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I went to see the Bevis Frond at the Standard in Walthamstow, which is a place I've never been to before, although it turns out I've driven past it a number of times since it's right opposite Blackhorse Road tube. It was good to see Nick do his acoustic thing, especially with Ade Shaw on bass for some of it. The electric half of the show, and it's not often you'll hear me say this, was less fun. Ade Shaw is yer bass professional but the other people that got added in were a not very interesting drummer and guitarist from another band, a geezer with wispy, fading hair dyed desperation black giving it pointless widdle on the guitar, and Ade Shaw's son with the sort of fringe that takes constant attention to keep swept horizontally doing something not especially edifying with a keyboard. It was supposed to be Nick's last ever gig which it's a nice idea to have seen, though.

And we went to see The Mighty Boosh at the O2. It's very vertiginous inside, and there seemed to be loads of better seats free with no-one in them, but it's slightly difficult to tell which are the best seats in something that three-dimensional. As for the show, it was amusing and pleasing although not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny, and with not really that much content. Probably not worth the massive fees at the O2 neither, but hey.

And, assuming we don't see any more bands in the next five hours, that's that.
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I said I'd make at least some sort of note of all the gigs I went to in 2008, so there are some more that I need to get in before the end of play. So, on the 5th / 6th / 7th of December, I went to Butlins in Minehead, to see the Nightmare Before Christmas ATP hosted by Mike Patton & The Melvins, and very civilised it was. Chalets, massive buffet breakfasts, your own kitchen, TV channels programmed by the organisers with weird stuff on, and general agreeableness, especially useful considering I still wasn't well yet, couldn't really drink and needed to sit down a lot. Also there were lots of bands, of which the ones I saw were:

Bands )

Gigs

Oct. 12th, 2008 11:32 pm
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There's, oo, nearly several to report. I went down to Brighton and met Wayne and other Brighton types and went to the Hob, where the beer was dodgy and the toilets barely operational, as is traditional. There were several bands on and the rest of them were poor enough that I didn't even bother finding out who they were in order to avoid them in future, because it's not like they're going to have a future. The reason I'd gone there at all, though, was to see a band called General Bovine And The Justice Force Five, and that was a great idea. They were dressed up, including a large cow head for the front man, and they had a keyboard painted pink and they had a splendid drummer and they had songs that were silly but still proper rock and that's about all I ask for. That was the 5th of September, so after Clutch, though I had to go and look to check, I must admit.

Then when I was on holiday in Mallorca last week we happened to be in a place called Alcudia when they were having their annual festival and I might get round to mentioning some more about that soon but we were staying right in the centre of town, in a hotel above a restaurant right on the main square, which was by far the cheapest and by no means the worst-appointed place we stayed on the whole holiday, and it was a great place to be staying given all the general festival malarkey going on. I'm going to class this as all one gig, because there was just a lot of random music, and it included xeremiers, strolling musicians playing traditional Mallorcan bagpipes and whistle, a parading brass band, a jazz band that were not so much parading as meandering randomly round, a Spanish ska band called Dinamo, and probably some other things that I've forgotten. The winners of that lot were definitely the jazz band; there were five of them, playing trumpet, saxophone, a snare drum and tiny cymbal, an electric guitar with tiny battery amp, and a sousaphone. That's a sousaphone, folks. And it wasn't stuck with the usual boring oompa business that the tuba gets, it got to play bass much more as I know it. My favourite bit was their version of I Wanna Be Like You, in Spanish of course, sung through a megaphone which made the vocal sound suitably 30's-radio-like. Their favourite bit was probably getting given lots of free wine by the wine stalls when they passed that way. They were the highlight of the evening, anyway.

Just after I got back I got an inexplicable text from Jodie from Punch Judy, wondering if I wanted to go and see Nebula at the Underworld. As an event it was like reliving various sections of the past. I was going to try and see Nebula on that day in 2001 when I ended up in Cambridge instead of Brighton, for a start. People I saw at the gig included someone I used to know from the Clutch fan message boards in 2002, someone I tried out for a band with in 2003, and someone I did a bit of drum recording for in 2007, and then there was Jodie being very much herself after not having seen her for six months. I lost her at the end of the gig and I don't know why I didn't work it out earlier; she was round at the stage door getting beer from the rider off of the keyboardist she thought was cute. The beer turned out to be alcohol-free Becks, but it's the principle of the thing. As for the gig, Obiat were still rubbish, no surprises there then, but the second support band made up for it. They claimed to be psych progressive rock, and were certainly from Doncaster; they rocked hard, especially around the beefy drummer and windmilling guitarist, and had songs that did unusual things, and the keyboardist didn't get in the way much, and the singer had a collection of boxes with knobs on that his vocals went through, and though he kept trying to do things like swing his mike around on the end of cable, actually what kept happening was that it came off and ended up in the audience or under the drumkit or the like. Combined with his chatty stage manner and wild hair the effect was a bit Bill Bailey, but that was more endearing than problematic. They were called the Pilgrim Fathers and if you're into that sort of thing at all and you see them on a bill, go and see them. Nebula, after all that, were even better than I was hoping they might be. They announced halfway through that their drummer was new but you could have fooled me. There's not much more to say about them, if you know the band, though, they just played the songs very well. 'Twas good.

Clutch!

Sep. 2nd, 2008 09:16 pm
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Clutch! I got to see Clutch! Someone was flogging tickets on gumtree, for slightly steep but acceptable cost. They did mostly new stuff, by which I suppose I mean anything released in the last five years, although notably, nothing I hadn't heard a recording of. There were a few older ones; nothing off Pure Rock Fury but about four off Elephant Riders including Dragonfly and Ship Of Gold, Big News I in the encore, and something off Transnational Speedway League with the singer out of Taint helping out.

We met the bloke who'd mentioned offhand to me that they were playing. He's a lawyer, also ex-Navy, a naturally boisterous type, and despite knowing nothing about the band he was in the moshpit and bouncing around like a nutter. He was wearing sports sandals and his toes were a selection of interesting colours by the end, so I really do mean like a nutter. It wasn't the most astonishing of gigs, really, but it was a good laugh and better than sitting at home missing Clutch. Clutch! Yay!

Gigs

Jul. 26th, 2008 03:05 pm
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And I've not been keeping up with keeping records of live gigs I've been to, not least because I haven't been to many and I can let them slide a bit. Since the Great Escape I've been to a Brainlove Records night at a pub down in Limehouse, which featured two rather rubbish bands that I can't be bothered to ferret out the names of and which was a bit disappointing, and to Glastonwick, which is a sort of festival organised by Attilla the Stockbroker, and that's it. Crikey. I've been looking at adverts for drummers this week and have replied to a couple of them and heard nothing at all back, which is a bit disappointing too. Both ads specifically wanted female drummers, which I'd have thought I've had stood a bit of a chance at. I've had a look at bass ads as well but to be honest it's the drums I'm missing first, and the bass can wait a bit longer.

Glastonwick was a laugh, though. It's a long weekend at a farm somewhere in the Sussex countryside, with lots of punk bands, poetry and real ale. We misunderstood the terms of working there and thought we'd get paid in beer tokens which we could spend while there; it turned out that we could drink as much as we liked from the bar over the weekend (and there were lots of things I liked, including a pleasing mild called Nutty Slack from my home village of Standish) and *then* we got beer tokens equivalent to five pounds an hour for all the hours we'd worked, to be spent at the Evening Star in Brighton. Seriously, last week we went to the Evening Star and got two four-pinters to take out to a party, and that cost us just under a quarter of our token stash. But hang on a minute, this was supposed to be about music, not beer... the bands were all reasonable, being determined and booked entirely by Attilla the Stockbroker's taste. There were a couple of jangly singer-songwriters albeit of the allowed-to-live sort, there was a bit of dodgy poetry, there was Blyth Power being past it, and there was the seen-too-many-times-to-be-forgivable-now Fish Brothers, but there was also John Otway being good enough at being silly to get away with it, especially with help from Attilla, there was Babar Luck being sharp in a way you still warmed to, there was PPZ-30, a funk-punk-jazz combo that made that combination actually work instead of being a living nightmare, and perhaps best of all there was a venerable Belgian punk band called Contingent that Attilla had been in twenty eight years before, and they would still have given a lot of modern punk bands a run for their money. The singing was mostly in French, which worked better with punk than I'd have expected - the same sort of effect as French rap, I suppose, where the long strings of equal-length syllables make for something hypnotic and possibly describable as relentless. Given that all we paid for all weekend was getting there and food, I think that one was a winner.
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Thursday night
We went straight from the wristband-getting place to Digital, ex the Zap, to see:
Eugene McGuinness - singer-songwriter who reminded me of John Lennon. If I were in charge of issuing licences for singer-songwriters, 99.9% of them would be never be heard from again, but this bloke could sing well and write songs with interesting changes and a strong sense of rhythm. He's part of the 0.1% that make it worth not running out of the room the second someone walks in with an acoustic guitar.

Broken Records - a large bunch of lads from Edinburgh with all your usual indie-rock equipment plus a string section, accordion and fiddle. Most of the set was melancholy dronings with only one idea, if quite a good one, stretched between several songs - but for about three songs at the end they picked up the pace to something more manic. All right, but nothing special.

Fanfarlo - Bah. I've seen too many bands like this now. The current excuse for getting away with playing strummy weak drifty music with no sense of how to get on top of the rhythm seems to be that it's indie-folk. Yawn.

The Futureheads - I like the Futureheads and I hoped they'd be good and they were better. Energetic and fun, with all the harmonies, a packed and bouncing crowd, which they seemed to genuinely appreciate. Ace.

We tried to go to the GloucesterBarfly after this to see the Ting Tings, but there was no chance of getting in, so we went over the road to the Pressure Point, for an anxious wait while the bouncer ate a bacon butty, and saw:

Arun Gosh - I have no instrinsic trouble with people trying to cross musical genres, but I have a problem with those who do it by chucking a bunch of random instruments together in a way that doesn't gel and expect to get lots of kudos just for trying it. Tablas, DJ, bass and clarinet. Yawn, unfortunately.  

Nathan 'Flutebox' Lee and Guests - And this proves my point - both of these acts involved a dude playing tablas, but only one of them was exciting and interesting. Nathan 'Flutebox' Lee beatboxes and plays the flute, usually at the same time, and this could get old quickly, but he had a crew of guests around him - tabla dude, another beatboxer and a rapper - and they joined in in actually musical ways. The beatboxer was ace, doing ludicrously deep farty bass noises. The highlight of the whole thing was him and the fluteboxer doing the theme to Knightrider. Seriously.

Friday
First off, upstairs at the Revenge:
Gentle Friendly - Two man show with fierce drums and lots of weird samples and keyboard sounds. Violent and unfriendly in the best possible way. Cut regrettably short by technical trouble, though.

We tried to go and see Cage The Elephant at the Escape, but once again, no chance, so we went to the Sallis Benney Theatre, where there seemed to be a whole slew of promising-sounding indie on. Also, the Sallis Benney is part of the University of Brighton, which means that rather than the cripplingly expensive lager or cider on sale at every other venue we went to, there was Guinness for £1.85 a pint. Woo.

We saw:
Dash Delete
The Electric City
Twisted Wheel
The Rifles
but to be honest they were all fairly straighforward young indie bands, with variable quantities of rock or ponce, and they were all okay without being much special, if you ask me.

Saturday
First off, upstairs at the Revenge again:
Cheeky Cheeky and the Nosebleeds - There is hope for the future of music. They were young and trying hard but not taking themselves too seriously and taking many of the features of the current idea of indie, the slightly frantic electro beats and the cracked-note vocals, and some of the standing features of punk past, like furiously-strummed scratchy guitars, and doing their own thing with them. Good.

Then to the Arc to see:
The Clik Clik - Boring boring boring herdfollowers.

Damn Shames - A band with a drum machine instead of a drummer, but a well-programmed drum machine, and a style of guitar-based music and shouting that can take having genuinely metronomic drums. Not bad, but I can't see how they've got any scope to get better.

Then to the Brighton Coalition to see:
Viva Machine - who were boring enough that I think I spent their entire set ignoring them

Robots In Disguise - better than I was expecting from hearing the album. It's two girls doing the 'we're girls and we can do punk' thing, though electro-punk at the minute of course, but they managed to make it rise above its basic formula a bit. There was a girl playing the drums but I don't know if she really was, I'm afraid, or just adding some extra thump over the drum machine noises.

The Automatic - also a lot better than I was expecting. Them what do 'what's that coming over the hill, is it a monster' etc., but they had a whole bunch of other songs that also made good use of the same general sound, and they clearly knew what they were about and were pleased with their crowd, which surely means that they shouldn't stay the one-hit wonders people would be forgiven for thinking of them as. It's not entirely the sound for me but I would have no trouble understanding someone who declared themselves a great fan of them.

Now, I'm not certain but I think we went back to the Pressure Point to see:
Times New Viking - Hmm. I think they were exactly what you can see of them on youtube, which is a shouty girl with keyboards and a hair-obscured sweaty drummer and another guitar, and I don't think they're worth the hype in either medium. Meh.

And thus ended three days of indie festival. Three days of indie is enough for me, really. 
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Lads, oh lads, oh lads, you've gorn and dropped it. I only bought one album at this year's Roadburn and it was by a band I saw on the first night, Taint, and they were absolutely cracking live and most of the album is likewise but track 7 is frankly dodgy prog, with guitar work that crosses the fine line into widdle and a genuinely inadvisable flute. For an otherwise shouty and angular band doing cunning things with rhythms and odd tonality in a way that's sure to be describable as post-something-or-other, it's a distressing departure. Oi, lads, how about trying post-flute?

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Esteemed Brighton protest-punk band Axis Of Arseholes were playing in London on Friday night so we went to see. The first lot on were all about twelve and must have spent a significant proportion of their lives so far on their hairdos. They were called Smoky Carrot, they really really wanted to be the Sex Pistols and some of them probably even have a promising future in bands as they weren't at all bad, if not exactly revelatory. The singer in particular, once he finishes growing and perhaps develops a chin, since he could clearly sing but was diverting it into yell rather nicely. He also had one of the best slogan t-shirts I've seen so far - "I'm in the Bible" which must be some sort of recommendation. The second band were rubbish, I'm afraid, all screwed-up face emo-wank. I've always thought that Batman t-shirts were bad signs in this kind of thing; someone who's clearly interested in buff blokes in rubber and leather but is too repressed to do anything about it. They were called Screaming Green, anyway, and I realise you were unlikely to but in case you might for some reason, don't. Axis of Arseholes themselves were good, though it's a bit odd to see them in a place where there's a few people bopping along and some cheering and clapping at the end of songs but not the all-out scrum you get when they play at the Cowley. The sensible reason why not is because of Brighton and the Cowley club in particular's thing for protesting crusties, although I'd also like to blame the Mother Bar at 333 Old Street, where this gig was, charging £3.80 a pint for a choice of crappy lager or Guinness, while the Cowley does Dark Star ales for £2.20-2.40. At that price we didn't stick around for the headliners. A short walk later and by some miracle, given the location, we managed to find a proper local pub for local people away from the press of Hoxton twattery, that had a pool table and a dartboard and Landlord on tap, and we contented ourselves with simple pastimes til they kicked us out and then I cocked up the night buses home because I hadn't come back to this place by night bus yet. Smashing.

This afternoon I have actually played the drums for the first time in about two months. Someone at work has a band that was formed for the sake of the idea of playing at a friend's gallery show, and at the moment they do covers of obscure shoe-gaze and twee-pop but they're looking to start writing original stuff. They previously had a very rock drummer who claims to have been powered by the Norse Gods and who has done things like turn The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah into some massive fill-laden monster; it's not often that I would take a band's previous recordings and want to do a *less* rock version but this is the case here. I'm not sure what they thought of me and what I thought of them, as a band, but it was certainly good to be playing again. I'd forgotten exactly how much exercise playing the drums constitutes, even for a relatively sedate band like this. I'll hear more from my colleague tomorrow, anyway.
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I'm on my way to another meeting with Labman, the robot-building people, in Middlesbrough. I get on well with Labman, so it could be worse. I would have been able to get up about twenty minutes later if I hadn't left the train tickets in the office last night and all, but then I wouldn't have seen the man from Van Vynck Avian Solutions, strolling down Gower Place with a falcon on his arm at about half six this morning.

Now, Tuesday night. It was another Popaganda and I was being the main Live Music Society stage hand type person, which seemed to mean a certain amount of hefting things about, a certain amount of being reassuring and smiling and acting as if everything was under control, and a certain amount of pegging it out to Maplins to buy extra cables. The band that demanded these was Tired Irie, playing with two big synths and bunch of triggers on the drum kit. And a soundman/manager/control freak who insisted on rearranging the PA while the band skulked on stage like reluctant schoolboys. They were the headliners but they weren't really worth waiting for. I could see Angelo's point about them having a very direct sort of sound, everything straight ahead, but they didn't have any point to make with it, and there wasn't even much to be got out of seeing it live - you could have played a record of them to exactly the same effect. The nearest thing to a saving grace for me was the drummer, who was properly metronomic and casually hard-hitting, in a way that made me think of Prong. Otherwise not really worth bothering. There were rumours of an NME journalist coming to review them, so perhaps I ought to keep an eye out and see whether they think something similar. The crowd didn't mind them, but certainly didn't feel like they'd been won over.

The middle act, Nova Robotics, was much the same in soundcheck as in the gig itself; an affable skinny lad in a large hoodie, playing unearthly guitar along to a laptop backing track. The beats were glitchy, which made Jon reckon that the beat felt lost, which I can follow as a point given that there was only the undifferentiated laptop output providing rhythm as well as almost everything else. The blurb said Boards of Canada mixed with Front 242 and really, no, but it was pleasing enough.

The first band on were a last-minute substitution, called the Fame Throwers. Being around for the soundcheck does give you more insight into the band dynamics; little things like the singer who reckoned his sore throat meant he couldn't possibly go outside in the cold and fetch the bass amp head, so that the drummer had to do it when he should have been setting up for soundcheck. Huh, I thought. But at the same time it's unwise to second-guess how the gig will go from that. They soundchecked for some tedious amount of time and I was ready to be unimpressed but something seemed to switch on for the gig itself. They claim a heavy Pavement influence but if Pavement have ever sounded like that, I ain't heard about it. Jon reckoned he could pick up something of U2 in them but this may mainly tell you that Jon likes early U2 quite a lot. There were two similar but still somehow complementary guitars, a drummer who was simple but effective, who'd be even better if he had the hats under a bit more control, and bassist thrashing at a Thunderbird with a pick. The singer wasn't as good as he thought he was, although i) that may have been due to the cold ii) actually he was still pretty good anyway, especially in the article of being able to pull off singing the sort of thing that would sound like rubbish if it wasn't in a rock 'n' roll context and iii) thinking they're the bees knees is what singers are for, anyway. I dunno. If they'd had any recordings one of us would probably have bought them; Jon went and asked, and got spun a creation myth that I for one don't believe. The verifiable part is that they'd only set up their myspace page the day before, which they have if you look them up, and the unverifiable part is that they've known each other since they were all five but they've only been rehearsing together since Christmas and this was their first gig. Hmmm, say I. The guitarists and bassist know each other too well, work together too easily, and the guitarist who also did synth did lead vocals on one song, in a voice with more impact which I personally preferred to their main singer. I'd guess that those three have been in a band together for a while already, that the drummer got recently replaced and that the singer is a new addition, and so they've relaunched with a new name; most if not all of the songs will have existed already. It's not that any of this is a bad thing, just that I'm naturally suspicious of band creation myths. I've heard the yarns Jodie's spun on this front, not even mentioning any Mississippi Witches.
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I slogged home on the bus on Wednesday night, in the spirit of saving money, and then ate my tea and sat down with the laptop. My to-do list has had 'check out Art Brut tickets' on it for about three weeks, and there was an email from some ticket service or another that mentioned them as touring in February, so I took the opportunity to have a quick squint at the dates. A few moments of open-mouthed double-takes later, I twigged that the doors for the London gig at ULU (five minutes from where I work) were opening in fifteen minutes. Three quarters of an hour and seventeen pounds ninety later I was stood at the side of the venue with a pint of Guinness, feeling quite smug. 

The support band were called Popular Workshop, which abbreviates handily to Pop Shop for t-shirts. They certainly didn't start with a following but I think they won a number of people over. Bassist flailing around in rolled-shirt-sleeves and tie, metronomic drummer and a guitarist who remembers grunge, it was all a bit Fugazi via the Futureheads. Kept me amused, anyway, I grinned through quite a lot of the set, and I'd be happy to see them again somewhere. 

Art Brut were doing two nights in a row at ULU, and the night before they'd had a string section. Tonight it was brass; trumpet, trombone and something that must have been either a baritone or bass saxophone. The brass started out on stage on their own with the 2001 theme tune and as Art Brut came out, managed to make it morph into Direct Hit, which was a great start. Eddie Argos wasn't quite up the standard of all-round proclaimer of wisdom I'd been expecting, but he did keep insisting that having a brass section made them a Big Band. Other claims for the evening included both Emily Kane and his little brother being in the audience, hence not hamming either of those songs up half so much as I've heard is possible. Still, the brass section were generally a bonus, not really being in a position to get in the way of something as simple and direct as an Art Brut song and making their own contribution to the overblown endings that seem to be necessary to the Art Brut experience. It was a fun gig all round, with a good-natured bouncing pit (Eddie managing to crowd surf at one point) and all the songs you wanted to hear (though let's face it, they've only got two short-ish albums to pick from) and lots of shouting about being Top Of The Pops, though at the same time they were never going to blow anyone's musical mind and I can see how seeing them repeatedly would get old. Worth it for the sake of taking advantage of being in London and able to go to large gigs at zero notice, if nothing else.
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That wasn't as much fun as I was hoping. There were eight bands, and though they all had something positive you could say about them, the general standard was pretty poor. Worst of all was the realisation that the carefully planned judging system, by far the most complicated I've ever encountered for this type of thing, had been doomed to failure from the start because the only neutral people left in the Live Music Society to do the judging were the ones not in bands, viz, the ones with cloth ears. They gave the terrible, terrible first band eight out of ten for musicianship, when every musician in the room spent the entire set wincing mightily at both guitars and the bass being horribly out of tune.

So anyway, Gabi Garbitt and the Bread Stealers were shit, and would be even if they could tune a guitar, and even though Ms. Garbitt looks just like Miss Of Arc, Bathroom Sally were quite smooth and very skilled but a bit overnice jazz-funk-lite with nothing to say, although the version of Teddy Bear's Picnic was quite amusing, and Dynamo George were all very well but we've got the Strokes already and we don't need another, and Black Sea made promising boingy noises and clearly had a sense of fun but all the songs plodded horribly around the rhythm for some reason, and Arts Factory were an all-girl band including the guitarist out of the Sleep Wells from last week and were certainly good at what they did, which was trying to build something angular and brooding out of bits of lightweight stuff but lightweight stuff of odd chords and harmonies, but I can't say as I liked them, and the Four Horsemen were a proper silly cod-metal band with daft outfits and covers of two-second Napalm Death songs although not really actually musically competent which spoilt things a bit, and Children of Mayhem were about as chaotic as a wet Sunday afternoon indoors with a book, although nice and vaguely competent with it, and I didn't even hang around for the Jamie West band becuase that was supposed to be being 'a bit blues, a bit rock' and I heard them soundcheck before the venue opened and so already knew they were boring blues-lite. And then I couldn't drink because of having to cycle home which didn't help with the enjoyment, I suspect. The one in a fortnight's time will be much better, I think, but I'm not certain of being able to make it, on account of coming home from a conference in Bradford that day. 

Some Punks

Jan. 22nd, 2008 01:41 am
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Mustn't get behind. I went to Brighton on Saturday, to go and see some punk bands at the Cowley Club and I took [personal profile] khalinche with me.

I was there for a bit of the first band but wasn't really taking them in, just waiting for the BFs. I haven't seen the Bad Fucks live since we parted ways in the summer, and this was only the second gig they've done with the new drummer, Tom, a lad with dreads down to his knees. The main thing I'll remember about this gig is Wayne. I've never seen him do his frontman thing properly before; at gigs obviously I couldn't see him directly and often I could hardly hear him, and then in practice rooms it's not the same. He was ace - it's all shouty grimacing stuff but he does put some variation in it, make it sound like it's meant to mean something, and of course the fact that he's a big ugly fucker works well when bellowing at a crowd. I told him afterwards that I'd never realised how good he was and he was terribly self-effacing about it.

Next up were Flatpig who were their usual selves, i.e. ace. They never seem to have the same bassist twice but they're always good ones so it doesn't really matter, and you always get Austen, a wiry bloke with his glasses taped onto his head, doing ace things with a guitar and Dave doing both drums and vocals with astonishing amounts of breath apparently at his disposal. I've got the single of Dear John somewhere, their tribute to John Peel, must dig that out again.

Umm, the Offcuts must have been next but I didn't really listen to them, I'm afraid. They weren't bad but they weren't interesting. I drank oatmeal stout and chatted to people instead, not least to avoid one over-enthusiastic mosher who was being an arsehole. Wayne lamented no longer being in Newcastle, where arseholes get taken out of circulation a lot quicker by way of getting lamped. But anyway. The last band were Axis Of Arseholes, who mainly do songs about things like arms manufacture and the whole War On Terror malarkey, but in the sort of musical style which is party music for punks, which makes them ideal headliners for a place like the Cowley. They're not the best band ever (which makes Liz (my ex-bandmate from Vegas Hell) getting chucked out for unreliability even more impressive) but they can keep a crowd of punks happy. I took over the job of keeping the right-side PA speaker upright, it being too far into the moshpit to have any chance of staying standing unaided, and thus mainly watched rather than danced. I seem to have got my phone out to video a song, though, which I'd forgotten about til now, I probably ought to put that up.

But not right now. Yesterday involved a car that doesn't think it's got gears any more and rail replacement buses and alternative tube routes and half a band practice and then cooking pasta at midnight and I was supposed to be getting an early night...
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Okay, Thursday at the Crown & Treaty in Uxbridge. Uxbridge is a very long way away, isn't it? The pub seems like a place of respectable Sunday lunches and big-screen football but also seems proud of its band nights. We did a pretty reasonable job, actually, despite a crowd made up of sedately seated sober people, many of them our singer's parents and their friends. The soundman immediately nabbed us for a gig in early February at the other venue he does, anyway. We haven't had any more practice since the poor gig last Friday, so maybe it was just that that all the relevant bits of brain had been used recently at all. It seemed to give us enough of an excuse to start drinking quite a lot, anyway. I don't think I ever want another banana and chocolate flavoured vodka shot, especially not that's gone congealed.

I wouldn't have liked to have to sit through the second band on without some merriment to distract me, though. How many ways can a band in a pub in Uxbridge look like wankers? How about having all their own gear in pristine, fussy flight cases, and refusing to share amps? How about the frontman bassist's terribly expensive fretless five-string Musicman? How about the guitarist who spent every single minute of the hours before they went on with guitar in hands, apparently concentrating on some important new piece? How about a drummer with a click track in headphones? How about handing out demos to absolutely everyone, whether they want one or not, from which we learn that the band's name, SJW, is the frontman's initials? (He's called Simon. Rock on, Simon.) Well, none of these in themselves are crimes, and if a band that did all of those was good, I'd forgive them in a second. What we got, though, was a band that did a cover of Synchronicity by The Police and made it pompous and widdly, with yelpier vocals than Sting could ever have managed. The problem with playing to a click-track is it's hard not to make the beat sound wooden - speeding up through the song is generally a bad idea but not having the freedom to push it even for a few moments here and there is horrible, and everyone else effectively has to play to the track too; there can be no give and take. The guitarist wasn't always hitting the beat right on as guitarists sometimes don't and no-one could move to help him, though the drummer was doing a good job in a shit position, let me get that straight. The shit is basically down to the frontman. I think Simon thinks he's somewhere inbetween Biffy Clyro and Andrew WK in terms of being a righteous rock hero. I'm sure Simon was doing some very nice fast widdly bass, although the thing about bass in straight-ahead rock bands is that you just can't hear it in that much detail because of all the drum trash. I think Simon thinks he's a good singer because he can do bits that are loud and bits that warble, and goes for ambitious vocals as a result, but really he just kept showing up all the things he couldn't do, like keeping up the loud to the end of a line, or knowing when to tastefully use warble. In short, Simon's ego and finance far outrank his ability, and SJW are unlikely to ever be anything other than a prize wanker accompanied by a couple of lads who really should be doing something more rewarding. Oh well.

I wish the bands had been in a different order. The Plan were a splendid skate-punk four piece, tight as hell with three shouty vocals and intermittent trumpet. Lots of punk bands have NOFX shirts but very few of them have the talent to make you think they've absorbed it all and come up with their own better, bouncier, right here and now version. Me and Debz only got to stay for a handful of songs because of Uxbridge being a really long way away from east and south-east London. We'd packed up ready to go, and we were going to go, we were, and then they started this song with such a ridiculous beat that we couldn't not dance so we did that for one song, just one song, with overcoats on and instruments on backs, and then we had to escape before we stayed for the rest of it and got stranded in Uxbridge. Since the soundman obviously knows them well, I hope we get to share a bill with them again sometime because that was not an original type of music, admittedly, but it was being done better than I've seen it done in years. Ace.

Popaganda

Jan. 17th, 2008 12:27 am
shermarama: (Default)
Keeping up with posting about every gig is feeling tedious right now but I'll be grateful for it later, or something.

Last night was Popaganda, the Live Music Society's gig/club night at the UCL union. The room used for it was only turned into a gig venue over the summer and they didn't do as good a job as they could have done; it's a perfectly good PA for DJs but it's a bit pants at dealing with live bands, and the awkward shape and completely sheer-walled room don't help much. The soundmen know what they're doing, though, and do the best they can, but it's still basically down to the band not to be rubbish when playing in slightly adverse circumstances.

The first band, the Sleep Wells, were aiming for something quite interesting but not quite pulling it off. They had a technically good but rather tentative drummer. No-one was really taking responsibility for the beat - the drummer followed the others, but the others didn't really have hold of it either, so although they reached a reasonable working consensus on where the beat was it had no drive in it at all. Then again that didn't hamper them as much as it could given the style; they were aiming for building something out of carefully balanced fragile parts, complete with two female singers, and coming close to managing it. I think I'd be interested to hear those songs done by a more confident band. Getting over the habit of faffing for ages between songs would help - the bass and rhythm guitar swap jobs between songs and it's all very cosy and domestic somehow, but of no interest to the audience at all.

The Young Sensations were just rubbish. I told the LMS's president so without realising that they're friends of his, and he was trying to defend them on the basis of them being newly formed, but I can't see that more practice will help. They just had no redeeming features, not the forgettable drummer or the uninspired songs or the pointless keyboard or the predictable guitar or their own personal smoke machine and especially not the singer, who can't sing but thinks he can, and thus doesn't bother coming up with something more interesting in the style of singers who can't sing and know it. Don't bother.

Modernaire, though, you should bother with. Possibly I should bother with again too. It was just a lad with a Korg and a laptop, and a girl with a sort of wistful Goth wedding look going on, but apparently on other nights there are two girls, and given the way the one girl there last night was working with a pre-recorded second vocal, I should like to see both voices done live. The girl could sing, unquestionably, but she wasn't trying to stun us with it as I tend to fear from these sorts of arrangements, just to provide an interesting counterpoint to the thoughtful electronic stuff, with original lyrics about mythical things. And yet, the whole thing was very danceable and several people did. I can't think exactly who to recommend them to because they're neither goth nor electro nor drum & bass, exactly, but something of their own, which is surely a good thing. I didn't buy a CD but I did consider it, you know?

An odd evening, overall. I polished the hideously tarnished house cymbals but I don't think it made as much difference as I was hoping. I chatted to the soundmen, and I did the soundcheck on the drums, and the bass amp head was mine, and all those cues put me in pre-gig calm mode, which I never got to switch out of by playing. I broke down the drum kit when the bands were done and went home; not a lot else to do.
shermarama: (metal)
Dude, I'm danger of breaking my only New Year's Resolution already. On Saturday night I went to a club night, Road To Ruin. It's the third time I've been to it and every time it's been in a different venue; the previous two had obvious things wrong with them that made moving on a good idea, but actually this one does too. It's the Old King's Head on Holloway Road, which is at least a reasonable-ish place to get to, and it's your fairly typical pub-come-venue apart from that the PA is pants. The sound for the band was fine, but it was much harder than it should have been to tell what the DJs were playing. Anyway, the relevant bit is that the band were Jecano, a band I've been following on and off since being knocked flat by them in the Hobgoblin in Brighton, nearly four years ago now. They've not really gone anywhere in that time, coming up with occasional new songs that aren't as good as the ones on their third demo from 2002, playing the odd few gigs and mostly getting distracted by other things I suspect, but it was still good to see them. Also, I find that their astonishingly good drummer is now in a two-piece called Mississippi Witch, which is a stupid name for an English band and obviously came straight out of the Stoner Name Generator Hat but what the hell, all I care about is watching Mr. Danby being astonishingly good at playing the drums, so I shall go and do that.

Friday night's PJ gig was, as predicted, a bit awful. We didn't make any obvious mistakes, but. It's one thing to be able to play all the right notes in the right order and it's another to be able to make music; the whole thing with Jecano was that I could take people who don't really like rock music to see them and they would go 'oh, I *see*, it's like really heavy blues!' because they had lots of this thing that makes it music, and on Friday night we had none of it. We've never had lots of it but we've usually got some. Still, the only thing that gets it back is playing together and we've got a gig in, where was it, Uxbridge or something? on Thursday and an actual practice on Sunday and more gigs booked after that so see what we can do.

Oo! I did use my glowing sticks for one song. It was kind of like playing with big lumps of rubber. They're only a little bit more flexible than wooden sticks but that's enough to be weird. Also I'm really not sure who could tell that they were illuminated from off the stage - no-one mentioned it afterwards, the kit at the Montague may be a bit high and far back. Still.
shermarama: (metal)
 

The last Punch Judy gig was, I think, November the 15th. We haven't practiced at all since then. But we're playing at the Montague Arms in New Cross tonight anyway. Another Joe from The Moon thing, organised in honour of the birthday of a lass who's been coming to our gigs for years, although I'm not sure this isn't her 18th, and thus should be entertaining, especially if Joe's got his jam band going on again. The question is, do I take my glowing sticks?

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