Absolutely love this DIY video from Lulu and the Lampshades. Just goes to prove that all you need is a few cups, a lovely voice and some handclaps to make some damn-good music. They’ve a new EP out this week and can’t wait to see them live.
Happy new year my pretties! We’re now in the depths of January. 2010 has been and gone, taking with it my resolution for a gig a week.
You may have noticed there are not 52 gigs recorded.. I failed, dear readers! Well, I actually managed about 48 (Arcade Fire, Pete Roe and Portico Quartet are just some of the bands I never got round to blogging in the final flurry of 2010…) but am still short of accomplishing the gig a week. The thing about life getting in the way is a tired cliche, but I’m afraid in this case - it true.
Having said that, I have still learned an awful lot from my year of giggage.
1) People might not be buying records (to be fair, why would you when you can get them for free?), but they are definitely lapping up live music.
2) There are so so many musicians out there who work their asses off, day and night, for no money and little gratitude.
3) There are probably the same amount of music journos scribbling away for free about the music they love, and the bands they love to hate.
3) There are approximately five bands who do support for the big London acts (yes I’m talking to you Trash Kit)
4) It is much easier to get into after-parties than I thought (thank you skinny jeans, fringe and alcohol).
5) New Yorkers may be uber-cool, but they know how to party…
6) Belfastians definitely know how to party (though I have to say I knew that one already).
7) I may be biased… but Brixton can take east London any day.
8) Music journalists form opinions at the drop of a hat. But they’re writing stuff that the majority of music lovers will never read.
9) New bands seem to want it strip things back and sound old, even if they’re using loads of effects and electro-stuff to do so. Which is nice.
10) Going to a gig a week is good for the soul in more ways than one. And an affirmation I’ll take with me from here on in. Perhaps not quite as stringently (!) but I’ll keep updating here with my general musings and pictures from my life in music. Lucky you!
Not technically a gig this week, but wanted to post this to ya’ll before it goes off line (only available till 28th December people!)
I’ve just watched Darkness Revisited - a music doc about the making of Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town album - the follow up to 1975’s Born to Run. The album was almost three years in the making - between 1976 and 1978 - during which Bruce came up with literally hundreds of songs with his band, recording and recording again, then meticulously sifting through what he had written until coming up with what he calls “an austere, apocalyptic grandeur”.
I was only intending to watch the first five minutes of this, but was hooked from the start. Much of the film is is made up of archive footage from the recording studio, showing various debates - one about the specific sound of a drum, which lasted for days - as well as Bruce bashing out brilliant songs on the piano, which were never heard again. But there’s also recent interviews with Bruce, the band and producers (as well as a cameo from Patti Smith, whose only hit record was written by Springsteen).
Towards the end there’s a really moving insight into what the 27 year old songwriter wanted to represent in this record. Speaking now with the benefit of hindsight, he says he was no longer obsessed with running away from what you know, but sticking with it; compromising enough of your desires to be responsible to your family, your work, your community, but not so much that you begin to become a different person.
Like the Beatles? Especially White album era? You’ll love these guys. One of ‘em even looks like John Lennon. Nuf said really.
They also do a mean cover of Genesis’, How Does it Feel.
Do you ever get when you go to a gig of a band that you really like, but there’s so much going on in your own head that it’s impossible to focus? Well sadly that happened with Local Natives, a band who I’m really fond of. I loved their album, Gorilla Manor, when it first came out around this time last year, and even though I feel like it has dated quite a lot since, I have a little soft spot for these west-coast crooners.
Downing a couple of cans of Red Stripe before we went in probably didn’t help either… but I’d just had some bad news and found it really difficult to be lulled away by their lilting harmonies and earnest energy. Just one of those things.
Having said that, they really did try. The band blasted energy into most of the songs from their albumand upped the tempo whenever they could.
I wasn’t that fussed on the HMV forum after seeing The Big Pink, but Local Natives had much more of a presence, coming to the front of the stage and giving the punters what they wanted. The atmosphere was fused with anticipation and the band fed off it, coming on for an encore with their arms around each other’s shoulders.
The audience seemed to love it. The friends I was with loved it. And just this once, I think it’s fair to take their opinion over mine.
Now this isn’t so much of a review this week - more of a record of one of my gigs I’ve been to. It was in a small chapel in west London, with mince pies and vino a-plenty and a really beautiful gig. However, I don’t really think it’s fair to review, as I know about half the people in the ensemble! Amazing as they all were (and well worth a listen), I’m clearly biased.
That said, I’d def check out some of the pieces they played, including some of Luciano Berio’s contemporary arrangements of various folk songs from around the world - originally entitled Folk Songs. Black is the Colour is one of my favourites.
They also played/sang Gavin Bryars’The Adnan Songbook which is a really lovely song cycle – with almost rock/pop harmonies and aesthetic, but for a small chamber ensemble (viola, piccolo, cello, and others).
Bryars is most famous for Jesus’ Blood (never failed me yet), where he loops a refrain, sung by an unknown homeless man in London over strings and brass that gradually build and grow over the course of the song. It’s a surprisingly moving and emotional song, and if you needed more convincing of its greatness, Tom Waits did a version in the 1990s, where he sung along with the main vocal line.
Week 36: The Swell Season at the Royal Festival Hall
Anyone who has seen the Oscar winning film, Once, will already be smitten with Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová and their heart-wrenching relationship, played out in folk-rock duets throughout the film. The pair went on to form The Swell Season, bringing along Hansard’s bandmates from The Frames, and the troupe have been on a two year world tour following the film’s success.
This gig at the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank was their second to last, marking the end of the tour, and it felt like a very special occasion for all involved. Amidst performances from Once, a few new songs and some Van Morrison covers, Glen wooed the crowd, chatting away about his bandmates, telling us stories from the tour and the meanings behind the songs.
Markéta on the other hand seemed more shy when she took to the microphone - earnest and keen to show her appreciation, but more serious and softly spoken. But it’s the contrast between these two personalities that makes the music - and the film - so compelling. Here’s one of my favourites from the film for a wee taster.
Markéta’s gentle piano playing and piercing voice fills the hall with melancholy, while Glen’s rugged and raucous guitar injects the passion and angst and drama. The combination makes it impossible not to be moved by these beautiful songs about heartache and break-ups.
During a couple of songs, Glen had the audience singing along, making the decent sized hall feel like it was his own living room, and he’d just invited a couple of mates round to play some songs.
We were treated to three encores, much to the delight of the audience who were on their feet and down at the front of the stage. The band eventually gathered around the front to sing a pared down folk song with hand claps a-plenty, before singing and dancing themselves off stage to continue the party.
(Here’s a wee interview with Glen, where he talks about playing with the Frames and how Once and The Swell Season developed out of his relationship with Mar.)
Ah Yeasayer. The unintentionally hippest of Brooklyn’s hipsters.
The three piece took to the stage at the Roundhouse last week laying on their blend of electro beats with lush vocal harmonies, synths a-plenty and Asian-influenced psychedelic indie-pop.
Anand Wilder is closest to me, wearing what can only be described as your Grandad’s PJs, but with enough toned biceps showing to make sure he’s recognisable. Even more surreal is the hideous animal creature from the Madder Red video, oozing puss and blood, which is carried on as their mascot.
A lot of bands hanging on the cuff sleeves of the The Next Big Thing don’t so much as grunt at the audience, preferring to retain their ‘cooler than thou’ façade. But front man Chris Keating chats away, telling us how the band played Camden Barfly years before, never thinking they’d make it to the Roundhouse just a few metres up the road.
But one of the highlights is 2080 from their previous album, during which Keating holds his mic out to the crowd who sing the chorus, almost word perfect.
After an early finish, the band piled into the afterparty at Zan Sai, DJing till the wee small hours. Far from getting trashed and misbehaving, they seemed the least inebriated there, chatting politely to pissed punters and taking their music choices very seriously.
As we staggered out of the club and into a taxi, the last I saw of Yeasayer was Ira Wolf Tuton, leaning against the wall outside talking on his phone and looking very punk with his top heavy hair, ripped sleeves and biker boots.
After a brief chat, he had to get back to the call – it was his girlfriend and they hadn’t spoken for a while. Bless.
Just another day on the road for the good boys of Brooklyn, but they’ve left a euphoric, enthused crowd of devoted fans in their wake.
The band came on to the stage in a wash of copper orange and purple lights and got straight into the duet, ‘Black Guitar’ from the recently released album Penny Sparkle. Wearing a kind of sci-fi-squid mask, with a sheet of blonde hair hanging from the bottom, lead singer Kazu only added to the mystery and subtly of this first track, perhaps with a nod to Fever Ray and her love of weird and wonderful face coverings.
In keeping with the pared down mood of the new album, tonight’s set starts very low-key, lulling us into the dreamy hypnotic state that Blonde Redhead do so well. The brilliant ‘Here Sometimes’, was given a new lease of life with a booming bass and drums, but it wasn’t until ‘Falling Man’, from 2004’s Misery is a Butterfly that the pace and the mood started to get lively.
While they are known for their melancholic new-wave sound world, their heavier tracks are some of their best-loved, and the audience were yelping and wooping when the band delivered with ‘23’ and ‘Dr Strangeluv’ from the album 23. Kazu literally let her hair down, and was somehow able to mosh while still staying beautifully in tune.
The recently released Penny Sparkle heralds in a more mature and quietly uplifting sound, as if the three-piece have come of age. The record is a bit of grower, and can seem subdued, but performed live the songs are allowed to build into something more powerful, and it is easier to appreciate the depth of their new sound.
There is no chatter with the audience tonight, aside from the odd, and very polite ‘Thank you’. Instead, different tracks are linked together with 80s style synth or guitar solos. But the overall sound blends beautifully, with Kazu’s voice floating above the lush synths and melodic guitar lines below.
As always when a band has such a good discography, it was disappointing not to hear more from their previous albums, just for old time’s sake. But then along came ‘Melody of Certain Three’, from their 2000 album, much to the delight of the old-school fans in the audience. Knowing exactly what they were doing and bringing us along for the ride, Blonde Redhead saved the best till last.
(This review first appeared over on For Folks Sake)
Little bit of a jump ahead this week - waiting for another review to appear on another site before I can post it here… But anyhoo, last Friday, I went along to Drowned In Sound’s 10th Birthday Party celebrations - an occasion definitely worth celebrating. The site is not just a collection of music journalism, but an aggregator of comment and opinion by music lovers, however obscure or leftfield their tastes might be. And so a collection of musicians, bloggers, editors and commenters, and all of the DIS family got together in the east London warehouse, The Apiary. Worriedaboutsatan performed an ace DJ set, full of frenetic electro-energy (until the power cut out!) and paving the way nicely for Rolo Tomassi later on. Here’s what DIS’s editor Sean has to say about the history of Drowned in Sound: “In 2000, there was no YouTube, no MySpace and no Facebook. The combination of the dying embers of Napster, At the Drive-in’s Relationship of Command breathing life back into rock’n’roll and the fact that the web meant that anyone could do anything, just as long as they had a website, led to a crazy amount of change. “A bunch of music fans, sad to see Melody Maker’s demise but ridiculously excited about music, inspired by whatever it was in the air, grabbed the future with twenty-two pastie hands and launched the UK’s first music website/blog and something that would later be called a ‘social network’.”
Little bit of a jump ahead this week - waiting for another review to appear on another site before I can post it here…
But anyhoo, last Friday, I went along to Drowned In Sound’s 10th Birthday Party celebrations - an occasion definitely worth celebrating. The site is not just a collection of music journalism, but an aggregator of comment and opinion by music lovers, however obscure or leftfield their tastes might be.
And so a collection of musicians, bloggers, editors and commenters, and all of the DIS family got together in the east London warehouse, The Apiary. Worriedaboutsatan performed an ace DJ set, full of frenetic electro-energy (until the power cut out!) and paving the way nicely for Rolo Tomassi later on.
Here’s what DIS’s editor Sean has to say about the history of Drowned in Sound:
“In 2000, there was no YouTube, no MySpace and no Facebook. The combination of the dying embers of Napster, At the Drive-in’s Relationship of Command breathing life back into rock’n’roll and the fact that the web meant that anyone could do anything, just as long as they had a website, led to a crazy amount of change.
“A bunch of music fans, sad to see Melody Maker’s demise but ridiculously excited about music, inspired by whatever it was in the air, grabbed the future with twenty-two pastie hands and launched the UK’s first music website/blog and something that would later be called a ‘social network’.”