Tracks Monkeys With Lasers


Walter Schreifels @ The Borderline – 01/02
February 23, 2011, 8:40 pm
Filed under: gigs, music | Tags: , , ,

The Borderline is a venue I’d been to a couple of times in the past, to see ASIWYFA and the Xtra Mile showcase, and it’s one of my favourite venues in London along with Scala so I was rather excited to see that Walter was playing here.

There had been some confusion as to what the lineup was going to be for the night with tickets and websites all saying different things from just Walter to Walter Schreifels (Rival Schools) etc. In the end, it turned out that it was to be a solo show from Walter but with a band consisting of former band members or from other hardcore bands from the same era.

For those that don’t know, Walter has been part of a number of influential (but not necessarily well known) bands during the 80s and 90s, such as Gorilla Biscuits, CIV and Rival Schools. Last year, however, he released ‘An Open Letter To The Scene’ which was his first solo album and the one that he was touring with.

On the night, I got to the Borderline a little late so missed the opening support (Felix Gabhard) but caught the majority of the main support, Spy Catcher. They are normally a moderately heavy rock band but to keep with the theme of the night, they were playing a full band, acoustic set. They were enjoyable enough and a good warmup for the main act but I can’t say too much more than that except that the lead singer had a really good “rock” voice. The set worked well acoustically but I do now wonder what their normal set would sound like.

And so Mr Walter Schreifels himself, and band as already mentioned, took to the stage and I was in prime location to enjoy it. The set was a slightly odd one for me as there was a mix of material off the solo album but a whole host of songs I didn’t know. The latter seemed to be a mix of new tracks and older material that I wasn’t familiar with (but these were definitely in the minority).

Walter himself switched between acoustic and electric guitars for various tracks and even took to harmonica for a couple of numbers which gave a nice mix to the overall sound of the tracks, whether I knew them or not. The addition of a band also gave the solo tracks a different flavour live to how they sounded on record and made the live experience much more enjoyable than if he had just played them straight acoustically.

The cover of Agnostic Front’s ‘Society Suckers’ was one such track that benefited from the full band but the highlight of the set, and the album itself, is the album’s title track ‘An Open Letter’ which builds and drops at just the right moments and is just a great song. And for someone who was in so many hardcore bands in the past, Walter realy does have a fantastic voice and from a purely vocal perspective, he’s one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

In between tracks was almost as good fun as the music itself with some of the chat from Walter and the band, such as the charade when they lost the keyboard player when they came back out for the encore, and Walter just exudes an aura of coolness as well. One of the encore tracks though was an odd number with Walter playing bass and singing and being joined by Felix Gabhard while they seemingly were trying to tidy up around him but the band were all back for one final number after that.

I really enjoyed the show from these guys and it was great to have such a good spot to enjoy it from. I had hoped for one or two older songs but I can understand that he’s moved on from there so may not want to play them these days. But what the night so great for me was that the whole band were fantastically talented musicians which was great to watch but in addition, they all just seemed to really enjoy playing together and being on stage. That, in combination with the material they were playing, made it a great show rather than just a good one for me.

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On The Road With Ben Marwood And Oxygen Thief

With the long awaited release of Ben Marwood’s album “Outside There’s A Curse” coming up, he and his good buddy Oxygen Thief took to the road throughout January. The last three dates of the tour were to be Ben’s homecoming show in Reading, a charity gig in Birmingham and then a small show in London (put on by yours truly) to round things off.

As a friend of both of these guys, as well as knowing the man responsible for the Birmingham show, I joined them on the road for these 3 days.

Friday 28/01 – Rising Sun Arts Centre (Reading)

Having finished with university for the day, there was enough time for me to get a quick bite to eat, grab my sleeping bag, camera and a spare pair of boxers and jump on the train to Reading for the show.

I’ve only been to Reading the once but never for a gig but armed with my trusty iphone, I managed to find the venue with relatively little hassle (except for a broken down bus, delayed tube train and then the slowest ever train ticket purchase taking place in front of me that resulted in me missing my original train). On arriving, it’s safe to say that the Rising Sun isn’t your typical venue..

It turns out that the council have been trying to tear the place down for a while but have never been able to do so as it’s a listed building. The building is therefore safe for now and run as a charity so ticket prices are always quite cheap and all the bar staff are volunteers.

It was an odd building to go into as well with a small hallway leading through to the bar (passing the venue’s single toilet on the way) and then having to go back through another door to the venue proper. After meeting with my tour buddies for the next few days, which also included Kev, the man responsible for [edit] radio, and a few other familiar faces, including Ben’s mum, I grabbed a drink and headed through to the venue.

It was already rather busy in the 50 capacity venue, helped by the fact that 60 tickets had already been sold in advance, and the most diverse crowd I’ve seen in a good while were already listening to Oxygen Thief who was opening tonight.

As always, it was a set full of foot stomping, especially from the crowd to Too Many Trees, and Nick Clegg jokes aplenty. There was even a super rare appearance of Subtlety Is Overrated from one of his super old demos which was a request from one of the party I had no joined. The crowd favourite of Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’ was also out in force and went down as well as always befor the set ended with a new track that saw Mr Marwood also take to the stage to help with vocals at the end of the track and even playing guitar with OT as well.

After a quick changeover, it was another local band up for the main support slot in Quiet Quiet Band who I had never come across before (but I had met Jay, one of the guitarists and a friend of Ben’s, before) so I didn’t know what to expect. But what we got was really enjoyable.

They have a very downtempo-folky sound that really does entice you at times but can then kick in and build up really well but all with very delicate vocals over the top of it all and this all works together very well. Altogether, a set I very much enjoyed and one that the crowd seemed to as well.

After that, it was time for the man himself to step up and Ben Marwood was finally on stage to a crowd that was now too big for the venue to hold but one that gave him a hell of a welcome.

The set itself went brilliantly with the vast majority of the crowd singing along to both old and newer songs with Singalong and Oh My Days getting the best response and Horatio Dies being a particular highlight for me. One song only played on this night was Herbert West which was orginally written by a now defunct band whose members now make up the majority of Quiet Quiet Band and the crowd even knew the words to this one.

After his traditional set closer of The District Sleeps Alone Tonight, Ben got the applause he more than deserved before heading into the crowd to seemingly thank each and every member of the audience not just for being there on that night but for all their support that get him to where he is.

Overall, it was a really good night and it was great to be a part of such a big show for Ben. After the crowd had cleared, it was time to go partay and experience the full nightlife that Reading had to offer (and some HUGE moves from Mr Thief and plenty of chest bumping) before a quick chicken burger and then retiring to my sleeping bag on the floor of Ben’s living room.

Saturday 29/01 – Addistock: This Is It! @ the Bright House (Birmingham)

After a reasonable night’s sleep, copious amounts of tea, a sogg sausage roll, far too many episodes of Star Trek Voyager and the result of the Everton/Chelsea FA cup tie, it was time to hit the road, sadly without a slightly ill Kev.

Taking what seemed to be the most scenic route (i.e. slowest) way from Reading to Birmingham, we arrived early in the evening at the venue. The event tonight was the final ‘Addistock’ show which were only intended as a one-off fundraiser for Macmillan Nurses but have increased in number and raised over £2,000 and this all-dayer was to be the last of these shows.

Despite the best efforts of two FA cup games and Britain’s Got Talent auditions, we managed to actually get to the venue in the centre of the city with the Karate Kid soundtrack providing the tunes for the final part of this journey (as had been tradition for the guys on this tour). It was a fairly small pub with a stage round the back and plenty of space for those there just for the music. We arrived just at the end of B-Sydes set and his Glassjaw cover for Addis, the man responsible for the events.

After that, it was time for our new favourite downbeat-folk band Quiet Quiet Band again. This time they played an even more quiet set with less of the big buildups and less drums. It worked just as well as the night before and the more relaxed sound suited the venue and feel for the evening as well.

Next up was an Addistock regular in Neil Morris with his frentic folk music. He had quite a long set due to some other artists not being able to make the show so had a lot of time to impress and I quite enjoyed the set with enough variety in his longish set to keep it interesting.

Following that, it was a more familiar face to me in Joe Summers who plays both solo and as part of Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun, playing as both at the show I put on at Brixton Windmill (and not the Brixton Academy as I originally wrote; thanks for proofreading Tony). I think Joe has a fantastic voice and is a very good guitar player too so he’s an artist I really enjoy. His set was mainly composed of material from his mini-album but that’s no bad thing as it’s a great piece of work. And with Keep Your Posters rounding off the set, I really enjoyed his time on the small stage.

Next up, it was Mr Adam Boucher who’s now back as a solo act after the Dead Set disbanded (who have also played one of my shows). This was the first time I’d seen him solo and I enjoyed the set and the difference in sound that the solo has from the full band set. With plenty of songs under his belt, there was a good variety of his own tracks, and the odd cover, with A Farewell To Harrington (and the heart wrenching back story to the song) being the backstory.

After Boucher and then the almighty Addistock raffle (and me winning the Complete Horse Racing Night In DVD based game much to the disappointment of Ben), Oxygen Thief was back on stage. It was more of the same from Barry (as he’ll be called from here on in as it’s his name and I’m running out of other things to call him) and it was probably more well received than the previous night and the cover of the night this time round was Andrew WK’s ‘Party Hard’ which was fantastic. Weird highlight of the set was the two man moshpit of me and Ben which didn’t quite work as I floored Mr Marwood and then didn’t quite know what to do. He did recover in time to join Barry on stage again for the final number so all was well.

It was then up to Ben Marwood to round off the night and he did so with aplomb again. Even though the crowd was smaller than the previous night, they were no less appreciative. The set was pretty similar to the previous night but was just as good as before with a mix of album tracks and older material and the set closer of ‘District’ sounding as good as ever.

After the show, it was time to clear up and get out of the venue and back to chez Addis, horse racing game in hand, along with half of the people who had played on the night it seemed for more drinks, late nate pizza, Strongbow boxes for hats, Adam Bennett abuse and all round good times (except for the rather drunk guy who told Ben he was only where he was because of Frank Turner and that he didn’t like Frank. Or Ben. And then went and crashed in Addis’ bed) before I managed to claim the sofa and got another night of drink induced sleep.

Sunday 30/01 – The Wilmington Arms (London)

After waking up and seeing the masses clear, it was time for copious amounts of toast and a spot of Futurama before bidding a fond farewell to our host and hitting the road for the final night of the tour proper in London.

A more straightforward journey than the previous day saw us get there in good time and dump our stuff in the venue and then wait for the sond engineer to arrive while we continued with the rock and roll lifestyle and drank tea. After a quick soundcheck, it was back into the bar for some food which we got A WHOLE POUND OFF for being part of the show tonight. A musician’s life seemingly has it’s perks. And tour buddy Kev rejoined up, rejuvinated by a proper nights sleep and a good shower.

After everyone had soundchecked and we’d cleared the tables, chairs, mop and bucket that made up the assorted shit left lying around the venue (rock and roll again), we were pretty much ready to get the show going.

The venue itself was actually pretty nice and a good sized room. The sound was also really good during soundcheck but now it was just the horrible wait for people to turn up which was made even more horrible by the fact that it was a Sunday and the nearest tube station was closed.

Thankfully, people had started to turn up so Adam Bennett got the proverbial ball rolling. Adam had stepped in late on to replace one act who pulled out but he had played the previous night before our arrival in Birmingham as part of his mini-UK tour with Adam Boucher and Dave Hughes (who they were meeting up with the next day). Tonight, Adam’s set went rather well with his almost sea-shanty-esque “anti-folk” songs. He’s only just started writing and touring properly but has got some good songs under his belt and he, hopefully, can only get better, even with a near constant stream of abuse from Boucher.

Next up, it was time for Adam Boucher whose set was similar to the night before. His somewhat abrasive banter with the crowd may not have gone down brilliantly with a quiet, Snday night crowd but he seemingly won some of them over as he got them to keep clapping after breaking a string and changing his guitar before carrying on. It was a slightly strange set though as he actually said nice things about Adam Bennett between tracks, perhaps only to lure him into a false sense of security before abusing him for the rest of their tour again.

Third on the bill was an act I’d been looking forward to in mistakes.in.animation who are (normally) a four piece that are based in Kingston and have been together for a few years now. Tonight, however, they plained mainly as just a duo with Del on guitars and vocals and Scarlett on keyboard and vocals. They played a stripped down version of their songs and it worked really well on the night and they were the only band whose CD I bought through the entire weekend. Definitely a band I’d like to see in their full lineup and it was a set I really enjoyed.

Main support was Oxygen Thief’s time on stage and it was again more of the same. Tonight’s one-from-the-archives was Camera Shy and cover-of-the-night saw Gold re-emerge. Odd part of the set this time round was the obscure crowd surfing I ended up doing after being flipped in the air. I say crowd surfing, it was pretty much just Ben and another friend carrying me around for a bit. Barry’s set was enjoyable again and if nothing else, got people to finally emerge from the shadows at the back of the venue and come to the front of the stage.

And so, Ben Marwood, bounded on stage for the last performance of the full tour. With only half an hour on stage and a voice only just clinging to full strength, Ben launched through his set again with plenty of stories of tour and life in between. Another big rendition of Singalong ended the night but not quite as everyone would have liked as the manager came in and pulled the plug on the show so District never even had a chance.

A slightly damp squib to end the night with and a mildly disappointing turnout meant it was a slight anti-climax to the tour but I hope that those that did turn up enjoyed the set.

After clearing up and sorting everything out, it was time to say goodbye to my brothers as they returned to Reading, leaving me alone on the edge of the road with just my sleeping bag, a mistakes.in.animation CD, a horse racing DVD game and a whole load of happy memories but also the thought of returning to real life the next day.

Ben Marwood – Horatio Dies (live at the Rising Sun Arts Centre)




2010 Gigs: Best of the Rest

These shows have been of a monkey on my back over the last couple of months as I’ve had every intention to sit down and write them up properly but life has somewhat conspired against this and as time has gone on, I’ve felt like I couldn’t review them as well as I’d like so have kept putting it off.

Now, I feel I need to start this year with a clean slate but also round of 2010 so here’s a runthrough of all but one (which will get a slightly longer writeup) of the gigs I made it to in the twilight of the year..

The Tallest Man On Earth @ Electric Ballroom – 24/11

It’s not that long ago that the Swede was coming over to the UK for his first ever show, a show I was privileged to attend. In fact, it still remains one of my favourite gigs ever as Matsson played to a silent audience in awe of such amazing guitarwork and vocals and gripped by the intensity of his performance.

Fast forward little over a year and a few UK performances, The Tallest Man On Earth is back to play to a sold out Camden crowd. It amazes me to see the sudden explosion in his popularity but this isn’t by accident as he is a truly stunning artist and one that deserves to play to such crowds. I don’t know how word has spread so quickly about him but the praise is always justified.

However, the Ballroom just doesn’t suit this type of performance. Arriving later after meeting friends, we were stuck near to the back. Not being so tall myself, the slopeless Ballroom doesn’t fare well for myself and so half the gig is spent ducking and weaving through people so I can see something of him on stage and not just the back of someone’s head (and their straw/ironic Peruvian hat).

As ever, Matsson himself plays a blinder. Even to such a crowd, the feeling he gives out for each track shines through (but by the inverse square law, it’s greatly diminished by the time it gets to me). Running through tracks from both albums and the new EP, he plays a mix of live favourites and songs I’d need heard in this setting before.

There were plenty of other firsts to this performance as well though. Appropriately enough, given the venue, this was the first time he had gone fully electric and the change in sound for some of the tracks made them sound nicely different to what I had heard previously.

More noticeable than that, however, was the introduction of the organ/piano to the set adding a whole new dimension to his set. The most noticeable of these, and the definite highlight for myself, was the reworked version of Like The Wheel which was nothing short of beautiful. And an encore finishing with Kids On The Run rounded the evening off brilliantly.

I do love seeing The Tallest Man On Earth live as he is such a passionate and intense performer (and the only artist I know who can turn tuning his guitar into a whole song on it’s own!). It’s just a shame that the Ballroom is such a terrible venue for an artist like him and he’s got to the stage of attracting “fans” along now, such as the guy stood near me who just seemed intent on singing all the songs at his girlfriend in an apparent attempt to prove that he knew all the words.

I am gutted that I can’t make the next show that’s been announced at Shepherd’s Bush Empire due to my exams as that could suit him better. However, I still think he performs best to small audiences but those days are definitely gone now, in London at least, and I can only be thankful that I got to see him play such shows.

Titus Andronicus @ Scala – 25/11

This had been a show I’d been looking forward to for a while with The Monitor being one of my favourite albums of the year and with TA’s reputation as a great live band. Arriving early, I caught the set of the second support act TV Personalities who were an influential punk band from the 70s (and beyond) and who TA seemed to admire. Despite this reputation, they were pretty crap. It wasn’t until afterwards I found out that they were held in seemingly high regard as they were boring, repetitive and flat.

As such, it meant that I was even more geared up for Titus themselves as I was determined to have a good time. Luckily, they didn’t disappoint.

Launching straight off with A More Perfect Union, the crowd were instantly on the band’s side and loving every minute of it which is not a surprise as it is a brilliant album opener. The rest of the set was a mix of tracks from the new album as well as the previous record with Fear And Loathing.., and the amazing Titus Andronicus itself from the first album being highlights but then again new tracks sounded just as good.

Titus know how to whip the crowd into a frenzy though, especially with singalong lines life “you’ll always be a loser” and screams of FUCK YOU! at certain points. All this meant it was one of the most knackering gigs I’ve ever been to with the unrelenting pace of the show hardly letting up with the breaks between songs being a welcome break for the band and the crowd. Even slower tracks like To Old Friends And New had such an intensity about them that it still sapped the energy from everyone present.

The venue itself added to the atmosphere with Scala being much smaller than I had imagined so everyone was packed in. The security staff also didn’t seem too fussed about crowd surfers so it made it feel like an old school rock concert. However, Dan Tracey from TV Personalities seemingly thought he was back in the 70s and insisted on taking over the stage and getting the band to play with him. One track wasn’t enough though and he grabbed a guitar and played a song with a very bemused Titus playing along and an even more bemused audience not knowing whether to laugh or feel sorry for Dan who clearly thought he was THE MAN with the amount of booze/illicit substances he was on.

After normal service had resumed, Titus continued their race to the end of the show making for a great show and it was nice to see a band live that sounded as good and energetic and frantic live as they did on record. They also seemed to be a nice group of people too and couldn’t stop saying how happy they were to be playing their biggest non-US show so it was a pleasure to be part of that as well.

One of the gigs of the year for me.

65daysofstatic @ CAMP – 26/11

A mere 6 months after seeing them at Koko, 65dos were back in town for a much smaller show at a place I’d never even heard of.

The City and Arts Music Project is just off Old Street and must be a relatively new venue as I used to work in the area and didn’t recognise the place at all. We got there before doors opened as a friend had managed to get me a reserved ticket (despite it being a sellout) but we had to get there early to grab it. But early here had a different meaning as the doors weren’t even due to open until 10pm with 65dos not on until around midnight.

On arriving, the bar on the ground floor level of the venue looked quite nice from outside and we got a decent look at it as we were left standing outside in temperatures below zero as they kept refusing to open the doors. 30 minutes or so later, and with hypothermia only just staved off, we finally made it inside the venue.

Going down stairs, the venue really was a tiny place and quite a dingy place but in a way that made me quite excited as the smallest venue I had ever seen the band in was at the Dingwalls and this was probably even smaller.

After taking up our spots around the middle of the venue we settled down for the evening and welcomed the support band Kong onto the stage, ready for them to set the scene for the evening.

Sadly, they were a bit crap. The costumes they wore just looked tacky and their “noise rock” sound just came over as noise. There were moments where I felt like I was starting to get into their music but it quickly descended back into something I ended up tolerating instead, which is not a good way to describe any music.

After that disappointment, it was up to 65dos to save the day. Rumour had it that the band hate playing London because of the hipsters that end up going to the shows who aren’t actually fans of theirs and had even thought about not playing London. But with such a small venue, I was hoping that the place was going to be ripped up.

Sadly, this just didn’t happen. 65dos themselves were fantastic as always and still remain one of the best live acts out there. But the crowd just didn’t seem to be up for it at all, standing around looking more like they were queuing for a bus. There were a handful of people trying to go for it but these were definitely in the minority.

As for 65dos, the set leaned quite heavily towards their newest album, which was no problem for me as We Were Exploding Anyway is, for me, their finest piece of work to date with much more synth on it that their previous records which adds much more to their sound. From the set opener and all out assault that is Go Complex to the almost rave-esque Weak4, this material is just made to be played live. There were a host of old tracks in there too though, including Retreat! Retreat! which always gives me shivers when I hear it live.

Closing the main part of the set with the eerie Debutante, many people headed for the doors to my bemusement as it was clear 65dos would be coming back out and it was definitely worth hanging round for with the brilliant Radio Protector and Tiger Girl before a second encore of older tracks to round the night off.

I really enjoyed the set and it was great to see them back in a small venue. But after the atmosphere of the previous evening, it felt like such a let down to have such a rubbish audience in a venue that was made for this kind of show (but not helped by the average sound and over zealous security staff). And with a crowd of people that the band hate London for, I only hope they do come back. Or that I’m out of here before their next show.

Sorry for the lack of pics but the lighting in the venue and my camera just didn’t get along.

The Rural Alberta Advantage @ The Luminaire – 09/12

Another day, another amazing gig.

It’s no secret on this blog that I utterly love the RAA ever since a friend sent me a download link (I have no qualms about this as this was the pre-Saddle Creek days when you could only buy the album straight from them). On last.fm, it is my most listened to album with over 1,000 plays and when I heard about their first gig in the UK, I almost let out a little sex wee. That show didn’t disappoint (apart from the annoying hippy guy who clapped out of time through the whole gig) and so when they announced their return, I snapped up a ticket.

This was the first gig I’d ever been to at the Luminaire (amazingly) and would ultimately be my only visit with it facing imminent closure. It was a beautiful little venue and a bit smaller than I had imagined. With the first support band having just finished, I made my way quite happily to the stage and settled down in time for Let’s Buy Happiness. I quite enjoyed their set with their indie pop sound and interesting vocals from the female vocalist and they are a band I have meant to investigate more since I saw them.

But it was the RAA who I was obviously here to see and wondered just how they would be able to top their previous gig. After the inevitable waiting around, they bounded on stage to a warm round of applause and yet again managed to capture my heart.

They manage to blend several sounds into their songs, and subequently into their set, so well and without ever sounding as though they’re not comfortable doing so; from the distorted and frantic Drain The Blood to the haunting Frank, AB every song sounds great. The mix of keyboards, straight acoustic and distorted acoustic guitars taking the lead on different tracks also gives the set a nice mix of sounds and this is all backed up with Niles’ unique, strained vocals, Amy’s beautiful backing vocals and then Paul’s all out assault on the drums which somehow fits in with the soft and tender music seamlessly.

As well as the old favourites, which have been around for a good few years now, the band also played a number of new songs which all fit in with the sound of the tracks from Hometowns but offer something slightly different. Barnesyard is one that is recognisable straight away to me as it has been on their Daytrotter session from quite a while ago but the ones that I didn’t know still had an air of familiarity about them which makes me very excited for the new album (which is out very soon and up for pre-order on Saddle Creek’s website now).

Like their previous show, the finale for the night was the new albums closing track Goodnight which was performed completely unplugged and played on a raised section of the venue at the back of the crowd. Save for a few people who jst can’t help but talk, everyone else present listened in silence to a great finish to the night.

I loved their set again this time round but it didn’t quite reach the heights of the previous show. This was nothing to do with how they played but that last time round was the first time seeing them live so the anticipation of that made it so much more amazing but I won’t complain if they decide to come back to these shores any time in the near future.

Frank Turner @ Brixton Academy – 12/12

March 2009 – Puregroove Records instore to 50 people

December 2010 – Sellout show at Brixton Academy to 5000 people

These number show just how far Frank Turner has gone in such a short amount of time. But no matter what the size of the crowd, Frank seems equally comfortable but equally humble at the same time. Having been at both of these shows (the former being the smallest crowd I can remember seeing him play to and the latter being his biggest headline show to date) and a fair few in between, it’s been fascinating to see this change to take place.

This was the end of a UK tour as well as the year’s Christmas show and a slightly different one from the magical night at the Union Chapel 12 months previously. I got to the venue nice and early to catch the full lineup for the evening which kicked off with Dive Dive. As Frank fans will know, three quarters of the band are the same guys that make up Frank’s band with leadman Jamie being the only difference in the lineups. Having recently signed to Xtra Mile themselves, they were ready to release their first album in a few years and showcased it brilliantly on the night.

With a very different sound to their work with Frank, they launched through their set with it’s tight indie sound which was a great start to the night and I’m sure it was a set won them plenty of new fans on the night. The new material, which I’d managed to hear beforehand on Spotify, sounded great and made the album one to go on the pre-order list when I got home.

After that came Ed Harcourt which was a name I recognised but not one I could put a song to. His set was an interesting mix of sounds with him flitting between piano and guitar. For just one man on such a big stage with such a huge audience, he did very well and it was a set that I found quite interesting and not one I would have expected from someone supporting Mr Turner.

As for Frank’s set itself, there’s very little I can say that I haven’t said several times in the past. As always, a mixture of material off all three albums and the new EP were present and correct as well as several new tracks, most of which will presumably feature on the, as yet untitled, fourth studio album that will be out in Summer 2011.

The standout moment for me of his set was the crowd’s participation and excitement for his most recent single I Still Believe. It is definitely one of his catchiest/mainstream (in a nice way) songs but I never expected such a reaction to such a new song and it makes you think that a lot of the crowd have only just jumped on the Frank-wagon (especially as the show had only sold out a week or two before having been on sale since February).

Many of the standard live tracks such as Prufrock, LI&S, Father’s Day etc all sounded great as is always the case. The less commonly played Nashville Tennessee and Springsteen’s Thunder Road also got their chances to be heard while the pick of the new tracks in the a capella English Curse had the crowd hanging on every word.

Frank’s interaction with the crowd was there as per usual too with plenty of chatting between songs and thanking the crowd repeatedly for making it his biggest show to date. This was also coupled with personal tales such as about his grandmother feeding him whiskey at a young age.

The set closer of The Road had the crowd, and my companion Mr Ben Marwood, very excited and whipped up for cheers and screams for the inevitable encore which bought the night to an end with the singalong of Ballad of Me and My Friends and then Photosynthesis with Ed Harcourt coming back out on stage to join in.

Frank is someone I will never tire of seeing live, as you may have already guessed, as you know you’ll get a great show but with such a library of tracks to play as well as the constant stream of new material, it’s different every time as well. Yet again, another great show and a fantastic way to end the year for gigs again.



The Justice Force 5 @ The Wheelbarrow – 15/01
January 16, 2011, 6:46 pm
Filed under: gigs | Tags: , ,

The first gig of 2011 held a tiny bit more significance than most as it was the first at The Wheelbarrow in Camden.

The Wheelbarrow only opened recently but is run by the team that were behind The Flowerpot which was an awesome venue that in it’s brief existence introduced me to the fantastic Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, held some of the excellent Lexapalooza shows and was also the site for my first ever (albeit brief) appearance in a music video.

Sadly, the lease got pulled from under their feet but in almost no time they had moved to their new home on Camden High Street.

The venue seemed much smaller on first look than the old place but a small recce showed that there was a bit more space round the back of the pub next to the stage. It also had a bit more of an old pub feel to it than the last place but overall it was a cool atmosphere and a strangely familiar one as I recognised a fair few faces on both sides of the bar.

But I wasn’t here just to check out the venue. I was also here to see the fantastic Justice Force 5. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen these guys as they had featured at two of the Lexapalooza shows I had been to in the past and so I knew what to expect, unlike my friend who’d tagged along for the evening. Made up of a host of superheroes, including Captain Courageous and Judgement Dave among other (whose backstories you can read on their Facebook page), they’re only on stage in order to save the world through the medium of ROCK!

So after making my way down to the front of the stage, the cape-clad Bo Diggity led the troupe to unleash their powers on the audience.

It’s all well and good to have the costumes and everything but the JF5 back all of this glitz up with some really good tracks. If you know how to smile and have a set of ears, I don’t know how you couldn’t enjoy the band. And the point about smiling is what makes this band so enjoyable; they don’t just play great songs but are also a really good, fun band. So on top of everything already mentioned, glitter guns and pyrotechnics were out in full force as always and the best example of all of this must be the on stage musical battle between the band and their arch-nemesis the Organ Grinder.

The tracks themselves are a great mix of rock with a little bit of electro thrown in for good measure. Captain Courageous takes the lead on vocals for the majority of the set but Dr Amazing also has his turn as does Bo Diggity on the tracks The Justic Force Dance (featuring the memorable line “I always put my trousers on before my pants, and when I leave the house I do the Justice Force dance).

I had heard most of the songs before but I think there were a couple of new tracks thrown in as well (but I will admit that this was the most sober I had ever seen them so I can’t be certain). There was a slightly bizarre interlude to the evening when a civilian attempted to join the band but his powers of harmonica playing weren’t good enough to see the band expand it’s numbers (but his power of not leaving the stage was a bit more impressive).

Overall, I really enjoyed the set and left with a grin on my face. They’re a band I’d very much like to put on at some point just as an excuse to see them again but I do think they’re one of the best live experiences out of the many bands I’ve seen over the last few years; they are definitely my favourite electro superhero rock band by quite a long way.

Sadly, the audio from the evening didn’t come out very well so instead I highly suggest you give their two videos a watch instead..

 



Slow Club @ Koko – 01/06
December 7, 2010, 10:43 pm
Filed under: gigs | Tags: ,

Apologies in advance; recollections of this gig are somewhat hazy 6 months on but a review you shall get regardless!

First things first, the support. Yeah, I don’t remember anything about them even if I do still recognise the names. The support on the night was from Spectrals, Summer Camp and Veronica Falls. That’s as much as I can say I’m afraid music fans.

The main act themselves, Slow Club, came bounding on stage, joined by their bass player and drummer and launched straight into a new tracks which was a brave move but one the crowd enjoyed nonetheless.

This high tempo start continued witha surprising early playing of Our Most Brilliant Friends, one of my personal favourites, and Giving Up On Love, allowing for a frantic opening which doesn’t quite fit in with the whole feel of their album; 2009’s ‘Yeah, So’.

After that, the tempo finally dropped with old and new songs alike. The new material sounded very promising and was played with such feeling and assertiveness that it would be difficult for someone unaware of their material to tell the tried and tested tracks from the new and this all points towards a wonderful second album, whenever it may appear.

Of the older songs, the one that sticks out for me was Rebecca’s solo ‘Sorry For The Doom’ which had the packed out Koko transfixed. It did feel at times that the duo were in awe of the crowd as much as the crowd were of them but this didn’t show through too much once the band had settled into their set. In between tracks, the pair also loosened up during the night and were very quaint with Rebecca telling a joke a Waitrose Christmas cracker would be proud of (“What did the cheese say to itself in the mirror? Halloumi”).

The highlights for me though were the two tracks played unplugged with ‘Wild Blue Milk’  coming partway through the set while ‘Christmas TV’ closed off the evening. Thankfully, the crowd showed the respect the tracks deserved giving an eerie hush to such a large audience, meaning the tracks worked well.

On the night, I was very impressed with Slow Club. They overcame the nerves they seemed to have playing to their biggest audience to date and once they had settled on stage, they made it feel like a much more intimate venue than Koko actually is. Not bad for a band once described to me as the “staple support act of Sheffield”.

Slow Club – Our Most Brilliant Friends (live)



Xtra Mile Showcase @ Borderline – 25/05
December 7, 2010, 8:53 pm
Filed under: gigs | Tags: , , , , ,

This show had what was for me a fantastic lineup with The Xcerts, Straight Lines and Crazy Arm all playing who are all bands I’m a big fan of (and had all seen live previously). In addition, one of Xtra Mile’s latest signing, Fighting Fiction, were also due to play so I was intruiged to see what they had to offer.

As it turned out, it wasn’t to be a full band performance from Fighting Fiction but just an acoustic set from the lead singer, Jacob. This was a little disappointing but it was still a good set and made me want to hear more of their stuff. Their EP and newest single are up on Spotify and are well worth a listen.

Next up were Crazy Arm. I really like the record these guys put out last year but when I saw them supporting Frank Turner at the Roundhouse, I was left slightly underwhelmed with their live performance. Sadly, this show did little to change that.

Their songs are very strong but live it was just a little sloppy at times. Every now and again the timing seemed to be slightly off between the band and, for me at least, this was quite noticeable and really spoilt their performance. It’s a bit of a shame as I really do like the album but that’s twice that I’ve been disappointed with them live. Third time lucky?

After that, it was time for Straight Lines to take to the stage. I’d seen these guys only a few months previously as well when they headlined at the Camden Enterprise which was a show I really enjoyed. Here, they put on a good show again but with it not being a crowd there to seem them specifically, it wasn’t as good as before.

That said, I did enjoy their set and they even played one or two new songs from what I remember. Good band, good album and good fun live too.

Finally, it was the main act of the night in The Xcerts. I’d been lucky to catch these guys almost a year ago at Lexapalooza at the Gaff. Back then, there was only a handful of people still around to see them but they really managed to impress me. Since then, their first album had grown on me even more so I was looking forward to seeing how they’d progressed.

As it turned out, they’d come out massively since I’d seen them last. They seemed completely at ease on stage and weren’t afraid to try out something different with their tracks with a different version of ‘Home Versus Home’ working really well.

With their latest album being prepared for release around the time of this show, they showcased a few new tracks, including their latest single ‘Slackerpop’. Not many people seemed to know the track but I enjoyed it and it points to a slightly different sound on the new album from their first.

It can be a bit odd when a band plays new songs live when nobody recognises them. The band seemed to recognise this though so played the new tracks early on, leaving the rest of the set to the material everyone there knew and these sounded great. ‘Crisis In The Slow Lane’ was a particular highlight to me with the now near-capacity crowd singing along to the chorus; quite a difference from the show at the Gaff.

To finish the night, Murray came back out on stage by himself and played the beautiful ‘Aberdeen 1987’. Sadly a lot of the crowd seemed to be chatting amongst themselves at this point but the song was brilliant regardless with the crowd again singing the chorus. Murray may have forgotten the words at one point but this didn’t spoil a thing.

Altogether, it was a great night with three bands I really like playing as well as a new one for me to check out. The Xcerts were the clear standout act of the night though and I only hope these guys can continue to get better and better.

The Xcerts – Aberdeen 1987 (live)



65daysofstatic @ Koko – 12/05
December 7, 2010, 8:52 pm
Filed under: gigs | Tags: , ,

A belated and, thus, short “review” as I can’t give too many details about this show so long after it took place.

Support on the night came from Nedry, who did nothing for me, and from Loops Haunt who rather impressed with his set on stage and is well worth checking out.

As for 65dos themselves, they played a great set with a good mix of old and new material. The sound system of Koko allowed the new tracks to shine while the older tracks sounded fantastic too. Being on the balcony, I had a good view of the band and I have to say, it’s amazing to watch the band’s drummer in full flow.

It really is a sight to behold when he’s giving it everything and in tracks like the sublime ‘Retreat! Retreat!’ (one of their best moments live) it’s easy to be mesmerised by him.

The set was overall solid and, as mentioned previously, the sound was great. However, Koko doesn’t seem like the best venue for the band. The size doesn’t make for the right kind of atmosphere for their kind of music which, to me, is much better suited to small, sweaty venues like at the Dingwalls (but at least they didn’t break the venue like they did when I saw them there). As such, the crowd felt a little flat but it’s difficult to put on a show in a smaller venue for them when they can sell out a venue the size of Koko.

Overall, I really enjoyed the set and it was nice to get chance to hear the whole of Weak4 and to hear Radio Protector this time round. New tracks like Go Complex and Tiger Girl, at either end of the show, did sound beautiful but without the crowd to match what was going on on-stage, the gig just lacked that certain something to make it truely amazing.

65daysofstatic – Weak4 (live)




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