Gig guide – Thurs 12th – Wed 18th September 2013

Thursday – Strypes, Electric Ballroom

Strypes have been garnering a lot of critical mass lately. Ridiculously young Irish band playing R&B in the Dr Feelgood / early Stones sense.

They’re the real deal, no matter what a few jaded old wanker hipsters think.

The new album is out this week and I was lucky enough to catch them at Rough Trade’s instore gig on Wednesday – they played a blistering high-octane set comprising ten songs in half an hour – at least, I think it was ten, I may have lost count.

Here’s a clip of what they sound like live, hot off the press from last night (Wednesday 11th Sept)

Thursday – Summer Camp, McCluskys

The second, eponymous album from Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley has more of a coherent sound than 2011 debut “Welcome To Condale” which should hopefully endear them to a wider record-buying public.

They’re now playing R&B in the Beyonce sense, and foregrounding the hip-hop style sampling that was present sporadically on the first record, and for my money they’ve nailed it.

BRough TrwdddddddddBuy the Stephen Street-produced album from Banquet Records and you get a free ticket to the gig. Or buy a ticket to the gig and you get a free album. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a bargain at seven of yer English pounds.

Friday – Rachel Ann Weiss, Regal Rooms, Hammersmith

Rachel Ann Weiss is a New York singer-songwriter who released a rather loverly debut album “Dear Love” last year; She’s touring the UK for the first time this week with drummer and electric piano player in tow. The overall sound is reminiscent of 70s Americana, with the USP being Weiss’s powerful vocals.

This song is from her second ever gig in the UK last night (Wednesday Sept 11th), appropriately at the 12 Bar Club in Soho’s Tin Pan Alley, Denmark Street.

Saturday – I Was A Cub Scout – Borderline, Soho

If you’re a two-member band and you split up, it’s a bit difficult. More than that and you simply get a new singer, drummer, synth player or freaky dancer and carry on. But it never works with duos. Except with Chas And Dave, oddly. Dave decided he’d had enough of touring and retired, so Chas simply got another Dave in. Chas And A Dave. B

Five years ago this option was not available to I was A Cub Scout.

They looked to have potential with their laid-back take on anthemic indie dance tunes then split up acrimoniously in 2008 in the middle of a tour.

They didn’t speak for years and it’s taken them until now to reach a point where they can achieve closure and play a farewell gig.

Post break-up sex, if you like.

Sunday – King Lizard – Fiddler’s Elbow Camden

If you’re looking for an alternative to the Camden Amy Winehouse memorial gigs (two years – seriously?) where does the time go?) then Sunday night at the Fiddler’s Elbow could be for you.

King Lizard have been ploughing a well-trodden furrow through the metal hinterlands for a few years now, and you have to ultimately love a band who include in their ranks a singer called Flash Roxx and a drummer called Moyano El Buffalo.

Monday – Catfish & The Bottlemen – Sebright Arms

Latest Welsh indie hopefuls who’ve played over 100 shows in 18 months, building an audience the old-fashioned way and in the process honing their live craft. This could be the last chance to catch them at a venue this small

Monday – Boho Dancer – Phoenix Artist Club (18:45)

A venue that is possibly central London’s best kept secret, the Phoenix Artist Club. Early start for three acts headlined by the excellent Boho Dancer and also featuring Tom Baxter and Leslie Mendelson.
Free entry but let ‘em know you’re coming down first as it’s quite a small venue.

Tuesday – Cloud Control – Rough Trade Instore

Australia’s wonderful Cloud Control have a new album out this week hence the instore. They play a sun-drenched psychedelic take on indie, in the same area as bands like Yeasayer but, as always with Aussie bands, it’s the tunes that are important. Like this one from the new LP

Wednesday – Department M – Club Fandango, Tipsy Bar

Club Fandango are brilliant. I’ve been to countless of their promotions down the years, there’s generally three or four bands on and without exception I’ve come away with one or two New Favourite Bands.
Headlining are Department M, the band formed out of the ashes of the excellent and much-missed Grammatics. Really looking forward to seeing what Owen Brinley’s new band sound like live after a couple of excellent singles (below).

Support from the Savage Nomads and Young Romance.

That completes an an absolute killer seven nights of LDN giggage, if I can last the pace.
See you down the front. Bring caffeine.

Genna Marabese

Tuesday 15th November 2011

Well, I’ve never seen THIS before.

There are more people on stage when this gig starts than there are in the crowd.

Even in my own extremely minor musical career I’ve never encountered this before.

By the end of a gig, sure, when everybody has enjoyed the band sufficiently and gone home, but nobody has the heart to tell the band.

There was a pub gig I played in 1990 where we started out with around twenty fairly enthusiastic punters. Two hours of blaring original metal later it was just the bar staff, and I’m pretty sure they were only still there because they wouldn’t have gotten paid otherwise. We even played an encore for the barman.

But this is the Bull And Gate in buzzin’ North London. Yeah, I know England are playing football on the telly, but seriously … if I can make the effort with a dose of the man-flu and a cough that would not sound out of place in a 60–a-day man then so can everybody else.

The gig is a Club Fandango promotion featuring four bands. Its the first act I’m here to see though, so its an 8.00 start in a freezing, near-deserted room for Genna Marabese.

A little research on that internet reveals an intriguing set of influences – Joanna Newsom, the Velvet Underground, Hole, and so on. And in this day and age there’s no excuse for going to a gig without checking out the songs, which I have done and they all sound amazing, intriguing and pretty much original.

GM’s set is superb. Six piece band perfectly complements her doomy yet hummable songs. There are echoes of the likes of Anna Calvi here, and lots of chord progressions that owe less to rock and more to East European folk music.

But … Genna and her band ROCK. And you can dance to them, which is always good.

The key here is the songs, which are ragged and garagey, dark and countrified.The band play a very important part in creating a unique sound – she definitely needs to keep a hold of them. There isn’t a weak song played tonight, which is most unusual for an artist at such an early stage of her career, but We Are Animal and Masquerade are contrasting standouts.

And she avoids all the cornier stereotypes of the alt.girl-fronted-rock genre – if you’re not careful you end up coming over like some horrible big-haired early eighties “alternative” harpy. Much as I like The Machine, for instance, their girl singer Florence does occasionally strays into Toyahland.

Genna Marabese reminds me of early Tom Waits  more than anyone else in terms of song structures and sound. Nearest female  comparison I can think of is Lene Lovich (slightly Gothy, punky singer with a Balkan origin who had three strange and wonderful hits back in 1979, the era when left-field music could still get in the charts. Lucky Number was her big hit)

Its a crowded market, sure, but Genna’s uniqueness should assure her a place in it. There is nobody who sounds quite like this. And I admired the way she and her band didn’t let the sparse crowd bother them and still put on a great show. At least one of the bands that followed didn’t seem to be bothered to be honest.

By the end of the set the crowd has increased to the point where we comfortably outnumber the band. One day we’ll be able to say we saw Genna Marabese before she was famous. And so should you.

Mind you, coming out tonight made sure that the bug really got a hold of me to the point where I didn’t go out again for more than a week. But, had I unfortunately not survived, at least the last gig I ever attended would have been worth it.

 

 

 

Airborne Toxic Event and me. A love story.

5th November 2011, Shepherds Bush Empire, London

“This band means everything to us, its pretty much all we’ve got”

Every time I’ve seen The Airborne Toxic Event, singer Mikkel Jollett has said this towards the end of the gig.

If you’ve never seen the band then you may well think “Yeah, that’s bullshit” and I can see where you’re coming from – and I guess it has probably become an integral part of the show, like when Bruce Springsteen asks Miami Steve what time it is.

But you get the feeling that he means it.

The Airborne Toxic Event first came to my attention in November 2008 when they did a UK tour covering 30 gigs in 30 nights, including the more well-travelled cities but also places like Yeovil, Derby, Fife, Aldershot, Barrow In Furness, Dundee.

I’d be hard pressed to even GO to 30 gigs in 30 nights, even if they were all round the corner and I didn’t have to work.

I saw the band three times on that tour at their London residency, at gigs promoted by the excellent Club Fandango. (check out the video diary with a slightly bemused looking Steven Chen (guitar and keyboards) coming to terms with the UK)

Their first album had gotten a grey market UK release, forty minutes and ten tracks of sheer rock’n’roll genius, not a superfluous note or a wasted word.

The buzz got louder as to what a great live band they were. The crowd was bigger for each gig, and what a show they put on! In the tiny back room of the Dublin Castle in Camden they pounded out their songs of doomed love and big hooks. It was the closest I will ever get to seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Stone Pony, New Jersey.

And on the third night, when the singer jumped into the crowd for a bit of that old rock’n’roll down with the people stuff, he ignored all the adoring twenty-something girls, stuck his arm round my shoulders and the mike in my face, and I did the best I could to remember the words to “Gasoline”… Proud moment, although the cynical me did have room for the thought that he may have been trying to recreate the famous cover shot to “Born To Run”, and I was the only big fat brown man available.

Great band, great set of gigs.

So then through a series of personal mishaps on their part and having to leave the country for a while on my part (don’t ask), I went through 2009 and 2010 ATE-less. They cancelled a European tour in 2009 owing to ill-health and a couple of UK gigs too and I thought, well, that’s that. They’ve missed the boat now. Great band, fantastic album, at least we have the memories and they didn’t last long enough to get crap.

Early 2011. Back in the UK again, bit out of touch with music, scanning the TV listings and there on Sky Arts is a concert by The Airborne Toxic Event. At Disney Concert Hall (check name). Its lovely shot in B&W (check) with a choir and a marching band! There’s new songs! And a cover of the fabulous Magnetic Fields’ “The Book Of Love”!

Further investigation reveals a new album “All At Once” and, glory be, a UK tour ! They’re doing  a week of gigs in London, revisiting the smaller venues where they made their name locally. These gigs are sold out but I manage to get tickets for an intimate sit-down gig at the Drill Hall via Facebook.

And hearing them for the first time in stripped-down acoustic mode, its like listening to the songs again for the first time. They make so much sense sung quieter and less frenetically, and Mikkel’s extensive between-song yarns flesh out the story, which is, basically, that if a girl called Catherine hadn’t dumped him, all the great songs on the first album wouldn’t have been written.

Thank God for bad relationships. Happiness is overrated. At least when it comes to artists writing decent songs. But that’s a topic for another day…

So I seek out a ticket for any of the gigs in the rest of the week. I’m prepared to pay quite a lot.

Somebody on the fans forum has a spare for the Kings College gig and wants it to go to a fellow fan. I insist on payment, she refuses, so I end up buying her a drink in exchange for the ticket.

The gig is amazing, better than I have ever seen them play.

So up until April 2011 I had seen The Airborne Toxic Event five times for a grand total cost of £15.  Plus a pint of Guinness.

The ticket for Shepherds Bush Empire costs me more than the other five gigs combined – but the band is worth every penny, and then some.

A word about the songs. Lets be clear, there is nothing that original here. The Airborne Toxic Event are alchemists and mixers in the same way Blur and Oasis were. Mikkel knows exactly how to write a song, with the little pause before the whole song goes crazy – It is the utter conviction with which they play that makes the difference, its something that Springsteen has (obviously) and Dexys, and the Proclaimers, and the Hold Steady. None of those acts were particularly innovative, but they all bring a new freshness to the musical styles they plunder.

The stagecraft is superb – you do get that with American bands, they tend to be about putting on a show and less about being “too cool for school” than their British equivalents.

This is an excellent desktop backgroundmade by a far more dedicated fan than me and including some great shots of the gig, and a setlist also. Thanks Erfy. If that IS your real name… 8=)

No “Book Of Love” tonight which is a shame. They covered it before Peter Gabriel, and better than he did it. But check out the Magnetic Fields original , it’s the best version of the three.

And as for the encore… continuing the Brooce theme, they do an extended version of their chugging country rock anthem “Missy” incorporating snatches of “I’m On Fire”, ”I Fought The Law” and “Folsom Prison Blues”.

And its that triumvirate of Bruce, Clash and Cash that defines them, their influences and where they want to be.

There’s a genuine bond that exists between band and audience. I’ve never seen anybody else actually come down off the stage within five or ten minutes of the gig finishing for meet and greets, autographs and pictures. They do give the impression that they actually care about that stuff, and I’m still idealistic enough to think that’s important.

A quick word about the support band, Leeds’ The Chevin. Pretty standard anthemic indie but played well and vigorously and with enough in the songs to hold promise of things to come.

I reckon the best thing for them would be NOT to be hugely successful until the second album at least, lest they find themselves on the Big Pink path of premature expectation and end up writing a second album identical to the first.

In conclusion, as I type this I have by my side half a drumstick that drummer Daren Taylor tossed into the crowd at the end of the gig. Which I then got him to sign afterwards. I joke that it will be up on ebay tomorrow but we both know that I shall be treasuring it forever, along with the pick belonging to The War On Drugs and the setlists from The Broken Family Band. That’s right, setlists plural.

I should be way too old to get excited by that sort of thing – but there’s something about this band that turns me into a teenager again.

And ain’t that the whole function of rock music?