• Field Day - Victoria Park, 6 August

    7 août 2011, 10h50m

    Sat 6 Aug – Field Day 2011

    Some things I enjoyed about Field Day:

    Willy Mason’s ability to get the words “pick up truck” into every song

    Ariel Pink’s ongoing transformation into Todd Rundgren

    The last five minutes of Omar Souleyman’s set (damn that I missed the rest of it)

    How grumpy Archer Prewitt of Sea & Cake was when he found there wasn’t anywhere to plug his gear in and then how immensely happy he looked when a member of the tech crew gave him a simple extension lead

    How nervous Electrelane looked whilst setting their gear up and then how much they clearly enjoyed playing

    Anna Calvi’s theatricals and her wild percussionist

    Some things I didn’t enjoy about Field Day:

    The idiots who think it’s alright to barge through the crowd at considerable speed to get to the front mid-set, trampling all under-foot (even worse when they change their mind five minutes later and barge right back). Especially bad during Wild Beasts

    Long and slow queues for just about everything

    The woman who decided she couldn’t miss a minute of Electrelane and squatted down for a piss right in the middle of the crowd front of the stage. Some justice was done because she and her friends then had to stand in it for the rest of the set

    The woman who projectile vomited green bile, Exorcist-style, during Warpaint

    People who decide it’s a good idea to lay on the floor in dimly-lit parts of the site when people are heading for the exits

    The dreadful sound quality in most tents, especially bad during Mark Kozelek’s set which was almost inaudible (and yet he was still getting wild applause. Did they think he was a mime act?)

    Chances of going again next year? About 50-50.
  • Game Changers

    6 mars 2011, 19h20m

    Wilco popped up on my iPod shuffle this morning and I got to thinking of bands that have gone off in new, interesting, or sometimes downright alarming directions because of the addition of a new member. Sometimes they replaced someone else, others just slotted into the usual band as a plus 1 but here are ten examples of players who've come into an already well-established band and taken them off somewhere new. Feel free to add to the list........

    Nels Cline – Wilco

    Helped them realise their more left-field side (especially live)

    David Gilmour - Pink Floyd

    Gave them the solid base for controlled exploration tthat Syd couldn’t

    Sandy Denny – Fairport Convention

    Brought some amazing songs and the most distinctive voice in folk rock

    Sid Vicious – Sex Pistols

    Did nothing for their music but cemented their cartoon punk image (not necessarily a good thing)

    Stevie Nicks – Fleetwood Mac

    Has any other line up change ever had a more dramatic commercial clout?

    Ronnie Wood – Rolling Stones

    Gave Keith a reason to stick with the Stones into their stadium rock old age

    Dave Grohl – Nirvana

    Would Nevermind have conquered the world with any one else on drums?

    James Williamson – Stooges

    A second lease of life for Iggy (and with Ron’s sad passing, history repeats itself on the reunion circuit)

    Gram Parsons – The Byrds

    And on the sixth day they invented country rock

    Johnny Marr – Modest Mouse and The Cribs

    Two improbable cross-generational meetings and it’s the youngsters who have to raise their games
  • Field Day - Victoria Park (31 July 2010)

    1 août 2010, 8h19m

    Sat 31 Jul – Field Day 2010

    My second year at Field Day and well worth the return visit. Crucially, this year the rain mac stays in the bag. Good (though not spectacular weather) puts most of the punters in a good mood and doesn’t mess with the running order.

    FD crams in a lot of music which is either a good thing (if you’re prepared to take a punt on people you haven’t heard of or wouldn’t normally check out) or a bad thing (see some of the previous shouts agonising over choice). Maybe they need a second day, though I suspect the economics and logistics work against this.

    Always worth a word about the organisation of the thing. I could live with the clashes on running times – that’s a given at any festival. There did seem to be a lot of queuing – it took ages to get through security to get in (I’ve boarded flights in less time), and what was the deal with having your ticket taken off you intact (“you can have it back at the end of the night” Hmm, thanks)? Loos and food stalls also seemed busy even though the crowds weren’t huge. Having said that, there was some very nice grub on offer (not including the stuff that was being lobbed around the Village Green).

    On to the music. I’m sure I missed all the best up and coming bands. A loo stop delay took out any chance of getting into the tiny tent where Yuck were playing, for example, and Gold Panda also played in a tent too small to get into. And despite resolutions to check out every stage, gravity kept pulling us back to the main stage more often than expected.

    We started with Holly Miranda, who played with spirit but was on a hiding to nothing with only a few dozen people in front of stage (“You all seem so far away” she said, sadly).

    Next up Steve Mason, kicking off with a solo acoustic Dr Baker, and then getting some groove going with a set that seemed closer (live anyway) to Ian Brown than the mellow weird tinge of his earlier records. Put a smile on our faces anyway, and still only 3.30 in the afternoon.

    By-passing Gold Panda (see above), we pitch up for Chilly Gonzales. Two drummers and his piano, and its cabaret time. Ben Folds flourishes on the keyboard melded to a dedication to rap. A fairly unique proposition. If nobody has yet coined the pun Rap Man Enough, I’m doing it now.

    Against my better judgement, my curiosity drags me back to the main stage for The Fall. A band I’ve loved for 25 years (hearing Peel play a session version of Faust Banana, spun my musical taste off in a whole host of new directions). I’ve seen them about a dozen times but only once in this Millennium. Seeing MES in daylight is a shock for starters. As with every generation of The Fall though, he’s gathered a tight rhythm and lead guitar section behind him and he seems content to snarl through some recent cuts before clocking off with palpable relief on the dot of his allotted time. A narrow escape for my fond memories of the band in their heyday.

    Band of the day for us was the Archie Bronson Outfit. The set clashes are kicking in and the tent is surprisingly under-populated and even more so once Caribou’s set starts. This, at least allows us to get right up to the front to see them. The sound is a bit muddy, especially on the vocals (I mean even more than it’s meant to be), but they give it some real welly, with great riffs half-submerged behind the fuzz (and I don’t just mean the fuzz of face). Chunk is the highlight.

    We join the rush to see the second half of Caribou’s set, arriving halfway through Bowls, then Odessa and Sun. A good choice for the sunset slot.

    Phoenix are perkier live than I’d expected. I’ve always found them OK but uninvolving. Live, they’re OK, and a little more involving. Six or seven numbers in, we decide we’ve had plenty and, stopping by en route to get some ear-cleansing from Mouse on Mars (I suspect that was the headline slot to immerse yourself in), we hit the road.

    So a good natured Field Day, for us at least. The crowd seemed generally relaxed and beery boorishness was minimal compared to the more corporate events we’ve attended. We moved around the site easily enough, catching good sets from acts we might not have seen anywhere else. We still managed to miss a whole host of likely contenders (but that’s the way of festivals). OK, we didn’t see a set that really blew our minds but then we didn’t see anything less than entertaining. For less than £30, I’d say that was good value. I’m sure the shout-boxes could go either way but I’d like to see Field Day (or at least something like it) back for another year.
  • Lovebox - Saturday 17 July 2010

    18 jui. 2010, 11h35m

    Fri 16 Jul – Lovebox London Weekender

    My first trip to Lovebox, drawn there to see Roxy Music. In my case, for the first time, though there were clearly many there who’d followed them from the start. Festivals with a very distinct headliner sometimes feel a bit lop-sided and as the day went on there was less inclination to sample random stages and all roads led to Roxy. I’m not sure if that was true for everyone and good on you if you opted for Empire of the Sun (they were playing loud enough to drown out Roxy on occasions, and sounded pretty good).

    It took us a while to settle down – there’s plenty to choose from at Lovebox and difficult to know where to start. We finally settled on the Bandstand for Swaharama, an Indian band who manage to combine serious political analysis with a man dressed as a horse. Only at Lovebox, I’m starting to think.

    After a hula hoop workshop (we’re starting to get the hang of this), it’s Wild Beasts on the main stage. We enjoyed them and I was very pleased to see them sticking true to their Yorkshire musical heritage by having some of Cud’s gear on stage with them (I noticed the distinctive logo stencilled onto their carry cases).

    The rule of festival says that when more than three are gathered in the same place then verily one of them will not want to watch Paloma Faith. I miss out apparently, because all of my friends are won over by her. I much prefer Midnight Juggernauts over on the second stage, though. If The Bravery had listened to ELO instead of Joy Division, this is where they’d have ended up. Despite apologising for having lost half their kit on route, they hit it on the nail and might have been by favourite set of the day.

    Back to the main stage for Mark Ronson’s indie karaoke, which has never floated my boat, though it’s good natured and just right for this time of the festival day. Towards the end, he brings on half of Duran Duran, Simon le Bon’s jacket getting us into that Roxy yacht club vibe. He tops this by bringing on the other half of DD and they play Planet Earth much to the delight of the oldsters.

    There’s then a pause while the Roxy faithful assemble at the front of the stage. This is easily the most mature crowd I’ve ever seen at the front at a festival. I hadn’t seen many of these people at the hula hoop demonstration, but they’re suitably excited at seeing their teenage heroes. As a man in my forties, of course, I’m envious that I missed Roxy in their prime. They hit the ground running with Re-Make/Re-Model but then take a long detour through their slow and delicate numbers – Out of the Blue, Song For Europe - which seriously divides the aficionados (who are content to listen to Manzanera and Mackay solos) from the casual festival go-ers (who want the hits). The crowd around me start to get restless and a few minor arguments break out. Just in time, the hits kick in Virginia Plain, Love Is the Drug, Editions of You. Bryan starts doing his ski-ing dance (you know, the one where he bends his elbows and thrusts one arm forward at a time) and he makes a bit of a hash of Jealous Guy (note to Bryan – session whistler required for the stadium tour).

    They encore with Let’s Stick Together and Do the Strand and send us home happy. For Roxy fans, the stadium shows next year should be a treat. For their remaining festival dates, however, they might want to think about mixing the set up a bit.
  • Air - Somerset House (9 July 2010)

    10 jui. 2010, 7h13m

    Fri 9 Jul – Air, Olof Arnalds

    I thought I'd review the gig in the style of Air's expansive between song banter.

    So, er, the gig was "Très bien".........
  • Brendan Benson - KOKO - 5 March 2010

    6 mars 2010, 9h24m

    Fri 5 Mar – Brendan Benson, Heartless Bastards

    Strangely, considering his profile has risen, I'm sure he's got more shy since the last time I saw him play (about 2003). More "You're Quiet" than Raconteur (groan). Restricting between song banter to the occasional "thank you" and band member intro, means he fits in a huge number of songs, however. Generous helpings of the last three albums (including lots of Lapalco, which pleases me) and a Graham Nash cover as an encore. He started with a high bar - Folk Singer and Good To Me - but kept the pace and quality up throughout. To be truthful, there isn't a huge change in style across the albums - he has no need to arrange the set around his new dupstep mini-opera, there isn't one - but he keeps the poppy hooks coming like he's serving a four course meal of different flavours of ice cream. Difficult to pick a favourite but Tiny Spark towards the end of the main set seemed to get the (slightly sedate) crowd going best.
  • Way To Blue - Barbican 21 January 2010

    23 jan. 2010, 9h41m

    Fri 22 Jan – Way to Blue The Songs of Nick Drake

    According to the programme notes, Joe Boyd organised these shows because he felt there weren't enough great covers of Nick Drake songs - the point being that these were great songs in their own right, ripe for re-interpretation. It was a good concept and the heart of many a pub debate about what makes a good cover version – can it be faithful to the original, should it go out on a limb and so forth.

    The slight problem in the design for this show is that it was not a night dedicated to the songs of Fred Bloggs, but one focusing on The Great Tragic Figure of English Music (trademark). Hence there was a sense of respect and love for the man himself (to be fair, a genuine sense, not just one that played up to his posthumous media image) that inevitably made Drake the focus again and not the songs. So we got no version of Northern Sky rearranged for sheet metal and bagpipes. We didn’t get Napalm Death turning up to do a cover of Poor Boy. If they had done, it would have felt like setting fire to the curtains at someone’s memorial service. Instead, pretty much everyone went for a nice respectful canter through the catalogue with nothing too far out and I guess, while a lot the audience, like me, enjoyed it, they probably went home with an unscratched itch that would only be satisfied by getting out the Fruit Tree box set again. Which I suppose is no bad thing.

    But that’s just nit-picking really, because this was a really good show. While, it’s true, nobody re-invented the songs nor did they do them any harm. And with material this precious that’s quite something in itself. Krystle Warren probably went furthest into reinvention territory, with a jazzy blues style – her duet with Teddy Thompson at the end of the evening on Pink Moon was especially good. Lisa Hannigan delivered a very intense Black Eyed Dog, which really nailed this most frightening song. The standard of the whole evening was generally high, other favourites for me – Robyn Hitchcock’s opening Parasite and Teddy Thompson’s Poor Boy (with ace backing vocals).

    As well as celebrating Nick Drake, the show became a memorial for the recently deceased Robert Kirby and this in itself became a very good reason not to mess with the arrangements too much. It was excellent to hear a top notch band and string section (with the magnificent Danny Thompson anchoring the whole thing on bass) playing them live. Maybe it’s only right that we should wait a few more years before someone lets Laibach loose on Bryter Layter.
  • The obligatory end of year list

    16 déc. 2009, 19h55m

    This felt like a really good year for music yet when I sat down to compile a top ten tracks released this year, I realised that none stood out head and shoulders above the rest. The following ten sneak through by a nose, ahead of a very large field.

    1.You Muses AssistAlasdair Roberts

    He’s released loads of records but I only stumbled on him this year, picking up his last but one album for a quid in a charity shop. He’s since treated me to the longest gig of the year (when I left at midnight he was still going strong) and the sight of him dressed as a Druid for Twisted Christmas. This is his best song – an extremely distinctive voice and a knack for finding words that shouldn’t fit into a song in a million years. All together now: “sterile rams and simulacra, sterile rams and simulacra…..”

    2.Dog Days Are OverFlorence + the Machine

    When F+M was announced as the support act for Blur I remember thinking “not that annoying Kiss With A Fist woman”. Starting at that Hyde Park gig, I found myself very happy to be swept along with the adulation she’s received this year, and Dog Days Are Over is the top track on the year’s most listenable album (shame they didn’t leave Kiss With A Fist off it though).

    3.ZeroYeah Yeah Yeahs

    The denser sound worked brilliantly and even the sight of Karen O in a Wild Thing suit couldn’t dent their cred.

    4.Eid Ma Clack ShawBill Callahan

    He’s starting to be a match for Leonard Cohen in the art of the intimate close-miked vocal.

    5.My GirlsAnimal Collective

    Magical stuff but I wonder if anyone’s played it to Brian Wilson yet.

    6.Little ShopLark

    They’ve been gigging around London for a couple of years now and it shows on their fat-free and knowing first album, Shop. You can stream the whole thing here at Lastfm and it’s well worth checking out.

    7.Yours Truly, The CommuterJason Lytle

    Ironic that a man who’s spent much of his career singing about broken things should apply an “if it ain’t, then don’t fix it” approach to his music. Who’s complaining, it’s fantastic to have Grandaddy back in all but name.

    8.Pram TownDarren Hayman & The Secondary Modern

    You don’t have to have worked in local government to love this track but it probably helps.

    9.Further ComplicationsJarvis Cocker

    Jarvis’s second album wasn’t great but the title track was a funny Mis-shape manifesto.

    10.10:03 - Doves

    Are you allowed to mention Doves without saying epic? No. Well, then – epic.
  • Soulsavers - Electric Ballroom 11 December 2009

    12 déc. 2009, 9h43m

    Fri 11 Dec – Soulsavers, Mark Lanegan, Exit calm

    First off, how comes I’ve been going to gigs in London for a quarter of a century (scary fact) and this is the first time I’ve seen one at the Electric Ballroom. Maybe it’s not always been like it is now but I thought it was a great venue, especially for the kind of sound Soulsavers bring.

    Despite the early curfew to make way for the club night, there were two support acts which ate into Soulsavers headline time a little. One of the two, Exit Calm, had a lead singer who’s been to Ian Brown/Liam Gallagher classes and overall they carried off a Verve-y sound. Which turned out to be very appropriate since half-way through their headline set, Soulsavers brought on Nick McCabe from The Verve as a guest extra guitarist (but then Soulsavers always had a good address book).

    This is the first time I’ve seen Soulsavers play live and they were terrific. Whereas on record they’re good but maybe sometimes a little ponderous and precious, live they’re a barrage of Bad Seeds guitars and drums (and suits actually), which the gospel-tinged backing singers set off nicely. The main man, though, and the one pretty much everyone was here to see, was Mr Mark Lanegan. The rockier live sound suits him down to the ground (at times almost harking back to his Screaming Trees days) and the clubby slightly scuzzy venue was just right. We managed to get right down the front, though there was the occasional worry that you’d get transfixed by the Lanegan stare and be turned to stone. They played stuff from both albums, often in much shorter tighter better versions. For me, the driving rockers stood out – Death Bells particularly and the obvious finale of Revival. By this stage Mark Lanegan was actually speaking so we knew things were going well, and I expect the band were enjoying their break from being Depeche Mode’s opening act to be amongst their own crowd for a while. I’m always on standby for an interesting Lanegan collaboration but from the look of this gig, he could well be spending time with the Soulsavers crowd for a while yet.
  • Pixies - Brixton Academy 8 October

    8 oct. 2009, 22h56m

    Thu 8 Oct – Pixies, Art Brut

    Wave of Mutilation? Wave of affection more like. How many other bands could start their set with three or four twenty year old B sides and still be greeted, rightly, as returning heroes. The main event, of course, is Doolittle in its entirety. I'd always maintained that it was a top heavy album with side 1 superior to side 2. These things are relative of course. That means side 2 is merely completely brilliant as opposed to utterly mind altering. Played through live, though, the invention, humour and wonder of the whole thing comes through from first note to last. There were no highlights. It was all mesmerising. Pixies always looked like ordinary people who'd accidentally wandered into one of the greatest sounding rock bands ever and so twenty years has not harmed them - there were no gimmicks to go sour, they just do what they do and do it miraculously (and they continue to do so). After Doolittle, two more B sides - the slower version of Wave Of Mutilation (this is a show for completists, evidently) and then the amazing Into The White, with so much dry ice Kim Deal disappeared entirely for the duration of the song. As an encore, three treats from earlier days - Caribou, Nimrod's Son and Gigantic. A perfect ending.