Sunday, August 31, 2008


Sing Ye From The Hillsides, Britain's smallest festival, was always going to be different but in addition to the bands and the advertised activities (see here), there was still a few extra surprises. Who would have expected being able to fly a Harris Hawk, wonder which yurt Mark Ronson would be sleeping in, and or discussing how to repel a siege of journalists and Arctic Monkeys fans?


Arriving at Friday lunchtime at Tan Hill Inn, it was only proper to enjoy a few pints of Black Sheep bitter with a baguette and chips before putting up tents. Exchanging tickets for wristbands mid-afternoon, with the first bands not on until 8pm what else was there to do but head by in to the pub to enjoy a bottle or two of British Ale Power specially brewed for the weekend by the Dent Brewery?
The music on Friday started with The Witch and The Robot. I'd seen them before supporting BSP at the Brudenell in Leeds and the memories weren't that positive. Second viewing didn't change that opinion. The three piece plus drum machine (malfunctioning tonight) are joined on stage by plastic snakes, feather boas, helium ballons, a papier-mache headed stage 'dancer', projected images (more of papier-mache head man running around the Lake District alternating with 'prose-poetry' - I'm being kind) and an entourage of more dancers wearing paper chemical suits and masks inviting the audience to write on their bodies with felt pens. So you can imagine what the music is like: a messy collision of too many ideas. They finish with song 'More Mackerel than Mineral' and this sums it up really.
The next band were completely new to me: Silvery. They are a four-piece who look like a blend of two-parts 90s indie band to one-part 60s Carnaby Street. But they sound like an update of 70s Sparks - fairground keyboards, jittery rhythms, falsetto vocals, and great fun. Very English eccentric, very arty glam rock that deserves a listen even if that description sends shivers down your spine.

British Sea Power had advertised tonight's set (the first of three over the weekend) as 'gentle': so guitarist Noble advised the crowd that they could go "double nuts" tomorrow night. However this wasn't the quiet, acoustic evening this might suggest.

The set featured lots of little played songs and old favourites all kicking off A Wooden Horse. Great to hear Childhood Memories and The Lonely live (it's been a long time for both) and Tugboat (from Rough Trade's Stop Me If You Heard This One Before compilation) was magnificent.

The crowd and the band both seemed a bit cautious in the first half of the set - it was going to be a long weekend and some sensible pacing was required. But by the end of the main part of the set, a trio of songs (Larsen B, Favours in the Beetroot Fields and A Lovely Day Tomorrow) sent everyone wild. And then the crowd-suring (band and audience) started. The final song was an extended Lately/Rock in A that took in all sorts of extras and detours - I caught a snatch of Out of My Mind and Dope and Speed but everything else flew past - it was glorious.

The Setlist:
What better way to cool down than a few more beers and to indulge in further discussion of the day's main festival gossip: that tomorrow night Sing Ye From The Hillsides would be the location for James (Simian Mobile Disco) Ford's stag-do with members of The Klaxons and Arctic Monkeys (probably performing a secret set) and Mark Ronson in attendance. Ronson would be flying in by helicopter. And probably be bringing Lily Allen. Eh?!

Part Two to follow ...

British Sea Power
[BUY] or [BUY]

Galaxie 500
Today [BUY]

PS A big THANK YOU to Ms N for providing us with a gift to take for the band/the weekend/the hell of it. Of course what else could it be but a cake. Of antarctic coastal ice-shelf Larsen B. With Great Skuas on.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Lovely Day Tomorrow ...

Well I said here that I wasn't going to any festivals ...

But tomorrow is the start of Sing Ye From The Hillsides! a three day British Sea Power-curated festival for 200 people at Tan Hill Inn, Britain's highest pub (and see here for last year's report of BSP at Tan Hill Inn. And at least it's not November this year).

Entertainment for the weekend includes husky racing, duck-herding, a pub quiz, a tug of war and an attempt to record the loudest ever human voice. Plus the following instructions:

For all the brave folk coming to the Tan Hill Inn, we invite you all to bring along the following:
1) A Book – For a lucky dip book exchange
2) Mix CD – To be played on Tan Hill stereo, and for a lucky dip Mix CD exchange
3) Piece of wood – For the bonfire
4) Firework – For Hamilton's firework display
5) Cushion – The barn will be a makeshift cinema during the daytime so make yourself comfortable.
6) Card/Board Games – If you so wish
7) Special outfit, which you think embodies BSP – For drunken catwalk competition

So bags are packed, outfits chosen, and the weather outlook (see here) is looking good.

British Sea Power allied with The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa
And While We Kept On Drinking EP [BUY]

Monday, August 25, 2008


I've been conditioned to expect gigs these days to be curfewed, particularly at Manchester Academy venues. So I'm used to a 11pm finish. Tonight The Hidden Cameras played Club Brenda's Alternative Mardi Gras Extravaganza with doors opening at 10.30pm, first act at 11.15pm and the whole shebang finishing at 3am. Nothing a large pot of coffee before going out couldn't solve.

Now We Got Tickets is a great service, easy to use and reasonable fees. But come on. An on-screen confirmation and a print-at-home email message is NOT the same as a ticket stub!

Ruby Lounge was HEAVING. Busiest I have seen it. And it makes much more sense as a club rather than solely a live music venue; lots of corners and alcoves and sections, plenty of space to spread out.

Bit later than advertised, with a brief intro from MC The Divine David, The Hidden Cameras took to the stage. This is the first time I'd seen the band live. And I realised it was also the first time I'd actually seen what they look like. And they are a rum bunch.

In the seven piece (drums, bass, guitar, two keyboards, violin and cello) there several players who look like standard N. American indie-rock band members. Then there is Maggie the keyboard player who with vintage cotton-print dress, immaculate red hair and glossy lipstick looks like she belongs in a 1950s set drama like Madmen. Then the other keyboard player and the drummer appear to be Central Casting extras for a low-budget frat college comedy wearing between them a towelling headband, oversize baseball hat and a t-shirt with day-glo aliens on it.

Then there is band-leader Joel.

Joel was getting shouts before he even took to the stage. And you can see why. But rather than the romantic indie-gospel troubadour I was expecting he looks like a US military marine on R&R: denim jeans, tight grey t-shirt, severe cropped hair and even more severe cheek-bones. And when he sang, even on a slower number like Awoo, he appeared to be in pain: mouth contorted, neck muscles straining.

The set started slowly with two new (or new to me) songs in the first three but then things quickly picked up pace. Hidden Camera songs are big on melody and range from floaty to frenetic but live they add fierce too: lots of on-stage screaming and leaping about as well as Joel's pained facial contortions. The whole thing is infectious and jubilant. And it all peaked with the encores, first an exceptional Ban Marriage with the crowd singing, leaping and still shouting for Joel, and then synchronised dance movements to Breathe On It. "Gay church folk music" doesn't get any better.

The Set List:
[new song]
Follow These Eyes
[new song: Hypnotise?]
Death Of A Tune
Day Is Dawning
Learning The Lie
Hump From Bending
A Miracle
In The Union of Wine
Smells Like Happiness
Music Is My Boyfriend
Ban Marriage
Breathe On It

The Hidden Cameras
Awoo [BUY]

The Hidden Cameras
The Smell Of Our Own [BUY]

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Before we start, if we start ...

Well I finally joined Rough Trade's The Album Club after at least 12 months' of saying I would.

Basically this is a subscription service where for £12 a month RT send you their pick of the month ("The Album") together with listening notes ("The Fold") to this album plus their 9 other picks. And if you don't like The Album (they do like the definitive article) you can post it back to swap for one of the other records of the month. It's available either for CDs or digital download. And you can cancel at anytime.

Clearly this is genius. What a simple idea and as they say "it couldn't be easier to discover and own the very best new music". So I joined at the beginning of the month and then had THREE WEEKS to kill until delivery time.

The first delivery was due Friday just gone but arrived 24 hours later. Just to add to the sense of anticipation. There's new Ballboy and James Yorkston albums due in the next few weeks (both essential purchases in my book) - could these be The Album??

With eager fingers I carefully opened the jiffy bag to find ... Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve.

Reaching for The Fold I find that this album ("3rdmynd") is a compilation of ultra-limited vinyl releases by a mystery duo who turn out to be Richard Norris of The Grid and Erol Alkan. (The Grid they had that single "Swamp Thing" didn't they? About the same time as "Cotton-Eyed Joe" ...).

Hmmm. Dance producer and a DJ. Given my listening time is finite and I have no interest in dancing, particularly to repetitive beats, I avoid most dance music and anything that refers to 'beats per minute'. My preference is for music that follows two rough templates, either
a) verse-chorus-verse-feedback; or
b) maudlin introspection-chorus-maudlin introspection-repeat maudlin introspection to fade.

So with a sense of disappointment I started listening, reluctantly, to "3rdmynd". Well blow me. It ain't dance music. It's mighty, mighty fine music. Me and my prejudice.

Here's what RT say:

I don't know exactly what Beyond The Wizzard's Sleeve have done. These tracks are not mash-ups. They are not updatings or remixes of old tracks. They appear to have found obscure psych tracks and lovingly enhanced them. That's the best way to describe it. It feels like fans playing homage.

It starts with Before We Start, If We Start which is takes a spoken word extract, loops it, speeds it up and then crashes it headfirst into feedback. This is just the beginning of the inventiveness. The music that follows is timeless and it soars and it uplifts. Truly mindbending psychedelia. And in Winter in June it blends 60s pop innocence and charm with Percy Thrower's gardening tips. 4 and 1/2 minutes where I just grinned like an idiot.

Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve
3rdmynd [BUY]

The Album Club [JOIN]

The Fold also includes three recommendations from BTWS of records that influenced them and then the other nine recommendations. These can be streamed on the website for subscribers and, of course, all ordered for the standard price of £12.

And I thought joining might be a way to save money. It's going to cost me a fortune. But if the first CD is anything to go by, it's going to be glorious.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

TONIGHT IN MANCHESTER: The Pictish Trail and 'Kwaing Creasite'

Well who could ‘Kwaing Creasite’ be?

Best value night out in Manchester to be had: Johnny Lynch aka The Pictish Trail promoting his debut album Secret Sound with support from KC, "some of The Earlies" and Sophie's Pigeons.

All at the Deaf Institute for £5 face value. [BUY TICKETS]

And to think: my 20 minutes of indecision about whether £32.50 was worth paying to see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (doh! of course it was) cost me tickets for the November gig. Don't let apathy or indecision get in your way of attending tonight's gig.

King Creoste & The Pictish Trail

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Well I jokingly call my record collecting "archiving": keeping an ordered collection of all the music and associated items I own. The catch being it's not very ordered.

But then I saw this film about Paul Mawhinney and Record-Rama and realise that the term doesn't even come close compared to what he has done. This short film is astonishing, inspiring and deeply moving; and a sad metaphor for the possible fate of the recorded music industry ... Click on 'The Archive' below to view.

The Archive from Sean Dunne on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Well sort of. Laura from the As Far As We Know forum took some video footage of the Mark Mulcahy gig at the Elevens, Northampton MA on 8/8/08. And posted it on You Tube.

Given the difference between traffic in AFAWK (the MM and Miracle Legion forum) and You Tube, this was a good move. The song is "Home in a Basket". Concentrate on the music rather than the cinematography ...

For the set list from the gig you'll have to visit the forum. Now all we have to do is wait for the new album? And a UK tour too please.

Mark Mulcahy
In Pursuit of Your Happiness [BUY]

Thursday, August 14, 2008

FROM THE VINYL RACK ... "My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts" by David Byrne and Brian Eno

Released in 1981 (recorded 1979-80), this album was re-released on CD in the mid-90s and then a digitially re-mastered and expanded version was released on CD and digitally in 2006. But to me, this album is for listening to on vinyl. It is one of the records which for the life of me I cannot remember where or when I bought it (I've got a nagging feeling it might have been a large high street retailer like HMV ...) but it feels like I've always had a copy.

I started buying Talking Heads albums seriously and devotedly in around 82-83, so I guess I must have bought this about the same time. This was one of those records where I would say "you've GOT to listen to this" before playing someone a track. And I'd either get the raised eyebrows/sympathetic smile/pained expression or the "what the hell is this/this is brilliant" response. I went through a period that lasted several years where The Jezebel Spirit was an essential component of any compilation tape.

Well to read more about the extraordinary making of the record or how pioneering and influential it has been, read on to the next paragraph. But really what you should do is listen to the music. The record is an astonishing collision of East and West, of African funk and dub with electronic experimentation, with a magpie approach to sampled voices. It is always refreshing and fresh and inspiring to listen to.

So if you want the critical analysis: David Byrne talks about the making of the record here as part of the for site set up for the remaster release (here) with essays by David Toop and Paul Morley and plenty of other material.

And earlier this year there was a "will-they-won't-they" couple of months when it was suggested that Byrne and Eno were working together and might even tour together. And possibly even playing MLITBOG material?! Well here's the official announcement:

David Byrne and Brian Eno have paired up for their first record together as co-writers since the highly influential and critically acclaimed 1981 release My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Due out August 18, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today is the culmination of a year's worth of writing, recording, and travel between New York and London. The album will be self-released and made available as a stream and digital download for purchase exclusively through

Everything That Happens... was conceptualized during a visit to Brian Eno's studio after the two reconnected upon Nonesuch Records' re-release of Bush of Ghosts. Byrne explains, "I recall Brian mentioning that he had a lot of largely instrumental tracks he'd accumulated, and since, in his words, he 'hates writing words,' I suggested I have a go at writing some words, and tunes over a few of them, and we see what happens." Thus the two began exchanging vocal and instrumental tracks, and the transatlantic collaboration began.Everything That Happens... is less a collage than the duo's previous effort of some 27 years ago and more a collection of songs... this latest recording almost exclusively features Byrne's lyrics and voice alongside Eno's various electronic tracks. "When we started this work, we started to think we were making something like electronic gospel: a music where singing was the central event, but whose sonic landscapes were not the type normally associated with that way of singing," says Eno. "This thought tapped into my long love affair with gospel music, which, curiously, was inadvertently initiated by David and Talking Heads."

With a Byrne tour, David Byrne, Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno scheduled in support of the release of Everything That Happens from the fall of `08 through early `09 in the U.S., Australasia in early '09, and Europe in March 09, the focus will be on these new songs as well as Byrne's previous collaborations with Eno including some Talking Heads albums (many of which were produced by Eno). "The live shows will maybe try to draw a line linking this new material with what we did 30 years ago," explains Byrne, "a little bit anyway."

That "a little bit anyway" is telling. On the first listen to the single track available free from the ETHWHT site, this is a more straightforward collaboration, more akin to late-period Talking Heads that MLITBOG. Maybe live something special might happen ...?


My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts [BUY]

Thursday, August 07, 2008

TONIGHT IN MANCHESTER: Gossamer Albatross and Lucy & the Caterpillar

Free gig tonight at Abode in Chorlton (3 miles from city centre) from the folks at Mushaboom! Here's what they say:

Mushaboom hosts what will surely be one of our most magical nights yet with...

GOSSAMER ALBATROSS - Like a teenage Beirut..but from Hereford. Unmissable."The strings could easily have been gathered between the fingers of Owen Pallet, the words delivered from the mouth of Zach Condon. Something really special."

LUCY & THE CATERPILLAR - Drawing comparisons to Regina Spektor and Vashti Bunyan, and backed by the likes of Radio 1's Huw Stephens, Lucy is one to watch...And now you can thanks to Mushaboom! Unmissable too!

GOD'S LITTLE ESKIMO - a one man band using a blend of layered vocals, acoustic guitar, glockenspiel and whatever else is at hand to create a warm, haunted world of harmonies, rhythms and loops...and yes he's unmissable!

Three unmissables AND free entry? How can you say 'no'?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Tom Waits, Edinburgh 2008. Photo by Kenny Maths on Flickr

Well here was another 'near miss' during my holidays (see previous post): whilst I was holidaying in Wales, Tom Waits was playing two gigs in Edinburgh. Only 330 miles and a 6.5 hour drive away. And I didn't have a ticket. But I reckon that's about as near a miss to seeing him live I'll have for a LONG time.

Three things make a TW gig special. Firstly the rarity: his London gig 4 yrs ago was his first in the UK for 17 yrs. I did try to get tickets, failed, and then realised the futility of this: over 200,000 other people were trying at the same time. And harder than me. For only 2,500 or so tickets. Which brings us to the second thing: he only plays theatres, not enormous air hanger-sized arenas or even big festivals. And then third is he is such a consumate performer/entertainer, not just a great singer or songwriter. Read the broadsheet reviews here, here, here and here to get a flavour of this.
But if short on time, read this excellent account of the first night at Edinburgh by Song By Toad here including set-list and links to some more top photos. And there's also this and plenty more at the same location.

If like me you missed, well hopefully in another 4 or 17 years we'll get our chance. Until then there is always this:

We at NPR are exclusively webcasting and podcasting a concert from Tom Waits’ Glitter and Doom tour. The show was recorded July 5 at the historic Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA. Here’s the link to the page to stream the show: And you can download the show via our All Songs Considered Live in Concert podcast, here: Enjoy!

Real Gone [BUY]

Mule Variations [BUY]

Blood Money [BUY]

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Well back in the land of mobile phone reception and the interweb. Despite being miles from anywhere (except the beach, the Welsh mountains, waterfalls and wildlife etc) had some close misses with music-related events or locations.

Arriving in mid-Wales on Saturday, it took to Sunday to realise I was in close proximity to two music festivals. The first was Gŵyl Gardd Goll or the Lost Garden Festival near Caernarfon. More info here.

Not familiar with any of the artists other than Euros Childs and Sweet Baboo but read the blurb on the link above - sounds a superb event in an idyllic location. And only £8 for the day. One for next year maybe.

The other was in Borth only a mile or two from where I was staying: The Square Festival. 60 bands, 6 stages, 2 days said the poster, acts included Alabama 3, The Hot Puppies and The Crimea.

And then managed to drive past but not visit Andy's Records in Aberystwyth. From a moving vehicle it looked definitely worth a visit ...

So near-misses - but after all I WAS on holiday to spend time with my family (must remember this ...)

Euros Childs
Chops [BUY]

Euros Childs
Bore Da [BUY]

HYPO FULL OF LOVE (12 Step Plan)
Alabama 3
Exile On Coldharbour Lane [BUY]

Half Man Half Biscuit
Trouble Over Bridgewater [BUY]

The Fall
The New Real Fall LP [BUY]

Soft-Hearted Scientists
Take Time To Wonder In A Whirling World [BUY]