Friday, April 30, 2010

MANCHESTER GIGS IN MUSIC: May 2010 Pt.1

As if there weren’t enough good gigs in May already, someone decided to go and plonk several music festivals in the month too. To be fair, some of the festivals did come first. So this month not one but two mixtapes.

The first [56 mins/66 MB] is non-festival gigs during May; the second [63 mins/73 MB] is from bands appearing at the festivals: Sounds From The Other City, MAPS, Big Noise Festival, Future Everything, Hungry Pigeon and Dot-to-Dot. Dates, details and links for gigs and festivals after each tracklisting. And the links for the mixtapes are in the post below.

It’s going to be a long month – see you on the other side.

Manchester Gigs in Music Mixtape: May 2010
The Fresh and Onlys Peacock and Wing (4 May Club Academy BUY TICKETS)
Deerhunter Disappearing Ink (4 May Club Academy BUY TICKETS)
Wax Fang Cannibal Island (25 May Sound Control BUY TICKETS)
Tim & Sam’s Tim & The Sam Band Summer Solstice (9 May King’s Arms BUY TICKETS)
Woodpigeon My Denial in Argyle (3 May Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Titus Andronicus Richard II (24 May Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Laura Gibson Funeral Song (3 May Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Nina Nastasia Oblivion (26 May St Margarets Church BUY TICKETS)
The Books Enjoy Your Worries (12 May Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
A Sunny Day In Glasgow Evil, With Evil, Against Evil (14 May Islington Mill BUY TICKETS)
The Acorn Flood Pt 1 (28 May St Clements BUY TICKETS)
Trembling Bells The Ends The Beginning Born Knowing (18 May Band on the Wall BUY TICKETS)
Frontier Ruckus Mona and Emmy (17 May Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions Wild Roses (23 May Club Academy BUY TICKETS)
Slow Club Boys On Their Birthdays (28 May FAC251 BUY TICKETS)


Not forgetting:
1 May Gloria Cycles Ruby Lounge / 1 May Electricity in our Homes An Outlet / 3 May
Paul Curreri Band on the Wall / 4 May Foals + Jonquil The Ritz / 4 May Wintersleep Ruby Lounge / 5 May Rose Elinor Dougall Ruby Lounge / 5 May The Young Knives MoHo Live / 5 May Rokia Traore + Sweet Billy Pilgrim Bridgewater Hall / 6 May Lightspeed Champion Deaf Institute / 7 May CocoRosie Manchester Cathedral / 7 May Misty's Big Adventure Academy 3 / 7 May Best Coast Deaf Institute / 8 May Surfer Blood Ruby Lounge / 10 May Cold Cave Deaf Institute / 12 May Faust Ruby Lounge / 12 May Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed Academy 3 / 12 May Stornoway Club Academy / 13 May Grails Ruby Lounge / 13 May Konono No1 Club Academy / 14 May Dum Dum Girls Sound Control / 14 May Nord Rute feat Plaid Victoria Baths / 15 May White Rabbits Night and Day / 15 May Hauschka + James Blackshaw + Nancy Elizabeth Band on the Wall / 17 May The Brian Jonestown Massacre Academy 3 / 17 May The Bundles Deaf Institute / 17 May Real Estate Sacred Trinity Church / 18 May Holy Fuck Deaf Institute / 18 May Midas Fall Ruby Lounge / 19 May Johnny Flynn Academy 3 / 19 May Neon Indian The Corner / 20 May Tim Hecker Sacred Trinity Church / 20 May The Antlers St Philips Church / 21 May Wolf Parade Club Academy / 21 May Airship Deaf Institute / 23 May A Place To Bury Strangers Deaf Institute / 23 May Jaguar Love Night and Day / 24 May Ganglians Deaf Institute / 24 May Jesca Hoop Band On The Wall / 24 May The Fall FAC251 / 25 May Villagers Deaf Institute / 26 May Heavy Trash Academy 3 / 26 May Goldheart Assembly Deaf Institute / 27 May Teenage Fanclub Academy 2 / 27 May Quasi Deaf Institute / 27 May Dead Meadow Academy 3 / 28 May Slow Club FAC251 / 30 May Neal Casal Ruby Lounge / 30 May Liam Frost Band on the Wall

And as if that wasn't enough on its own - the festivals:

Sounds From The Other City, 2 May, various venues, Chapel St, Salford
Salford’s new music festival with 8 promoters putting on gigs across six intimate venues. The pick of the bunch I’d say. Highlights: Damon and Naomi, Windmill, Chrome Hoof, Bo Ningen, Islet, Liz Green, Hotpants Romance, Wu Lyf
Info / Line-up / Buy Tickets

MAPS Festival, 30 April – 3 May, various venues, Northern Quarter
Or Music. Art. Poetry. Stuff. To give it its full name. A creative arts festival in the Northern Quarter. A few weeks before the other one. Highlights: Jo Rose, Sophie's Pigeons, Doll and The Kicks, Caulbearers
Info / Line-up / Buy Tickets

The Big Noise Festival, 9 May, Sound Control
Fundraiser for Big Issue in the North headlined by Kid British with Clint Boon and Gareth Brookes DJing. Featuring The Jessie Rose Trip , Jim Noir, Danny Mahon, The Switch, 1913 and Run Toto Run.
Info / Line-up / Buy Tickets

Future Everything 14 – 16 May, various venues, Manchester city centre
World premieres of artworks, a citywide music programme, visionary thinkers from around the world, and awards for innovation. Cerebral and global. Highlights: Konono No1, Omar Souleyman, King Midas Sound, Demdike Stare, Plaid.
Info / Line-up / Buy Tickets

Hungry Pigeon, 28 - 30 May, various venues, Northern Quarter
The other one. Music and arts festival in the Northern Quarter - but mainly music and includes outdoor stage in Piccadilly Gardens. Day passes or three day festival pass available. Highlights: The Longcut, Misty's Big Adventure, Liam Frost, Athlete.
Info / Line-up / Buy Tickets

Eurocultured 30 -31 May, various venues, Manchester city centre
Two day festival celebrating the diversity of European culture with visual art, performance and DJs and live music from across Europe. No discounts for UKIP members??
Info / Line-up / Buy Tickets

Dot to Dot, 31 May, various venues, Academies 1 & 2, Deaf Institute, FAC251
Single-dayer coming to Manchester for first time alongside Bristol and Nottingham. Comes across as NME tour but with indie-cred weight through leftfield additions. Highlights: Los Campesinos, White Hinterland, Dan Sartain, Beach House, Liars, Fionn Regan.
Info / Line-up / Buy Tickets

Manchester Festivals in Music Mixtape: May 2010
The Rural Alberta Advantage
The Ballad of the RAA @ SFTOC [BUY TICKETS]
Field Music Effortlessly @ SFTOC [BUY TICKETS]
Fujiya + Miyagi Uh @ SFTOC [BUY TICKETS]
Los Campesinos This is a Flag. There is no Wind @ Dot-to-Dot [BUY TICKETS]
Bo Ningen Koroshitai Kimochi @ SFTOC [BUY TICKETS]
Run Toto Run Hater (Dance Toto Dance mix) @ Big Noise [BUY TICKETS]
Omar Souleyman Leh Jani @ Future Everything [BUY TICKETS]
The Ruby Suns Dusty Fruit @ Dot-to-Dot [BUY TICKETS]
Damon and Naomi ETA @ SFTOC [BUY TICKETS]
Jo Rose Lastbreath, California @ MAPS [BUY TICKETS]
Windmill Ellen Save Our Energy @ SFTOC [BUY TICKETS]
Liars No Barrier Fun @ Dot-to-Dot [BUY TICKETS]
Dan Sartain Gun Vs Knife @ Dot-to-Dot [BUY TICKETS]
Sophie’s Pigeons Say Play Sway @ MAPS [BUY TICKETS]
Misty’s Big Adventure Smart Guys Wear Ties @ Hungry Pigeon [BUY TICKETS]
White Hinterland Lindberghs and Metal Birds @ Dot-to-Dot [BUY TICKETS]
Alexander Tucker Another World @ SFTOC [BUY TICKETS]
Konono No1 Paradiso @ Future Everything [BUY TICKETS]

Links for the mixtape in the post below.

MANCHESTER GIGS IN MUSIC: May 2010 Pt.2

Manchester Gigs in Music Mixtape: May 2010 [56 mins/66 MB] is non-festival gigs during May - link here.

Manchester Festivals in Music Mixtape: May 2010 [63 mins/73 MB] is from bands appearing at the festivals: Sounds From The Other City, MAPS, Big Noise Festival, Future Everything, Hungry Pigeon and Dot-to-Dot - link here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

WOODPIGEON'S "Die Stadt Muzikanten"

At End of the Road Festival 2007 I somehow managed to miss all three sets from Canadian indie-folk-pop collective Woodpigeon. I don’t think the outcome would have been any different once I subsequently heard Woodpigeon and the songs of Mark Hamilton – it just means I missed out on starting the love affair earlier.

Now here is the latest instalment in the affair: third album proper “Die Stadt Muzikanten”. The record came out in the UK last week – but in North American in January. We are catching up though: “Songbook” was released in 2008 on End of the Road Records, originally 2006 in Canada, and for the follow-up “Treasury Library Canada” the time delay was down to a year – 2009 in the UK compared to the previous year in Canada. If you are familiar with those two earlier records you won’t find anything surprising on 2010: there are no dramatic left-turns or sonic re-inventions. But Woodpigeon made a much deeper, more personal and richer record than its predecessors.

The title of the album comes from an early memory of singer and songwriter Mark Hamilton of an ornamental decorative tray his Oma (grandmother) had: “The tray’s iconic image portrays the climactic scene from Der Bremen Stadtmusikanten, (The Bremen City Musicians) a popular fable originating from the city of [her] birthplace”. Those grandparents were “two people endlessly fascinating to me, but whom I never really got to know as well as I would have liked to. I started thinking in terms of couples, of people coming and going… But the songs aren’t strictly about Germany, or my Oma and Opa. Instead, the consideration of the lives they left behind gave me an extra little push to look back at the things I left unresolved in all of the other cities I’ve found myself”.

I wrote about this record elsewhere but the brief version is “Woodpigeon have again made a ‘quiet’ record that is also epic, stirring, emotional and breath-taking. It’s a long record – but not over-long – one that demands attention… less a rollercoaster, more an elegant glide through the tunnel of love… their most ambitious, varied, personal and sumptuous record to date”. And there is much love elsewhere: Artrocker’s five star review declared it to be "...the best album to come out of Canada since “Funeral” ".

You can stream the whole album on the Woodpigeon website or listen to the track below the band is sharing if you need persuading. If not head to your local independent record retailer or to End of the Road Records website immediately and grab a copy (and there is a limited edition bonus disc of songs via EOTR if you are quick).

And then prepare to welcome Woodpigeon back to the UK this week and next:
1 May Holy Trinity Church, Leeds [BUY TICKETS]
2 May Cabaret Voltaire Edinburgh [BUY TICKETS]
3 May The Deaf Institute, Manchester [BUY TICKETS]
4 May The Hanbury Ballroom, Brighton [BUY TICKETS]
6 May Union Chapel, London [BUY TICKETS]
9 May The Forum, Tunbridge Wells [BUY TICKETS]

EMPTY-HALL SING-ALONG
Woodpigeon
Die Stadt Muzikanten [BUY]

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BRITISH SEA POWER @ MOHO LIVE 26 April 2010

Low-key dates in smaller or unusual venues are part of the British Sea Power strategy for trying out new material live. So previously there have been gigs in sweaty dives like The Roadhouse or in more exotic locations like a Napoleonic coastal fort. The band also like to try out new venues when moving around the country. And when it comes to Manchester they’ve never played The Deaf Institute or Sound Control (the latter only open since December). So whose idea was it to book them into MoHo Live?! My least favourite gig venue in Manchester. No let’s say it: the worst gig venue in Manchester.

It was a solid but restrained performance from BSP (saving themselves for the second Sing Ye From The Hillsides Festival at Tan Hill Inn this weekend maybe?). Friendly, focused but unshowy (other than a few banners taped to the back wall there was no elaborate stage d├ęcor or foliage). But we did get five new songs. However the whole evening was beleaguered by the customer-unfriendly experience and atrocious sound at Moho Live: as usual the mix was awful, plus tonight there was random echo on vocals and often the guitars dropping in and out. The band made a few minor cock-ups which is understandable as a bit rusty live but there is no forgiving the venue’s dire sound. You get the sense this is a venue that just doesn't care about the music or the bands or the people as long as money is going in the till.

And the new songs? Well ‘Zeus’ reminded me of an early Fall b-side, taut, minimal rockabilly with Yan shouting over the top. ‘Mongk’ sung by Hamilton was less immediate, its lines about “lose your self (soul?)” and washes of guitar sounded quite psyche-soul-rock. ‘Pyrex’ was a glam stomp with shouted sloganeering: “I Just Don’t Know / Who’s In Control” - The Glitter Band with a political agenda. And ‘RNF’ was a real curio – quirky keyboards and lines about parties and dying. Reminded me of early Gorky’s – but given the sound I can’t vouch for how accurate a comparison this is. And they finished the encores with a noisy Krautrock jam with more shouting called according to the set list ‘Fuck It Up’ (which may or may not bear some relation to b-side ‘Water Tower’).

What struck me was how diverse the songs sounded and not all like an immediate follow-up to ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’. Will be interesting to hear them again live with decent sound. Mr P, veteran of many BSP gigs, classed this as ‘lower middle’ ranking. As ever he was right. But a good appetiser for seeing the band playing in a barn (with better sound! And better beer) this weekend.

This gig originally went on sale for 23 April but got moved from that Friday to tonight. Shame it didn’t move venue at the same time.

The Set List:

Lights Out For Darker Skies
Scottish Wildlife Experience
Apologies To Insect Life
Atom
Zeus
Down on the Ground
Mongk
Blackout
Remember Me
Pyrex
Waving Flags
The Great Skua
RNF
Carrion
The Spirit of St Louis
---
Canvey Island
No Lucifer
Fuck It Up

Monday, April 26, 2010

GIL SCOTT-HERON @ MANCHESTER OPERA HOUSE 25 April 2010

Three minutes to Gil Scott-Heron” the PA insisted and everyone in the packed foyers and bars was ushered into their seats. As the house lights half-dimmed, there was a huge cheer – the anticipation and excitement was palpable. However we still had another 10 minutes in our seats with no sight or sound of the man or his band. Normally large venues like this want you spending in the bars, maybe tonight a benevolent management wanted to make sure no-one missed a moment of this sold-out and highly-anticipated gig.

When Gil Scott-Heron walked on stage it was to rapturous applause – it felt more like a homecoming rather than just another tour date. He took the microphone, walked to the front of stage and began with a long and genuinely funny pre-amble: “when you release a new album, you read things about yourself you didn’t know. Apparently I ‘disappeared’. But I’ve been here all the time.” With the relaxed patter of a time-served stand-up, he gave us a couple of gags, comic thoughts about Black History Month and anecdotes about his life and music before taking a seat at the Rhodes keyboard centre stage. And he was still talking as played the opening notes of the first song.

He was dressed in a slightly shabby, slightly too large gray suit and cap - EXACTLY the same as in the press shots for his most recent record “I’m New Here”. You got the sense he lives in this attire, that he is the same person on stage as off-stage, with no boundary between.

The first three songs were performed by Gil alone at the keyboard – and possibly were my favourite moments of the evening. He still has a fine, deep voice if a little time-worn, and was a commanding but never imposing presence even seated. During the third song he was joined by Kim Jordan playing a second keyboard and then by fourth song the remaining band members came on: Glenn Turner on harmonica/tambourine (and good-time vibes) and Tony Duncanson on bongos. It was a simple but effective set-up – surprisingly intimate for such a large venue and somehow they gave the impression the stage would have felt crowded with any more players on it.

The short’ish set list below makes the evening seem more meagre than it was: many songs had extended intros (the musical prelude to ‘Winter in America’ was based on an old African folk tale (“told to me by an old African”) about the competing seasons) or had Gil sharing stories and anecdotes. I think Gil played for a total of 80 minutes taking a short-break during Kim’s instrumental number mid-set . However I would have happily lived without the extended bongo solo in ‘The Bottle’ in return for another song.

Now in his early sixties, Gil Scott-Heron is still able to live up to his reputation and status. It was a shame not to hear any material from 2010’s “I’m Not Here” but judging by the shouts of recognition and the two standing ovations there was a lot of (older) soul boys and girls happy to revel in his earlier material. So my only nagging doubt after the gig was whether the absence of material from the new record means it was a project conceived and led by producer Richard Russell with Gil just going along for the ride. This is perhaps too cynical a thought even for me – it doesn’t diminish what a great record “I’m New Here” is or take away from the congratulations due to Russell for his part in helping keep the profile of Gil high and thus in part ensuring tonight’s gig was met so enthusiastically. As the man said: “I’ve been here all the time”.

The Set List:

‘Ain’t No Place I Ain’t Been Down’
Winter in America
We Almost Lost Detroit
Is That Jazz?
Pieces of a Man
[Instrumental by Kim Jordan]
Your Daddy Loves You
The Bottle
---
‘Be Safe Be Free Be Strong’

Gil Scott-Heron plays Liverpool on 29 April and Dublin on 2 May before a long European tour. He's back in the UK over the summer for some festival dates and a London gig. More info here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

CHRIS CUNNINGHAM LIVE @ MANCHESTER OPERA HOUSE 22 April 2010


via @Kathrynwillis on yfrog

My knowledge of Chris Cunningham – and indeed Aphex Twin – doesn’t extend much beyond their collaboration on 'Windowlicker'. So tonight’s event especially in a busy month was not high on my 'must-see' list. But an on-the-day offer of a spare ticket plus curiosity at what this “hugely anticipated multimedia experience” would be like brought me tonight to Manchester’s Opera House ("now booking: Monty Python's "Spamalot").

I was especially interested to see opener Lonelady but sadly she pulled out due to illness. When established artists cite illness I become suspicious; when up-and-coming artists say it, you know it’s true. Speedy recovery to her .

So I missed the Fuck Buttons DJ set that replaced her and joined the evening for Beak. Portishead's Geoff Barrow has a fearsome reputation as a studio perfectionist. It’s good to see then that side project Beak is more of a jam band affair. That's not to say they are sloppy, far from it - but their tight krautrock rhythms almost revel in their fuzzy roughness when played live. The band is Barrow on drums, seated bassist and a third member on organ/guitar. Barrow also occasionally sang/spoke but his vocal mic was heavily laden with effects and low in the mix so it was like occasionally catching an echoing railway station announcer and wondering if the unintelligible mumbling was something significant. For some of the therefore mostly instrumental songs my attention did drift - they were best when they stuck to the classic bass-driven propulsive Krautrock grooves – but at least I was paying attention. Most people where I was sat seemed to be ignoring the whole set. I'd forgotten that *big* events draw people not really interested in the music or any support acts.

And what of the main attraction, film-maker and video artist Chris Cunningham performing live? Well we didn't have to wait long to find out. The central control deck of monitors, mixers and tall wire-strewn cabinets was already on stage beneath the three large screens – a larger central one and two supporting ones at the sides.


via @nowwave on yfrog

Without any fanfare or seeing the performer(s?) appear the lights went down and the PA system starting crackling to life. What followed was an image of a 13 amp plug going into a socket. As it was pushed home it was accompanied by a sharp, loud electronic thunder-clap - and we were off. For the next sixty minutes eye-blink rapid edits of the video images accompanied and matched a brutal electronica barrage. The early sight of a green laser shooting across the stage to reach the theatre's roof provided a little cheer (and a few whisphered Jean-Michel Jarre references) but otherwise it was savage.

I'm not able to unpick my Aphex Twin from my Autechre or even identify the bits that were apparently Cunningham compositions but the brutality of the music was matched, no emphasised, by the graphic imagery - the synchronisation itself was something to wonder at. A serene shot of a naked couple embracing led into a dizzying cut-up montage of the two in various configurations and holds. Was this sex or a fight, pleasure or pain? Ah there's the stream of blood flying across the screens. After a brief suggestion of rape, the couple, now fallen into a subterrenean well of blackness, started kicking shit out of each other, each thudding blow repeated in graphic detail. It was like a cross between gruesome torture-porn and the revenge movies of Korean director Chan-wook Park .

The procession of images moved on: a woman dancing so intensely her flesh started to come off (don't even ask what that was under her skirt), a tap-dancing Aphex Twin cast as creepy Californian lothario, a pig-tailed girl-woman talking to camera, Richard James again as wheelchair-bound alien snorting cocaine. About the midpoint a screen appeared saying 'Intermission' accompanied by some cheesy lounge music. It lasted 5 seconds before 'End of Intermission' appeared and we were plunged back into the dark hyper-reality of Chris Cunningham. Scary, scary stuff.

The final song was a stripped down 'New York Is Killing Me' from Gil Scott-Heron. Just vocals, atmospheric crackles and images of lonely late-night subway journeys. On any other occasion this would be spooky as hell. Here is was nothing less than soothing. And then under a spotlight with a wave of arm we saw Chris Cunningham (he was the only 'performer') for the first and also last time as he saluted the audience and left the stage and the house lights came on.

I was sort-of expecting what we got. But if was far more extreme and visceral - but also engaging - than I could have imagined. I'm not really sure what was 'live' and what was actually 'performed' but my main criticism was it was all one-way traffic. Normally seeing a band or performer you see their reaction to the crowd. Here there was no interaction; just unremitting brutality pushed at the audience. Within minutes of finishing, I heard deeply divided opinions of the event - will be interesting to follow how this gets talked up or down over the coming days. And whether anyone managed to get a good night's sleep after such a sinister assault on the senses.

Guess who:  on Twitpic
via @heymanchester on twitpic

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

GIL SCOTT-HERON'S 'I'm New Here'

“I’m New Here”, Gil Scott-Heron’s first album in 13 years came out in back in February but is still worth talking about. Especially with Scott-Heron about to play a series of UK and Irish dates to support the record. Volcanic ash notwithstanding...

I’ve got this record twice. A digital copy to review and then a physical copy via Rough Trade's The Album Club. Scott-Heron’s advice to the Album Club listener was:
Listen to it for the first time under optimum conditions.
Not in your car or on portable player through a headset
Take it home.
Get rid of all distractions (even him or her).
Turn off your cell phone.
Turn off everything that rings or beeps or rattles or whistles.
Make yourself comfortable.
Play your CD.
LISTEN all the way through.
Think about what you’ve got.


If you haven’t heard or bought this record you should do so – immediately - and you should follow Gil’s advice. To the letter.

I’m New Here” is book-ended by the autobiographical spoken-word pieces (‘On Coming From A Broken Home Parts 1 and 2’). In between you’ll find beat poetry and brooding electronica, cover versions of Robert Johnson and Bill Callahan and spoken word interludes. Such a brief description does not tell the full story. Not of what a truly exceptional record this is nor of the intense, emotional and strongly auto-biographical journey therein.




You can read in full elsewhere what I loved about this record but in summary:
This is an album of big themes: love, despair, redemption and family delivered in a compact 29 minutes that never feels meagre... ‘On Coming From a Broken Home’ may sample Kanye West’s ‘Flashing Lights' and elsewhere the musical backdrop may be nod to Burial or The xx, but this is not the old guard donning the trendy clothes of the now generation or throwing in a few alt-rock covers to gain credibility points. “I’m New Here” is startlingly fresh and contemporary AND true to the spirit and poetry of Gil Scott-Heron’s work. And it is such a powerful and original delivery of his vision that it could well be THE record of 2010 that all others are measured against.

Yes. Seriously. That good. Difficult to choose just two tracks but try the two below via streaming Soundcloud. I didn’t think I could ever hear Bill Callahan covered successfully. How wrong.



Gil Scott-Heron - Where Did The Night Go by FollyOfYouth


Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here by FollyOfYouth

Not sure what relationship Gil Scott-Heron live in 2010 will bear to the man on record in 2010. But this week we hopefully will find out. The Tuesday 20 April gig at the Royal Festival Hall has been cancelled but this statement suggests the Saturday London show will go ahead (but it doesn’t mention other dates). The planned dates are:
Weds April 21- HMV Picture House, Edinburgh
Thurs April 22 - The Warehouse, Aberdeen
Sat April 24 - Royal Festival Hall, London
Sun April 25 - Opera House, Manchester
Sun May 2 - Tripod, Dublin

The Manchester date is all but sold out but if the record is anything to go by you should beg, borrow or kill to get a ticket (or try here for ethical sales/exchanges). And then join the rest of us ticket-holders anxiously waiting on news. UK air space has just re-opened but will air travel still suffer further disruption this week??

Thursday, April 15, 2010

TONIGHT IN MANCHESTER: Standard Fare

After yesterday’s trip down indie-pop Memory Lane, tonight in Manchester one of the standard-bearers for contemporary indie-pop: Standard Fare play Night and Day Cafe. (And the other standard-bearers are all playing a gig in London tonight – Darren Hayman and the Secondary Modern, David Tattersall of The Wave Pictures and Allo Darlin' all on the same bill at the Borderline – advance tickets here).

Standard Fare are a trio based in Sheffield: Emma Kupa (bass/vocals), Danny How (guitar/vocals) and Andy Beswick (drums). They play a spiky guitar pop that picks over the complications, uncertainties and hang-ups surrounding modern-day relationships. Debut album “The Noyelle Beat” has thirteen tracks of gutsy indie-pop which dials down the tweeness of some of their contemporaries and ups the edgy drama. I wrote about this elsewhere and called it "an assured, intelligent and stirring debut that gets better with each listen". But for a proper in-depth assessment read this review on The Line of Best Fit.

If this doesn't make you want to buy the album, try the singles 'Fifteen' or 'Dancing' or listen to surely-will-be-a-single 'Philadelphia' below.




Support is from Bright Light Bright Light, Dead Kestrels and Samir Harmim. There’s no advance tickets on sale let alone a flyer/poster to be seen (what’s going on with Night & Day at the moment?) but it’s only £5 in and doors open at 8pm.



<a href="http://standardfare.bandcamp.com/track/philadelphia">Philadelphia by Standard Fare</a>

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

FROM THE VINYL RACK: Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes' "A Cabinet of Curiosities"

Forget JFK, what were you doing when you first heard Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes?” so says Keith Cameron in his sleeve notes for “A Cabinet of Curiosities”. Now I don’t remember when I first heard the band or when I bought this record but I certainly know WHERE I bought it: Avalanche Records, Edinburgh.

Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes were a six-piece Scottish band "formed from around, and within, the Edinburgh indie-pop scene of the mid 1980's. The band had a distinctive guitar-jangle sound with male and female vocals. The band took their name from Elvis Presley's stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley".[Wikipedia]

And one of the six-piece Andrew Tully (guitars/vocals) worked at (managed? owned?) Avalanche Records – still a going concern – and if I didn’t buy his own bands' record from him I certainly bought plenty of other records when I was frequent visitor at the end of the 80s. Around this time I also met Fran Schlopper (vocals) briefly: I was introduced to her by a friend of hers walking across Bridge Street - and yes she was "a girl, Scottish and wore monkey boots". And it took all my restraint not to blurt out fawningly “omigod you’re that singer in Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes!”. A rare moment of youthful self-control.

“A Cabinet of Curiosities” is collection of their first singles from ‘Splashing Along’ in October 1986 to ‘You'll Never Be That Young Again’ in January 1989. The Keith Cameron sleeve notes say it best:


I’ve spent most of the intervening years since 1989 just concentrating on / listening to that first killer single ‘Splashing Along’ –to the detriment of the rest of the album. Which is a shame; because although a record of its time and of a set genre it is a very classy one. And for all its jangle and melody, in some of its slower songs and in Fran Schlopper's husky vocals it has real moments of soul too. Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes created a small splash at the end of the 80s in the then UK Indie Charts but never achieved the recognition and following they deserved - a 'minority interest'. When Rough Trade Shops released their Indiepop Vol 1 compilation in 2004 the first 500 copies came with a 7” single of ‘Splashing Along’. Nice but why the hell wasn’t it on the album?? That at least would help rectify some of their lost recognition.

I’m fairly certain none of this album (or 1990's “Nixon”) is available digitally anywhere but good news if you want more. Avalanche Records still sell vinyl copies of both albums - here and here - if you can't make it to Edinburgh in person.

There's not much else still available to commerate the band but there is this video for single 'The Adam Faith Experience'; a discography on Twee-net; and blog Fruiter Than Thou has a Janice Long session from October 1986 including several tracks not on "A Cabinet of Curiosities".

And I did play a small part in getting 'Splashing Along' placed in a feature film... but that's another story for another time.



SPLASHING ALONG
THE RAIN FELL DOWN
Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes
A Cabinet of Curosities [BUY]

Thursday, April 08, 2010

THE DAREDEVIL CHRISTOPHER WRIGHT'S 'In Deference To A Broken Back'

“In Deference To A Broken Back” starts with the genteel strains of a string quartet and a floating operatic aria – for 25 seconds. It then turns into a highly mannered, plucked string ditty about death and going up to Heaven to be with Jesus. It’s a deftly executed wrong-footing of the listener. Occasional misdirection, folk sounds and morbid wit all in just over one minute from opening song 'Hospital' – but it’s a pretty good summary for the debut album from The Daredevil Christopher Wright.

The misdirection even starts with the name. The Daredevil Christopher Wright is a band not a solo artist – made up of brothers Jon and Jason Sunde plus Jesse Edgington, all of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The album is mixed by friend and fellow Wisconsin resident Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver. But don’t take that as a clue as to the sound of the record. The trio blend folk-rock and three-part harmonies with mordant lyricism and wit, all delivered in a measured and (mainly) sedate fashion.

The title and inspiration for the record come from Jason's struggle with a back injury. But the album is no Jason Pierce style meditation on the writer’s medical conditions. Instead it is a loose-leaf collection of stories and domestic dramas told with a lightness of touch and a restless scatter-bag of styles. The album at times reminds me of Clem Snide at their most acoustic and folksy or the quieter and more vaudevillian end of The Low Anthem – but The Daredevil Christopher Wright never keep things predictable, even in the same song. ‘A Conversation About Cancer’ starts as a jaunty gallop with cheery harmonies and delicate skiffle-beat (“Heaven is the place where we’re going.. no-one will be sick / no-one will be able to inflict / all the things we exist on, conflict on “) – before bringing in the crunchy countrified indie-rock guitar meltdown of The Broken Family Band and darker lyrics (“disease strips my bones”). ‘Bury You Alive’ gives another variation on the light/dark combination: a tale of murder and enforced entombment turned into a sweet serenade with folksy guitar strum, flute and an amiable shuffling beat.

As their fictional eponymous hero continually surprises and thrills his audience (“he’s the guy driving cars off cliffs / Taking trips into lions’ dens / To teach them how to dance”), so the band keep you on your toes just when you think you’ve got a handle on them. Including the eleventh and final track ‘Stewardess’ – an achingly tender love song sung by a dreaming would-be playwright to his girlfriend who plans to work for the airlines. There’s a hint of cynicism, of dreams that will remain unfilled but for the most part this is an emotionally direct and genuinely touching finale.

If Bon Iver is the sound of wintry seclusion, The Daredevil Christopher Wright is a sunny Spring day walk with friends: frequently sunny, often changeable, always agreeable. I don’t think that The Daredevil Christopher Wright are going to be this year’s The Low Anthem cross-over success sadly – they are a bit too sharp in all senses of the word for that. But this is an engaging and lovingly played album that will find a fond spot in record collection – somewhere between “Get Lonely” by The Mountain Goats and the Broken Family Band’s “Jesus Songs”. A bitter-sweet gem.




And if you want more of The Daredevil Christopher Wright: there are two Daytrotter sessions from 2009 and 2008 available to download. And the band will be playing this year's End of the Road Festival.

THE EAST COAST
The Daredevil Christopher Wright
In Deference To A Broken Back [BUY or BUY]

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

TONIGHT IN MANCHESTER: Last Harbour

Shrug off the torpor of a long Bank Holiday weekend with the noir charms of this highly recommended gig tonight presented by Little Red Rabbit Records. Headling are the Manchester collective Last Harbour in the middle of a UK tour to support new album "Volo". I haven’t got this yet but its garnering excellent reviews.

"4/5. Rather beautiful and at times menacing, recalling Black Heart Procession and Dirty Three." ARTROCKER
"With their gothic archness and deathly strings, Last Harbour's fourth LP 'Volo' is their most expansive to date." UNCUT ***
"'Volo' exhibits so much literary dexterity and multi-instrumental skill you feel almost duty-bound to surrender. Ah, those sweet-melancholic violins shedding soft tears for women and children menaced by dark forces. Ah, the sorrowed seduction of Kevin Craig's cavernous baritone." MOJO

Last Harbour - Lights from Andrew P Brooks on Vimeo.


Support is from label-mates Samson & Delilah and Goldmundo. A night of dark laments and gloomy folk stylings – perfect for Easter week if you ask me. Advance tickets here only £5.

SUNKEN BELLS
Last Harbour
Volo [BUY]

AND WHEN THE ROSE
Samson & Delilah
Samson & Delilah [BUY]

Monday, April 05, 2010

EMANUEL AND THE FEAR + WALTON HESSE @ DULCIMER 4 April 2010

Tonight was, unusually, an unplanned trip out. Walton Hesse were the main draw but there was also intrigue about how Emanuel And The Fear, a Brooklyn eleven-piece, would fit in the tiny upstairs room at Dulcimer.

Arriving we thought late, it was a relief to see Walton Hesse had not started their set. However patience was required due to protracted technical difficulties with microphones. A brief band discussion about whether to sing with one mic, like Status Quo, was quickly resolved: “We are NOT Status Quo”.

Their appearance alone should tell you this: two checked shirts, couple of beards and a truckers’ baseball cap. Add some guitar twang, banjo, gruff-drawl male lead vocals and female harmonies and you have a fully-fledged six-piece alt-country band. Just from the industrial North of England rather than the US of A.

Wherever they are from, Walton Hesse are the real deal. Their rip-roaring (country) rock as on third song 'The Only Son' reminds me of Uncle Tupelo at times – but fourth song of the set was a banjo-and-harmonium ballad that built in intensity topped off with single beaten drum and guitar drone. Maybe also reminds me a bit of the sonic experimentation of Wilco? This was a short six song set but I received some welcome news from a little bird afterwards that the band have just finished recording some songs for release. Cannot wait to hear the results.

If the six-piece Walton Hesse had technical issues on the cramped stage, James Kelly kept it solo and simple. He played acoustic guitar seated whilst beating out rhythm on a kick-pedal inside his open guitar case. This was intense, lightning-fast acid-blues with occasional touches of psyche-folk in the quieter moments. He covered Jimi Hendrix (‘Red House’) but made it sound more like Lightning Hopkins on speed (maybe the original does too?). Comment of the evening on James's aggressive playing: "He should have been in a punk band". But in those quieter moments the Bank Holiday drinking banter was starting steadily to impinge on the music.

Emanuel And The Fear tonight were playing as a ‘cut-down’ version – six players not eleven as advertised: drums, bass, cello, flute, violin and leader Emanuel on Fender guitar. Youthful, afro’ed and chatty, Emanuel was a confident and animated band leader; but the rest of The Fear looked, well, scared. Or maybe just tired?

A Sufjan Stevens reference (as always) had hooked my interest but listening to the band earlier on last.fm I thought their orch-pop was closer to the arty indie-rock of say Ra Ra Riot. Live though the drums and guitar dominated and it came across as unsubtle blues-rock stomp. I could make out the flute at times but most of the strings were lost to my ears. So some of the delicacy and depth I was expecting was absent but this could be down to some of the sound problems that seemed to dog the evening. Also by now the Sunday drinkers were truly in the ascendancy.

This was the last night of their first ever UK tour before Emanuel And The Fear head off to Europe: I hope it was a good one for them. It wasn’t a gig that instantly grabbed my attention but I’m more than happy to give them the benefit of doubt and give new album “Listen”, out today, a proper listen. Maybe the five missing players and a lack of boozy background chat will make all the difference.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

MANCHESTER GIGS IN MUSIC: April 2010 Pt.1



Forget Spring, easter eggs and gambolling lambs: April means Record Store Day and plenty of gigs. So here's the usual monthly mixtape to help plan your month - link to mixtape in following post [ 51 mins / 59 MB]. April is also the seventh birthday of High Voltage - more at end of post. Welcome to Spring!

Monthly Mixtape:
Gil Scott-Heron Where Did The Night Go? [1.08] (25 Apr Opera House BUY TICKETS)
Rain Machine Give Blood [4.32] (13 Apr Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Bear In Heaven Wholehearted Mess [7.35] (22 Apr Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Crystal Antlers Little Sister [11.30] (27 Apr Sound Control BUY TICKETS)
Kong Leather Penny [16.08] (2 Apr Sound Control BUY TICKETS)
Mount Eerie My Heart Is Not At Peace [19.23] (5 Apr Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Sons of Noel & Adrian The Wreck Is Not A Boat [24.11] (6 Apr Band on the Wall BUY TICKETS)
The Strange Boys I See [27.14] (17 Apr Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Standard Fare Standard Fare [31.02] (15 Apr Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
British Sea Power Down On The Ground [34.59] (26 Apr MoHo Live BUY TICKETS)
Sam Amidon How Come That Blood [38.26] (26 Apr Club Academy BUY TICKETS)
Last Harbour Bookseller Song [41.06] (6 Apr Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Robyn Hitchcock Belly Full Of Arms And Legs [44.16] (11 Apr Club Academy BUY TICKETS)
Fool’s Gold Fool's Gold [51.05] (30 Apr Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:
3 Apr Kirsty McGee's Hobopop Trio Bury Met / 4 Apr High Voltage 7th Birthday Islington Mill / 6 Apr And So I Watch You From Afar Ruby Lounge / 7 Apr Run Toto Run Night & Day / 7 Apr Royal Bangs Deaf Insitute / 11 Apr Russian Circles Islington Mill / 11 Apr Bridget St John Dulcimer / 12 Apr Laura Marling + Alessi’s Ark The Lowry / 12 Apr Rolo Tomossi Roadhouse / 19 Apr Caribou Deaf Institute / 20 Apr Black Rebel Motorcyle Club The Ritz / 20 Apr The Primitives MoHo Live / 21 Apr Angus and Julia Stone Ruby Lounge / 22 Apr Fuck Buttons Club Academy / 22 Apr Chris Cunningham Opera House / 23 Apr The Gothenburg Address Retro Bar / 24 Apr The Duke & The King Club Academy / 24 Apr The Travelling Band Academy 3 / 25 Apr Mark Lanegan Academy 3 / 25 Apr Three Trapped Tigers Deaf Institute / 25 Apr Hypnotic Brass Ensemble Band on the Wall / 27 Apr Basia Bulat Night & Day / 28 Apr Good Shoes Deaf Institute / 28 Apr Crippled Black Phoenix 30 Apr John Smith Band on the Wall

HIGH VOLTAGE 7TH BIRTHDAY - Islington Mill, Salford. 5pm-2am.
"We’re throwing a big ol’ party to celebrate High Voltage turning 7. That’s SEVEN! HV started in a halls of residence bar in 2003, launched a fanzine in September 2004 released a debut record in Nov 2004, moved out of halls of residence bar when they renovated it, put on Arctic Monkeys at Night & Day and Mystery Jets at Roadhouse in early 2005, relocated to Music Box in June 05, kept on releasing records and fanzines, put on shows by Simian Mobile Disco, !!! and The Maccabees, took a sabbatical between 2007-2008, and hosted an awesome In The City Showcase in 2009… But forget all that. Let’s look forward to more of the same. But better".
Features The Heartbreaks, Young British Artists, Help Stamp Out Loneliness, Sophie's Pigeon, Milk Maid, Crooked Rooks, Josephine, Christopher Eatough, Daniel J Nixon + more. All for just a fiver.

MANCHESTER GIGS IN MUSIC: April 2010 Pt.2

Mixtape link is here [51 mins / 59MB]