time) has been banging on about them for ages, so it would be jolly bad form not to check 'em out. I have and they're really rather lush (I heard a student use that word on a train the other day...hadn't heard it for now everything good is 'lush'). A lush (see, told you I can't stop using that word) mix of Blondie, Kate Bush and No Doubt they're right up my passage (steady on now) and I demand that you make them global megastars or I'll scweam and scweam until I'm sick.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Anomalies / Prospect Lane / Old School Tie / Geezer @ The Cross, Moseley Friday 9th May 2008

Ahhh the restorative qualities of the JD Weatherspoon Burger Meal (£4.59 for a burger, chips and a pint of Strongbow) and some quality music. Genius. Despite suffering from the after effects of too much cheap red wine and just 3 hours sleep (the result of an awards 'do' in London on Thursday night...yes I did win something thank you for asking) I made it to The Cross just in time to catch openers Geezer. I've seen them before at a Kamikaze! 444 night (I think they've got a slightly different line up now though...ahhh yes, a new bassist). I have to say that I was still feeling a little like death warmed up when I arrived at The Cross but, by the end of Geezer's set, I had started to make a remarkable recovery. So there we go. Cast aside Alka Seltzer if you have a hangover, just get yourself down to a Geezer gig. The music? Oh yes. It's a smart blend of indie rock with a simmering side order of ska. Lead Geez, Robb, has a strong live vocal and the rest of the band are nicely grooved out for the ska-ish numbers and full on for the rockier tracks. Check out Stalker and Real You for a taster.

Next up Old School Tie. I really like this lot. Like I said before in a previous review there's a real festival vibe about the band (reminds me of Glasto's past...), great dubby wig outs blended with threads of Sigur Ros deftness (just listen to Glass Cage...see?), it's seriously beautiful stuff. What makes music such a powerful thing is the ability of people to take all sorts of influences and fuse them together to make something that's timeless but new (yes, I know that's a contradiction...sue me...actually don't...I'm not made of money). I was lucky enough to catch up with the drummer after the show (a nicer chap you couldn't wish to meet) and he tipped me off about their very own festival, Field View, that's on August 9th. Eco friendly, intimate (I think there's about 500 tickets) and with a 10+ bands for the mind meltingly fabulous price of £7 it is, for me, the shape of festivals to come. I'm not going to join the current Glasto bashing that's so popular the moment. Yes, of course it's changed. It had to. It's a shame, but there you go. You pays your money and you takes your chance. Field View looks to recapture, as well as refresh, the spirit of the original festivals and I can think of no better band than Old School Tie to do just that. Oh, do me a favour too, crank up your speakers, open your windows and play Gods Electric Super Scene at full blast today. It's awesome. Share the love.

Third band of the night (and probably the band I've seen most over the last 12 months stat fans) Prospect Lane. I mention the fact that I've seen them live so many times 'cos I still love seeing them. That's praise indeed. If you see a band loads of times there's a tendancy to get a little blase, but Michael and co put so much into it that's there's never any danger of that. Isolation and Fickle both came off really well tonight and I loved that moment between us just before the now infamous Alice Deejay cover version (which worked the audience up into a sweat soaked orgasm...ooh messy). For me they're still one hot (very hot tonight in fact) prospect.

Last up, all hail, we're not worthy...ladies and gentlemen...the hardest working men in hip's The Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnomalies. How in the name of all things holy does Crowe do that beatbox stuff? Like most humans he only seems to have one mouth and one nose, yet at times I could swear he was producing about six distinct sounds. He is, for my money, the Hendrix of beatboxers, and you don't get no better than that. Murf and Goldseal hit the stage, with DJ Mayhem on the wheels of steel, and the energy level never fell below 100%. I defy anyone to watch The Anomalies and not love it. Every little bit. They did another one of their world famous freestyles, rapping about items given to them by the crowd. I still don't know how they do it. Maybe they're like that guy from Heroes (Hero...that's the dude), you know, the one who can freeze time. P'raps they freeze time, go away, write and rehearse it then come back on stage and unfreeze us all. Thanks to a broken guitar string we were treated to another freestyle whilst a replacement was much better than just watching someone fanny about changing strings. Why don't all guitarists do that. Oh...they can't. I once saw Nick Harper change a guitar string whilst still playing his guitar though. But then Nick Harper is probably one of the best guitarists in the world right now. Just as The Anomalies are probably one of the best hip hop bands in the world too. Seriously. Set closer, Funk Soul Brother, saw pretty much everyone in the venue bouncing up and down like loons...including me...hangover, schmangover. NB: No Lo tonight (not sure if she's left the band or not...I'll find out).

So, there we go. Before I go and lie down a word or two about the venue (as it was my first time there and all that). It's brilliant (that's two words, my work here is done). No, there's more. In contrast to a lot of Brum venues it's a classy place. It feels a world apart from a lot of the sticky floored pits that I love and loathe in equal measure and, aside from one or two minor quibbles (the stage location being one, but that's being moved soon) it's the kind of venue that Birmingham is screaming out for. The VIP area (for bands and celebs) is nice enough to live in and, with Platform Promotions drink offers including double vodka and cokes for £2.50, it's affordable too. You'll find The Cross on Moseley 'high street' (the Alcester Road, just up from the traffic lights (going towards Kings Heath way).

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip / Gideon Conn / Producers With Computers / Polar Bear @ The Academy 2, Birmingham Saturday 3rd May 2008

Back to The Academy 2 for the second night in a row, this time for some rap action. Oh yes. It all kicked off in fine style with compare, Polar Bear (hey, that rhymes...get me). I've heard the name, but never seen him before. Tonight he performed a few pieces, including Jessica (which is just beautiful) and David (both of which you can listen to on his MySpace page), each one a touching, coming of age tale delivered with split second timing and real heart. Hailing from home patch...he's seriously talented and I found myself looking forward to his in between set bits as much as the main sets themselves - which is bloody rare in a compare (shit that rhymes too, spooky). I've said before (and dang me I'll probably say it again) that UK rap is really finding its own voice these days and Polar Bear deserves to be up there with the best of them.

Producers With Computers were up next. Bleepy electro rap double act with a nice line in slapper trashing lyrics. You get the feeling that at least one of them has been on the sharp end of a relationship with a 'girlie'...nasty. The early audience is always difficuly to please (this all kicked off at around 7pm 'cos there's some club night on a Saturday...probably something involving the very people PWC dislike). But they did a fine job of getting 'hands in the air' and warmed us up nicely for the man child of rap Gideon Conn. Judging by the reception Mr Conn (no relation to Bobby I presume) is building himself a nice word of mouth following. He reminded me of Freddie (from Freddie and the Dreamers...ask your great, great grandfather), but I'd had a couple by then. Backed by a real live band with a nice chilled out gentle Summertime funky folky feel (that's all bases covered I think) he was simply charming. I wanted to give him a big hug. He's got a great toons too, the toppermost of which I Want You Around, you've gotta love that badopdadoodaadancebadappduane bit. I bought a CD too. The ultimate Baron seal of approval.

Last up, the men themselves Dan (yes, I've got a beard now too) Le Sac vs Scroobius (I could be London Mayor one day) Pip. The trouble with having a big internet generated hit single is that some people may just think 'novelty' and ignore all your other stuff. This would be a real shame if it happened in this case. Mr Pip is a thinker. He talks sense. But he does it all in a way that connects with an audience without seeming too preachy...although he did have a lectern last night...hmmmm. I'm looking forward to hearing the album and seeing how the pair of them develop. They, only half jokingly I think, discussed what they were going to do when all this ended. Mr Pip fancies a career in television and I think he'd be perfect. I can see him riding round the country on a scooter sorting shit out, then writing a rap about it for the end credits. Genius. However, judging by the healthy crowd and the fact that every track was well recieved, he's probably got a good few years of this stuff left to do. The most touching moment of the night was his tribute to Tommy Cooper (complete with a flickering image of our Tommy on a black and white telly), Beauty's In The Eye Of The Beholder, who's death was seen by millions but 'not one tear was cried....can you think of anything more beautiful than that?' Put that way, no, I can't.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Vampire Weekend / White Williams @ The Academy 2, Friday May 2nd 2008

This gig was sold out. It seemed to sell out in a matter of minutes. Not surprising really considering the start of the year buzz about 'the Weekend'. I didn't get tickets, but after the success of my MGMT adventure (turn up, wait in the cold for a few days, buy a ticket for face value, get in) I thought tonight would be no problemo. The trouble is that the touts are all over the shop when it's a sold out gig at the bigger Academy venues. They have runners at both ends of the route to the door and, whilst there were a few spares floating around, the touts had 'em snapped up in seconds. They're a little intimidating too. I did consider going into direct battle with 'em and shouting 'buyaticketanyonegottaspareticket', but I fear my remains may well have been found in various suitcases across the Midlands. Instead myself and Lady B huddled by the door looking longingly at ticket holders. We got one ticket fairly quickly...for the face value from some very nice chaps who didn't like touts and weren't forced into handing over their spare. Bargain. But then the wall of touts closed in and anything else got hoovered up faster than a bag of coke in Pentonville. At around 8.00pm I decided to bite the bullet and approach Mr Tout, having just been told by two lovely young ladies that they'd been relieved of their spare ticket for a mere £5. I offered Mr Tout a not unreasonable £15. No deal. He wanted £30. Hmmmm...what the hell are you? BP? His final offer was £25. Five times what he'd just paid. balls to that. I dislike touts I'm afraid. They're not as bad as the bastards who buy up tickets just to flog them on ebay. They are filth. Happily the government have decided to do nothing about this problem because they are run by a man with all the gumption and people skills of a marble. Gah! The solution, in my humble opinion, is simple. All tickets must be booked with a credit or debit card...the credit or debit card becomes your ticket...that's scanned as you go in...simple (they already scan your ticket at the Academy so why not do away with the physical ticket altogether?). That wipes out touting altogether. If you can't go, you inform the venue and your 'ticket' goes back on sale. The upshot of this long and sorry tale is that we ended up with one ticket. Being a gentleman I offered it to Lady B, being a Lady she wanted me to have it. It became a little like one of those calls when neither of you wants to put down the 'phone. As I don't mind going to a gig on my own, I ended up going in. Not ideal but there you go. The music? Oh yes, the music. First up White Williams. They are white...and one of them is called Williams (Joe), so no problem there. They do love their reverb. In fact the vocals were drenched in the stuff, as thick as treacle. They've got a slightly punky, jerky guitar thing going down, with some Television style interludes and a fair bit of early 80's synth noodling. When they hit their schwing some of us nodded along in appreciation but they never quite caught fire although I expect, as this was only their second UK date, they're still finding their feet. Well worth a listen though, particularly New Violence (on their My Space thingy).

The main event, and by some fluke I'd managed to gravitate to the front (osmosis I think), for a cracking view of an equally splendid gig. Vampire Weekend are splendid. Ignore the haters (and there are a view). Blending African rhythms with sharp as ninepence new waveness and preppy lyrics (who else mentions Louis Vuitton in a track for christsakes...apart form P.Diddly and co?). I get a strange Haircut 100 vibe too. Younger viewers (anyone under 30) go here and listen to Love Plus One..see...well...sort just gives me an excuse to big up Haircut 100 really...'Where does it go from here, is it down to the lake I fear?'...oh yes. Fear that lake. Quake at that lake in fact. Oh...listen to Boy Meets Girl too. Awesome. Pop perfection. Anyway, there's a point to all this. Vampire Weekend have that same smart, sophisticated, 'grown up' pop vibe so many mainstream early 80's bands had. And that is a very, very good thing. Performance wise Vampire Weekend were oh so much better than I was expecting. The lead Vampire really enunciates (that is the right spelling isn't it?) his words and does this cute wide eyed thing as he sings, raising up on his tippy toes at the end of lines (when his voice goes that little bit higher). Predictably the crowd went nuts for Apunk, but the whole set was a highlight for me. The fact that they played an untitled new track, which seemed to crank up the sound a notch or two even higher, bodes reall well for their future. With MGMT, Yeasayer, Late of the Pier, Alphabeat, Foals, The Anomalies and a whole host of other lovelies this is turning out to a surprisingly good year for, what I'd call, pop music. The good stuff is out there and it's getting through. Maybe we're not doomed after all...the sun's fact it's a...Faaaaantaaasssstic Daaaaaayyyy (that's a Haircut 100 track by the way...see what I did there...yes, you're right...I'll stop it now).