Archive for March, 2008


March 24, 2008

So I’ll delete the tentatively titled pages of notes on Team Waterpolo and other things for Thursday.

They were good, though.  Worth seeing.  Just didn’t have any time to get more than a picture or two, before things dragged me away.  But ah well.  Shit happens, etc.

 This week brings more.  Free entry is lovely like that.



Envy and Other Sins – Syndicate Bristol, 12/03

March 16, 2008

The best thing about Propaganda, indeed the redeeming feature, is that it pulls enough PR weight to draw in some big name…people, to do stuff.  I say people since its normally members of bands, doing DJ sets, rather than playing, with their brothers.  Which is nice.  So it was surprising when, as I batted away hands from my drink, (at the other end of which invariably lurked sinister 6ft 3 men with electric black hair), men took the stage!  Not drunks, but men!  Men with guitars!  And waistcoats!

Looking over my furtively scribbled notes (texted, rather.  This is 2008 after all), I  got an idea of what I was thinking, at least at the time.  The tone was ‘Prog’, with allusions towards Pink Floyd, but really more like Interpol due to the noticeable lack of heroin.  Maybe even the Teenagers, thanks to their soft vocals.

The problem is, that these notes are my only strong feelings about them.  A disconcerting mixture is a venue which, frankly, would be a rival to the Academy if it needed to be, in terms of size, and a band that sound like they’re experimenting with some new instruments.  Conventionally referred to as guitars.

There just wasn’t a substance behind it!  There was no oomph, no punch, no je-ne-sais-quois.  Maybe they were overwhelmed after a long string of supporting The Hoosiers, maybe their Sound Engineer left his drink unattended and was at the command of ‘Stuart’ in a quiet cubicle somewhere, or maybe they’re just not very loud.  Images that come to mind are watching a building collapse, wondering when its all going to go down at once.  Warmed Over Chili Peppers, rather than Red Hot.

The vocalist had clearly mastered the indie diphthong , and the bassist stuck out as extraordinarily good.  But what was lacking, and this will always, always be the point of live music, is the melody.  There was no tune, nothing to hook you and lay baby alien song eggs in your mind.  Pleasantly generic; or, to put it another way, nothing more than an evolved form of background static.  I never thought I’d be waiting for Big Dan to come back on, but I was.
But then…

I probably don’t have the right to say anything.  I didn’t prepare myself, and maybe they’re better than I was letting myself believe.  Their Myspace was, I hate to say, far more fruitful.  I didn’t think of the Hoosiers until I saw them as their supporting act, and that was probably missing the link that stopped me ‘getting’ them.  So their single should do well, probably (see below).  But then, I didn’t like Kate Nash, and similar acts have pulled me around.  Having to like the band before you like the band isn’t the right state of affairs, no matter how you look at it.

At least DJ Dan played RATM afterwards.  The comic relief of comparing British indie kids to that French mosh pit was enough to cheer me up plenty.

Metronomy and Portmanteau at the Louisiana – 04/03/08

March 8, 2008

So Portmanteau opened.

If you want to associate a word with a performance, ‘Confusion’ wouldn’t be many artists first choice.  But then, if you’re going to accompany yourselves with a video screen of owls, post-modern RAF imagery, a statement in favour of nuclear energy and …Fabs, then you probably know you’ll be taking people out of their comfort zone.

But it was all good; I was genuinely confused by what I saw, what I was supposed to be thinking, and whether I was just too musically illiterate to be allowed to pass judgment.  The crowd, I felt, gave them more or less fuck all to work with, which was a little harsh.  I think that’s just what happens when people have to work the next day and can’t drink as much as they’d like to.  A set at Timbuk2 or Thekla on a Friday?  Much more suited.

Accordingly, this was all followed by Metronomy, and, sadly, this turned out to spark exactly the expected change in the crowd; cheeriness.  It wasn’t really possible to feel awe in a room with a flaky ceiling, super-glued sound dampening and a bar straight out of Only Fools and Horses.  And no one was really moving enough to mosh in a particular fashion.  Watching 3 men with guitars, keyboards and one melodica , the best comparison is probably this time I wandered into this strange dutch art-space in Amsterdam, full of stuff like big shaking balls, crazy lights, and other distinctly arty things.  Like watching a musical museum piece.

It was one strange ‘performance’.  The three members of Metronomy (Joseph Mount, Gabriel Stebbing, Oscar Cash) hold an alien aura around them, something of a cross between the Hives and a trio of Dior models; all willowy and black.  The surreal glowy orbs on their chests added a splash of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ too.

On the topic of these lights, Mount has been quoted as saying “I’m totally aware that some people hate it but equally I think some people enjoy it just for the fact that it’s a bit of fun”.  A comment on their music itself really.  A continuous half-way house between punk, ‘The 8 Bit Scene’ (or rather, today’s new meaningless genre-label),  and electro, it can be difficult to really keep a hold of what you’re listening to with any of their released tracks.

The saving grace was that with 6 instruments on stage already, there wasn’t any room for falling back on bleep-blip-bloop magic, which kept them firmly grounded in the alternative/softcore-punk arena.  Or indeed Acid Punk, as one genre-field holds it.  So it was much better from the off.  Ever though they occasionally fell on their backing tracks for the purpose of a bit of showmanship and performance.  One man’s showmanship isanothers mindless-crowd-pleasing, but I know which one I am.

It wasn’t difficult to see what was getting the best response.  Radio Ladio was beautiful – especially the arm pumping superman antics that yes, meant they let go of their instruments completely.  Black Eye Burnt Thumb was chaotically charming when preformed right in front of you, and they were so clearly aware of that!  And then they dropped You Could Easily Have Me as a farewell track.  Or rather, played it, enjoyed the reaction, and played it again (“And now, exactly the same song as you just heard…”).  The crowd was there on a Tuesday night, with work in the morning, and were fairly aggressive about demanding the hits, pure and simple.  So yes, they had little choice really.  But nicely handled.

They were reveling in their role as headliner.  They’ve fought a long road to get where they are, supporting everyone from Justice to CSS and Kate Nash, and, be in in the small 1st floor room of an out of center pub, they were finally playing to a crowd there to see them, not one they needed to impress.  It was a thank you, above all else, and I’d love to see it all again.

Florence and The Machine – Thekla 28/02/08

March 2, 2008

One joy of gig going is such; seeing people you probably haven’t heard of, or indeed heard more than the barest sample of.  Reason; even if they’re less than perfect, or even more or less shit, you never know where they’re going to end up (look at Amy Winehouse! Oh! etc).
The only thing better than seeing someone so joyfully terrible it can strengthen your faith in God, is when you see an act that you can just tell are going to have what it takes to succeed.   Microclimate style, it was strange to watch the interest grow so quickly in this little drummer girl.  As Florence herself pointed out, it looked like she’d be playing to an empty boat for a while.  But, to extend a nautical theme, the crowds were soon lured as strongly as sailors to a sirens call.  No doubt people found it difficult to connect that this soulful, carrying voice was coming from the same girl with a drum onstage.

Florence has this oddly diminutive presence when she performs; dressed in day-glo-cum-quasi-vintage, spanking a drum, it’s like watching a life-sized version of Angelica from the Rugrats demanding attention (quote; “I’ll bang my drum to shut you up” – if that doesn’t do it for you, nothing will).  Importantly, she could be 4ft high and made of wood, and you’d still be drawn to her just from the voice alone.  This is soulful stuff; none of the whiney, precocious Kate-nashey/Lilyey-Alleney fare that’s dominated recently; vocals that grab you by your throat, or any extremity of your choice, sits you down and shuts you up so you can listen.  Most pop music commands a vacuous fascination; indie commands pity; Florence commands respect.  Think Nina Simone meets Kate; sorry, Nina Simone, fucking Kate Nash, while on pills.

Adele, and others, have shown that the next thing coming up will no doubt be a wave of this brand of very forthright female vocalists.  But where that Londoner songstress goes for the heartstrings, there’s so much more of an inherent cheer with FATM.  Live, she brought a beautiful energy with her; how many artists could remain blase and cheerful in the face of a big empty boat?  Or not bat an eyelid when bantering with the more manic elements of the crowd?  I only wish I’d taken her up on her offer of a snotty tissue, or some information about books on paedophiles.  Artists are supposed to be a distant ideal, not feel like they’re your best friend!  If I was going to guess what the planned cover was, I’d never have even suggested Girls Aloud single ‘Can’t Speak French‘, but she did it; that’s a real sign of someone who doesn’t care about convention.  Fuck it, Nina Simone, fucking Kate Nash, while on pills, over the corpses of Girls Aloud.  With a drumstick or something.

I hope I can say that ‘I was there’ before FATM was famous.  She deserves to be, and there must be bright things ahead. It’ll be the siren metaphor all over again; a slow, but unstoppable growth of interest.  When someone can make you feel you’re watching high-quality stadium-soul, in a disused steamer bright lights beckon.