Gig Guide – w/e Sun 1st September 2013

Plenty of great live music on the capital this week as the best summer in years draws to a close (slowly we hope!)

Monday – Freddie McGregor, Hootannany, Brixton

Freddie McGregor has managed to dip a toe in every different flavour of Jamaican music, be it rocksteady or roots reggae, dancehall or dub. His biggest UK hit was “Just Don’t Wanna Be Lonely” which went To Ten back in 1987. Here’s a live clip of it from a couple of years ago – the man still has it!

Tuesday – Stanley Brinks & The Wave Pictures – Shacklewell Arms

Stanley Brinks is the current identity of André Herman Düne, formerly of the French folk rock band Herman Düne. He has recorded and played shows in Europe, the UK and the US under various other names such Ben Dope, Ben Haschish, Klaus Bong, John Trawling, Lord Stanislas.

Since leaving Herman Düne in December 2006 he has been championed by the likes of Jeffrey Lewis (who wrote a song about how Herman Düne were better when André was still in them) and in 2012 he collaborated with The Wave Pictures for their debut joint release. The follow up album is due to come out on Fika Recordings next year.

Stanley Brinks will be joined by The Wave Pictures as his backing band for this show. The Wave Pictures are David Tattersall, Franic Rozycki and Jonny “Huddersfield” Helm. Formed in 1998 when Franic and David lived in a village called Wymeswold, the band played with several drummers until Jonny became a permanent member in 2003 replacing Hugh J Noble. In the beginning the band learned to play together by covering Jonathan Richman songs.

Their new album, City Forgiveness, will be out in October on the Moshi Moshi label.

Tuesday – California X – Borderline

Punk power trio formed last year in Amherst, Massachusetts.. They wear their influences proudly – eighties indie rock like Dinosaur Jr and seventies metal a la Motorhead (one of them even appears to be called Lemmy). Expect them to rock the Borderline (and the Old Blue Last on Wednesday)

Wednesday – The Barr Brothers – Borderline

Breathtaking Canadian folk quarter. Check the playing on this.

Thursday – Frankie & The Heartstrings – Birthdays, Dalston

Sunderland’s FATH have been around a couple of years, crafting perfect indie pop songs that make you think of what might have been had Edwyn Collins and Kevin Rowland been in a band together. They’re excellent live as you can see here :

Thursday – Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra – Union Chapel

New Zealand’s cult music-comedy sensation the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra makes its London debut this summer with an unmissable show at Union Chapel, fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe.

If there were a Ukulele Orchestra Olympics, NZ’s team would be suspected of steroid abuse, with their high-octane solos, outrageous outfits, batty banter and unstoppable musical mischief. Joining forces seven years ago, these freaks of the four-string have become a cult favourite, causing a mad scramble for tickets wherever they go and sending audiences into a euphoric state.

Delighting crowds of all ages, the orchestra’s signature sound features ten ukuleles, a double bass and a choir of gorgeous voices performing harmonious and hilarious renditions of modern and traditional tunes. Their comedic wit is famously spontaneous, and when they burst into song, it could go either way – the sweet sounds can silence a room in a nanosecond, or bring a crowd of thousands to their feet.

This is their take on Kings Of Leon.

Friday – Violet Class – New Cross Inn

Sounding like the soundtrack to football in the 1970s, Violet Class are a proper guitar band, like Oasis. With killer riffs, like Oasis. And you can dance to them.

All door proceeds to the charity set up for Jon Brookes, the drummer with the Charlatans who sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago.

Saturday – Damien Jurado, Bush Hall

With its perfect acoustics, The Bush Hall should provide the ideal setting for Seattle indie singer-songwriter Damien Jurado, who released his tenth album last year.

Sunday – Los Pelos Rizos – Half Moon, Putney (13:00 – 16:00)

A couple of free gigs for Sunday, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

Los Pelos Rizos is London’s critically acclaimed Gypsy Funk band with their sound described as: “bursting with layers of eclectic energy wrapped in Latin rhythms”. Featuring violin, trumpet, guitars, mandolin, bass and cajon, they have a regular following, a residency at The Troubadour and played to jubilant audiences at The Edinburgh Festival. So come on down for a some Latin-fuelled Curly-haired Gypsy Funk!

Sunday – Diabel Cissokho – Hootannany, Brixton (evening)

Rootmaster presents a genuine musical genius from a long line of griots + long time kora player for Baaba Maal! Diabel Cissokho, from Senegal, toured internationally with his family’s band Bannaya leading to his stint as Baaba Maal’s kora player, as well as acclaimed musicians like Kandia Kouyate, Pee Wee Ellis, Nuru Kane, Daby Balde, Omar Pene and Abdou Diop. Now well established in the UK, Diabel’s virtuosic talent, his “resonant voice and rocking kora style” (Songlines), have been welcomed everywhere.

Should be something there for everybody, even metal fans.

See you down the front!

Gig Guide w/e 11th August 2013

“Describing a path of great live music through the aftermath of the short but marvellous London summer”

Thomas Dybdahl – St Pancras Old Church, Monday

Norwegian singer-songwriter who has drawn favourable comparisons to Tim Buckley.

Swim Deep – Rough Trade East instore, Tuesday

Plenty of buzz around this band who peddle a nice line in feelgood sixties-tinged indie.

If you order the superbly-titled new album “Where The Heaven Are We?”LP quick from Rough Trade you’ll get a free wristband for this instore which is sure to be packed, given that it’s the school holidays.

I love this band. They’re also doing Banquet Records in Kingston on Thursday.

Polyphonic Spree – Village Underground, Tuesday

Yes, It’s True! The band of a million members (maybe a few less than that) return to tour their new album. (you see what I did there?) If you can’t make it to the gig then you can watch the live stream here

An interesting move, which is becoming more common with bands at all levels of fame and experience.

Could be the way forward?

Josefin Winther – Rattlesnake Angel, Tuesday

Norwegian songwriter based in London. Haunting melodies with that Elsewhere quality, drawing comparisons to Patti Smith and PJ Harvey

Also playing an acoustic set at the Half Moon, Putney on Monday for the bargain price of £2.50. Car trouble is the only thing preventing me from attending that as as well. Damn you, Ford Focus. Damn you.

Tako Lako – Windmill, Thursday

Hailing from Denmark and Serbia, this seven-piece sound a bit like Gogol Bordello or Katzenjammer, but a bit less frenetic and perhaps more musical.

Stoneface Travellers – Boogaloo, Thursday

Classic Rock-styled three piece – and I’m talking about the swampy rock sounds of Free or Creedence rather than stadium, which is just fine by me. Sounds pretty authentic too (American drummer, duh!) . And the Boogaloo is a great venue. And you can park on the road nearby after 6pm.

This clip (shot at the Water Rats) gives you an idea (dodgy sound quality aside, which isn’t their fault)

Catfish And The Bottlemen – Koko, Friday

Biggest gig so far for Llandudno’s CATB, feted by Steve Lamacq and others, and rightly so. Last time I went to Koko I had to be restrained from lamping idiots taking selfies while Of Montreal were playing so be warned. Kids, eh?

Hannah White – Union Chapel, Friday

Excellent singer-songwriter in the Laura mould (more Viers than Marling to these ears).

This is “Flawless”. By which I mean, this is flawless.

Nice Peter – Bush Hall, Saturday

Comic / Guitar Heo / Youtube sensation. Best to watch this vid as it’s a bit hard to describe why he’s so great …

Azure Blue – Lexington, Sunday

Azure Blue, the third Scandinavian act featured this week, is the new solo project from Tobias Isaksson. His old bands Irene and Laurel Music attracted worldwide recognition, documented from The Allmusic Guide to the blogosphere, but this is a brand new start. With Azure Blue, Tobias has surpassed all his previous work. The whole process has been like watching a baby dolphin being born.

The name is a paraphrase of the title of Dennis Wilson’s timeless classic album “Pacific Ocean Blue”.

These ears hear lovely, understated old school indie sounds (circa Fac 39 or thereabouts)

I’m definitely going to be getting to a couple of these myself. See you down the front!

The First Festive Fifty Of Them All

In 1976, in those odd in-between days between Christmas and New Year when you’re not quite sure if the country is on holiday or at work, fourteen-year-old me listened avidly to John Peel broadcasting his Festive Fifty songs of the year on BBC Radio One.

Unlike subsequent years, this was an all-time listing, summed up here in twelve minutes.

I’m going to make a cup of tea while you watch and marvel at it.

Good, innit?

Still stands up to this day as a superb list, combining the obvious …

… with the idiosyncratic

… and the occasional complete curve ball

There’s even a couple of Genesis tracks. But we shall move swiftly past THOSE.

Oh, and this Prog Classic by Yes sneaked in at number 50,making it the first Festive Fifty record to be broadcast. Bet Peel LOVED that.

There was no chart the following year, but it resumed in 1978 and continued in its more familiar role as a chart of songs that came out in the current year, until the DJ’s untimely death in 2004.

Strictly speaking, of course, it wasn’t Peel’s Festive Fifty at all – it was, as he frequently stressed, his listeners’ Festive Fifty.

Quite a few fans have carried on the tradition to this day, selecting or voting for tracks they think would have made the chart, had Peel still been with us. Again, these are all well worth checking out.

Special mention to Dandelion Radio, an Internet radio station which plays Peelmusic. They do a Festive Fifty every year, voted for by listeners, and you can hear it every day from Xmas Day until the end of January. They’re fully PRS licensed too, btw, which I think Peel would have liked.

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