Filed under: Bands, Festivals, Gigs!, KYEO, Narc | Tags: Clinic, Drunk In Hell, Errors, Hey Colossus, Hype Williams, Misty's Big Adventure, Mogwai, Mothertrucker, Pain Jerk, Richard Dawson, Shonen Knife, Supersonic, The Bug, Tusk, UFOMammut, Warm Digits, Witch Hands, Women In Revolt
Free Reign (Domino)
Words: Lee Fisher
I’d lost touch with Clinic over the last couple of albums, which seems to have roughly coincided with them losing touch with what they’re good at, so it’s a relief that they’re back to their haunted, freaky best on Free Reign. It might be a source of frustration for them but this is a return to form precisely because it’s Clinic returning to the source, which in their case is the same lysergically tainted water supply as a band like Moon Duo but with better songs.
Because as much as Clinic are very blatant about their key influences – Suicide, Neu, Spacemen 3 and the rest – it’s the addition of post punk, garage and even dub elements that give them their distinctive flavour. Take second track Seesaw – all Monks-style stomp, filthy organ and a spooky clarinet freakout. Or the fabulous Seamless Boogie Woogie BBC2 10pm (I wonder who that could be about, pop kids?). These are songs that fuck with your head without outstaying their welcome. For The Season is like the comedown lullaby you’ve always wanted, with one of Ade Blackburn’s loveliest vocals, sweet and tender but still acidic around the edges, like the lingering effects of a long trip.
King Kong is pure analogue trance, Blackburn sounding positively libidinous (or alarmed – or both?) over a track of Kling Klang keyboards (remember them?). You is pure motorik chug and burble, Cosmic Radiation a lovely bit of jazzy freakbeat, like West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. In short, there’s nothing on Free Reign that’s less than damn good, and a lot of it is fantastic. All this and a limited edition version of the album that comes as a glow-in-the-dark UFO frisbee (with a download code) for you to spin around on your finger in a dark room in those more, ahem, ‘reflective’ moments.
New Rituals (Rock Action)
Words: Lee Fisher
Errors have always struck me as a band capable of being pretty great but achieving it only rarely. Tracks like A Rumour In Africa are thrillingly inventive electro workouts, but too often they drift into noodling mood pieces that fail to engage. Unfortunately, New Rituals fails to break the habit. There a couple of great tracks – Hemlock, in particular manages to evoke both Boards of Canada and New Order and yet still make sense.
But too many of the tracks on this ‘mini-album’ (a mini-album at 30 plus minutes? See, albums ARE getting bloated) are pretty enough but lack focus or intent, and occasionally lapse into some alarmingly 80s sounds. Maybe next time they’ll nail it.
Mogwai – A Wretched Virile Lore (Rock Action)
For many acts, remix albums are stop gaps or contract fillers, but that’s not Mogwai’s style. As with its predecessor Kicking A Dead Pig, this is a serious (and seriously Impressive) project. It doesn’t all work but when it does it’s excellent. JK Flesh’s mix of George Sq Thatcher Death Party manages to be both brutal and beautiful, while Cylob marry the vocodered voices of White Noise to some gloriously squelchy techno. The Soft Moon are kindred spirits of Mogwai’s in some ways, so it’s no surprise they work wonders with San Pedro. But Tim Hecker’s remix of Rano Pano was always going to be the highlight because… Well, fuck, it’s Tim Hecker, and his waves of crunchy ambient distortion are always glorious.
Divine Trash Presents Women In Revolt /Witch Hands – Central Bar, Gateshead 18th October
Witch Hands are Lux AND Ivy, Bob Log III and Hazil Adkins, Holly Golightly and Howling Wolf, all in the form of one woman and her guitar /drums/ theremin setup. This was her debut gig and it may not have been the slickest of shows but Witch Hands has got filthy bluesy rock’n'roll in her inky black blood.
In the space of little more than a year, Women In Revolt have grown from a pretty great idea into a pretty great band. Poly sexual, polymorphous, all wigs, attitude and New York trash punk, they rocked CBGH for their single launch party. Frontperson Sheena Revolta has got the spunk and sass of a star, while the four piece band (plus tireless gogo dancer) play a lot better than their deceptively simple songs might suggest. For a band rooted in Tyneside’s arts scene, there’s a natural emphasis on image and manifesto, but as they write more cracking songs like Newcastle Roller Girl anthem Rocking With The Rollergirls and single Oestrogynal Itch to join the carefully chosen covers (Love Comes In Spurts, Are You Man Enough To Be A Woman) they continue to evolve from a kind of trashy art project into some serious rock’n'roll fun.
Tusk Festival – The Star & Shadow Cinema, October 5-7th
I only managed to spend at a few hours at the second Tusk Festival (blame manflu) but it was enough to see that it’s a genuinely brave, catholic and welcoming event, one to cherish.
First up for me were newly-reformed local band The Unit Ama, a cheerful blend of Shellac’s intensity and precision with a more freeform side, songs collapsing into fragmented bass notes, toy instruments and strange languages. Meitheal were an improvising trio, two fiddles and a tiny harmonium, Irish and American folk traditions meeting in haunting drone and mystical Christian poetry. I’m afraid Sylvester Anfang II’s “set the controls for the heart of the bong” noodling sent me to the pub for a pint and some air but I was back in time for the day’s highlight, Pain Jerk, a skinny Japanese noise terrorist in a Discharge tshirt. His secret weapon was two industrial springs mounted in a miked- up metal box, which he played with what looked like the head of an industrial sander. Glorious, cathartic volume that stayed out of the high frequencies that make Merzbow unlistenable (to me at least)., it made my eyes hurt, my ears wince and my heart soar.
Things took a turn for the awful with The Tenses, two hippies messing about with toys, trumpets and turntables. Neither witty or challenging, but thankfully followed by the wonderful NHK’ Koyxen, who moved from a kind of post-Burial haunted rave to some full on minimal techno. Wonderful stuff. Props too to the Jazzfinger DJ for keeping it fun, fucked up and inspired between acts.
A brief Sunday visit meant I caught a gloriously hungover Richard Dawson wrench out a powerful, harrowing version of his acapella Poor Old Horse before Pelt and Part Wild Horses Man On Both Sides took part in a beautiful, exploratory gamelan performance that had the lunchtime crowd transfixed. Even though I managed to miss apparently incredible sets from the likes of Hieroglyphic Being, Fushitsusha, Pelt and Lobster Priest, I STILL had an amazing time.
Shonen Knife / Rexine – The Cluny. October 4th
This was the first time I’d seen local band Rexine and I was impressed. Perhaps a little too diffident (or nervous?) to entirely convince, but they sound great, in a stark postpunk kind of way, somehow calling to mind The Raincoats and the more melodic bits of Crass. Well worth keeping an eye on.
Shonen Knife suffer from no such diffidence. Appearing stage front waving Shonen Knife scarves, they basked in the audience’s affection and seemed to be having the time of their lives (but then they always do). Nothing much changes in the world of the Osaka Ramones, but why would you want it to? They sing about bisons, sushi, rockets and Barbie dolls over sweetly melodic buzzsaw punk and play every gig like it’s their best ever. Newish drummer Emi (two years in) doesn’t stop grinning, slightly less new bassist Ritsuko (6 years) throws shapes, climbs monitors and looks delighted and as for Naoko? 31 years a Shonen Knife and still living the dream. The new stuff sounds great, the old stuff sounds great, everyone cheers, the band beam and we all go home a little less cynical about the world. Gorgeous.
Misty’s Big Adventure / The Lyndsey Tin – The Cluny, October 1st
Newcastle, I love you but you’re bringing me down. I know this gig was on a Monday but the fact that so many of you stayed home rather than coming out to see the glorious Misty’s Big Adventure makes me sad. So what DID you miss? Well, you missed a decent support from The Lindsey Tin – a curious but effective two-man set up with a lot of ideas who perhaps need to focus their energies a little more, and steer clear of overly epic choruses, but have something very interesting going on.
But primarily, you missed amazing, bittersweet songcraft and a band at their very best (Grandmaster Gareth’s sore throat notwithstanding). For all the fun they bring to the stage – the demented dancing of The Erotic Volvo; a series of colour photocopies standing in for high budget film shows; dance routines and messing about – there’s some amazing songwriting and a real bite to much of their material. Misty’s are only ‘wacky’ if your idea of a great live band is 4 anonymous lads in tshirts muttering “thanks very much” between songs. But if you want colour, excitement and sheer bloody joy you can’t beat them. The tunes from their most recent album really stand out – especially the ska-meets-musical hall of Aggression – and old favourites like The Story of Love just can’t fail. Their spin-off girlgroup The Dumbettes even put in a fantastic last minute appearance on 60s gem Egyptian Shumba. Next time, don’t miss out.
REVIEW: Supersonic Festival
It staggers me that it’s taken me until Supersonic #10 to get round this festival, but I won’t be missing out again. It’s hands down the most musically adventurous and enjoyable festival I’ve ever been too, and it’s friendly, well-run and inventive to boot. I was there primarily to cover the north east contingent – Warm Digits, Drunk In Hell and Richard Dawson – but it’s worth pointing out some other highlights.
Spread across three venues – the rather too small Old Library and two big ole warehouses, Boxxed and (erm) Warehouse – alongside all manner of sideshows, market stalls and food vans – this was beardy without being blokey, low on hipsters but high on all manner of people who get off on experimental music of different kinds. Staggering round the pleasantly post-industrial Custard Factory arts complex, the whole thing does become a fantastic blur, as you slide between, for example, the ‘dark overlords of Brummie drum & bass’ PCM and the breakcore / noisefest of the Small But Hard Showcase (notable primary for rapper Sensational having some sort of mini-breakdown that became the talk of the weekend.)
Friday night highlights included the Modified Toy Orchestra, who have moved beyond a gimmick (modified toys, obviously) and now make gorgeous, minor key electronic music recalling Plone or Boards Of Canada. Hey Colossus were blinding, a ferocious tribute to the kind of sonic filth that made the late 80s so exciting, but with an almost motoric precision (from drummer Tim Cedar) keeping it from collapsing into sludge (great 70s S&M visuals too). JK Flesh – Justin from Godflesh / Techno Animal etc armed with a laptop and a guitar – dropped bass frequencies that punched you in the throat, treble that made your nose itch and an overall noise like a sulky teenager throwing a bedroom strop. That’s a compliment, by the way.
We had to wait till Saturday evening for our first Tyneside (ish) act, but Warm Digits absolutely killed it. They followed an impressive set from Jarboe, who – backed by a slightly terrifying goth pianist / backing vocalist who looked like she could kill you with her bare hands – turned in a set of Swans and solo numbers that veered between chansons, cabaret, anguish and ham. Warm Digits drew a decent crowd to the Old Library and treated them to a non-stop Krautdisco party. Perhaps the most improvised and exploratory set I’ve seen them play, they looked absolutely exhilarated throughout, driven on by the amazing crowd reaction. Judging by the Twitter reaction – a remarkably good guide to critical opinion over the weekend – they won a lot of fans and made a deep impact on Supersonic.
Running away from a disappointingly Deadhead Carlton Melton, it was time for Drunk In Hell. I must confess by this point that drink had been taken (in slightly alarming quantities) which means that a) I greatly enjoyed Drunk In Hell’s set and b) I remember fuck all about it. I remember a totally coruscating hardcore blast, I remember the bodies of crowdsurfers being flung all over, I remember a girl in an original Suicide Tendencies cap and that’s about it. When asked to describe their sound, my friend said “they sound like Middlesbrough”, which might just cover it.
Then – after catching a tiny sliver of what sounded like a beautiful set from Tim Hecker – it was time for the bass weight. Hype Williams come with a lot of baggage, mystery, confusion and hipster bullshit. What you get live is a total sensory assault of strobes and smoke and bass and confusion. Their set was bewildering, powerful and left me no clearer about what Hype Williams ‘are’, especially when I realised, as the smoke cleared, that the figure stage left I thought was a singer was a blonde model astride a Kawasaki doing nothing whatsoever.
The Bug came next, firing filthy acid ragga at Babylon while a variety of MCs spat pure fire and the Warehouse erupted in a boglequake (in my head, at least). Apparently, after this there were after parties but The Bug had finished me off so we stumbled off into the Birmingham night, Supersonic Market shopping in one hand, ‘commemorative’ Supersonic pint glass in the other.
A commitment to Tyneside talent saw me back at the Custard Factory at terrifying hour the next day to see the mighty Richard Dawson. This is the second time in a month I’ve seen him do the opening slot at a festival, and the second time his hangover has been even worse than mine. After requesting a bucket (‘just in case’), he told stories, cracked jokes and played a set of haunted, beautiful folk music. The reasonable crowd (with a healthy Tyneside turnout) were by turns rapt and pissing themselves and by the time he sang Poor Old Horse, wrenching it out, really feeling the pain and taking the crowd with him, he’d won Supersonic. Remarkable stuff.
I’d be lying if I said Sunday at Supersonic wasn’t a bit gruelling, but luckily there were joys to be had. Mothertrucker are essentially Mogwai playing stoner metal, and every bit as good as that sounds. Islaja was a very delicate, very drunk Swedish laptop artist who finally abandoned her playing and singing to simply spin around on stage, lost in her own haunting, fractured loops. Gnod and Six Organs of Admittance were a big disappointment – the first for being too crusty, the second for being showboating guitar wank, like a Wire-approved Joe Satriani. Lichens gave us a lovely warm drone, Kim Gordon’s new band Body / Head were flat out appalling – Gordon lying on her back wailing and tormenting her guitar – and the much-hyped Goat seemed to have escaped from the Glastonbury Greenfields to torment us with a terrible Afrofunk pastiche.
Which leaves two absolute highpoints. Lash Frenzy, some kind of collaborative art/noise project on paper, was in reality a warehouse full of smoke and strobes with guitarists and drummers scattered throughout the crowd, each with their own amp stack and strobe, making the most joyfully insane noise imaginable (98.6 db according to the desk). As we bumped and staggered through the visual and aural confusion, we kept running into another guitarist or drummer.
There were rumours of naked women with megaphones, and as the riffs died out, a string quartet were revealed onstage, taking us through a delicate coda to the onslaught. Italian stone / doom / space metal trio UFOMammut had a lot to follow, and nearly managed it. Playing their entire Oro project (two albums worth of tectonic riffs, deft but neanderthal drumming and ribcage shattering bass) they had the crowd doing the claw, headbanging and grinning like fools without ever cracking a smile themselves. Metal is serious business, capisce?
And that was Supersonic #10. Bewildering, brilliant, exhausting, unmissable.
Filed under: Bands, Gigs!, Interviews, KYEO | Tags: Drunk In Hell, Misty's Big Adventure, Richard Dawson, Supersonic Festival, Warm Digits
here’s the preview of Supersonic Festival I wrote for http://www.kyeo.tv
If your tastes tend towards the esoteric, the cathartic or the extreme, you’d have probably started to believe that the UK was poorly served for festival-style events that catered for you (where is our Incubate or Unsound festival?). In the north east we’re lucky enough to have Tusk, a small but brilliantly curated weekend of diverse and challenging acts.
But it’s Birmingham’s Supersonic Festival that is the absolute ‘not be missed’ weekend for anyone who likes their music experimental, skullcrushing and cutting edge. This year is Supersonic #10, and Capsule, the promotions team behind it, have excelled themselves. This year includes the industrial ragga of the Bug, the space-doom of UFOMammut, Dylan “Earth” Carlson’s faerie-folk solo project and the pure white noise and power electronics of Merzbow, plus dozens more acts, all manner of sideshows, art installations, walking tours (The Crossroads of Black Sabbath, no less!) and movies.
And it’s a good year for the North East contingent too, with three fine local acts on the bill – Warm Digits, Richard Dawson and Drunk In Hell. You might have thought that Dawson in particular would find the prospect of performing a solo acoustic set surrounded by so many noise acts intimidating, but far from it.
“It could maybe be a bit daunting playing with a load of big bands, particularly if you’re sandwiched in the middle, but I fucking love it, I like the challenge. I like the contrast too, the contrast of colour, but the energy is often the same – I grew up on metal, Iron Maiden and Slayer man! Generally, I’ve found audiences pretty open to what I do – I guess that might just be the sympathy vote though! I have a feeling that sympathy vote won’t count for much at Supersonic – I’ve got to nail it!”
Warm Digits are also excited by their appearance. “Supersonic is a really interesting one to do because it focusses the more avant-garde and experimental. We both come from experimental music backgrounds but Warm Digits (we hope!) kind of straddles the two – what we do feels accessible enough for quite a big audience, but with enough originality and extremism in there to hold up with an experimental audience too.”
Anyone who has been lucky enough to see Warm Digits live can’t fail to have noticed their insanely precarious stage set-up, which could cause problems in a festival environment, with fast changeovers and unusual staging. But again, they’re up for the challenge. “Insanely precarious” is about right! It’s in the nature of our playing to be teetering on the edge of chaos, and that brings an unpredictability that we quite like. We’ve had the occasional technical disaster but because our music is based in improvisation, we’ve tried to learn to embrace the limitations and keep playing no matter what.”
In this respect, Dawson has an advantage, but is being a token folky a problem? “Nah. I reckon the Finnish lot – Lau Nau, Islaja – are very much folk. And then players like Richard Bishop and Mick Flower seem to me to be coming with a real rich knowledge and feel for a load of different very old musics infusing what they do. And you could definitely say Drunk In Hell were a folk band – in the truest sense.” On mention of the very troubling acapella number Poor Old Horse, Dawson admits that could be a winner with the doom metal fans. “I might well sing it (Poor Old Horse). I reckon it could be a crowd pleaser, what with all the gory details. I really enjoying singing songs alone, without guitar I mean. I’ve been getting more and more of them into the sets, I really like the energy of just blasting it out. Not sure how big the room is we’ll be playing but hopefully we can do some stuff without the mic.”
It seemed natural with a bill this strong to ask who else they were keen to see. Warm Digits are “…excited about Merzbow, The Bug, Tim Hecker, and Richard Dawson – hopefully we’ll get to catch at least some of them while we’re there.” And keeping the appreciation mutual, Dawson is looking forward to “Warm Digits, who are just beautiful – old and new at the same time. I’m hoping particularly to see Ruins, Merzbow and Lau Nau. Richard Bishop too. Jesus, it’s just hitting home writing this that I’m going to be playing at a fest with Ruins and Merzbow. Should be mint, so many artists I want to see – definitely Drunk In Hell, who are pretty frightening – so, so loud!!!!”
Ah, yes. Drunk In Hell. Coming out of Middlesbrough like a scary hardcore behemoth for a second Supersonic appearance, they’re not a band much given to interviews (so you’ll have to keep an eye on their Bandcamp page for all the details on their imminent, limited ‘Pre Cum’ cassette and almost as imminent debut album). But they have got themselves involved in a fascinating project while they’re at Supersonic.
A Plymouth-based arts and film co-op, Imperfect Cinema, whose modus operandi is opening up film making to anyone who expresses an interest, are staging a “Halide-Oxide” Workshop, inviting people to use the archaic equipment on offer to make a film within the festival.
The atmospheric festival setting – Digbeth’s appropriately named, post-industrial Custard Factory – lends itself to what they describe as a “stark, aesthetic that played such a pivotal role in the creation of Heavy Metal.” The footage that results will get used for a visual document but, more importantly, will also serve as a visual backdrop for Drunk In Hell’s performance the next day. So if having your face torn off by blistering hardcore while watching film of your friends filming you throwing up in a warehouse the day before is your particular cup of blood (and it should be) this is a must-see.
Disclaimer: Nobody from KYEO.tv will piss on your anything. We don’t even know where you live.
Misty’s Big Adventure
If you ever trust me about one thing (and there’s no reason you should, to be honest, we’ve not even met), trust me on this: Misty’s Big Adventure are an absolute delight. A brass-fuelled, eight-headed collision of everything from second-album vintage Specials, Lionel Bart musical numbers, girl group pop and the more esoteric corners of psychelia (nine heads if you count their onstage – or often offstage – dancer Erotic Volvo), a Misty’s gig is a joyful and bizarre thing and you’d be a damn fool to miss them.
While the band all contribute in the studio, Grandmaster Gareth (perpetual hats, Scott Walker-esque baritone) is the frontman, songwriter and arranger. “I’m very particular as to what I want things to sound like, so it’s important for me to work this way. It’s also necessary to arrange carefully when you have a lot of musicians because otherwise there would be too much going on and it could just sound like a big mess. But the band makes suggestions when we’re working on stuff and they add things to the arrangements. Our drummer Sam Minnear is a key part to making the songs work as we might change style or tempo mid song and he can magically make it sound natural. He’s come up with some incredible beats over the years.”
Amongst the more esoteric and heady influences, it’s obvious Gareth has a feel for what I hesitate to call ‘proper’ songwriting – the aforementioned Lionel Bart, Bacharach & David, stuff like that, and I asked if this was a conscious thing. “I’m very interested in the craft. But at the same time, I try not to force my writing. I never sit down at the piano and think “I shall write a song.” I have to wait patiently until a melody pops into my head and over time it may develop into a song. Sometimes it’s a bit like a mental illness.
I’ll have the same tune going round my head for days whilst trying to put what I want to say into a few concise lines. Having no control over when a song is going to pop into your head can be very annoying! I try and write music that will stick in your head the first time you hear it. Serge Gainsbourg was the master. It’s partly to do with keeping the melody the same whilst everything else around it changes. I could waffle on about songwriting for hours, so instead I’ll just say “yes!”
As you’d expect, Gareth is a proper crate digger and these creep into his music and into the mixtapes he occasionally shares with the world. “I’m an obsessive record collector, generally searching for weird and unusual sounds. These elements creep into our arrangements. But my three main influences when I was a teenager were The Beatles, Faust and Julian Cope.” Even Gareth admits that Misty’s are probably a tricky proposition for any label, although Rob Da Bank (Bestival, Radio 1) has been a key supporter.
Their last, wonderful, album was funded by crowdsourcing and while it didn’t achieve Amanda Palmer millions, Gareth sees it as a success. “It certainly worked for the last album, but I’m a little unsure if it’s something you could keep doing every time you want to make an album. I worry people will just get fed up of artists asking for money all the time! But we will probably try it again for our next album and see what happens. Record labels are never going to trust bands like us to recoup their money because bands like us don’t do what we’re told! Our last manager said I was “unmanageable”!”
While Gareth does see some fellow travellers out there – he and Misty’s have worked with fellow Brummies Broadcast and Pram over the years and he cites KateGoes, Jeffrey Lewis and DJ Marcelle as kindred spirits – he’s got a fairly dim view of a lot of what passes for m most modern music. “I would dearly love to be into new music, but so little of it makes me excited. I don’t think my generation have the same skills as the older writers, arrangers and producers and so if we’re going to stretch ourselves musically, we’ve got to listen and learn from them. That’s not to say we should then just sound like them. It’s how to take ALL that’s come before and turn it into something new.”
As for the future, there are 50 new songs being whittled down for the next Misty’s album. “I’m trying to work out which ones will make it. I’m taking my time because the last album was a real achievement for us and the next one needs to be even better! And I’m also trying to concentrate on my new solo album as it’s meant to be coming out early next year. It’s called Magical Sound Shower and will be my most experimental thus far. I’m planning to do some solo shows next year which I’ve never done before, with dancers and visuals. But first we must play in Stockton-on-Tees and Newcastle!”
Yes, they must. And you must go. Trust me, it’ll knock yer socks off.
Filed under: Bands, Gigs!, Narc | Tags: Black Twig Pickers, Bob Log III, Bob Stork & The Heaton Playboys, Dexys, Distraction Records, Imelda May, Legendary Shack Shakers, Narc, Necro Deathmort, New Order, Tea Pad Preents, Warm Digits
Dexys / New Order
Whitley Bay Playhouse, May 7th / Newcastle Academy, May 8th
Two consecutive nights, two eighties legends, both with something to prove. New Order have lost a bass player, while Dexys – or at least Kevin Rowland, which is the same thing – have lost almost everything along the way.New Order start with a short burst of Elegia - every gig should, to be honest – and from thereon in they don’t put a foot wrong (if you ignore Bernard’s typically grumpy manner when it comes to the odd tech problem). I’ve seen New Order a LOT of times, and this may be the first where I didn’t need my memory of just how great the songs are to get through some shonky moments. If I just wrote out the setlist you’d have a fair idea how great a gig this was – Temptation, Bizarre Love Triangle, 586, Love Vigilantes, 1963, and on and on and on. Of course, the elephant (or mammoth, to be honest) in this room is The Lack of Hooky. And do you know what? Let him carry on acting the sulky, petulant child, because Tom Chapman is a more than adequate replacement (even if he did try a little *too* hard to prove it at times) and if it means the band have a future, then that’s all good. The crowd went batshit and I found myself wondering how many of the 40 somethings had indulged in a cheeky half, before going home to the babysitter. The excellent visuals actually managed to make the Academy look pretty for once, and they went out on a storming, breakbeat-coda version of Blue Monday. No Joy Division encore, but we coped.
If the New Order gig was great, the Dexys gig was life-changing. I’ve waited nearly 30 years to see this band live and I suspect I wasn’t the only one. Which explains why the surge of warmth and goodwill that greeted Rowland’s arrival on stage was so heartfelt, so intense. You really could feel the love, and for a man like Rowland, who has spent his entire career with his heart on his sleeve, that’s fitting.
The band – some ex-Dexys (Pete Williams especially, providing a perfect straight man to Rowland), some new recruits from bands like The Ruts and The Rockingbirds – were pretty much perfect (trombone problems aside), providing a darkly funky, utterly simpatico backing to Rowland’s songs – full of doubt and anger and love and regret. The first part of the gig was the unreleased new album, One Day I Will Soar, in its entirety, which is one way of testing audience patience. As with past tours, it was a performance of genuine theatricality, with dialogue, video screens and some genuinely funny moments, although a fair few people – who’d presumably come for Come On Eileen – looked a little bemused. By the encore – utterly spellbinding takes on Old, Come On Eileen and This Is What She’s Like (perhaps the greatest love song ever written)– everyone was on their feet and the tiny theatre fair hummed with a blend of joy and relief. This is a comeback to cherish.
Bob Log III – Newcastle Cluny, May 20th
A man in a black satin jumpsuit with his name spelled out in sequins on the back, wearing what looks like a jet fighter pilot’s helmet with a phone stuck on the front like a proboscis from a Cronenberg movie is having a band meeting. Since he IS the band, it involves him turning his back on the crowd and muttering, referring himself in the 3rd person, and taking swigs from the numerous whiskies the crowd have bought him. Welcome to a Bob Log III gig. There’s really nothing else like it.
Armed with just a battered guitar, a kick drum and drum machine and a sense of his own innate raw sexuality, Bob Log III has rammed the Cluny. The boys want to be him, the girls want to.. well, let’s not go there. By the end, he’s got three girls on his knee enjoying the way it bumps when he drums. But underneath the warped showmanship, Bob is the real deal – an amazing blues slide guitarist who plays like a demon even when he’s working the crowd like a proper Tucson huckster. You’ll laugh, stamp your feet and wonder if he really does have a monkey paw for a left hand.
Imelda May – Gateshead Sage, April 30th
Much as Imelda May must be glad to have moved up from the rockabilly circuit, playing endless weekenders in rain-lashed, out of season holiday camps, success comes at a price. In this case, the price is playing The Sage to a crowd largely made up of “dinner and a show” couples who nod politely, clap in all the right places and not much else. The Sage is a fantastic venue for some sorts of gigs, but this isn’t really one of them.
That said, May – heavily pregnant but still in a tight leopardskin frock and killer heels like the rockabilly trooper she is – knows better than most how to work a crowd and things did pick up. The secret of May’s success – aside from her truly amazing voice, from a low growl to a piercing high note – is that she mixes it up: aside from the rockabilly twang you’d expect, you get smoky torch songs a la Julie London, a hint of country, the odd dash of tiki-hour voodoo and a charming version of Baby I Love you – May perched on a double bass next to a bassist on ukulele, a truly lovely moment. And it takes cojones to tackle Howling Wolf’s Spoonful but she pulled it off. I’d still rather see her tearing it up in a small club, but this will do for now.
I had quite a few live reviews this month that didn’t make it into Narc, but I’m hoping will appear on sister site http://www.kyeo.tv at some point:
Th’Legendary Shack Shakers / Burning Condors
The Cluny, April 27th
Burning Condors come out swinging and have all the right garage / ‘billy credentials (including a manic frontman channelling equal parts Nick Cave and Bill Nighy) but fell short on actual songs so that even their brief set felt overlong.
No such problems with Th’Legendary Shack Shakers, who remind me every time I see them that they may well be the finest rock’n’roll band in the world. With a real live Colonel for a frontman (it’s a Kentucky thing) and a frantic blend of hillbilly, punk, country, blues and polka they’ve branded ‘agridustrial’, LSS knock the breath out of you the moment they take the stage and before long, the Colonel (JD Wilkes to his mum) is a back-flipping, crowd-taunting, harmonica-abusing, eye-swivelling maniac. And this was him on relatively sedate form. The band were as relentless as always (including the new boy guitarist who seems to have slotted in easily) and it didn’t take long for a bare-chested psychobilly wrecking pit to form. There really is nothing like a Shack Shakers gig – if you’ve never seen them you really should (and since they seem to have a real affinity for Newcastle, I’m sure they’ll be back soon).
The Tea Pad Presents Black Twig Pickers / Bob Stork & The Heaton Playboys
Morden Tower, April 24th
Rob Heron of the Tea Pad doesn’t do things by halves, as his various ventures across the city have proved. Faced with providing a support for Virginia’s Black Twig Pickers, he decided to form a Cajun band, and I’m damned if he didn’t pull it off. For all the false starts and giggling, a band with this many great local musicians in it isn’t ever going to really fuck it up, and so it proved: they threw themselves into it with style, slightly iffy French vocals and a fine washboard solo from Mr Neil Hopper.
Bluegrass has become something of a novelty lately – I blame Hayseed Dixie – but there’s nothing quirky about Black Twig Pickers. This music is in their blood, and it’s the beautiful but often quite austere real deal – mountain music full of God and loss and fear and whiskey. Polite, understated, keen to explain what they were playing, and why, the Pickers huddled together and used their simple blend of fiddles, guitars, washboards and ‘high lonesome sound’ voices to totally transfix the tiny audience. It’s pretty rare to see ‘fiddlesticks’ (where someone beats out a rhythm on a fiddle’s neck with sticks while it’s being played) but it’s a wonderful thing. You got the feeling they could have played all night – probably do back home – and nobody would have got remotely bored.
The Distraction Records 10th Birthday All Dayer – The Star & Shadow, April 21st
By the time we got to the Star & Shadow for the Distraction Records 10th birthday party, the place was packed (with so many beards on display my girlfriend felt she was letting the side down). Richard Dawson was keeping it fantastically weird on the decks and the expectations for the last 3 acts were high. Sad to say, then, that Mushi Mushi were a massive disappointment. A promising start – filthy sounding beats and analogue squiggles – was abandoned in favour of the kind of messy eclecticism you find in the last beer tent at Glastonbury on a Monday morning, a kind of anaemically funky mess.Praise be then for Necro Deathmort. Two men, one guitar, a pile of gadgets and an almighty noise. Legendary Tyneside soundman Ian had stuffed two extra bassbins at the back of the venue and the building nearly took off. The duo’s blend of doom metal riffs and dark dubsteppy beats inevitably leads to comparisons with Justin Broadrick (of Godflesh, Jesu, Pale Rider etc) but it’s a comparison to be proud of. A whole room of bearded guys (and unbearded girls) doing the dubstep headnod while Necro’s guitarist threw none-more-metal shapes on stage was a helluva sight.
I’ve raved about Warm Digits before but not without justification. Tonight they were better than ever, the newer material perhaps even funkier than before, the pair of them seeming to love every minute of it despite having to keep so many musical plates spinning at once. If you like your beats motorik, your synth sounds warm and fuzzy and plenty of cowbell, you need some Warm Digits in your life. With 6Music all over them lately and some pretty impressive support slots, I think their time is coming.
Filed under: Bands, Gigs!, Narc | Tags: Attila Csihar, Christmas, Future Islands, Icarus Line, Killing Joke, Sleazy P, Throbbing Gristle, Warm Digits
Wishful Thinking: A Tribute To Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson: Chris & Cosey / Attila Csihar – Tyneside Cinema, March 17th
This tribute to Sleazy was in part an attempt to hint at what his commissioned AV piece would have been if he hadn’t passed away in 2010.
Bells, Tibetan singing bowls and chimes emanated from the balcony, focussing us, calming us as a precursor to former Mayhem singer Attila Csihar’s performance. Augmenting his phenomenal, apocalyptic voice with overtone (throat) singing and multitracking, he mixed in tracks of ‘silence’ recorded in Durham Cathedral – muffled voices, bells ringing, doors shutting, a distant telephone. Projected images (the beauty of youth, the inevitably of death), more astonishing vocals from Csihar and a spectral figure moving sombrely round the cinema drew the piece to a close. It was the sort of performance you could either mock for its portentous or lose yourself in – I recommend the latter: it was powerful stuff.
Chris & Cosey – so unassuming behind their laptops and effects – performed a handful of live remixes of tracks from the final Throbbing Gristle album, Desertshore (a cover of the Nico album). Initially a rather unremarkable electro chug (albeit with some really pummelling drums), things soon improved with Cosey adding gorgeous vocals, cornet and treated slide guitar, and an amazing recorded contribution from Anthony Hegarty. The short set concluded with an entirely new track, featuring the processed and overlaid voices of Sleazy’s friends and collaborators repeating the phrase “Meet me on the desert shore” to fairly heartbreaking effect.
Killing Joke / The Icarus Line – Newcastle Academy March 13th
The Icarus Line started life as a fairly straightforward west coast punk band and you can’t help thinking that would have gone down better with a largely indifferent but occasionally outright hostile Killing Joke crowd than the Birthday Party / Stooges retreads they offered tonight. Frontman Joe Cardamone worked hard but was never going to win over the Joke faithful who knew exactly what they wanted and were about to get it.
The last time I saw Killing Joke was in the mid-80s and this gig, with the reunited ‘’classic’ line, wasn’t much different. The sound is still impressive verging on bombastic, and Geordie really is one of the very best guitarists of the whole post punk era. It’s hard to keep up with what apocalyptic predictions are possessing Jaz Colman these days but he still comes on like a cross between a maniacal shaman and a panto dame, all puppet moves and grandiose gestures.
To be honest, the first half of the set – mostly new stuff – dragged a little. But once they dug into the archives for Wardance, Psyche and an especially epic Love Like Blood you realized that for all the sturm und drang, Killing Joke can still be an amazing live band.
Future Islands / Warm Digits – Cluny 2, March 8th
I haven’t seen a bill this upside down since The Flaming Lips decimated Teenage Fanclub years ago.
Let’s start with the losers, then. Future Islands came with a whole heap of Pitchfork-based love and I’m at a loss to understand why. Take away an unremarkable bassist and some very predictable electronics (with none of the magic of New Order, a frequent reference point) and you’re left with a pompous buffoon of a singer – equal parts Vic Reeves’ club singer, Russell Crowe and Lee Evans – who’s idea of stage craft is to repeatedly slap himself round the face and prance about like a boxer. Their success is mystifying.
Thank god, then, for Warm Digits – a revelation to me even if they’re old news to everyone else on Tyneside. On a stage crammed with so much kit it looked like a hacker’s bedroom, the duo faultlessly set about reworking a near- perfect set of influences (motorik Neu grooves, Kraftwerk synths, DFA cowbells, a dash of Tortoise and Errors) into something genuinely warm and new and exciting. They made me grin all over my stupid face for the entirety of their too short, non-stop set and nothing Future Islands did after could take that grin away.