Gig Guide – w/e Sunday 18th August

It’s not peak time for gigs in London at this time of year but here’s a few cracking nights out you may be interested in.

Jello Biafra And The Guantanamo School Of Medicine – Dingwalls, Monday

One for all of us ageing punks at a loose end on a Monday evening. Jello fronted classic punk band the Dead Kennedys and hasn’t mellowed with age as the new album “White People And The Damage Done” attests :

Nadine Shah – Shepherds Bush Empire, Tuesday

Supporting Bat For Lashes, you could say this was too obvious a pairing of Britain’s foremost Asian female alternative musical talent. One thing that is certain is that Natasha “Bats” Khan will have her work cut out to match Shah, who has produced an excellent debut album “Love Your Dum And Mad”, a title worthy of 70s progsters Caravan (“Cunning Stunts” being their wordplay highlight).

Shah is a different animal entirely from Khan, though, with a deep, soulful voice that maybe shows the influence of her Pakistani father (her mother is Norwegian and she was raised in Newcastle)

Velcro Hooks – Shacklewell Arms, Tuesday

I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. Loud scuzzy guitar but not so loud that you can’t hear the dislocated, punky lyrics. Would not sound out of place in the New York punk scene circa 1976 – somewhere near Television or Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.
Signed to Fierce Panda records, usually a guarantee of quality, this should be good.

Rose Elinor Dougall – Shacklewell Arms, Wednesday

Two great acts in a row at the Shacklewell. It’s all very well but over the past ten years, while I’ve been loosely based in West London on and off, which was fine circa 2006 to 2007 when all the cool gigs were in Camden. But unfortunately the centre of hip has since relocated East. Twice. First to Shoreditch and now it’s Dalston where the haircut kids mainly hang out. Hang around long enough and they’ll all be living in Colchester.

Rose Elinor Dougall was an original member of the superb Pipettes but since leaving a few years ago has been writing and recording pop songs of astounding quality that deserve a far wider audience. Her new single “Strange Warnings” could be the best thing she’s been involved with.

This gig is free, so if you’re anywhere in the vicinity, there’s no excuse for not turning up, really.

Mr Cat And The Jackal – Half Moon, Putney, Wednesday

This top South African band offers a theatrical show of pirates and beggars who sing ancient songs for music bootleggers. “For our massive repertoire we all pass around three dozen instruments to create our own sound. It’s salvation we dread, we’re five from the Cape where we ate, drank ‘n read and practiced our good ‘old folk tales from the sea and the land. Our songs will set sail with a whisky in hand – a spectacle of paradox-like discord to soothe, designing our songs for your soul to groove on”. Could be great – here’s a sample choon.

Cauls – Windmill, Brixton, Friday

Intriguing combination of post-rock and 80s melodic melancholia at the Windmill, also featuring Bloody Mammals, Great Cop and Pippos Progress. You can download Cauls’ latest EP from here :

Skatalites – Jazz Cafe, Friday

The Skatalites were one of the biggest of the original Jamaican ska groups of the mid-sixties. There’s only sax player Lester Stirling of the original lineup of the band left standing but as this relatively recent (2003) live version of their best known song Guns Of Navarone shows, they’re still pretty tight. This music is eternal.

Deep Sea Arcade – Hoxton Kitchen & Grill, Saturday

Psychedelic Aussie five-piece owing no small debt to baggy, which seems to be making a comeback (see Swim Deep). You can guarantee that when an Aussie band plays London they will draw a crowd of homesick Ockers, and that doesn’t always mean they’re actually any good, but Deep Sea Arcade are the real deal. I’d pitch them somewhere between the slower stoner anthems of Tame Impala and the faster, poppier beats of Cloud Control.

This is the bargain of the week I’d say – eight of your English pounds only, what are you waiting for?

See you down the front!

Malawi Mouse Boys

Malawi Mouse Boys – Boogaloo, Highgate

Thursday 25th July

Musical influences between the First and the Third World go in both directions. For every whiteboy English R&B band of the sixties lifting old blues tunes from the Mississippi delta there’s an Indian band doing playback covers of The Beatles.

See me a Paul “Oh No, Hide The Rhythms, Quick” Simon scouring South Africa to rejuvenate his career and I’ll raise you Biggie Tembo of the Bhundu Boys covering “Hotel California” with passion, love and a complete absence of irony.

Music is music, all musicians are influenced by what they hear and in a shrinking global community the Malawi Mouse Boys are prime examples of this.

The name is not some cute gang moniker, referring to the day-job the guys in the band have held since they were boys. They sell mouse kebabs on sticks to passers-by at the side of the road, mice being something of a delicacy in Malawi.


Last year they recorded an album produced by Ian Brennan (Tinariwen), recorded mostly outdoors in Malawi.

The album is wonderful, music that relies purely on passion and emotion to carry it through. It’s basically an African gospel album with a stripped-back sound and straight-up Christian lyrics which both hark back to a previous age. The musical palette also encompasses loping old-school reggae rhythms and  some unexpected, and welcome bluegrass notes. It does get a little but samey towards the end on first listen, but stick with it – the beautiful vocal interplay improves on repeated plays.

Tonight is their first ever gig in the UK as they prepare for an appearance at this weekend’s WOMAD festival.

Jaw dropping. Four guys from Malawi on their first day abroad, let alone in LDN. They’ve been shopping in Camden Market and  have bought Wonderstuff merchandise. I know Kenny Rogers and the Eagles are huge in Africa but Miles Hunt and the boys? Weird …

Legend has it that there were only twelve people at the first British gig by  Zimbabwe’s Bhundu Boys circa 1987.  Social media and the release of the debut album last year mean the Mouse Boys have a much larger audience for their foreign debut. The Boogaloo is pretty much packed. An enthusiastic, encouraging crowd is here.

Instrumentation – two guitars, one home-made. But it’s the voices that grab the attention. They begin their first gig away from their home country with an accapella number, a clear, confident statement of intent.

Lead singer Zondiwe Kachingwe has a sweet voice reminiscent of Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops but it’s the vocal interplay between all four band members takes the music to another place.

Four strong, beautiful voices singing close harmonies with that incredibly “up” quality you hear in the likes of Toots And The Maytals,  and the Beach Boys – and, it has to be said, driven by religious belief.

The devil has the best tunes? Nah. Theres a subject I need to return to some time…

Pete And The Pirates

October 4th, Scala London

After years of managing to miss Pete And The Pirates through bad luck, sheer indolence, a bad cold, and simply being in the wrong town or, in some cases, the wrong country, I got to see them twice in two months.

Pete And The Pirates gigs are like buses. You wait ages for one and then when you get on its all crowded and sweaty.

“Its 1979 and Heart Of Glass is playing…”

I take a look around the mosh pit. The cheerful, heterogenous crowd ranges from teenage kids through balding 30-something men who can’t quite kick the gigging habit to, well me. I can’t see too many people who would be likely to even have been alive in 1979 when Blondie were in their pomp, let alone attending the Scala…

This place has memories for me.

I used to go come here often back then with my first serious girlfriend Tessa. She got me into a lot of good stuff art and culture wise.

The Scala was a cinema then, showing art films that triumphantly straddled the line between art and porn.

We saw Jubilee there, Derek Jarman’s legendary punk film which featured a cameo from a young Adam Ant, and a plot involving a just-around-the-corner future Britain in which anarchy reigns and Buckingham Palace has been converted into a giant recording studio. The support bill was a selection of homoerotic porn shorts by the cult film-maker Kenneth Anger, including “Scorpio Rising”, which certainly opened my 17-year-old eyes to another side of biker culture.

Back to the present and a packed and enthusiastic crowd greets Pete And The Pirates. They’ve been around for a couple of years now, touting their brand of tuneful indie, and they’ve built up a devoted following.

They’re from Reading. In their early days they used to go to the Reading Festival every year as punters and plant a Pirate flag in an appropriate location. They would then proceed to play an impromptu acoustic sets and hand round flyers to people. Gotta say, that’s a fantastic marketing idea for any bands reading this.

Unassuming to look at, maybe even a bit reticent to talk to the crowd much, they play a fantastic set comprising much of their two albums. “Come To The Bar” is an obvious highlight. Lyrically they have a way with the wry one-liner lyrics – “Get out of bed, its the wrong one” for starters.

(NB – Incidentally, a quick scout round that Interweb reveals that the Scala I attended back in the day was in fact in a completely different London location. Funny how the memory plays tricks. I’ll never forget “Scorpio Rising” though. And if I ever come across a biker with no trousers on, I always give him a wide berth)

November 22nd, Buffalo Bar, London

The more recent gig was to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Buffalo Bar, and I have to be honest, although the band were great, the crowd were not up to much at all.

Gig etiquette surely dictates that if you get to a gig early enough to take up a position at the front, the least you can do is dance. Or move. Or react in some way to what’s happening on stage, not just stand there in silence.

Don’t get me wrong, each to their own and I know some people like standing and watching quietly. Fair enough. But FFS do it at the BACK of the gig, will you? In the case of the excellent Buffalo Bar, the back of the gig is still pretty close to the stage anyway.

That’s where me and my mate Craig are. Craig is only a couple of years younger than me and another ageing punk. He’s recently come back from four months unpaid leave in LA trailing his missus, looking after their young kid during the daytime and checking out the LA scene in the evenings.

He tells me a great story about his first pilgrimage to the legendary punk club The Roxy.

A large well-dressed man sidles up to him and says “Hey, are you on your own?” “Yes” says Craig. “Well, do you want to come to the bathroom with me?” “No!” he replies. The guy goes to the bathroom anyway and doesn’t come back. Craig spends the rest of the evening digging the bands and not going to the bathroom, ending up having to piss on the wall outside the club. Which I suppose is quite a punk thing to do.

He professes outrage at these events, but I think he’s secretly kind of pleased that he’s still got it. This sort of thing never happens to me, although I did have my bottom squeezed by a woman at the Scala – not in its porn cinema phase but during a Broken Family Band gig – but I suspect she was just trying to annoy her boyfriend.

So, the gig is enjoyable and the band are playing their hearts out but there’s not much to be done about a lot of the crowd. There’s a few people making an effort at the back though.

Afterwards we notice the guitarist outside chatting to a girl. They’re very polite about being interrupted by two large middle-aged men telling him how great the band is. We complain about the audience but he won’t have it and says something like “they were enjoying it in a different way”, which I think shows a tremendous amount of class.

Pete And The Pirates. A great band, and a great bunch of lads.