Gig City – Kiran Leonard, The Nest, Bath

KIRAN LEONARD / IRMA VEP / THE EVIL USSES – The Nest, Bath – Saturday 2nd April 2016

Kiran Leonard is a force to be reckoned with. At the age of 20 and while still a student he has already put out two albums, in addition to numerous other tracks that can be found on his Soundcloud account here

He’s gained kudos from BBC 6 Music (Marc Riley in particular is deeply smitten) and XFM, and the new album “Grapefruit” ( the follow-up to 2014’s “Bowler Hat Soup”) is receiving rave reviews from what seems like the entire blogosphere for its poise, originality and – let’s be clear – for rocking like a bastard.

“Grapefruit” has been a long time in the making, many of the tracks having been road-tested, tinkered with and developed live (like the Pink Floyd used to do all those years ago until they got fed up with being bootlegged). There are certainly a few of the tracks played tonight that have changed noticeably – for the better in all cases – since I last heard them played live a year or so ago.

(BTW a couple of tracks from the album are featured on Beat City #72 featuring “Grapefruit” by Kiran Leonard plus a few more tunes you may like)

Kiran takes the stage so quietly you’d hardly notice, straps on his guitar,removes his shoes and without a word the band dive straight into the astonishing 16-minute “Pink Fruit”, an excerpt of which is included below, one of two extended multi-movement pieces on the records and comfortably the most complex of the manby complicated tunes in the set – no poncey warming up with the easy options here.

You may have heard “Pink Fruit” on the radio. It goes through at least five movements that I can identify. This music seems to have come out of nowhere, although if pressed I’d say there are hints of Frank Zappa and maybe the likes of Gentle Giant and King Crimson, next to Jane’s Addiction and maybe the art-rock with a hint of grunge of dEUS.

Kiran stands stage left and side on to the audience, like a conductor facing his band which consists of a violinist / keyboard player, bass and drums. There are some seriously challenging arrangements for the players in this music, and the band are more than up to the task. I’ve never seen such a well-drilled band playing such complex music.

And this IS complex music, make no mistake, but crucially, its not complicated. There are arrangements in 5/8 and 13/8 time here, but you never find yourself thinking “ooh thats clever” – its always the song that’s important, and its always the song that wins through.

And you NEED these odd time signatures to create the effects Kiran Leonard is after. I honestly don’t think anyone has done anything like this before although I stand to be corrected on this.

And then there’s the guitar playing. No mile long guitar solos here, and equally no five minute wig outs on the one chord,but short, violent outbursts as and when required – Richard Thompson is the closest reference point I can hear. Like Dave Tattersall’s work with the Wave Pictures, it enhances the song, it isn’t the point of the song. Course, if you’re a songwriter of the quality of Tattersall or Leonard then that always helps.

Kiran’s songwriting indicates a refusal to be pinned down to any one musical idea for any length of time. Musical motifs swirl in and out of the songs at will. The light and shade is masterful; yes, there is a comparison to be made with grunge but where Nirvana and their ilk were working in black and white, ranging from very quiet to very loud, Leonard and his band visit all points inbetween as well.

Both support acts are pretty good – Irma Vep, who Kiran and members of his band provide the backing for, and opening the show, Bristol-based instrumental band The Evil Usses, who I thought were tremendous, bringing to mind Zappa and Beefheart as well as the Pink Floyd and Pigbag, none of which is ever a bad thing)

My personal fave tune of Kiran’s is “Don’t Make Friends With Good People”, a nine minute plus tune which starts with layers of kids’ TV folk guitar, breaks into a brutal section at which the Gang Of Four would nod approvingly before moving into an extended Tim Buckley strumscream, then finally ending with a prog explosion King Crimson may have achieved circa 1972.

The final track is his signature, “Geraldo’s Farm” , a song which builds and then drops away again them builds again to the most shattering of sonic climaxes you could wish to hear.

There’s a surprise encore – a cover version, no less – as Kiran plays a solo guitar-backed version of sixties girl-group The Tammys “His Actions Speak Louder Than Words”. Got to admit I wasn’t expecting that at all, it all adds to the puzzle and the enigma that is Kiran Leonard and his music. I did capture it on my phone but the sound quality was dire and there were EVIL PEOPLE TALKING, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE so you’ll have to make do with the classic original for now, shut your eyes and imagine.

If you’re quick and near Ramsgate, Cambridge or Nottingham you can catch Kiran and his band on tour this week. He’s also playing the excellent Dim Swn one-day multi venue fest in Cardiff on Saturday (April 9th).

And check out the “Grapefruit” album, it really is a leap forward in the gene pool of underground music. I haven’t quite got my head round its intricacies and references yet and I think it’ll be a while before I do, but I’m looking forward to getting to know it. Come back in six months for the review.

Previous Gig City – Meilyr Jones

Goodnight Lenin, Good Night

Dry The River / Arcane Roots / Goodnight Lenin – Komedia, Bath

Wednesday 31st October 2012

There’s a great film called Goodbye Lenin! set in Berlin in which a loyal Communist Party worker falls into a coma. By the time she’s woken up ten years later, Communism has been dismantled along with the Berlin Wall. Her family, aghast at what effect this terrible news may have on her, take the only logical route open to them.

They pretend the Communists are still in power. They get all the old traditional East German tinned food brands in, and get an old Moskvitch car, and play videos of East German television to her so she doesn’t have to go through the potentially fatal stress of realising how much things have changed.

The opening band tonight, Goodnight Lenin, take their name from this film, and this is entirely appropriate for a band who wear their folky, early 70s hearts on their cheesecloth sleeves.

If the late great Sandy Denny had merely fallen into a coma after her fall in the seventies, and then come round now, she would recognise Goodnight Lenin as the inheritors of the seventies folk-rock trail, blazed by Denny’s band Fairport Convention. Come to think of it, you could also tell her truthfully  that Fairport were still going.

This is in no way a criticism – Goodnight Lenin are great. Funny how bands that take their cue from the sixties are regarded as cooler than bands who do the same with the early seventies – it ain’t necessarily so.

The evil forces that surround Bath, its one-way systems and its Stepford Wives vibe are powerful enough at the best of times, but tonight is Hallowe’en and it is particularly difficult to find a parking space.

So I miss the first half of Goodnight Lenin’s set, but see enough to download the new single 

Definitely a band to watch – they’re on tour all over the place in their own right in November.

The second band on is Arcane Roots of which I have to say this

Then its Dry The River time. I was really looking forward to seeing this band, and there are so many things to love about them. The violin flourishes. The astonishing harmonies – ragged, discordant yet rich, reminiscent of The Byrds or even The Band. The bass player mops his hairy brow with a towl and makes a joke about the Turin shroud which goes down about as well as Donald Trump’s daughter bringing Chris Rock home. It’s Bath, mate. Its weird.

There’s this nagging doubt in my head though that they really really want to be Stadium, and they’ve decided the best way to do it is to do That Rocking Out ending that landfill indie bands like Kasabian and White Lies do. On every song.

Guys – enough. This is not where your strengths lie. After the fourth or fifth one droned on for an age, it became clear this was akin to the end of a football match where a team is winning 4-3, we are playing stoppage time and they are keeping the ball close to the corner flag to wind down the clock. It mars every song they do it on, which is a damn shame cos the songs are all good.

A word about the acoustics at the Komedia. Superb. From the balcony you often get distortion but not this evening. Well done, sound-man. Or woman.

And this is demonstrated beautifully by Dry The River’s fabulous encore, which instantly wipes out any cock-rocking that may have occurred earlier.

They seem genuinely surprised and made up that they’ve been called back for an encore, and they do something brave and different. They descend into what would be the mosh pit in a livelier town, and play a beautifully balanced acoustic song – hell, its practically a cappella. Once the crowd shushes up, and once the air conditioning is turned down, its a magical moment. I wish they’d do more of the quieter stuff.

Excellent evening. I walk back to the car past hordes of freezing, sodden students dressed as monks, butchers and nurses. There is a group of about 20 girls in slutty costumes and umbrellas belting out Oasis’s Wonderwall. Hey, maybe Bath has a soul after all.

Goodnight Lenin Official Site

Dry The River Official Site

 

Frankie Goes To … erm … Bath

Frankie And The Heartstrings, Moles Club, Bath

Thursday 18th October 2012

The best gigs are the squeezed-in gigs that you only find out about on the day they happen.

Frankie And The Heartstrings playing twenty minutes away? Yes please!

Never mind that this is Bath city centre we’re talking about, where everybody is so rich they have three cars each, and they all make a point of parking them all by the side of the roads of an evening, on the double yellow lines, in the disabled spaces, up trees, the lot.

I decide that I don’t want to give Bath City Council sixty quid so find a proper car park and ascend the mountain to where Moles Club is situated.

Haven’t been here in a very long while – the last time was a comedy gig circa ’96. My Gran had just died and my mate persuaded me to go out to cheer me up. One of the acts (Mike Gunn) dressed as an undertaker and did a whole routine about shagging his dead grandmother.

To be fair, it did make me laugh. Don’t judge me.

Didn’t really feel like I could go up to him afterwards to say thank you though, for fear of traumatising him into retirement. He’s still going strong on the circuit now, so I feel vindicated and not a little proud that he was able to continue his career thanks to my sensitivity.

Sorry that was a bit of a downer. Its OK, my Gran had a good long life, she was in her late eighties and didn’t suffer.
Frankie And The Heartstrings’ first elpee was one of my faves of 2011, came out of nowhere, 34 minutes of short, superbly crafted pop songs that reminded me at least of how Dexys Midnight Runners would have sounded as a pop band with no horns.

Singer Frankie Francis’ yelping delivery is pure Kevin Rowland and the band are exactly right – no huge solos, everything perfectly tailored for the needs of the song.

Check this Blue Peter style video for “Hunger” too.

And the new album’s only produced by Bernard smegging Butler, that’s all!
And they’ve just dropped a new free taster track from their new album (out in the noo year) –

They do four new numbers this evening, all instant classics – it says quite a lot when people sing along to a song they’ve never heard before.

The club is more than half-full, a great time is had by all.

People dance. And not just girls.

Setlist (courtesy of http://lilmissmosher.wordpress.com/ – thanks Miss Mosher. Great blog btw, you should all check her out)

This band is a bit special, and indeed about the time I write this they will be going onstage in Cardiff supporting The Cribs on their nationwide tour, which should give them the exposure they deserve.

All together now – “I’ll be yours – you’ll be mine – I’ll feed you milk – I’ll bring you wine”