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

Dutch Uncles. New Favourite Band.

Dutch Uncles – Rise Records, Bristol – Tuesday 15th January 2013

With HMV going into administration this week, the importance of places like Rise Records in Bristol cannot be overestimated.

On two floors in the trendy student area of Clifton, it has now undergone a refurbishment in which the ground floor is now a coffee shop, with the excellent music stock now limited to the first floor.

I won’t go into full details but just as an example, their Rockabilly section, as well as including the 50s and 60s classics, also includes The Cramps, who usually get incorrectly lumped in with Goth.

These guys know what they’re doing.

The other crucial addition is a space at the back of the coffee shop that turns into a music venue with a capacity of maybe 200.

This seems to be an excellent template for how independent record shops can survive in the current climate, and more power to them. They’ve announced loads more similar events – if you’re in the Bristol area check ’em out –  Rise Records in Bristol and support your local indie record shop

Much like the Metropolitan Police back in the day counting people on demonstrations, I’m not great at estimating the size of crowds but there seem to be around 150 people here digging the magnificent sounds of the first buzz band of 2013, Dutch Uncles.

They’ve been around for a few years, putting out a couple of albums and building a bit of a following and some airplay. In an era where bands come into the public eye far too quickly, before they’re the finished article, this is a fine old-fashioned way of doing things, very much in keeping with the band’s stated love for 70s Prog and King Crimson in particular. Bands were allowed to develop in those days.

This is one of a few in-store gigs the band is doing to promote it. The deal is, you buy the album on CD or vinyl and you get a download code and two tickets to an in-store. Being as how I’m very old, I went for the Gold Vinyl option at £13, and to be honest I’d have paid that for one gig ticket so it’s a bargain.

I haven’t been to an instore gig for a while, and they can be hit and miss depending on whether the band sees it as a contractual engagement they’d rather not do or a proper gig. Dutch Uncles are firmly in the latter category.

They play for a good hour, tight, organised, effective. There is even room for some serious freaky dancing from lead singer / pianist Duncan Wallis. I need to see what he does on a big stage, dude’s got moves! Imagine Martin Fry of ABC without such an industrial consumption of pies.

They start off with a couple of hits from previous LP “Cadenza” before playing the bulk of the brand spanking new “Out Of Touch In The Wild”.
There are a lot of complex songs on OOTITW, but all are played with panache and brio. The singles “Fester” and “Flexxin” get the biggest cheers, having been featured on Radio One, or so I’m told.

The band wear their prog and art-rock influences proudly, but these songs are so much better, catchier and more danceable than anything King Crimson or Talking Heads ever came up with.

There are bits that remind me of Van der Graaf Generator, Japan, Neu!, Grammatics and XTC. As influences go, you can’t get much better than that for my money.

Often, particularly with complex songs, the trap for a band when playing live is to lose the subtleties and speed up too much. Dutch Uncles, on their third album, do neither of these things. Indeed, the songs are given new depths and meanings in a gig context – I’d love to hear a live album from them some time.

Meantime, I’d recommend the album to anybody with ears.

Dutch Uncles website


Drink Up Thee Zyder

The Wurzels – Walkabout, Bristol Thursday July 5th

It was a good time to be fourteen in the long, hot summer of 1976.

I was living in London and just discovering that not only were these things called “girls” actually quite interesting, some of them seemed to be interested in me, too…

The soundtrack to that summer was provided by such quality acts as John Miles (“music was my first hit – and it will be my last”), Showaddywaddy (“Under The Moon Of Love”) and Abba.

All very safe, and very dull. It was time for a change, a new sound. A sound from the streets that would make people sit up and take notice. A sound that would define a generation. Once you heard this song, nothing would ever be quite the same again.



The Wurzels had been going since 1967 as Adge Cutler And The Wurzels. Adge sadly died in a car crash in 1974 but just as Joy Division were later to morph into New Order and create a more commercial sound, so too did The Wurzels carry on.

They began to mess around with the lyrics of old hits and scored massively with the above Combine Harvester, which went to No. 1, I Am A Cider Drinker and Farmer Bill’s Cowman.

I found out years later that the actual immediate follow-up single to Harvester was “One For The Morning Glory”, the subject matter of which meant it was pretty unlikely to garner any airplay. It DID get on “The Arrows” teatime pop show on ITV though.

As a snotty kid from Sarf Lunnon watching Top Of The Pops, they seemed to come from another planet – far more so than the Sex Pistols.

The Wurzels enjoyed something of a renaissance in the noughties with their covers album which mocked their former rivals with its clever play on words in the title and cover.

West Cuntry Music at its finest

This included the likes of “Chelsea Dagger” and “Oo Ah Just A Little Bit” (Yes it works. Sing it in a West Country accent . See?) as well as possibly their finest hour – a cover of Oasis’s “Don’t Look Back In Anger” which is every bit as great as it sounds in your head.

They also did a split single (on good old vinyl) with the mighty British Sea Power on which they covered BSP’s “Remember Me” while BSP did a scuzzed out take on “I Am A Cider Drinker”

Incredibly, the Wurzels are still going strong today with two of the classic ’76 line up

I managed to get two tickets cheap from Sally at work for their gig at the Walkabout in Bristol. I have no idea where she gets these things from. Its best not to ask.

After a couple of rejections for the second ticket I eventually twisted the arm of old rocker Dave – ten thousand CDs and two ex-wives, an encyclopediac knowledge of rock music up to about 1985.

They were fantastic. Really tight band, as you’d expect from the time they’ve spent together. They did the hits, and a LOT of the old songs, which are mainly either about (i) drinking cider, (ii) shagging or (iii) both.

Except one about the Pill ferry, a fantastic take on all those folk songs about waving your loved one away on a ship – except that this one just goes to the other side of the river and back 8=)

I was expecting the audience to consist of fat old men like me and Dave but no! They were mainly twenty-somethings and teenage girls.

The band, undeterred by the age gap, engage in a good deal of lewd flirting with the girls, who seem to love it.

Fair play to them.

The drummer was introduced as “79 years old – the oldest drummer in captivity” and I can well believe it.

One of them did a striptease towards the end of the set, and for the first time in a while, I wished I still took a drink. Then I may have a fighting chance of forgetting the image one day …

They encore with the disco remix of “Harvester” and their version of the Kaiser Chiefs “Ruby”. No “Oo Ar Just A Little Bit”, unfortunately but you can’t have everything. Glad I finally saw them, but from the vim and vigour of the performance, I’m guessing they’ll be around for a while and there will be a few more chances yet.

Drink up thee zyder me babbers …

This is a clip from the gig courtesy of that internet. You can see Dave on the left in the Feist T-shirt. Don’t the band sound great?