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 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