Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Call Of The Wyld- Review of 2011

The Good Natured - C.O.T.W. Band of the Year

So that’s 2011 then. Another year packed with excellent performances.

Back in January I first made contact with Insect Guide, a marvellous bunch who made a tiny room above a Camden pub into a very privileged place to be.

In February I negotiated my way to a very run down part of East London to see P J Harvey perform her ‘Let England Shake’ songs. I caught her again later in the year at the Albert Hall. I have to admit that I find this whole current project a lot easier to admire than to love. My wish for Peej going forward is that she allows herself to loosen up and enjoy herself once more.

Also at this time I saw Yuck on the brink of a wider breakthrough during a performance at Bush Hall. They’ve done really well this year and their album is creeping into a few end of year ‘Best of...’ lists.

March was the only time in 2011 that I managed to catch long time favourites Cold In Berlin. Magnificent as always and my spies tell me that their new material is tremendous. Watch out for an early catch up on this blog in 2012.

In the Spring I saw the impressively histrionic Anna Calvi, who I really like on record but who displays perhaps a little too much artifice on stage. Another artist who could stand to relax a bit more.

No gripes on that front from Telescopes and The Coathangers, both of whom were having such a good time that resistance was futile.

I also checked on the progress of Homesick Hustlers, who are pretty much my favourite of those kids who are just getting started. It’s all potential at the moment, but I genuinely believe that they have greatness in them.

Judging by the widget at the side of this blog that helpfully indicates who has visited the site, it seems that my trip to see Asteroids Galaxy Tour was the most popular report of the year. Quite right too – the band are terrific live and are guaranteed to always cheer you up. I reckon that they would do well in front of most audiences.

I had a wonderful evening with Niki & The Dove, who turned the whole venue into some kind of weird neon rave complete with hula hooping dancing girls. The band has been picked up by the BBC as one of the Sounds of 2012. They deserve to do well.

Fun was had with Florrie and Paradise Point at the Borderline and a much more gruelling experience with Atari Teenage Riot. ATR are deliberately disorienting, but this is certainly the first time that their incessant strobe lights have made me feel nauseous.

June was more genteel, with safe and enjoyable sets from The Sonics, The Fugs and Yo La Tengo at various venues on London’s South Bank.

As summer wore on I enjoyed The Good Natured at Hoxton. This, together with a brilliant set at the Lexington a few weeks ago cements them as Band of the Year and one that I will try to catch each time they play. An album is due shortly and should be a cracker.

I found the 1234 Shoreditch slightly disappointing compared to 2010, a blinding Lydia Lunch performance notwithstanding. No Offset Festival this year either – I hope that this event can be revived.

I saw CSS turn XOYO into a bubble-filled aquarium and then had a quite astonishing evening back at the Lexington with Screaming Females & Human Hair. The sheer power and ferocity of the former and the tight-shorted strangeness of the latter will live with me for a very long time. The runner-up to Gig of the Year.

I enjoyed Shonen Knife’s 30th Anniversary celebrations and then couldn’t quite figure EMA out.

One of my favourite performances of the whole year was that of Paris Suit Yourself at Madame JoJos. They had ludicrous sound problems, but turned adversity to advantage, eventually abandoning microphones altogether and simply hollering from the front of the stage.

I had another memorable night with Japanese gender bending rock outfit Versailles. Not only do my friends and I still amuse ourselves by copying the uniquely fey guitar pose that we first saw that evening, but I also got so lost going home that I spent nearly two hours wandering forlornly around some pretty rough estates down the back of Kings Cross.

A night to be remembered for all the right reasons was the all Scandinavian bash at Hoxton Bar & Grill featuring Razika (whom I’d not seen before), LCMDF (whom I’ve never seen better) and Sykur (who were too drunk to see- and were brilliant).

I satisfied my metal urges with Kvelertak & co at the Underworld and was completely blown away by a resurgent Wire at 2011’s Venue of the Year XOYO. Great support that night from Talk Normal as well.

XOYO also provided a lovely evening with Givers- a band who in an ideal world really ought to be poised for world domination in 2012.

I had a thoroughly entertaining time spending Halloween with Britney Spears. Not a guilty pleasure, a pleasure full stop.

December ends with what has turned out to be the Call of the Wyld Gig of the Year. Duchess Says, o F F Love and WE are all worthy of mention, but came together in a manner that was both magic and mayhem. It was art. It was a Happening. It was a gig. It was an assault. I can’t stop smiling when I think about it and I’ve still got a very painful crick in my neck from when Annie-Claude forced my head into the floor.

Unforgettable events that bring to a close an unforgettable year.

2012 - .Top that!

Duchess Says: Gig of the Year

Friday, 23 December 2011

Your Army and Panda Cubs at Bull & Gate - 19 December 2011

Your Army: Photo Soulcatcher

I’m standing in front of the stage at the Bull & Gate. It’s cold, and there are not many people here.

This is rock at the bottom rung of the ladder. For many bands who play here, the only way is up. Actually, scratch that – from here most bands call it a day.

So I’m delighted to report that tonight I get to enjoy two acts who both deserve wider audiences.

First up are Panda Cubs. They’ve come all the way down from York on the Megabus. They reckon that they’ve had three hours sleep. It doesn’t show.

This four piece are dressed in black. The singer is striving for cool behind dark glasses (possibly the lack of sleep is having an effect after all). He lets his hip side down a bit by being extremely polite and solicitous about our health and general well being.

Panda Cubs have more than a touch of Editors or She Wants Revenge. It’s slow, melodramatic and punctuated with bursts of guitar fury. I lap this kind of stuff up and really like them. When they say that this is only their seventh ever gig, I warm to them even more.

All this lot need are gigs under their belt to be come a nice tight little outfit. Ones to watch.

Headliners tonight are Your Army, about whom I know very little except that they come from Brighton and have signed to a German record label.

So I derive great pleasure from finding that they rock like demons and have, in singer Lucy, a pint sized dynamo, who can wail with the best of them.

Your Army aren’t doing anything that is particularly new or avant garde, but they fill a space in my musical soul. If asked I would cite Two Day Rule and the Sam I Am/Boudica as amongst the greatest lost bands of the last decade. And Your Army remind me rather a lot of those bands.

Sometimes all you need is a powerful voice and some crunching guitar. The energy that comes off the stage causes the audience to start bobbing about, myself among them.

They don’t stay long, but I’m happily sated.

Two new bands to keep track of. A highly satisfactory evening.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Duchess Says, o F F Love and WE at CAMP Basement - 12 December 2011

Duchess Says photo by Tim Griffin

I’m lying flat on my back on the floor of CAMP Basement. A wild-eyed girl, her hair whipping wildly, straddles my chest and pushes my head down into the concrete.
How did it come to this…my mind drifts off…

…it’s a desolate wet and windy night outside. The streets are largely deserted. Down here in the venue a very few intrepid souls are about to be taken on a wild ride. Nothing is straightforward, even from the beginning.

WE are four in number.
WE wear Perspex blocks to mask identity.
WE stand shoulder to shoulder, not on stage but in front of it.
WE are interchangeable, in appearance and in sex.
WE are un-Google-able.
WE prod keyboards and hit drum pads.
WE intone vocals in unison.WE play songs that all start “We…”
“WE can help you.”
“WE want to hold your hand.”
WE just played a robotic Beatles cover.
“WE will always love you.”
WE finish with another brilliant cover version.
“WE kissed a girl and WE liked it.
-WE liked it.”

We like it.

WE are poorly focussed

After WE have gone, things start to get stranger still.

A video projection shows slowed down and silent images of dancers. An audience cheers noiselessly. You can’t tell whether they approve or are angry. A minimal beat starts up.

A figure shambles forward, his face swathed in cloth, like Rorschach from Watchmen. This is o F F Love and he yearns for us.

He sways and sings, his voice eerily and utterly distorted and non-human. It is slow and high and mournful. It is somehow ineffably sad and beautiful.

He moves among the crowd, approaching girls and imploring “Would You Dance If I Asked You To Dance?” They don’t.

Crestfallen, he drifts away, the projection now showing an image of himself, alone and still pleading.

He comes forward again, offering roses. Rejected once more, he moves off, solitary and inconsolable.

It’s like watching a species go extinct in front of you.

Headliners Duchess Says take to the stage and the world goes crazy.

…keyboards and bass pound remorselessly in a whirling ‘Space Ritual’ jam...the room spins…this is the gospel of the Church of Budgerigars, the cult whose acolytes are solely found within the members of this band…

…Out to convert us is saucer-eyed mistress of misrule Annie-Claude Deschênes. She rarely speaks except in a series of staccato yelps and screams. She gesticulates both intricately and weirdly, her eyes often staring into space or rolled back in their sockets completely…

…she fights with the audience, dragging people to the floor. She rips the clothing off anyone who is wearing anything that is still buttoned up. She makes us all sit on the ground and create a human arch of arms and legs through which she crawls…

…a nervous punter offers her one of o F F Love’s roses. Annie-Claude eats it.

The music is as tumultuous and out of control as the performance. Ismael Trembley pressing down on his keyboards as though trying to prevent them from leaving gravity behind. You can’t tell where the band ends and the crowd begins.

Spying the unattended bar at the back of the venue, Annie-Claude runs behind it. The band strike up new anthem ‘Time To Reiterate’, with their singer using the bar as a impromptu pulpit, with her on one side and her disciples on the other. She snaffles a bottle of rum and pours shots for everyone. The barman stands bemused.

We are then led Pied Piper style back across the room for a triumphant and riotous version of ‘Black Flag’.

We’re battered, bruised, amazed, delighted and exulted. WE were great, o F F Love was moving and Duchess Says like Armageddon. What a night!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Good Natured, Get People, Zen Arcade at Lexington - 06 December 2011

The Good Natured

I’m intrigued to see that the first band on tonight are called Zen Arcade. This leads to assumptions that they are influenced by the mighty Hüsker Dü. Hardcore guitar pop ahoy! Or not, as it turns out.

When Zen Arcade start their short set, I detect no traces of Minniapolis’ finest, but am pleasantly surprised to find a band who take their cues from recent British successes such as Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys.

The band have an ear for guitar pop and a damn fine tune and do not disgrace themselves. They’re still a little stiff and prim at this stage, but they’ll loosen up with experience. A very good start to the evening.

Get People have a plethora of musical appliances to assist them through their set. There may only be three members of the band, but there’s enough gadgetry on display to fill a branch of Maplins.

The band play euphoric dance pop of the sort that got many young people proclaiming a third Summer of Love a few years back. It’s the music of the rave, the chemically-enhanced happy clappy bliss of the sun rising above the rocks on an Ibiza morning.

It’s a vivid and uplifting groove and Get People er… get people moving.

I have a feeling that despite the reception that they receive, that the band are not completely happy. There is a lot of muttering about sound and equipment problems, none of which are apparent to anyone who is not on the stage.

Get People are very good tonight and if I can’t entirely enjoy them it is because I have never really connected with this particular sound. I never cared for fellow travellers Klaxons or Friendly Fires either. However, if you still like glo-sticks and tie-dyed T shirts, this is the band for you.

There is a lot of gear to move off the stage, and we are entertained by a DJ set from Charli XCX (whom I am due to see in her own right at this venue in February). I like the music that she plays and admire her enthusiasm and wine consumption.

Sarah MacIntosh, the resplendently dressed singer with headliners The Good Natured starts their set by mentioning that she has just knocked coffee all over herself and burned her legs. Every male in the place runs his eye over her long pins up to the point where they disappear into a tight pair of spangly shorts. They look fine to us.

This band grow in stature and confidence every time I see them. They play ebullient disco pop with huge choruses and are an instant party and a guaranteed good time.

MacIntosh is soon off the stage and dancing and writhing amongst the throng. We get songs such as ‘Wolves’, ‘Dead on the Dancefloor’ and (appropriately enough in light of the coffee incident) ‘Red Skin’.

It’s a marvellous show, and the stage is used very effectively. The band have decorated their environs with standard lamps, and these create the illusion of the musicians bopping around their living room. All back to theirs!

They finish with a stomping version of ‘Skeletons’ and everyone is grinning like fools.

A fine evening, with three excellent bands in evidence.