Filed under: Gigs!, Narc | Tags: Floating Palaces, Howe Gelb, Laura Veirs, Meschiya Lake, Narc, Thee Spivs
Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns
While the bloggers tie themselves up in knots about Lana Del Rey’s ‘authenticity’, here comes Meschiya Lake – her own special creation. Probably born in the ‘wrong’ state in the ‘wrong’ decade, maybe even the ‘wrong’ colour to be playing this music, but that’s her on stage, making a strong case for gig of the year already.
Sticking to the classic New Orleans line-up of trombone, trumpet, sousaphone, guitar and drop dead cool drummer, Lake takes the base elements of old time blues and jazz and turns it into something really special by adding massive charisma, an incredible voice and a fantastic rapport with her band (her time in the circus obviously taught her a lot about stagecraft). Alongside the band was a champion Lindy Hop duo, who managed to really get the best out of the local swing dance crowd.
Drawing heavily on New Orleans tunes even the casual listener might recognise, from slow blues to snappy jazz to second line standards like Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Lake and her Little Big Horns managed to make the Cluny2 feel like a Bourbon St jazz club for a couple of magical hours. 5/5
The Jumpin’ Hot Club, The Cluny2, Newcastle February 9th
Thee Spivs / Night Owls / Nervous Twitch
Both openers tonight (each from Leeds) were just a little ‘wrong’ somehow – Nervous Twitch’s pretty straight garage revivalism didn’t really gel, and Night Owls seemed unable to decide if they were a muscular R&B band, belligerent punk or somewhere in between.
Praise be, then, for Thee Spivs. Too many bands harking back to the late 70s get stuck on the ugly, lumpen version of punk. But this lot – a stylish and charming trio of Hackney-dwelling ne’er-do-wells – get it just right: the sharp, snappy, melodic end of things that has more in common with The Jam or The Chords than it does Peter & The Test Tube Babies. It’s punk through the eyes of Billy Childish, although Thee Spivs largely avoid garage clichés.
There’s nothing wrong with being retro if the songs are this good, and from the off Thee Spivs totally nailed it. Ba-ba-ba choruses, amphetamine riffs, bratty lyrics about perennially punk subjects, estuary vowels, two minute songs coming thick and fast with the minimum of fucking about. The Trash Shack crowd loved it, and if it really was the last Trash Shack night (say it ain’t so), it was a fantastic way to end. 4/5
The Trash Shack @ Central Bar, Gateshead February 17th
Sometimes the way some people armed with pieces of wood and string can conjure up something so beautiful, so transporting still amazes me. Tonight Laura Viers – tiny and bookish and utterly beguiling – is flanked by a guitarist who comes off as an amiable stoner until his playing knocks you out and a peppy keyboard / fiddle player with the voice of an angel. Between the three of them they create something very special.
Viers loosely fits into the country / folk songwriter vein, but there’s something in her music which just shimmers. Simple melodies married to lyrics with a strong sense of place and nature, delivered by a sweet, often childlike voice. Tonight we get songs from across her eight albums, including a couple taken from her recent Tumble Bee release, kids’ folk songs performed with real joy. (A bubble machine was the sole remnant of a lunchtime matinee show for kids that featured costumes and face paint and a cover of Nirvana’s Sliver). Between songs, Viers chatted excitedly about everything from the origins of the songs to The Sage’s laundry facilities, comfortable and friendly and full of love for what she’s doing, and that love shows through in her music. 4/5
The Sage, Gateshead, February 2th
Floating Palaces featuring Robyn Hitchcock, Howe Gelb, KT Tunstall, Martin & Eliza Carthy and Krystle Warren
You know when you throw a dinner party and you think it would be a lot of fun to invite some people who don’t know each other but are bound to get on and make for a fantastic night? But it just doesn’t work? The laughter forced, the pauses pregnant? Welcome to Floating Palaces.
This sort of event (artists collaborating on each others’ songs en masse or in small groups) can sometimes work wonderfully but tonight was flat, charmless and plain awkward in places. Robyn Hitchcock still seems to think stringing together 6th form non sequiturs makes him Syd Barrett’s natural heir and his songs just irritated. Folk legend Martin Carthy seems uncomfortable and grumpy, daughter Eliza tries hard but never really gets going. Krystle Warren – a last minute replacement for Abigail Washburn, who really dodged a bullet – has a great voice and no songs to speak of. Howe Gelb was painfully underused and looked a little lost. A true genius, he was far too inventive and irreverent for a night of folk dirges and bland balladry. To my great surprise, KT Tunstall came off best, her personality and warmth standing out.
When a line-up of this calibre can’t even wring some joy out of I Want You Back or The Weight, the whole project is in trouble, and I got the feeling everyone involved knew it. 1/5
The Sage, Gateshead, February 6th
© Narc Magazine 2012
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