Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Luke Haines @ The Old Queens Head

Luke Haines is always up to something different. Tonight's freak show is a potted history of English wrestlers of the 70's and 80's. Yes, by that I mean Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy et al. This is a real niche and novelty market that Haines is going for here. Are we really going to care about this in 6 months time? Probably not, but for night only it's quite fun. There's an on stage presence from Kendo Nagasaki who sits silently on a sofa stage left, watching wrestling videos. There's also a plate of liver sausage sandwiches - hand made by Haines himself, which wind their way round the crowd - you need to know your wrestling for these references to work. The most touching for the sniffer was a song about Giant Haystacks and his Casio VL Tone and his inability to turn it off, despite his love of the Rock 2 rhythm.

Highlight of the evening is saved for the encore. A recital of a recipe from the Haines food blog. A recipe for rabbit stew, to be made while listening to Hawkwind. There's a Passion for both food and Hawkwind displayed here that, frankly, makes me want to try both. Plate the fuck up - yeah. (4/5)

Friday, 2 September 2011

Iceage @ Old Blue Last

Turns out this was a late nighter so I never even got to see Ice Age as the last train was calling. Early doors though we got a loud and repetitive set from Cold Pumas. They ate well worth a look as long as your ears can take the pain. There's nothing complicated going on

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Drugstore @ St Giles Church 18/8/11

So this is the Drugstore Anatomy album launch show and the tension has been building for some time, if you follow Isabelle Monteiro's twitterings. It realy has the feeling of an event - for a start the venue is a rarely (if ever) gigged church. The tickets are all hand made necklaces of a small anchor, including a pull off "vino" tab to get you a free glass of wine. So already we're feeling personally touched by the evening. When new band members strike up on stage with no sign of Monteiro you know that a dramatic entrance is on the way - she slopes down the centre ailse, seductively, bottle of wine dangling from one hand, reaching the stage with perfect timing to begin her trademark smokey vocals to Anatomy opener Sweet Chilling Girl. The sound is crystal clear and the audience spellbound into silence as they reel off some older songs with a gradually more verbal and more confident Monteiro filling in the gaps. The sense of occasion really shows on Isabelle - this really IS important. It is everything to her and we feel privileged that we are part of it too. Watching her onstage and hanging off every word is a moving experience for us - she lays her whole self out - she may as well be naked on stage at that's how intimate she can make an audience feel. Selfishly though, I never want het to be "happy" - to find her dream man, settle down. It's the unsatisfied edge she has that keeps her so compelling. But it's not all about her - the new band are integral and she even spells this out to us. You are watching a team - though there is clearly only one project manager.

Veronica Falls @ Dalston Roof Garden 17/8/11

A cold and rainy night on mid summer and only a 6 quid ticket makes it really hard to get up off the sofa. I nearly bailed on this one until the rain stopped minutes before leaving - ok let's do it. The roof garden is a cracking little venue - 5 floors up with a view actods town and some funky astroturf under foot. The main - only - band are on at 8.30 and whack out a 30 or 40 set which is actually quite wonderful. The 4 of them are as tight as hell these days and the whole event reminds me of the velvet underground live album - like you were party to an intimate club. The rhythm guitar sounds like David Gedge if he had been in the Velvets. Ok there's not much variation between songs, but we'll allow them that. The only thing lacking for Mr was a stronger lead vocal or front man. If only they could find their own Kate Jackson icon. 4/5

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Dirty Beaches @ The Victoria, Dalston 19/7/11

This is our second outing to this venue and God we love it. The PA may look like it came from Maplins but holy shit is this place loud. But not only loud, the sound is crystal clear and everything sounds amazing. I could get up there and play the swanny whistle and you'd be forgiven for thinking I was some kind of virtuoso. That's the problem with Dirty Beaches - a one man band from Canada who, literally, does some Karaoke for 30 mins. The backing track is just a repetitive drum loop and he sings inaudible disjointed vocals with the reverb set to 12, never mind 11. He hasn't worked out that a mic stand is a good idea - which means he can only sing or play the guitar, not both, as he has to pick up and hold the mic. When he does go to the guitar, you wish he hadn't, 'cos he's got no fucking idea what to do with it. Check out this video and feel your ears bleed at his ineptitude. Why are the crowd loving this? Ah - that coool Maplins PA...must get one of those.

Support came from Thee Ludds - who started a trifle iffy but did warm up quite nicely, finishing on a Damned-esque note. A bit more practice lads and you won't be half bad. But they need to sharpen up - it looked like your average work's help desk had crawled out for the evening.

Both bands had the right idea on set lengths though - sub half an hour. I can't spend any longer than that on you - the last train leaves in 10. (2/5)

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Luke Haines @ Queen Elizabeth Hall 13/7/11

These "literary" dos are always good value - first up we get a 45 minute set of Haine's 3 piece band. Though somewhat muddy for us, being in front row, far end well below the PA and in front of the bass woofer. After an interval we get two men in armchairs - "History Today" style. The interviewer is an ingratiating Scot who has his nose so far up Haine's arse its hard to even hear the questions. But this could have gone on all night for us - Haines with his views about "The Hit", The Killers, Cooking and Black Sabbath's Sabotage. Even the audience questions could go on. One Norwegian guy starts with a long ramble but gets cut short after announcing "there were only three great songwriters in the 90's... 1) Stephin Merritt, 2).... ". We can assume Haines was one of the missing two - but who was the third?!!

"Shall I play some more?" Haines quips - clearly bored of the idiotic final questions - "What's your favourite word?" !! FFS! He gets up and rattles out a few solo acoustics, before back with the band for a few more. The evening is the best part of 3 hours long and there's never a dull moment. Must buy that new book of his... (4/5)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Pulp @ Hyde Park Wireless 3/7/11

These big band reforms just keep on coming - if you use a service like or Gigsniffer then you'll see plenty of these fly past you every day. Billed as a festival, this really was just a one band event. Despite the best efforts of Hives front man Pete Almqvist to get the crowd out of their early gig apathy with provocations such as "You LOVE the Hives".. "Love the Hives or you will DIE!", most of the crowd carried on tucking into their http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifMarks and Spencer's picnics. A quick flit down to see Foals in the Pepsi Max tent during freak-show Grace Jones' set gave the only inkling that this crowd were going to be up for it - hot sweaty and rammed meant the only viewpoints were on the big screen outside the tent. By the end of the Foals set the crowd were already leaving in droves to get a prime spot for Pulp's large scale return to London.

Like all these big re-formation gigs, the tension builds in the pre gig moments as you're never quite sure what you're going to get - or will you even recognise your well loved front man/woman after 15 years self indulgence at the altar of the Pukka Pie . Luckily, Jarvis is still Jarvis. Tall and thin, geeky and school teacher-like. You feel like he's here to give you some lessons - and lessons he gives you, with the between song banter as much a part of the man as the songs themselves. Launching straight into “Do you remember the first time” the crowd go ape and the slightly underwhelming sound of the festival’s sound system gets lost beneath the crowd’s top-of-their voice sing along. It’s testament to how Jarvis is still so “cool” that the crowd is so young – half these people haven’t even HAD their first time, let alone forgotten it. It’s not until Jarvis talks about the year 2000 – and how much it meant to people of a certain age - and yet now that it’s long gone we realize we just aren’t kids ourselves any more.

The hits roll out and as the darkness draws in we’re sucked into Jarvis’s world of voyeuristic sex, drugs and overlooked school sweethearts. The final showdown comes with a rip-roaring sing along of Common People – made more touching for us common people in the crowd when he introduces the song by recanting a warm up gig a few nights before where Pulp played at St. Martin’s College and played that very song. We were all left feeling Jarvis’s own sentimentality for the song, the city and his own lost youth.

As a reformation gig this was one of the best – and when I got home my partner asked me "Jarvis Cocker – isn’t he the one who peed on Michael Jackson?". How cool is THAT!

Crystal Stilts @ XOYO 20/6/2011

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Grass Widow @ Dalston Victoria 15/6/11

Ok i've missed a few again... but here goes. With a new venue - a nice big air con room behind the pub fitting 150 punters. The pub is a mainly west-indian clientele and the food look pretty good. Still, round the back with indie kids we get Float Reviver - a White Stripes set up of him and her. One song in and this is sounding horrific, but it must have been nerves, as soon they pick up and get a rhythmic repetetive sound going. Somewhere between Spacemen 3 and Velvet Underground. Mind you - her drumming makes Meg White look like Keith Moon. And the voice... hmmmm.

Silver Fox next... four girls who it's difficult to find anything to say about. Not bad, but no good.

Then Turn To Crime - one bloke playing guitar to a full band backing tape. He sounds good - but when so much is going on as pre-recorded it feels more like watching someone play Guitar Legends.

Headline act, Grass Widow - last night of the tour for this, another all girl band. A bit too amatuer for the sniffer, and their sound was pretty weedy. I started to daydream about cutting the grass this weekend...

Great night though 7/10

Friday, 21 January 2011

Besnard Lakes @ Garage 19/9/10

A nice "mature" band for a change! Despite the shitty name they're pretty good...

Jeff Lewis & Peter Stampfel @ Windmill Brixton

Ok back on track with the blog - phew!

First off, support from Lail Arad. A slightly nervous looking girl climbs on stage and starts a few songs. What a revelation! She has quirky and witty songs and the voice to deliver them. The crowd are gradually won over and she has their total focus - brilliant! (5/5)

So to Jeff & Peter ... well Peter is an out and out weirdo. A total eccentric who more or less steals the show - Jeff Lewis comes across as his carer - trying to keep him on the straight and narrow and not wander too far off topic during the many between song dialogues on everything from bottle caps, beatniks, Orgone Accumulators, Ether abuse, songs written on speed etc etc..

A cracking show- catch a date on this tour if you can. (5/5)

The Pogues @ Brixton Acadamy 22/12/10

Old hat.. yeah yeah. Still fun tho!

LCD Soundsystem & Hot Chip @ Alexandra Palace 10/11/10

What a duffer this venue is... You have to leave work on the nose to rush up there. There is no time for a pre gig pint. Then you queue up for 30 minutes to get into the venue. Then you queue for 15 minutes to get tokens for a drink. Then you queue for 15 minutes to get the drink. Then you can go into the main hall - by which time Hot Chip are just finishing.

Luckily LCD were great - before you have to leg it to get in the scrum for the limited train service back.

This is not a venue. It is a shed.

Wire @ Lexington 16/11/10

Hmm - a bunch of old geezers playing mostly new stuff? Not really that much fun.

Steve Mason @ Xoyo 21/10/10

He's preaching to the converted in this packed and sweaty venue.

David Viner @ Vortex 23/9/10

Viner has become the most nervous man in blues. It took him an age to tune his guitar before he self conciously rattled out a few songs. He should go back to his more raucous whicky drinking, belly-full-of-beer self.

The Like @ Madame Jojos 24/8/10

The Like are back as a 4 piece and slightly made over. Pretty fine.

Yes Way @ Upset the Rhythm 13/8/10

A real lo-fi gig in a derelict car showroom.

Here's Male Bonding in action..

Field day @ Victoria Park 31/7/10

A scorcher of a day... Steve mason was superb - even though he looks like a plumber. The Fall were surreal in the sun.

Bundles @ Union Chapel 19/5/10

Kimya Dawson + Jeff & Jack Lewis. Kimya was a no-show, so this was a pretty lame gig. Jeff was lost in this cavern :-(

Warpaint @ Luminaire 12/5/10

Jeez I am behind with this...