Monday, September 28, 2009


This being my first gig for a couple of weeks PLUS it being Fanfarlo - still in pole position for my favourite album of the year - meant that I had very high expectations of the evening.

However finding out on the day that Fanfarlo and support First Aid Kit were switching slots (promo duties for FAK apparently) I realised this meant a shortened set for Fanfarlo. Plus the band had only arrived back from touring the USA today, no doubt jet-lagged. And I started the afternoon two hundred miles from The Deaf Institute, now with the knowledge the band I wanted to see had an early start. It didn't have the makings of a good evening.

I am pleased to say however Fanfarlo delivered. They took to the stage just after 9pm for an acoustic three-person version of "Drowning Men" - guitar, mandolin and drums - with the rest of the band coming on stage for "I Am A Pilot". Sadly I was right - shortened set. Only nine songs - two new though with one "Noose" making its live debut apparently - with no encore and no "Fire Escape" ("we'll save it for next time").

However focusing on the positives: the band did not look as though they had just flown back to the UK. They looked well-rested and relaxed and gave their songs either the swoon, the swoop or the grandeur they have on record with a bit of live edge too. And throughout the set they showed the inventiveness that marks out "Resevoir" as exceptional (if you haven't heard it yet, drop everything to do so). "The Walls Are Coming Down" started with stomping feed and accapella introduction, new song "Atlas" featured bowed saw, "Comets" and "Luna" featured melodica and clarinet with Simon providing extra drumming for the latter, the came-too-soon final song. And throughout the touches of trumpet and violin were lovely.

"Resevoir" has too many great songs to name a favourite but this one is currently on repeat in my head:

The Set List:
First Aid Kit followed and at first I didn't really pay the duo the attention they deserved - partly because the 'main attraction' had been and gone but also because they appeared a bit tentative. But slowly their affecting solo-guitar-and-twin-voices country-blues took a hold. Being Swedish I was expecting something quite twee but they were more Loretta Lynn than Labrador Records with a quite spooky mountain folk quality to their own songs and the covers of Fleet Foxes and Buffy Saint-Marie they gave. Opinion was divided amongst the folk I was with (no attributable comments allowed) but they got a hugely positive reception from the crowd tonight. Their full-length album is out in January.

There are much better photographs on this evening from FishPlums on Flickr. And a mention to Table who started the evening. I was expecting to miss them but was so glad to catch the last four songs or so: frail, acoustic folky orch-pop performed by a six piece with four piece harmonies. Quite lovely. Local lads and lass apparently with a single out in December. Ones to watch if you like your music hushed.

Resevoir [BUY]

Back To Our Place - the re-opening of Band On The Wall

This weekend Band on the Wall, the legendary Manchester venue re-opened, after 4 years closed, with an opening salvo of gigs from Julian Joseph & Mica Paris, A Certain Ratio and The Bays.

I use the phrase ‘legendary’ advisedly. The city's bands and music scenesters often appear as dedicated to myth-making as to music. And any myth-making really needs some substance to back up the swagger and the stories. Luckily Band on the Wall has substance in spades and it is backed up by a phenomenal amount of genuine and heartfelt affection. Everyone who I speak to who has ever visited the Swan Street venue has a favourite memory or favourite gig to share; and seems to have had nothing but respect and eager anticipation for its re-birth.

My first thought when the refurbishment was announced was a concern it would destroy the shabby charms of the original.

Originally a Victorian pub, music started to be performed there from the 1930s when the landlord built a stage onto one wall. The current management took it over in 1975 (and provide a fuller history of the area and building on the website) and although they brought the cream of punk and post-punk to the venue alongside a heady and eclectic mix of jazz, dub reggae, folk, African and latin music, it’s true to say that investment in the crumbling building was not a priority.

Now after a £4million refurbishment (and with recording studios, mixed-media equipment and educational facilities alongside the live music space) losing some of the shabbiness may not be a bad thing. In the intervening years there have been several new entrants to the live music scene especially the Deaf Institute which has upped the stakes for comfort, design, sightlines and sound. Early reports appear good - except for some mild scepticism about the carpet.

The second thought when I saw the opening programme was: it’s just the same as it was five or even ten years ago! Familiar faces and staples like A Certain Ratio, Edward II and Kanda Bongo Man. But that initial disappointment was replaced by the realisation that this is the point of BOTW. Even with these newer venues and more eclectic programming at Bury Met or concert halls like RNCM, where else are you going to see the clinical German nu-jazz of Jazzanova, the ecstatic rhythms of Malian Bassekou Kouyate, the jazzy folk-pop charms of Devon Sproule, the timeless dub of Mad Professor, the warped Norwegian electronica of Bugge Wesseltoft or the enigmatic prog-rock of The Enid?? Exactly.

Highlights for me include recent Bella Union signing Emily Loizeau with Liz Green, two nights from The Unthanks and the High Llamas in December. All the signs are promising that BOTW has managed to preserve the right elements of what made the original so special and, well, 'original'. Truly eclectic, truly a Manchester legend, welcome back Band on the Wall. (But if you do want to wallow in nostalgia, how about Paul Morley on Joy Division in September 1978 on Rock's Back Pages?).

Bassekou Kouyate
I Speak Fula [BUY]
Performing 22 Oct BUY TICKETS

Devon Sproule
Keep Your Silver Shined [BUY]
Performing 13 Oct: BUY TICKETS

I CAN SEE (Doc Daneeka Dub-Bump Mix)
Of All The Things [BUY]
Performing 5 Oct: BUY TICKETS

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Postcards From The Edge (of Whitworth Park)

Sometimes the Manchester music scene can depress me. At its worst, it is too in love with the mythology of its recent past or it can indulge in pointless in-fighting and back-biting. And frankly, sometimes, it is just not as good as it thinks it is. This is at its WORST remember and when I'm in a glass-half-empty flunk.

Most of the time I love it. However there are a couple of extra reasons to celebrate music in Manchester this week and beyond. Later this week I’ll write about the re-opening of Band on the Wall but first let’s look at Postcards from Manchester.

This event is jointly promoted and delivered by four local and DIY promoters working together (itself something to praise): Underachievers Please Try Harder, Mushaboom, Asparagus Next Left and Pull Yourself Together. It takes place at Café Saki on Wilmslow Road right at the junction between the Whitworth Art Gallery and Park and the curry mile of Rusholme.

"Long-gone are the days of rivalry and sniping between Manchester's indie community. These days we are collaborating all over the shop and with this event, aim to highlight what we can achieve if we work towards a collective goal for the city's music scene. The past year has witnessed a vast growth in the number of interesting and exciting DIY music nights. Formed at similar times, all the people involved in this event seem to have a collective conscience and although their nights vary, each are united by a common manifesto:
* The music comes first.
* A drive to be original and different.
* To include everybody.
* A shared passion for keeping DIY culture alive.
* Being ambitious, without being self-important".

Our promoters have assembled a line-up of 13 bands playing over two floors with club nights following. All this for only £8 advance (plus a 15% discount on curries at Sangam or 10% on takeaways!). But the price or the collaboration, although noteworthy, is not what marks this out.

What does is the quality and variety of bands on offer. If you missed End of the Road, Green Man or Indietracks festivals, Postcards from Manchester is a quick primer of all the upcoming bands you would have seen on the smaller stages or opening bills, taking in noise-pop, indie-pop, folk-pop and more. Any combination of two of these bands would probably be worth the admission price but thirteen? In such a compact venue? With a discount on curry too?!

Appearing are Napoleon IIIrd, The Kabeedies, 6 Day Riot, Run Toto Run, Meursault, Monsters Build Mean Robots, Mechanical Owl, Sparky Deathcap, North Atlantic Oscillation, Young British Artists, Deaf To Van Gogh's Ear, Molly Macleod Band and Christopher Eatough.

This is a line-up put together with love and imagination. And its not trying to trade off any Mancunian mythology or jump on any zeitgeist-y bandwagon. It's about great new bands, great new music. And Tony Wilson, himself an arch Mancunian myth-maker but also fervent champion of the new, would have loved this event, as best summed up by one of the promoters:

"When I started putting on gigs, I felt that the city that celebrated the life of Tony Wilson so much, had stopped listening to the independent ethos by which he lived".
Phil Daker, 'Mushaboom' gig promoter.

Hallelujah to that. Advance tickets here. This is planned to be an annual event. And rightly so.

Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues [BUY]

Young British Artists
Small Wave EP [BUY]

6 Day Riot
Have A Plan [BUY]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


As I write there are still some tickets left for this gig at The Corner in Withington - but I wouldn’t hang about. It’s a terrific (and terrificly noisy) line-up. As well as the exceptional Times New Viking from Columbus, Ohio there is great local support on the bill in the shape of Mazes and Young British Artists (I'm not familiar with the fourth band Lovvers or where they hail from).

Four bands of this calibre for £7.50 is pretty impressive. Especially since Times New Viking have have just released their fouth album “Born Again Revisted” which elsewhere I described as one of the underground albums of the year. It’s not for the faint-hearted though . The three-piece play heavily distorted 60s garage colliding with noisy art-rock and shot through with a dash of pop sensibility (but it's buried quite deep beneath the distortion). It is thrilling. And loud. And distorted. As they say: act now to avoid disappointment. I can’t quite believe I’m not going to be there.

And did I mention the distortion?

Times New Viking
Born Again Revisited [BUY]

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"What's In Your ML/MM collection?"

This was a question posted on As Far As We Know, the Miracle Legion/Mark Mulcahy forum, back in January 2008 (I didn't respond - I'm more of a lurker than a poster. If I did I would have mentioned the above promo poster for the "Glad" album).

AFAWK is a small but supportive community of (196 registered) long-term fans who therefore tend to own all of the Miracle Legion records (some out-of-print) and Mark Mulcahy solo material as well as assorted singles, live recordings and memorabilia. I owe this group huge thanks - for it is through this forum and the earlier Yahoo group of the same name that I managed to track down and/or swap several live recordings including the Andy Kershaw Miracle Legion sessions from 1992. This included their take on The Smiths "Reel Around The Fountain" - much sought after by me after hearing it at my only Miracle Legion gig that same year.

Sadly due to the tragic circumstances, Mark Mulcahy is back in the media spotlight just now and those on the forum and the general public can all add some more "ML/MM"-related material to our/your collections this week.

Last year, Mark's wife Melissa died suddenly leaving him and their twin three-year old daughters bereft. Mark has always had some high-profile fans (Nick Hornby and Thom Yorke being the most documented) and over the last year a whole host of musicians have been working on a benefit record "Ciao My Shining Star" aimed to raise funds so Mark can continue to write and perform music whilst bringing up his daughters. According to last week's Guardian piece this started happening without Mark's knowledge.

The Thom Yorke cover of Miracle Legion's "All For The Best" has already been released as a limited edition vinyl single. And on Monday, the 21 track album comes out on CD and digitally. Plus another 20 tracks including versions from A.C. Newman, Buffalo Tom and Laura Veirs that didn't make the album, are also available for digital download.

The track listing for the full album alone shows the calibre of support:

01 Thom Yorke – “All For The Best”
02 The National – “Ashamed Of The Story I Told”
03 Michael Stipe – “Everything’s Coming Undone”
04 David Berkeley – “Loves The Only Thing That Shuts Me Up”
05 Dinosaur Jr. – “The Backyard”
06 Chris Harford & Mr Ray Neal – “Micon The Icon”
07 Frank Black – “Bill Jocko”
08 Vic Chesnutt – “Little Man”
09 Unbelievable Truth – “Ciao My Shining Star”
10 Butterflies Of Love – “I Have Patience”
11 Chris Collingwood (Fountains Of Wayne) – “Cookie Jar”
12 Frank Turner – “The Quiet One”
13 Rocket From The Tombs – “In Pursuit Of Your Happiness”
14 Ben Kweller – “Wake Up Whispering”
15 Josh Rouse – “I Woke Up In The Mayflower”
16 Autumn Defense – “Paradise”
17 Hayden -”Happy Birthday Yesterday”
18 Juliana Hatfield – “We’re Not In Charleston Anymore”
19 Mercury Rev – “Sailors And Animals”
20 Elvis Perkins – “She Watches Over Me”
21 Sean Watkins – “A World Away From This One"

In addition tomorrow in Brooklyn this benefit concert is taking place (with a London leg rumoured for October).

Benefit records are two-a-penny these days and of variable quality however good the cause. But "Ciao My Shining Star" has all the hallmarks of an excellent record not least through the strength of the song-writing (says the fan without bias) plus the affection/adoration shown by fellow musicians. So a worthy and important record but more than likely a musically vital one too which I feel confident based on hearing three covers so far to recommend whole-heartedly. Three tracks from the album are streaming on Mark's MySpace page and The Line Of Best Fit is also streaming a track each day for you to check this out yourself.

Most of the Miracle Legion albums are out of print, victims of record company politicking, poor advice and bad timing. I did once email Loose Music (who have released Mark's three solo albums in the UK) and asked what was the chance of a ML re-issue programme. Their response was along the lines of "we'd love to - but it's a complicated, legal quagmire". Now wouldn't it be a great and fitting benefit to the man and his music (and fellow players in Miracle Legion) if these six records - "The Backyard", "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise", "Glad", "Me & Mr Ray", "Drenched" and "Portrait of a Damaged Family" - could be re-released? Or even be put on Spotify??

In the meantime some of them are available direct from Mark via his Mezzotint label (also probably the best way to ensure he gets a bigger cut of the price) and his solo material is available there or at Loose Music. And on Monday you can get your copy of "Ciao My Shining Star" here, here and here.

Miracle Legion
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise [BUY]

Mark Mulcahy
Fathering [BUY or BUY]

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I have been following The Broken Family Band since first album "The King Will Build A Disco". Somehow, many years too late, this gig at Klondyke Bowling Club in Levenshulme was the first time I actually saw them live. I've been thinking about this night a lot following the news that The Broken Family Band gigs I'm going to in October will be their last:

“After eight happy years The Broken Family Band has decided to give it a rest. We can’t pin it on musical differences, we’ve just decided to quit while we’re ahead. We’ve had a fantastic time being in this group together, and we’re all still friends so we haven’t ruled out doing stuff together in the future. There’s no dramatic ending, but these shows are our farewell to The Broken Family Band. We’d like to thank everyone who’s helped us out and given us so much pleasure since we started, but we’re not going to.”

As well as my first time seeing BFB this was my first visit to the Klondyke Bowls Club in Levenshulme. I remember turning into a seemingly dead-end residential street and thinking "bollocks - we've been sold tickets for a gig in a venue that doesn't exist". Somehow the cul-de-sac led into a rutted gravel path that led into a dimly lit car park and a Scooby Doo haunted house. Well actually the aforementioned Bowls Club. Inside was a proper working man's boozer: darts boards, snooker tables, a dense cloud of cigarette smoke. Is there a BAND playing here tonight??

Well there was in a side room. The room was square, unadorned and frankly in need of paint and TLC. The room had groups of people milling about quite aimlessly. We worked out where the stage might by the fact the milling seemed to be just in one half of the room. There was a barefoot woman lying on the floor too. It was all a bit weird and just didn't feel like a gig was about to take place.

However take place it did. Support was from Soft-Hearted Scientists (gentle Welsh pastoralism - sedate but quietly lovely) and possibly one other band but myself, Mr P and Ms L have racked our brains and cannot remember who it might have been. Whether it was one or two support bands, bare-footed woman continued to lay on the floor in front of the low stage.

When The Broken Family Band took the stage something magical happened. I don't whether it was the music, the crowd or the venue but something definitely changed in the atmosphere when Steven Adams said "Hello Levenshulme ...[dramatic pause]... a phrase I've waited all of my thirty two years to say". Following the laughter that provoked, things just kicked off. The band, despite having just driven up from Cambridge, tore through a set of old favs and songs from "Balls" which was just out. The crowd couldn't get close enough to the band and were dancing and singing deliriously. And everyone, band members, hard-core fans, casual audiences members had smiles on their faces. Possibly even bare-footed woman but I'd lost sight of her in the delirious melee. From the start of the evening which looked like a real non-event this became one of the best and most enjoyable gigs I've ever been too.

At the end it seemed no-one wanted to go home. The band were happy to chat and sign CDs, the crowd just didn't want to leave the room in case the spell was broken. My final memory of the evening was seeing the band after humping their gear through a fire-door into the car park, stick their heads around the door to wave at everyone with big idiot-grim faces. An emotional once-in-a-lifetime event: it was like a wedding, New Year and the best party you've ever been to rolled into one.

And now at the end of October, The Broken Family Band are splitting up. I'll get to see they twice more (once the final show: an invitation-only, fancy dress gig at the Cambridge pub they played their first gig in) and then it's over. But we'll always have the music. And we'll always have Levenshulme.

Those final tour dates are here.

The Broken Family Band
Balls [BUY]

Monday, September 14, 2009


Spencer Krug's Sunset Rubdown play the Deaf Institute tonight as part of a short and much over-due UK tour. If hipster endorsement is important to you, their third album "Dragonslayer" was given a straight 10 out of 10 by Drowned in Sound. If music is more important to you and richly baroque Canadian art-rock appeals, you really should buy some of the few remaining tickets straight away. Support is from Soy un Caballo and advance tickets are on sale here.

Sunset Rubdown
Dragonslayer [BUY]

Thursday, September 10, 2009


[The original post was taken down without notice by Blogger. No explanation given. If anything posted infringed any copyright why not email me or leave a comment? Rather than infringing my copyright?]

Second day of the festival started in that time-honoured fashion: trying to light a camping stove with a sore head. Without mishap though, Mr P and I were soon enjoying Saturday morning coffee with Friday's newspaper and then planning our day ahead. It all started promptly in the Green Man Pub with Cardiff based Laura Elizabeth Bryon aka Le B.

This was quietly strummed and sung folksy songs, including a Karen Dalton and a Galaxie 500 cover, that felt as though they should be played in darkened late-night rooms but sounded perfectly at home in the open air and sunshine. And as it turned out a great start to a day packed with some excellent music. From here we caught most of Cate Le Bon's set on the Far Out Stage.

Cate sang and played keyboards backed by a four piece band. This was smart Welsh pop that reminded me of the mellower side of Gorky's. Cate played a song (maybe two?) solo on guitar and this (or these) were beautifully haunting. Must listen more to her.

Then to the Main Stage for Stornoway. Now the festival programme blurb made these sound intriguingly unmissable: "a living, breathing Mark Twain novel. Think Guillemots, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, and early Belle and Sebastian, with soaring folk melodies and nifty arrangements". And they were good - very festival-friendly folky-rock (or was it rocky-folk?) - but not quite what I was expecting from that description.

Mr P however was very taken by them: "Fuel Up" their tale of adolescence, growing up and cars even brought a tear to his eye. And they definitely won the crowd over not just with their music but with their 'living the dream' story of how two years ago they were paying punters at Green Man wishing that one day they would be playing here. Their debut album is out at end of September.

Feeling on a roll now I headed back to the Far Out Stage to catch the last 15 minutes of Richard James. There is a great press quotation about his music that goes "Former Gorkys man re-imagines the Velvet Underground if the ratio of Welshmen to New Yorkers were reversed". And this was certainly true of the first two songs he played with his band - very VU third album. The third one was a bit more animated - very "Loaded"? - and then the fourth just took my breath away. From these hushed intimate songs he then moved to a sonic assault freak-out, with angry distorted guitars, heavily distorted vocals with yelps, shouts and screams. Astonishing stuff. I really must check out his music.

More dashing - back to the Main Stage where much-fancied The Leisure Society were already playing. This seven piece led by Nick Hemming were again very festival-friendly - a gentle, orchestral-pop that oozed warmth (or was this the afternoon beer kicking in?). Their set included a cover of Gary Numan's "Cars" - who'd have thought it needed strings?

Then back to Far Out Stage where The Strange Boys from Austin, Texas were already on. Their mastery of pared-back 60s garage rock complete with sneery slacker vocals belied their tender age. This was great stuff and had several people heading for the Rough Trade tent afterwards to pick up their "And Girls Club" album.

Mr P had temporarily abandoned the music to see a stand-up mathematician (there's something for everyone at Green Man) but I hot-footed it to the front of the Main Stage for The Phantom Band.
This was a great set - the songs from "Checkmate Savage" just keep growing in stature for me. In the crowd later I saw one of the band and shouted drunkenly at him "album of the year!" - I hope he appreciated the sentiment if not the delivery.

The Set list: Throwing Bones / Burial Sounds / Crocodile / Folk Song Oblivion / Island / The Howling / Left Hand Wave

I then caught the end of Blue Roses in the Green Man Pub. Literally. Fought my way into the packed garden to hear the last song and take a few photos.

Meeting up with Mr P we rejected The Aliens for Peter Broderick which turned out to be an excellent result. Peter played gentle classically-inclined melodies on keyboard, guitar and violin but then looped them over each other to create a more intense sound. Highly inventive and totally captivating with a great sense of performance.

He introduced one song as a guitar piece written by his father who used to play it to him at bedtime when he was a child. He finished to applause but the whole piece including his spoken word introduction looped and was played back at us with more guitar. He then let it loop twice more each time playing violin over it. Breathtaking. And at one point too he played bowed saw - a simple thing maybe but I love that sound.

It was time for a pause after this constant ping-ponging between stages. So a lie down on the grassy hill by the Main Stage with eyes shut was in order. Noah & The Whale were playing in the distance and I was quite impressed that they appeared to play only new, unfamiliar and maudlin material, avoiding the hit single completely.

Rest over, veggie enchilada consumed, it was then Grizzly Bear on the Main Stage. I'm still coming to terms with their latest album "Vecktamist" and their shifting accessible-but-experimental music. And it was the same with this set - I just couldn't work out from one song to another what I made of it all. Crowd at the front enjoyed it though.

I then caught the last four songs of the Vetiver set on the Far Out Stage (much more country-rock than I remember) and then an interminably long sound check by Bon Iver. We only planned to watch a few songs anyway but those three songs were full of the things I hate about larger festivals: the Main Stage was the busiest I had seen all weekend and so we were the furthest from the stage we'd been; and any sense of intimacy or appreciation of the music was destroyed by two dozen people around us singing along at the top of their voices to "Skinny Love". It all felt a bit Reading Festival. But much better things were available, namely Andrew Bird on the Far Out Stage.

It's only this year with latest album "Noble Beast" that the music of Andrew Bird was clicked for me. But live was another thing all together, a total revelation. I was expecting a genteel, besuited man playing genteel, softly-spoken music. Now he was besuited but he was also a livewire - whether playing guitar or violin he never kept still (hence no photos, they are all blurred). And then there was the whistling. On the record is one thing (multiple takes allowed surely) but to whistle note-perfect live and with such strength was astonishing. So rather than mellow, we got energetic - a great finale for the Far Out stage day.

And so one last live act for the night: Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele in the Green Man Pub. As it turned out it was Dent, his ukulele and a three piece backing band. I was expecting kitschy and entertaining, but I was not expecting it be one of the highlights of the festival. Close harmonies, an infectious backbeat (from the coolest drummer on the planet) and a scissor-kicking ukulele player with killer tunes to boot. Who could ask for more? The Good Feeling Sound indeed...

I watched a few minutes of Jarvis Cocker finishing his set on the Main Stage (nice mirrorball) but then headed for the Far Out Stage After Dark for Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve psychedelic DJ set. Suffice to say whisky–fuelled dancing to "Stepping Stone", "You’re Gonna Miss Me" and "Bubble Burst" ensued.And then to finally, finally finish the night I head to the shower block. And this, dear reader, is my top festival tip to you. Take a shower at 3am - there is no queue, no guilt at taking as long as you want and the water is piping hot and delivered at full pressure. Day Three coming soon [actually here].


[The original post was taken down without notice by Blogger. No explanation given. If anything posted infringed any copyright why not email me or leave a comment? Rather than infringing/deleting my copyright?]

This was my first visit to the Green Man Festival. And all things being well - it will not be my last. The festival takes places in Glanusk Park Estate in the beautiful Brecon Beacons. I’d heard tell of how in previous years the festival site has been turned to mud; and crossing the border to Wales Mr P and I were greeted by a shockingly severe rain storm with zero visibility. Yikes. It looked like the druids were going to be wrong. But luckily the clouds passed quickly (heading to England) and the sun came out as we approached Abergavenny. I knew I wouldn’t be catching the first bands of the day but the race was on to get there/get the tent up in time to see Broken Records. Luckily we just made it, as it turns out so did Broken Records.

We arrived at the main stage to "Nearly Home" (inappropriately?) to hear the band had suffered a long, stressful journey with the possibility of missing their slot. So glad they didn’t because it was a brilliant start to the festival – rousing, passionate Scots art-rock was just what was needed after four hours in a car and three attempts to put up a tent. And as they played "A Good Reason" the sun came back out too.

Having successfully reached the festival and got to see our first band we then had to consider how to approach the shock news that greeted us at the site entrance: "No Alcohol on Site" and "Persons Entering This Site May Be Searched". As Green Man virgins, Mr P and I hadn’t even considered this possibility. However we soon realised we only needed to do what all the other more experienced festival goers were doing. Put the booze in a bag. And then walk it in. Problem solved.From Broken Records we then went to the Far Out Stage (a large blue tent beyond the hill facing the Main Stage) to see Beth Jeans Houghton.

This was fun, glam art-pop with big wigs, face-painted band and then party bags thrown out into the crowd too but the music didn’t make an huge impression on first listen. I was more endeared by Beth’s plea to us all to buy her EP so she can afford to move out of her Mum’s house. It might have only been 5 o’clock but it was time for first visit of the festival to the excellent (and probably essential) Pieminister.

So pie, mash and mushy peas it was whilst watching Emmy The Great from the grassy hill opposite the Main Stage. This was entertaining but I have to confess I didn’t really pay her enough attention. Yes the pies really are that good.

Then our first visit to the Green Man Pub stage (basically a walled garden with a stage in one corner and a beer tent opposite) for Mary Hampton. Having seen Mary at End of the Road in 2007 but not remembering much due to a cider overdose incident I was keen to hear her properly.

Here she played with a three piece band seated behind a keyboard, later swapping to guitar for a couple of songs performed solo. The first couple of songs were melodramtic folk which was much more experimental and er 'unhinged' than I remember (sorry but that's the only word for it). Mr P did a runner to catch Errors (he was not impressed) but I stayed with it and she really grew on me. And the sun was still shining.

Next up British Sea Power back on the Main Stage at dusk. The festival was starting to fill up now but it was still relatively easy to secure a place front and centre of the stage. For some bands it takes half of a forty five minute set to getting going. Not BSP and not tonight. Some folk with us who'd never seen them live declared their performance worthy of admission alone. It certainly worked as a belt-out-the-fast-songs-and crowd pleasers slot. "Spirit of St Louis" was as usual a highlight and the final song "Carrion" descended (or ascended?) into "Rock in C" noise-freakout with guitarist Noble donning airpilot helmet to go crowd-surfing. My only quibble other than brevity was the poor sound on the vocals for "No Lucifer" - really spoilt the song.

The Set List:Lights Out For Darker Skies / Remember Me / Waving Flags / The Great Skua / Spirit of St Louis / Atom / Apolgies to Insect Life / No Lucifer / Carrion - Rock in C

Actually there was another quibble. Actually more of a complaint - for Green Man. From BSP onwards the acts on the Main Stage were introduced by comedian Stephen Frost acting as compere. Why? In a word: totally unnecessary.

The temperature really started dropping noticeably now so it was back to the tent for an extra layer and supplies before returning to the Main Stage for Roky Erickson. Roky's return to live performance has been greeted ecstatically before and I was really looking forward to seeing him but I had mixed feelings about this set.

Knowing all he has been through it was impressive just to see him on stage (with three piece band) playing mainly material from his late 70s/80s phases finishing on the great Thirteenth Floor Elevators' song "You're Gonna Miss Me". But for some songs he occasionally looked slightly bewildered, even lost, and seemed to be looking to his second guitarist for instruction. It was painful to watch. But then the next song he appeared strong and was playing well. The selection of songs also meant he drew mainly on the heavy blues-rock stuff which over the sixty minute set started to feel a bit lumpen. And tragically didn't play "I Have Always Been Here Before".

So a real curate's egg but great to see some freaky dancing in the audience (Hawkwind fans arriving early and making their presence felt). Now we were faced with a difficult choice to close the evening. In the end we over-ruled Animal Collective on the Main Stage (but caught "My Girls" in passing) in favour of British Sea Power performing the soundtrack to 1930s documentary "Man of Aran". It was a good choice. Sitting down in a packed out Film Tent watching the struggles of the Aran islanders against the elements, accompanied by loud rock music and Welsh Whisky, was a moving - but not quite sobering - experience.

So an uneven day in some ways but we had beer, whisky, dry weather (so far) and two more days of bands to look forward to.

Friday, September 04, 2009


Two gigs in two days is testing my failing health and stretching the tolerance of my family. But this was for Okkervil River!

Mr P and I arrived late’ish at Club Academy both a bit worse for wear. Me due to that failing health, him due to post-work drinks. So sadly we missed Dawn Landes. Painful as it is to say this, Mr P and I are not going to End of the Road Festival this year. So seeing Okkervil River (one of the bands appearing) was meant to be some form of compensation. As it turned out it was more like torture, reminding us of what we would be missing next week (if you too want to torture yourself have a look at the three day schedule pdf for the now-sold-out festival).

So this had all the hallmarks of a disappointing evening. But of course with the ever dependable Okkervil River this was never going to be the case was it? They might have played a set nearly identical to last time but when a band is this good live who cares?

Okkervil River attract a diverse crowd: in immediate vicinity to us were metal-heads, introspective, bookish lower sixth form types, empty-nester couples (I thought they had taken a wrong turn when looking for Miss Saigon or similar – until they started singing along to every word of “Until It Kicks”), and further back someone holding a lengthy hand-written placard referencing Time and Cosmos. As I said “diverse”.

Despite this variety the crowd appeared a bit shy at first. If they were, the band weren’t: after a soaring “Plus Ones” they tore into the next three songs in rapid-fire succession. Stunning. And this was the pattern for the evening – mixing slower and faster songs with equal passion and performance.

I’m sure I’ve said it before but Will Sheff is not only a talented song-writer but a captivating performer. Besuited at first with unbuttoned sleeves poking out of his jacket, he beckoned and implored the audience to sing-along with tiny hand gestures, he added in spoken word interludes over sections of songs addressing the audience collectively and generally provoked mass arm-waving and clapping like a revivalist preacher. Tonight it was some of the slower ones that had a more immediate effect on me – “A Girl In Port” finishing in ferocious guitars, the massed, imploring singalong to the end of “John Allyn Smith Sails”.

So as torture goes, these impassioned nintey minutes including the three encores flew by - and has sort of scratched that itch. Just don’t tell me what their Saturday night slot at EOTR was like. Please. Don't.

Prior to the Festival, Okkervil River are playing Galway, Glasgow, Nottingham and Oxford.

The Set List:
Plus Ones
Singer Songwriter
A Hand To Take Hold Of The Scene
The Latest Toughs
A Girl In Port
John Allyn Smith Sails
Pop Lie
A Stone
Blue Tulip
For Real
Lost Coastlines
Our Live Is Not A Movie. Or Maybe.
Unless It Kicks
Maine Island Lovers

Okkervil River
Black Sheep Boy [BUY]

Okkervil River
The Stage Names [BUY]

Thursday, September 03, 2009

DAMON & NAOMI @ DULCIMER 3 September 2009

Having owned a copy of first album proper from Damon & Naomi ("More Sad Hits") since it came out in the wake of the break-up of Galaxie 500, I've felt I've 'known' them for a long time. However not only was tonight the first time I've seen them live, browsing their website earlier today I realise just how much of their considerable back-catalogue I DON'T own or know. So tonight was familiar but also unfamiliar.

Damon & Naomi appeared very relaxed throughout tonight - even a malfunctioning amp early on in the evening was a source of quiet bemusement rather than irritation. They took to the (small) stage just after 9pm and opened with their cover of "Song To The Siren". The set was the familiar hushed dream-pop of their albums performed just on acoustic guitar and keyboards. It was lovely to hear such rich, textured songs stripped right back; and they were performed with more oomph than I was expecting.

The set was mainly from latest album "Within These Walls" ("we tried to make the slowest record of our career") plus the four Sub Pop albums (1995 - 2002) given the imminent release of the compilation of these albums. They finished with "Memories" telling how meeting Hugh Hopper (of Soft Machine, writer of said song) made them realise they had misheard the line "pet shops were people knew us" (it should be "past shops") but preferred this maudlin image - "very Morrissey" .

The two encores were the gorgeous Pentangle-inspired "Cruel Queen" with Alasdair Maclean from openers Amor de Dias on guitar; and then the final song a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" with Alasdair again plus his partner in Amor de Dias Lupe Núñez-Fernádez on backing vocals. The whole ninety minute set was graceful, inspiring and quite lovely. Damon & Naomi hung about after the show, still relaxed and charming, and were happy to chat and sign records. Lovely people, lovely evening.

London on Friday night and then Paris for a couple of shows for Damon & Naomi before returning to North America for more live dates. As well as their site you can follow news of Damon & Naomi (and Luna/Dean & Britta/Galaxie 500) on the excellent and highly recommended fan-site A Head Full of Wishes.

Support was the duo Amor De Dias (Alasdiar of The Clientele, Lupe of Pipas). As described on the flyer this was 'psych-folk/tropicalia' with picked acoustic guitars and hushed vocals. A perfect support act for Damon & Naomi and definitely an act I would like to hear some more of.

Damon & Naomi
Within These Walls [BUY or BUY]

Damon & Naomi
More Sad Hits [BUY or BUY]

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Another music compilation - now with timings! - to help select gigs this September in Manchester. Definite Americana theme going on this month... Download the compilation [57mins/65MB] here.

Also September sees the re-opening of Manchester institution Band On The Wall. I'll write about this separately but A Certain Ratio (26 September) has already sold out and act now before The Bays (27 September) goes the same way.

The Temper Trap Sweet Disposition [3.50] (27 Sep Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Fuck Buttons Bright Tomorrow [11.33] (20 Sep Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Fanfarlo Luna [16.10] (28 Sep Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Sunset Rubdown Coming To At Dawn [20.15] (14 Sep Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Times New Viking No Time, No Season [23.07 (22 Sep The Corner BUY TICKETS)
Ohbijou Intro To Season [25.39] (3 Sep Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Its a Buffalo Marbles [29.16] (5 Sep Club Academy BUY TICKETS)
The Low Anthem The Horizon Is A Beltway [32.05] (6 Sep Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Julie Doiron Nice To Come Home [33.35] (27 Sep Islington Mill BUY TICKETS)
Okkervil River Unless It Kicks [38.14] (4 Sep Club Academy BUY TICKETS)
King Khan & The Shrines (How Can I Keep You) Outta Harm's Way? [41.24] (30 Sep Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Damon & Naomi The Mirror Phase [46.01] (3 Sept Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
David Thomas Broughton Unmarked Grave [54.47] (26 Sep Grave Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Willard Grant Conspiracy The Great Deceiver [57.50] (6 Sep Academy 3 BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:
2 Sep Whalebone Polly & Rozi Plain Dulcimer / 2 Sep Sleeping States The Corner / 4 Sep Ten Bears Ruby Lounge / 5 Sep Vinny Peculiar Green Room / 5 Sep The Dodos Ruby Lounge / 7 Sep Vetiver Academy 3 / 9 Sep Peter Broderick Academy 3 / 10 Sep Neko Case RNCM / 10 Sep Steve Earle Bridgewater Hall / 11 Sep Fleet Foxes Manchester Apollo / 11 Sep Fol Chen Islington Mill / 13 Sep The Lemonheads Academy 2 / 14 Sep Mumford and Sons Ruby Lounge /16 Sep Richmond Fontaine Academy 3 /17 + 18 + 19 Sep I Am Kloot Deaf Institute /17 Sep Bob Log III Ruby Lounge / 18 Sep LoveLikeFire Kro Bar / 20 Sep Part Chimp Islington Mill / 21 Sep The Phenomenal Handclap Band Night & Day / 24 Sep Hockey Club Academy / 24 Sep Everything Everything / 27 Sep Chuck Prophet Academy 3 / 28 Sep Golden Silvers Academy 3 / 29 Sep Noah & The Whale Club Academy / 29 Sep And So I Watch You From Afar MoHo Live / 29 Sep Max Tundra Ruby Lounge


The download link here [57 mins/65MB]