Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Japandroids, 4 Or 5 Magicians, William

William: these guys need an image makeover - they look rubbish. However - get over that and they sound bloody good! A cut down three piece with a terrific guitar sound. Vocally they're a bit shouty shrieky though - might need a bit of work there. I'm not being shallow here - guys - image is everything. The bass player looks like he works in the accounts dept. by day... rock out a bit and you might make a few quid out of this. (3/5)

4 or 5 Magicians: already, just 12 hours later, I can't remember anything about them. But there were NO magicians and it would definitely have helped if there had been. (1/5)

Japandroids: are from Vancouver and the singer is called Brian (he reminds us of this all night, in case we forget). Brian is in this for the shags. Now I know that's not unusual for people in bands, but there's no need to make it quite so bloody obvious. He's almost as blatant as Steve "anyone fancy a shag" Jones. That aside, Japandriods is just Brian on guitar, and the other bloke on drums, and they make a right racket. But that's a good racket. The kind of racket that, when combined with a bit of witty banter and youthful enthusiasm is very watchable. Not the kind of racket that would stand up to listening to in the car though, it'd drive me bleedin' nuts. If you're going to be a 2 piece sound then you need the talent or imagination of Jack White or Nick Zinner - if not then you've only got your novelty factor and self belief to rely on and, believe me Brian, even those English girls you're craving will get bored of that by Christmas. (3/5 for now)

Japandroids Tickets or White Heat tickets and all Madame Jojos tickets are on

Noisettes @ Shepherds Bush Empire 26 October 2009

A band of ups and downs for me - some of that chart friendly don't-upset-the-rhythm cack really grates on the old sniffer's ears and I never really paid them much attention. But then I saw them do an unplugged on the BBC's Glastonbury coverage this year and thought - hang on - these guys are good, plus they have a cute singer who can also play bass. And play properly, not in the 'token girl musician' way either. Singer Shingai Shoniwa has a 60's style sound to her, a kind of black Amy Winehouse without all the tedious My Drug Hell stories.

So, not knowing what to expect, the opener, don't-upset-the-bloody-rhythm, set me on a bit of a downer. But then it's hard not to start warming to such a great front-woman and let's face it, without her they have nothing to set them apart. But tonight she leaps, struts and postulates in a way that has your attention focused. From laying prostrate over the drum kit, to draping herself form the circle balcony in a provocative fashion that has every man, woman and health and safety inspector's eye's watering. Don't try this at home kids. There's crooning, shrieking and some all out hard rocking and enough interest to go home and google them to find out just exactly who IS this woman? (4/5)

Noisettes tickets can be bought from before anywhere else.

Doves + Magazine @ Roundhouse 22 Oct 2009

Magazine, Feed the Enemy and Doves with There Goes The Fear both in one night. Great gig. But ditch the bleedin' choir lads.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Spirtualized @ RFH 13 October 2009

Well we lucked in and got seats just five rows back. There were a lot of people on stage.. 10 choir, 8 string, 6 brass, 2 drums.... That's cutting the takings pretty thinly. Still - a great show as they blast through the whole of Ladies and Gentleman we're floating in Space. Both an aural AND visual assault. Leaving a gig with your ears ringing we're all used to, but when your retinas are also burnt out from staring straight into one of the highest quality strobes known to mankind then the journey home can be quite troublesome.

Tickets for Spiritualized or RFH tickets are available through

Monday, 26 October 2009

Fiery Furnaces @ Audio Brighton 7 October 2009

The sniffer took a day trip out of town to catch them in a smaller venue as the London show was at cargo, which is a bit faceless. Well worth it - up close and loud. Tonight they're in full rock mode - every time you see them you get something different it seems. Everything set to guitar or everything set to keyboard? Gaps between songs or no gaps? Song A lyrics to song A tune or song B tune? Played forwards or backwards? I think I've made my point. The sniffer's preference would be guitar/no gaps/A to A/forwards. Whatever way round, its all good fun. (4/5)

Fiery Furnaces tickets will appear first on

Luke Haines @ Borderline 1 October 2009

What a card he is. Playing to an army of fans - some well the worse for wear. If you've never seen him - expect some witty banter set to vibrato guitar playing. Always worth checking him out. Short review as I'm well backlogged. (4/5)

Tickets for Luke Haines are available at

Blitzen Trapper @ Barfly 14 September 2009

Hmmm.. load of folksy looking types. Not very exciting. (2/5)

Blitzen Trapper tickets

KASMS + VEGC @ 229 10 September 2009

Club Fandango at 229 - FAR too big a venue. There's a smaller stage out the back though we we caught these two. Over a month has passed since we were there and I can remember nothing about KASMS, except they were pretty awful. A girl up front who looked alright but sounded abysmal. Victorian Englishman Gentleman's Club were great though... thank god. They've shed the ball gown wearing drummer for a slightly mad looking geezer, and got a new girl in on pointless-guitar-playing duties who's a ringer for the boring one out of Scooby Doo. They sound better now though - more polished, but still art-rock man. Still a bit weird too and well worth checking out again in their new format. (4/5 VEGC)

Get KASMS tickets or VEGC tickets at

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Drugstore @ Dingwalls 7 September 2009

The first gig after 8 odd years away - Drugstore - always a favourite of the sniffer and seen on many occasions. Loud-quiet-loud done better than the Pixies and the vocals of a siren.
What really carries this band though is that Brazilian Isabel Monteiro makes such an enthralling front. Verbal, witty and sincere, you really feel the effort she has gone to - as though it's a personal favour to YOU, to gather the band members up for just one more gig. And hell it was worth all that work and stress as we're given a two hour set of Drugstore's finest, reminding us all of what a great band they were. Somehow, years later, the songs seem even more poignant - songs about the mistakes we've made, the opportunities we've missed and the failed loves in our lives. And when she sings them, you know: it's real. She's been there, and you feel touched that a complete stranger is sharing all this with you. Even down to the fact that the new boots she bought for the gig broke and had to be gaffa taped up, she voluntarily shares. As the show reaches its final moments we can all feel the sadness that's welling up inside her - of how great these guys were together and now it's all over. Final song, Fader, goes though it's final refrain over and over, just to keep the animal alive for a few more moments before we all let go.

Here's the problem though - why didn't Drugstore really make it? Well, there is no reason. It was just bad.... ......timing. In the 90's indie was just indie. These days even the most cretinous indie band can become gigantic in months. (c.f. Kaiser Chiefs). Even credible indie bands these days would have been floundering back then - the Cribs in 1996? No chance. Still - while she still has the voice and the looks she can still compete. Come ON! (5/5)

That's two (5/5) in a week. The autumn gig season has started well... don't miss out on your gig tickets.

More Drugstore pictures here.

Magazine @ Festival Hall 1 Sep 2009

Jumped on this one even though it's an all seater. Still - turned out to be for the best as the sniffer had mashed his leg up in a freak mountain bike accident the day before. So, I had to turn up like some old geezer with a walking stick and hobble round the place. Somehow though it's kind of fitting in an eccentric Devoto kind of way.

Tonight is a complete rerun through the whole of Correct Use of Soap, interspersed with Devoto reading snippets from an old "how to care for your records" leaflet, while demonstrating the advice with a copy of the Soap vinyl itself. It's always hailed - even by the band themselves - as Magazine's finest yet to me its actually just THIRD best. You could read that as second-worst, but I don't think we can count that awful pink album. So the Correct Order Of Vinyl is, in fact, Secondhand Daylight, Real Life THEN Soap. So let's hope they are doing the play backs in reverse order meaning we've got two more to come before he collects his library card again.

The setting I think did it it justice - sitting dead central towards the back the sound was spot on and the playback was lapped up by all. After an interval we got a selection of other songs delivered with the same precision, for which the crowd even lurched out of their seats. I think the obsession with "Soap" for many people is *slightly* emperors new clothes as what song got everyone out of their seats? : Rhythm of Cruelty (Second Hand Daylight). And the biggest cheer? : Permafrost (Second Hand Daylight). So you see - even if people don't say it, they know it's actually the best album and so now we cant wait for the full playback next feb. Finally...back to nature. (5/5)

Festival Hall Magazine Tickets

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Bill Callahan @ Union Chapel 19 August 2009

Quiet please! jeez - i was too scared to SPEAK! I can appreciate that the audience want to enjoy the man, but when you don't think you could even open a pack of crisps as it's too noisy then have we taken audience adoration too far? We got a nice spot on the balcony just above the stage so had a great few of everything going on... but at the expense of loss of vocal clarity. Enjoyable, in a chin-scratching kind of way. (3/5)

Cymbals Eat Guitars @ Windmill

Forgot about this one. I think I said "PROG!". In that I have already forgotton about them, it must be a 2/5.

Bought the ticket for Cymbals Eat Guitars at gigsniffer of course, which sniffed wegottickets

Monday, 13 July 2009

Dananananaykroyd at Vibe Bar 7 July 2009

One word. Fun. A bunch of young kids with oodles of energy backed up with some witty banter. They don't care what they say, how they look or if they're hopelessly out of tune, as long as we all have a good time. Musically there were shades of Ned's Atomic Dustbin, but, who cares. There's a bit of a them-and-us feel to the crown though. The ones who are in the know, in the fan club who doubless follow them everywhere. The rest of us just look on and get swept up with everone's enthusiasm. The whole clicque things reminded me slightly of The Others or The Libertines, where it's friends playing to friends. We all know what happened to The Others - everyone realised they were shit. The Libs faired slightly better to be fair.... mind you, Pete Doherty IS shit too, so maybe i'm onto something. 4/5 for now. I'm sure if I saw them again i would take one off this score each time after the novelty wears off.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Vivian Girls @ Brixton Windmill 17 May

Not a great live band. A three chord noise-fest. I don't mind three chords, if you know how to play them. Unfortunately this lot don't. (1/5)

Admission tickets for this three chord racket were bought through and I regretted it.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Specials @ Brixton 7 May 2009

It's surprising how good they all look after 30 years.. Neville Staple and Lynval Golding jump around like bouncy school boys as they rip through a greatest hits set list for 90 minutes. The crowd you might expect to be all old skinheads - does anyone remember the first Madstock and what a nightmare THAT was? Well, tonight's all respectable and the average age isn't even that high - there's a huge contingent of youngsters in the crowd which is great to see.

The Specials aren't a band you hear that often on the radio, and you forget just how many great songs they had... the highlight for the Sniffer was both front AND back of the Too Much Too Young EP in its entirety. (4/5)

If you missed out on tickets you should get on !

Brakes @ Dingwalls - 28 April 2009

Still Brakes defy the public... they can't even sell out Dingwalls! What is it about this band that relegates them to being also-rans while the likes of Johnny Borrell conquer the world? Live they are one of the best bands around. Great musicians, great songs and great banter. I can only assume the lack of popularity stems from their image - they aren't a band of Pretty-Boys and from Sniffer's side-stage viewpoint he got a good look at the crowd and it's a bloke-fest. An ugly-bloke fest at that. I'd hate them to get "made-over" or get a "looker" in the band, but maybe that's what they need to do otherwise all that talent could come to nought. (4/5)

It's easy to get into gigs with

Sonic Youth @ Scala 27 April 2009

A sneaky small gig - the problem was this... big band plays small venue which sounds great but.. the Scala is always awful - it's cavernous interior just reverberates with bass - and Sonic Youth themselves are notoriously awful live. All pretention and "we don't give a damn" attitude. Having heard the new single though, Sniffer decides to risk it, bearing in mind the Daydream Nation material must still be freshly up their sleeve from last year...

So what do we get - well even a "big band" can't get over the Scala's failings but, that aside, it's a cracking night. The new material sounds good and un-pretentious, plus we get a selection of crowd pleasers from the past. They still look cool as hell.. even Kim who my God must be over 50. Still from that distance who cares... we can still pretend it's 1985. The banks of guitars are still there... looks like around 15 each.. played with drumsticks, bows or rusty nails... same as it ever was... (4/5)

Get your tickets immediately through

Wave Pictures @ ICA - 15 April 2009

My third Wave Pictures Gig over the last year and they've been different everytime. First time was over driven Ukeleles and quirkness and could be likened to Hefner. The second, quiet, pensive, low key and slightly Prog - think more Radiohead. This third time sees them play their biggest ever show and yes, they've grown too - this time think Television. I'm not sure if playing Television over the PA earlier in the evening sets it in your mind, but there were real Tom Verlaine style solos up there on stage. OK, not quite so well executed, but give them another year and they'll be there. (4/5)

Tickets were available through

Frank Skinner's Credit Crunch Cabaret - 6 April @ Lyric Theatre

Is it a gig? Kind of - there was 20 minutes from Goldie Looking Chain, the novelty of which wore off after just 3 minutes. It does show how bad Celebrity Big Brother is though, as I wrongly assumed that "Maggot" was the front man. In fact he's just one of the blokes at the back. What next.. Ringo Starr on BB?!!! Anyway, Skinner is as cheeky and funny as he ever was and the format of the evening is a real life version of his "Packing Them In" sitcom from many years back. Well worth a tenner if you get the chance. (4/5)

To have any chance getting tickets you need the ticket agency crawler..

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Phill Jupitus / Tim Wells at Bethnal Green Working Mens Club 9/3/2009

What a surprise cracking night. Two middle aged Muso's sifting through their collection of 7 inch singles, whacking them on the turntable and talking about what makes them so special. We get mainly Ska and Soul with a bit of foul mouthed Ian Dury. It all makes for a very funny and informative night. The real revelation was when Nick Drummer from the overrated Kaiser Chiefs joins them onstage and admits they nicked the simple guitar line from Predict a Riot from the original version of Ghost In My House. The dirty, thievin', robbin' bastards. (4/5 ... only because one of the earlier readers was dull as hell)

Crystal Stilts / Wavves at Bardens Boudoir 26/2/09

Wavves - basically a bloke on a guitar with a drummer. A friend of mine was raving over him, but I think even she was disappointed. He was OK - but much more than that I already can't remember.

Crystal Stilts are the sound of the 60's - very Phil Spector or Raveonettes. The drumming was straight out of Bobby Gillespie era Jesus and Mary Chain. Definitely worth seeing but it does tend to wear a little thin after a while - the vocals are so massively reverbed that the whole sound tends to merge together. Bardens Boudoir suffers a two inch stage so you cant really get to see much that's going on, even though this is still a very small and intimate gig, which adds to the sense of detachment from what's going on. Maybe I'll catch them again at a better venue. (3/5)

Cut in the Hill Gang at Brixton Windmill 20/2/09

Johnny Walker returns to the UK with his new band at last. The demise of the Soledads was a real shame and I can't think of any other band plugging the filthy dirty blues rock hole left behind. Having seen the Cut in the Hill Gang I now know why the Soledads split. They're still a two-guitars-only band, but where Johnny used to lead over the second guitar, now the new guitar player takes the lead, playing to the next level and you get a much more intricate sound, and it works brilliantly. Gone is the giant saxophone of Soledad days which, although looking cool, was over used to my mind, just honking around, Muppet style, and not really adding that much. JW is still a great frontman, halfway between nerdy geek and cool as hell old school Detroit blues man. The other guitar player though is pure geek - he needs a makeover as the Soledad's definately scored higher on image.

For a two-song finale Ben Swank joins them on the drums to rattle through a couple of old Soledad's numbers. Yes, we do miss his deranged playing style. But the Soledad's are dead. Long live Cut in Hill Gang! (5/5)

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Black Box Recorder / Madam at Luminaire 18/2/09

Madam - a slightly quirky and bashful looking lady quietly strumming an acoustic guitar, backed by another on a cello. She has a great voice, no denying, and the Cat Power comparisons are justified. I just can't help thinking it's all a bit too stripped back and minimalist - one song, for example, being just a slow strumming of one single chord. I thought three chords was the well publicised minimum to form a band? Her playing style is actually the same for all the songs - the only real difference between the songs was a change in lyrics and it does start to wear on you after a while. Good sound and total silence in the Luminaire gives the whole show more of a feel of a classical recital than a gig. It was so quiet that the bar staff were whispering and gently squeezing the till drawers shut. (3/5)

Black Box Recorder - a real treat to see them at such close range after the long distance affair supporting the Jesus and Mary Chain at the tail end of last year where they were somewhat lost in the very empty (on stage at 7.30) Forum. Here though, it's up close and personal. Sarah Nixey is still looking fantastic and delivers her lines with no visible sign of emotion in her dead-pan plummy voice. Luke Haines still manages to look cool, despite his advancing years causing him to look like George Roper playing the part of Lee Van Cleef. Still, he looks a natural with the guitar and plays with feeling - unlike John Moore who, to be honest, does not contribute much to the sound and plays guitar like my eight year old niece. There were a couple of new songs and certainly a hint that there may be some more to come - though I think I had my fill last night.

Did anyone see Eddie Argos? With my current interest in Art Brut i'd like to downgrade him to Eddie Woolworths.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Women / Soft Pack at Madame JoJo's 18/2/08

A fully packed out venue to see Women. I'm already struggling to remember anything about Soft Pack... other than the guitar sound on half the songs had the sharp metallic sound of Steve Albini or Big Flame, and in the strokes-per-minute stakes David Gedge would be proud of 'em. A couple of OK tunes and some cool American swagger makes for a pleasant enough set.

Women though - Jeez. What a boring bunch of bastards this lot are. Just because you can play some fancy chords it does not mean you should be in a band. Random chords, pointless disjointed noodling... there is such a thing as chord progression, but these guys are blissfully ignorant. You'll get some songs that start in a Sonic Youth jangly style, but instead of crashing into Teenage Riot you just get even more random nonsense until the song ends. As for stage presence - forget it. All of this would be forgivable if they hadn't gone on quite so long. Top tip: if you've only got two songs, don't play ten. Some kids loved 'em - maybe they think they're the new Foals. They forget though, Foals had charisma. And some tunes.

As ever at JoJo's, the sound is great and the viewing area superb. As small venues go, it's right up there and even the most disjointed nonsense can give some pleasure.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Michael Davis of MC5 at Dirty Water Club Tufnell Park 13 Feb

This may have been a gig too far - but we were at Magazine just down the road and it was my birthday. There's not much you can say really - an overload of wah-wah from some retro youngsters, to be joined on stage by Davis towards the end for a blast through Kick Out The Jams. To be honest, this Davis character looks more like someone I should be getting a quote off to replaster my hall than standing on stage. It's all a bit of a blur to be honest, due in part to a mixture of Sambucas. Still, we were the last to leave even though the journey home was to be far in excess of most of the young whipper snappers who cried off early to catch the last tube. Luckily I was rescued and delivered to Forest Hill where I spent a merry couple of hours serenading a guinea pig with a miniature violin.

Magazine at The Forum, London 12/13 Feb 2009

It seems like many people have been waiting a long time for this, the Ultimate Reformation. And was it worth the wait? Ye Gods yes. Once you get over the similarities between Howard Devoto and the love child of Jasper Carrot and Mini-Me that is.

A totally charismatic front man whose bizarre mannerisms and behavior are delivered without hint of irony, every word preached with an almost demonic authority. When he reads "The Book" from a lectern stage front, it doesn't sound like a story any more - it is real. Jesus, poor Mr. Manifold, I really felt for him.

I was there for both thursday and friday - as I'm sure most of the (95% male, middle-aged, balding) crowd were. Maybe one criticism I would level at Devoto is my disappointment on the friday that the between song banter was quite so scripted - word for word a repeat of the thursday. And the complete omission of all but two tracks from Secondhand Daylight. How can Feed The Enemy not be included? What were they thinking of?
It seems that half the venues in town have now been snapped up by HMV who are obviously shitting themselves that CD sales are now so bad that they have to get into live music and have somehow ousted Carling from the sponsorship top spot. I'm sure as a result of this, I was threatened expulsion from the venue for using a "professional camera", despite being surrounded by people taking photos on "lesser" cameras or even videoing the entire show on their phones! This is the typical record industry behavior that has got them up shit creek in the first place - sheer greed. If I had a press pass I would have been in the press pit, NOT ten rows back straining over people heads to take a quick snap for here. Funnily enough my pictures are not good enough to sell to OK magazine. And here I am, promoting live music for all and encouraging people to visit HMV venues. Bastards. Anyway, three shots survived to tell the tale.