Friday, July 29, 2016

Indietracks envy...

Indietracks starts today and for reasons too dull to go into here I'm missing it again. Cobblers. Still I've got the memories of the two instalments that I managed to drag my ageing carcass along to and one of the undoubted highlights was the set from Bis back in 2013, so to make up for not being there I'm watching back to back Bis vids like this little gem. Happy days...

Hope all Indietrackers have a great one this year. I'm not at all really...oh who am I trying to kid...agggghhhhhh!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Thatchers Haze Sessions @ The Passenger Shed, Bristol – Friday July 22nd

Having just watched Lou Rhodes’ in-store set at Rise Records a moist 30 minute dash across the City got us to The Passenger Shed in time for most of Sofii Negus’ warm up set. A new name to me but her mix of originals and covers was played with a confidence that can’t have been easy in a bustling bar. Bonus points for a lovely cover of Streets of London too.

In case you’ve not been to The Passenger Shed it’s a ruddy big building next to Bristol Temple Meads station that I’m guessing once housed steam trains back in the day. Divided by a curtain, swept away Wizard of Oz style to reveal the main stage, the rest of the evening saw six acts play, including a couple of delightful female indie-folk singer songwriters from Cambridge (there must be something in the water), Melody Causton and Rachel Clarke, both of whom had the kind of easy going charm and natural talent to keep the increasingly ‘cidered up’ crowd engaged. 

On to the bands and Keston Cobblers Club’s funky pop folk went down a storm. Their set had a bit of a bounce up and down and hug yer mates at a festival kind of vibe capped off by a magnificent tuba turbocharged cover of Fleetwood Macs The Chain that’s just screaming to be released as a single. 

London four piece Anteros reminded me a little of the much lamented Doll & The Kicks (still got no idea why they didn’t make it). At their best on the bouncy indie punk pop of tracks like recent single Breakfast lead singer Laura did a fine job of bopping around the stage in the heat and it’s not hard to imagine them making the leap to Ellie Goulding levels of success (yep, that’s an official measure of success these days. Who says? Me.).

On to the last two bands and local duo The Showhawk Duo almost tore the roof off the place with their acoustic guitar versions of dance anthems. It’s clever stuff brilliantly done, retaining the euphoria of the originals but adding that human element that’s lost when you’re just watching some bloke ‘avin it large on the ones and twos. The biggest reaction of the set was reserved for their cover of Bohemian Rhapsody though which saw several dozen members of the audience belting out the words (not necessarily the right words or in the right order but 10 out of 10 for effort) and punching the air like they’d just necked several pints of Thatchers Haze...which I’m guessing they had.

Last up and time for a bit of a skank with By The Rivers who mashed up soul, reggae and ska into a revitalising musical cocktail that kept the Passenger Shed (well my bit of it at least) bouncing right to the end. 

Given the heat and booze this was no mean feat...

Thanks to all the bands and the good folk at Thatchers Cider for a cracking night. 

PS: As the night was promoting Thatchers Haze cider (as well as the bands) it’d be unfair not to give view on it. As the name implies it’s a little cloudier than most of the established sparkling cider brands, Thatchers Gold for instance. It's got a bit more of a natural taste too and if it encourages drinkers to try what I’d call ‘proper’ cider (still, cloudy as a British summer’s day and strong enough to floor a buffalo...see Thatchers Cheddar Valley) then that’s a very, very good thing indeed. 

Lou Rhodes @ Rise Records, Bristol - Friday July 22nd 2016

No proper gigs for months...well, days if you count Lets Rock Exeter but that’s a festival so that’s different ...and along come two in one evening. After a day spent wandering the streets of Bristol in the heat, pausing just for a restorative cider or three, we’d intended to chill out back at the hotel before the Thatchers Haze Sesh but happened to wander past Rise Records just an hour or so before Lamb vocalist Lou Rhodes was due to do a tasty little in-store album launch set. Well it’d be rude to miss that right? Dashed back to the hotel to pick up the Haze Sessions tickets, hot footed it (literally) back up to Rise via The Cider Shop for a two pint take out and got there with, oooooh, a good 60 seconds to spare. Easy. Ahem.

If you’re under 30 the chances are that you might not be familiar with Lamb but for a brief moment back in the late 90s they were one of a number of top notch Bristol based trip hop groups (see also Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky) producing chilled out atmospheric tracks that somehow seemed to chime particularly well with the PMT (that’s Pre Millennial Times). 

Whilst Lamb’s still a going concern (they reformed back in 2009 after a five year break) Lou’s now got a sideline as an author of children’s books and a solo career to keep her busy, the latest product of which is new album theyesandeye. It’s an altogether folkier vibe than her work with Lamb and this post work set saw a handful of tracks performed including the simply divine homage to the simple things in life, All I Need and dreamy Nick Drake-ish All The Birds. Backed by a particularly talented pair of musicians (who played drums, keyboards, a harp and a saw...yep...a saw, not enough saws in pop music these days) Lou gently lulled away the stresses and strains of modern life a mere few feet away from the bustling Bristol streets. Shut your eyes and you could’ve been in a field somewhere under a tree. Beautiful stuff. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Showhawk Duo do Daft Punk

Off to an all too rare gig in sunny Bristol tomorrow night and one of the bands playing is this pair, Showhawk Duo, who've hit on the pretty neat concept of playing dance music on guitars. Okay, it might sound a little novelty act but it's impressively done and ruddy good fun. How the dude with the beard manages to play that fast without melting his fingers to the fret I have no idea. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Alphabetic – French Boyfriend

Sounding like the offspring of an affair between Neil Hannon and Julian Cope Alphabetic’s lead male vocalist’s clearly had ‘un mal temps’ recently if this track’s anything to go by. Yes, the love of his life has pissed off to Paris for a little Gallic lurve...or amour if you’re that way inclined. In true “if life gives you lemons make a nice little lemon tart out of it” fashion he’s used all this heartbreak as inspiration for a rather fine 80s tinged duet (shades of Metronomy in there too perhaps) between him and his ‘ex’ (okay, I'm assuming it’s actually a fellow band member but you get the idea). Sacre bleu! The track's taken from their debut album, Touch, out now digitally (Booo! Hiss!) and out soon on vinyl (Hurrah! Crackle! Hiss!).

Friday, July 15, 2016

Kids Interview Courtney Barnett

It's been aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaages since last I posted an interview from Kids Interview Bands (in which kids interview bands...genius eh?) and whilst the original kids are now all grown up there's now a new kid in town, Piper, who does a ruddy great job of interviewing one of my personal favourite artists from the past few years, Courtney Barnett. Enjoy...and don't forget to check out the Kids Interview Bands archive. There's that dull Friday afternoon at work sorted. You're welcome.

PS: Here's a little of Barnett in action for ya too.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Day Ends TV Episode One

The Beeb might be shutting down channels and websites faster than Corbyn can appoint shadow cabinet ministers but fear not dear friends, The Day Ends, purveyors of general musical mayhem, madness and majesty are a-riding to the rescue with The Day Ends TV. Okay, so you may need a little mild therapy and a lie down in a darkened room after watching it but what the hell eh? Go down the rabbit hole people, I dares ya...

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Finally - The Correspondents

This lot are sooooooooooooo good live, if you get the chance to see 'em during festival season grab it as fast as a falling pound. Lead singer Mr Bruce actually dances and sings like this throughout a show, somehow without combusting or requiring emergency oxygen. How? I mean just HOW?! This is the new single from forthcoming album 'Crikey Old Bean How Do You Sing and Dance Like That Without Your Arms and Legs Flying Off?'. Okay, it isn't, not sure what it's called but that's as good a title as any right now so there. Enjoy.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Let’s Rock Exeter, Powderham Castle, Devon – Saturday July 2nd 2016

Okay, gripes out of the way first. Taking one hour and 15 minutes to get into a festival, missing the first band altogether, ain’t a great start. Searching through the bags of however many people it was (10,000? 15,000?) with just 8 gates opening at 11am and the first band 60 minutes later isn’t the smartest idea is it?  Secondly, one male toilet block?! ONE?!! Look, us chaps are simple souls when it comes to going to the loo. Give us a trough and we’ll be done in seconds...or minutes depending on your age/alcohol consumption. Leave the posh loos with doors and stuff for the ladies and they won’t have to queue for so long will they eh? Plus...well...I can’t imagine that every male user best aim after a pint or 6. Let’s just leave it at that.

Okay, from taking the piss (metaphorically and physically) on to the music and as the last bars of The Beat’s Mirror In The Bathroom rang out we finally made it on site for a little Alexander O’Neal. Little being the operative word. The dude was on stage for barely 20 minutes, which is brief even by festival standards. Still he did justice to the biggies, Criticize and Fake, and The Prince medley (O’Neal was actually signed by Prince back in the day) was a neat tribute, even if Alexander’s backing singers took on most of the vocal duties.

I forget the sequence but I’m pretty sure Dr and the Medics were on next. I’ll admit that my expectations were as low as Michael Gove’s scruples (damn, that’s low), after all they had just the one hit wayyyyy back in 1986, but they were bloody great fun, dishing out a series of 80s cover with surprisingly powerful versions of Dead Or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) and The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary plus their big hit Sprit In The Sky. The good Doctor’s a born showman with a much better voice than you’d expect and the band’s pretty decent too. Absolute festival gold and, for me at least, one of the highlights of the day.

Another more predictable highlight was Heaven 17 who were on ridiculously early. Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware (third member Ian Craig Marsh went AWOL years ago) penned some of the classiest 80s synth pop ever and it still sounds fresh. As a 13 year old boy the lyrics of Come Live With Me – “I was 37 you were 17” hinted at two ages that seemed sooooooo far away, now as a 46 year old they’re just as distant...just the wrong way round. Hell, who’d want to be 17 nowadays though eh? Poor buggers. Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry got the crowd “whoowhoo”-ing along like crazy, We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang probably struck more a chord now than it would’ve done a few weeks ago and the celebratory Bowie tribute Boys Keep Swinging (Glenn’s just been touring a Bowie show with producer Tony Visconti) was a neat touch. RIP Starman.   

Next up Odyssey and whilst the original band members, Lillian and Louise Lopez, are also now both dancing in the great disco in the sky this version at least keeps the family link alive with Lillian’s son Steven who joined the group back in the early 80s. 

Native New Yorker’s still a soul lifting classic, add Inside Out, Use It Up and Wear It Out and Going Back To My Roots and you could almost be back in Studio 54.

Three quarters of Bucks Fizz played their hits including their best but probably least remembered hit New Beginnings and yes...they did the skirt ripping thing during Making Your Mind Up. Bless ‘em. Shocking to think that they were the last UK band (I don’t really count Katrina and the Waves) to win Eurovision back in ’81. I suspect our chances of winning it ever again are slimmer than ever right now. Maybe T’Pau could give it a bash?  I reckon Heart and Soul would’ve gone down a storm almost as well with our European cousins as it did with today’s crowd.   

Remember Tiffany? Famous for touring malls (or shopping centres to us Brits) to promote her cover of I Think We’re Alone Now she was briefly a huge star back in the late 80s but that ability to belt ‘em out hasn’t left her as an impressive cover of Guns‘n’Roses Sweet Child of Mine proved. Blimey, Tiffany rocks. That paved the way for one of our own homegrown pop princess Kim Wilde. Ahhhhh, Kim, Kim, Kim. Chequered Love, Kids In America, View From A Bridge (I’d forgotten all about that one) still sounded ruddy great in a light new wave way and somehow I managed to resist the temptation to rush the stage and fulfil a 35 year wish for a snog. Ahem.

Looking kool in a kaftan (at least I think it was a kaftan) Roland Gift’s distinctive falsetto vocal’s a thing of beauty. As lead singer of Fine Young Cannibals he was also massive for the blink of an eye, even landing a couple of number ones with that band in the States in ‘89 (She Drives Me Crazy and Good Thing). 

Seemingly he dropped out of the music biz to concentrate on his family but judging by this afternoon’s showing I reckon a Rick Astley-like return to chart glory could well be on the cards. Speaking of which I bet old Rick (another one who quit for family reasons) can’t believe what a year he’s had. A mere 29 years after his last number one album he recently beat McCartney to the number one slot. His good fortune deserted him for a while this evening as a faulty microphone threatened to scupper the whole set. In true ‘if life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ fashion though Rick made the most of it and did a little impromptu drumming (who knew?!) and then came on with a broom to sweep the stage whilst the soundmen tried desperately to get things working. Gremlins fixed he was on fine form and it was timely reminder of just what a great soul voice this Lancashire lad (did I really just write that...forgive me...’Lancashire lad’...good god, what is this, the Exeter Express and Echo?) had/has especially on the slower numbers like Cry For Help. Back in the 80s he always seemed a little uncomfortable as a star but this time he’s clearly loving it, joking around with the crowd and belting out this hits with all the ease of man who’s never been away. Happily new single Keep Singing's right up there with the Astley classics. 

Hook this dude up with the Daptone Records team and I reckon you’d have musical alchemy. Seriously. Make it happen people.     

All too quickly it was nearly over. Just time for The Human League to put on a typically impressive set (third time I’ve seen ‘em and they never disappoint), trawling all the way back to 78’s Being Boiled and up to 95’s surprising return to the charts courtesy of Tell Me When. 

The famous floppy hair may be long gone, replaced this evening by a look that was straight out of The Matrix, but this is still ‘Phil talking’. Think 80s pop and you can’t help but thinking of Don’t You Want Me but there’s a good half dozen songs League numbers that send you spinning right back, Mirror Man, Love Action, The Sound Of The Crowd, Louise, The Lebanon, (Keep Feeling) Fascination, each and every one sung along to by 10,000 or so 40-somethings buoyed by booze and nostalgia. Okay so Let’s Rock Exeter might not be the coolest festival around, it might even cheapen the music a little (not sure how I feel about all the ‘comedy’ costumes, probably just me being a miserable bugger), but for fans of this stuff it’s bloody good fun and fantastic value (£45 a ticket to see 12 bands...that’s er...less than £4 a band). Sort out the queues and the loos and it’d be even better.

PS: Tom Bailey again next year please, missed him last year.    

Friday, July 01, 2016

Rock of ages

You know you’re getting old when the music of your youth is neatly packaged up into compilation albums and package tours/festivals. I turned 10 in 1980 so that’s my particular decade and as you’ll no doubt have noticed the 80’s revival scene has been doing pretty brisk business since as far back as the late 90s (a decade that’s now also being repackaged and can it be...surely it was only a year or two ago...what’s that you say...twenty plus years ago...oh good grief). 

On the one hand inevitably the whole retro music industry has more than a whiff of cheese about it but on the other it’s a pretty harmless bit of fun so with that positive thought firmly in mind (plus a litre or two of Tesco’s finest £3.50 a bottle red wine to take the edge of things) I’m off to Let’s Rock Exeter tomorrow. 

There are a growing number of these 80’s extravaganzas across the country now so they must be doing something right. This particular event’s no doubt also benefited from the inclusion of Mr Rick Astley whose Lazarus like return to pop stardom has just been capped off with a number 1 album...a mere 29 years after his last one. Hearing Aid faves Heaven 17 and The Human League are also on the bill along with youthful crush Kim Wilde. 

Ahem. You’ve also got 75% of Bucks Fizz (so that’ll be Bucks Fi then), Fine Young Cannibals’ Roland Gift (who was on fine form when I saw him a year ago), mall warbler Tiffany, The Beat (or at least one version of The Beat), Dr and the Medics, Alexander O’Neal, Odyssey and T’Pau. I’m quite exhausted just typing that lot out and, given that I’m prone to what could possibly pass for dancing in an emergency, Sunday’s going to be a whole world of pain. Anyway, tickets are still for sale right here and the sun’s gonna shine. Maybe. For a bit. Oh who am I trying to kid, it looks like it's going to be Wet Wet Wet.