Monday, December 23, 2013

Tout on the town...

Buyorselllllticccketsssssanyticketstobuyorsellllll...chances are if you’ve been to a ‘big’ gig (either size wise or a sell out) there’ll be a number of ticket touts outside doing their business. And what a fascinating business it is too. In the name of research (and partially because I quite fancied going) I hung out around a few of them before last night’s Sabbath gig. It’s a brilliant microcosm of economics in the raw, a fine lesson in something called the elasticity of demand (if my dim and distant memory of Economics A level serves me well) together with some good old fashioned blag. Think Milton Friedman meets Del Boy.

Inevitably for any big gig a fair few people won’t be able to make it for some reason...illness, hangover, imprisonment...and touts hoover up these ‘spare’ tickets, often at a bargain price and then flog ‘em on to anyone who turns up late hoping to get in. They’re a pretty well organised bunch, with various characters covering all the routes to the NIA and a constant stream of calls pinging backwards and forwards as the tickets were traded. Any attempt to cut them out of the deal and buy direct from a seller is swiftly dealt with...nothing violent mind you, just a firm hand on the seller and the promise of a better price than we were offering which, surprise surprise didn’t materialise.

Standing tickets (face value of £61 plus various dodgy add ons...handling charge, transaction tax, fairy dust fee etc) were snapped up for as little as a fiver then sold on for £30 or £40. Not a bad little tickle eh? Do that ten times and Bob’s yer uncle. One or two touts seemed to have a significant strip of tickets from the box office perhaps? Who knows.

As the time for Sabbath’s arrival drew near (8.30pm) a few buyers and sellers were locked in a battle of wills, both using different takes on the situation to argue their case.

“The gig’s about to start...I’ll give you a tenner or you’ll get nothing for it”

“Yeah, but this is one of the few standing tickets left...£60!”

It was far too close to curtain up to even consider buying a ticket and attempting to shuffle in at the back of the standing area by this point so we gave up and went for a pint at Spoonies instead. Just before we left though a couple of buyers returned to a tout explaining that they’d been refused entry because their tickets (replete with both bits...the tear off section and main ticket) had already been scanned in. They’d paid £30 each for them as well. Ouch. The tout insisted they were pukka and directed them to go to the box office, explain that they’d bought them online and then they’d get in somehow. Whether they did or not we never found out but Mr Tout scarpered pretty soon afterwards.

In the interest of journalistic fair play no one else seemed to have a problem and on the odd occasion we’ve bought tickets to sold out gigs we’ve got in okay but I guess you pays yer money and yer takes yer chance eh?

Anyway, that’s it from The Aid before Turkey Time. A very messy Christmas to all three of our regular readers out there. 

PS: Found the vid and tune (by named Unlucky Fried Kitten who now seem to have disbanded following the deaths of at least two of the band...blimey) on You a bit of an Ian Dury feel to it. Seemed highly appropriate...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Merry Chris-mix 2013

As is sort of traditional now I trawl the nether regions of the internet each year to find a musical mix for you to listen to on Christmas day instead of having to endure Auntie Nora's taped copy of Now That's What I Call Christmas on constant repeat. This year's choice is suitably eclectic again...and all the better for it. Feel free to add any other links in the comments thingy if you find anything else worthwhile. Festive Death Metal compilations especially welcomed...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thriller Live @ The ICC, Tuesday 17th December 2013

Has there ever been a bigger, more iconic pop star than Jacko? Okay, so things went spectacularly wrong for the dude in his later years and perhaps he became more famous for his trials and tribulations than his tunes but put all that to one side for a moment and look at the facts. 750 million records sold (and counting). An album (Thriller) that stayed at number one in the Billboard top 200 album chart for 37 weeks. An estimated global audience of 500 million people for the first showing of his Black and White video debut. Winner of MTV’s Artist of the Millennium Award...and so it goes on. His death in 2009 hasn’t slowed things down either. In fact the cult of Jacko seems in better shape now that it has been for a good decade or so, something reflected by his latest’s richest dead celebrity (with earnings of a staggering $160million in 2012 alone).  

Whilst Thriller Live made its debut way back in 2006 when Jackson was alive and well as could be expected that is...with his passing it’s now pretty much the only way you’re going to see and hear his music in a decent sized venue. Don’t expect faithful impersonations though, that’s not really the point of this show, it’s purely and simply a glorious celebration of one of the most remarkable back catalogues in pop. It sounds like a cliché but the hits really do come thick and fast (around 30 or so in two hours) with opening number I Want You Back all too quickly giving way to ABC. Just a minute or two into the performance (and not for the last time this evening either) the crowd’s already up and clapping. Now that’s unusual. This is a show that practically demands some form of audience participation though, but then again you’d need to be dead on the inside to resist the pretty relentless torrent of pukka pop classics unfolding in front of you.

With no live band in view at first it was tempting to suspect that the whole thing was being performed to a backing track but after a few numbers a screen went back to reveal actual living breathing musicians. It quickly shut again and they retreated Wizard Of Oz-like back behind their curtain. No idea why...personally I like to see a band playing in these jukebox musicals, it adds a little extra zing to things but that’s a minor gripe. I was amazed to see Level 42’s keyboard maestro Mike Lindup in the line up too, giving you some idea of the kind of calibre of musicians behind the scenes.

Of course Jackson was a song AND dance man so the physical aspect of the show is just as important as the sonic. 

Some of the dance numbers and dancers were particularly impressive with David Jordan edging scarily close to Michael’s unique mix of fluidity and snap in Act I’s Dangerous routine and Act II’s Smooth Criminal, each one worth the price of a ticket on their own.

All of the vocalists were strong but particular praise must be reserved for Cleopatra Higgins (perhaps best remembered in her previous incarnation in all girl band know, the ones that did Comin’ Atcha!) who pretty much stole the show whenever she opened her mouth. Here's what she's capable of taken from her recent appearance on BBC's The Voice (can't seem to find any official Thriller Live vids with her on for some reason)...

Jesse Smith brought a little more of an edge to the rockier numbers too (a raunchy Dirty Diana was particularly memorable...who doesn't like to see scantily clad female Centurions eh?) reminding you that Jackson’s range extended beyond soul, disco and pop. Who knows what he'd have gone on to to do if he'd lived. 

If you’re of a certain age you’ll have grown up with Michael’s music as the soundtrack to your life and this show’s a glorious celebration of it all. Sure, like all ‘jukebox musicals’ it’s a little cheesy in places (the disco slapstick of Blame It On The Boogie for instance) and if you’re not a fan of getting up and shaking yer booty a little...okay then, a lot... you might find yourself sinking into your seat from time to time but for everyone else on planet earth this is a pretty much unmissable treat.  All Thriller, no filler.  

Thriller Live is on at The ICC until January 5th 2014 (tickets here) before heading back out onto the road again. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Art Of Falling Apart

I'm not normally one for forensically picking apart albums but The Quietus has just published a particularly fascinating dissection of Soft Cell's The Art Of Falling Apart. I imagine most people now pretty much just think of them as the band that did Tainted Love but their follow up stuff was so much better/darker/weirder (check out Baby Doll for instance) which, as a bit of a odd young thing, really appealed to me at the time. Hell, it still does. Anyway have a listen to a few choice tracks from the album itself and if it gets your juices flowing pour yourself an Absinthe or two and read the article as well.

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Quest-mas time...

...mistletoe and bile. Yes dear friends here's the latest gloriously demented proclamation from Miss Halliwell. I'd literally* give my left nut to see this make Christmas number one. Less X Factor, more XXX Factor...

You can catch the carnage this Thursday at the Hare and Hounds.

* Okay, maybe not literally...but you get the point. 

Remi Harris – Ninick

Big Bear Records’ latest signing, Remi Harris, has already won lavish praise for his live shows (both as a solo artist and with his self titled quartet) now he’s releasing an album that looks set to cement his reputation as simply one of the finest gypsy jazz guitarists around. Like the best players he makes it all sound so darn easy. There’s an effortless fluidity to his playing that makes you just want to kick back with a packet of Gauloises and glass of vin rouge or three and let the music do its thing. From self penned opening number Perrin’s trumpet and guitar flirtations through to the closing track, Django’s Tiger (written by the master himself Mr Django Reinhardt) it’s an impressive collection of tracks with more than a few surprises. Take the nimble fingered cover of Lady Madonna for instance into which Remi breathes new life or George Benson’s groove laden The Man From Toledo or a gloriously languid take on Somewhere Over The Rainbow (pretty much guaranteed to chill out even the most tormented of souls). Perhaps it’s on Joseph Joseph that Harris’ talents are best revealed though. A Yiddish / gypsy mash up it zings along like a Rabbi on a skateboard. Now that takes chutzpah... 

Ninick is out on Big Bear Records on January 20th 2014.    

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Them Wolves - Wolf song

Okay, so it may have taken a while for Them Wolves to make this video for one of the standout tracks from their debut EP (German For Duke...available from all good record shops), but it's been worth the wait. Especially if you want to scare the bejesus out of small children and those of a nervous disposition. Enjoy!

PS: You can catch them live at The Haygate (Telford) on December 14th) and The Flapper (Brum) on December 20th.

PPS: Best sleep with the lights on tonight eh?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Misty's Big Adventure - The Bigger The Front

Okay, I know. Two posts in the space of an hour but I've just got to share this one with you. The magical Misty's Big Adventure's new single The Bigger The Front, arguably one of the best things they've done in years. Check out the funky string arrangement half way through and the kids singing. Oh my...that's good. Ruddy fine video too. If only eh...?

Miss Halliwell - Favourite Guitar you're stuck for gifts this Christmas. You want to give something a little different for a change. That gift set from Superdrug just don't cut it any more and you can't quite stretch to an iPad for everyone. Relax. I have the answer. The new DOUBLE (yes, a double...think how flash that'll make you look eh?) album from Miss Halliwell / Miles Perhower. You can read my rambling attempt at a review right here and cop a listen to one of the many stand out tracks by clicking the video thingy above.

At just £10 (including P&P...which to be fair probably costs £10 now the Tories have flogged the Post Office) it's the perfect gift for anyone who knows good music when they hear it...or a decent education for anyone who doesn't. Plus you'll seem at least 38% cooler just by giving something as frankly magnificent as this album. What's that?'re welcome.

Order your copy of Fresh From The Holy Spring / Gusting Guests right here, right now. You can even catch Miss Halliwell live at the Hairy Hounds on December 19th too.  Blimey, anyone would think it was Christmas...

Monday, December 09, 2013

Pledge for Pete

Original member of Dexys Midnight Runners and an integral part of the new line up Pete Williams issued his debut solo album (See) last year. Ruddy good it was too. Now, with a note book bulging full of new songs and a band ready to leap into action he's signed up with Pledge Music to raise the funds to record the follow up. I'm a big fan of both the man and the model. For the uninitiated Pledge Music gives musicians the chance to offer a series of goodies to fans in exchange for cash (essentially plugging the gap left by the absence of record labels). These goodies can range from something as simple as a copy of the new album right through to an intimate acoustic gig with pledges starting at just a tenner. Anyway, click on the video above and cop a listen to the man and his music...

...then you can pledge right here!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Haim / Saint Raymond @ The Institute, Thursday 5th December 2013

With an album that’s gone top 10 pretty much everywhere that matters, several Glastonbury appearances (including showing up during Primal Scream’s set at Bobby’s request) and somewhat bizarrely a slot on The Andrew Marr Show with Cammo (boo...hiss...he’s behind you etc) in attendance, 2013’s been a pretty good year for Californian sisters Alana, Este and Danielle Haim (FYI it rhymes with ‘time’ not with ‘lame’). It’s not been an overnight thing though. Danielle and Este were in The Valli Girls way, way back in the early noughties before starting Haim in 2006 so they’ve clearly paid their dues. Before seeing if all this translates to their live show though first up opener Saint Raymond (aka Callum Burrows). He’s apparently had something called an iTunes Single of the Week this year. Not sure who decides that kind of stuff, probably a computer programme somewhere. Anyway he’s also received the attentions of ‘Zane Lowe’ too. Nasty. I’m sure you can get cream for that. Vocally there’s the occasional touch of the Bugg’s about him in places (no surprise as, like young Jake, he also hails from Nottingham...clearly something of  a breeding ground for hip guitar toting dudes). He’s a likeable enough soul with two or three particularly strong tracks, Everything She Wants, Bonfires and Young Blood (due for release in early 2014) which has a decent shouty chorus and a vaguely Vampire Weekend-ish feel that you can see going down well with the crowds at V...when they’re not throwing pints of piss at each other that is.  

I’d underestimated how popular Haim had become. Their appearance produced the kind of reception normally reserved for visiting deities. One or two of the girls up on the balcony seemed in grave danger of leaping off into the arms of their heroines...a pretty appropriate reaction really considering the first number was Falling. One thing you quickly notice about Haim is that the vocals are a lot rawer live than on record. That’s actually no bad thing as the second thing you notice about Haim is that these girls can really play. If that sounds a little patronising it’s not meant to be. Watch the video for Falling though and there’s zero evidence that they can do anything other than flick their hair around sexily and wear hot pants. In reality the three of them can...cue review cliché...’really rock’...ahem. Danielle (Rock Haim) in particular could well have slotted right into Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and it’s pretty clear she’s the driving force behind a lot of tonight’s best moments. And there were a heck of a lot of them. Falling, classic 80s sounding power pop, is followed up by The Wire with more of a new wave feel. Not for the first time all three share vocal duties and although they all have their own distinct sound they can still bring the kind of harmony that only comes from having inhabited the same womb at some point.

Ignore anyone who says Haim are like Fleetwood Mac. They know not of what they speak. If you’re looking for influences Pat Benatar meets Wilson Phillips is perhaps a lot nearer the mark. Of course they give the Fleetwood Mac crew some ammo by covering Oh Well, although that sounds bugger all like the Fleetwood Mac that most people know and love. 

It’s a ruddy good cover too, dirty primal blues delivered with a menacing swagger. Baby Haim (Alana) is on vocal duties for this one, “I can’t sing, I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin” she sneers, gesticulating at a shapely pair of pins. Oh well (as it were) she got one of ‘em right.

“Let’s go fucking crazy guys, I want to see you go nuts” yells Este, as if the capacity crowd needed any encouragement. Honey and I and Go Slow pass by pleasantly enough but it’s My Song 5 that reignited the night, adding a mental dubsteppy element underneath Danielle’s punk blues riffs. 

Listen to this and you can hear something fresh developing, whether they choose to follow that path is up to them but dubstep blues that’s a concept.

“You’re the best people eva” shouts Este. Awww bless. We try. The crowd’s ongoing rapture is rewarded by Don’t Save Me which get’s the biggest reception of the night so far. A bouncing Baby Haim seems as excited as the audience. Again this version fizzes with an energy that’s possibly understated on the record, Danielle’s choppy guitar playing in particular lifts it out of comfortable MOR territory. Just in case they were in need of some energy after that someone throws a sweet on the stage and Este bravely/unwisely pops it in her mouth and eats it. Let’s hope the hand dryers in the loos were working tonight eh? Urgggh. Forever ramps up the atmosphere another notch with Danielle in particularly throaty form. The band asks for the lights to be turned up and a thousand hands are in the air. For some this is clearly the ‘Haim’ of their lives.

Encores of Running If You Call My Name and Let Me Go finished things off and not even a brief fight in the crowd (swiftly diffused by one of the meanest looking bouncers you’d ever want to mess with) could darken the mood. 

I expected this to be a decent show, they’ve got some classic pop songs in their belts, they look good and they’ve got that close knot gang mentality that all great bands have at one time or another. But I wasn’t expecting the degree of musicianship, the energy (both given and reciprocated) and the rawer feel that many of the tracks have in their live form. Whether they choose to continue down the radio friendly unit shifter route or go all death metal on our ass (seriously, I can actually see them doing something much, much heavier at some point) is up to them...only Haim will tell. For now though ‘Falling’ in love with this band’s just too damn easy. 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Black or White (Christmas)...Thriller Live comes to Birmingham

If you're after a break from the pantos Thriller Live (the Jacko musical) is having a mammoth run at the ICC from December 17th - January 5th. The touring version of the West End show it's pretty much Jackson's greatest hits all in one night, from his time with the Jackson 5 right through to his solo albums. Given his sad demise back in 2009 this is as close as you're going to get to the man himself these days and it all looks like ruddy good fun from start to finish. It's a darn fine pressie idea too if you can't face The Bull Ring...

Tickets available right here.

Can't resist posting a little classic Jacko whilst we're at it. Remember him this way...

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Miserable Rich do Christmas

I've not heard much out of my favourite chamber pop band for a while but all of a sudden they release not one but two (count 'em) Christmas themed tunes in the space of a few days. First up is a cover of that low key Jona Lewie Crimbo classic Stop The Cavalry, swiftly followed by an original track, Everything You Wanted.

Profits from the sale of the 7 inch single (featuring both songs) are going to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan and you can buy your copy right here!

Whilst we're on the subject of Christmas songs fellow blogger Russ L's doing a musical advent calendar. Today's offering...Hard Skin with Ding Dong Merrily Oi! Oi! Genius.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Folie Ordinaire - Chez Folie

New wave disco anyone? With influences ranging from Chic to 80s era Bowie (there's definitely a bit of a Bowie vibe in these vocals from time to time) and more recently LCD Soundsystem to Scissor Sisters London three piece Folie Ordinaire are clearly plugged into the good shit.

Newbie Chez Folie proudly wears all these influences on its glittery hot pants, somehow managing to be hipster cool and disco fun all at the same time. Altogether now "La la la la la la laaah laaaaaah".