Sunday, 17 April 2011

Week 15: Mon 11 April - The Milk, Barfly, Camden

I finally got to see The Milk! Since meeting them during the HMV Next Big Thing and missing their gig that night, I'd been eager to see what all the hype was about surrounding The Milk and now I know.  This is a brilliant live band - they're unbelievably tight and so energetic through their set.  Between each of their songs they play recognisable ditties from other well-known songs, so they don't actually stop for the whole 60 minutes.  Listening to them on CD or online doesn't really do them justice, although their latest single has been receiving very positive reviews - but they're definitely a band who need to be seen live before being judged.  These guys are building up a strong following and everyone leaving their gig on Monday looked very happy and eager to see them again.  Who can't love a band that ends on a rocked-up version of Chemical Brothers' "Galvanise" - it was brilliant!  If only all bands were as professional and well rehearsed, the live scene could be a lot more interesting.


Listen: The Milk Myspace

The Head & The Heart played at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen on Tuesday night - I may have broken my "no duplicates" rule, but it was worth it and as I saw The Milk the night before, I didn't feel too guilty.  

They're certainly gaining a following as the audience seemed much more familiar with their songs than they did when we saw them in February at the Lexington.  Their album is finally being released tomorrow so I'll be heading out to buy it.  I saw the band has retweeted a tweet earlier that said "The Head and the Heart = The Head and the Not as Good as Mumford and Sons."  Trust me, they're much better.

Week 14: Mon 4 April - Moby @ Radio 2

We popped down to one of the BBC Radio buildings to see a lunchtime performance by Moby, expecting to see him playing songs from his new album.  As it transpired he only sang 2 new songs and 3 old ones; performing all 5 on an acoustic guitar.  It was nice to see him up close and I was introduced to him afterwards (he's a very polite chap) but I thought the set was a little uninspiring.  Still, you don't get to go to the BBC for a lunchtime gig everyday, so mustn't complain.

BUG has facilitated a music video competition for Saatchi & Saatchi in partnership with Vimeo & Moby. Hello, Future: A Music Video Challenge invites up-and-coming filmmakers to make a music video for any of 3 tracks from Moby’s new album Destroyed, available to download now from the dedicated competition page on Vimeo. The submission deadline is midnight EST on Mon 9th May.

Week 13: Wed 30 March - Laura Hocking & The Long Goodbye EP Launch, The Slaughtered Lamb, London

I really am getting lazy at maintaining this blog, but I'm still gigging away and attending at least one a week. 

3 weeks ago I went to see Laura Hocking at The Slaughtered Lamb, launch her debut EP.  She'd put in a lot of effort to make it a nice event - baking cupcakes in exchange for a charitable donation (they were good!) and organising a makeshift raffle in exchange for the audience's email addresses.  She seems like a very sound girl and is quite a talented lyricist.

Support came from Tristram, which was one of the reasons I was keen to go.  I saw Tristram play a support slot at the Luminaire a year or two ago and was really impressed.  This time around they played the old favourites including "Rhyme or Reason" and a few I'd not heard before.  I wasn't as blown away by them this time - their sound seems to have altered slightly since the early days and the lead singer is pretty shy, but they're writing some good songs so hopefully I'll soon be able to purchase one of their EPs soon.

Lulu & The Lampshades were the special guests.  I'd not seen them before or really given them a listen, so was curious to see what they'd be like.  I really enjoyed the set, although it went on for 45 minutes which seemed slightly too long considering it was meant to be Laura's big night.

Laura Hocking & The Long Goodbye were very good.  As I said, Laura is a clever lyricist and likes to introduce each of her songs with a bit of context to help you understand the story.  After a while it felt a bit same old, same old, it's all quite innocent folky music and there wasn't enough variation between some songs, but on the whole an enjoyable little party.

Listen: Laura Hocking Myspace
Listen: Lulu & The Lampshades Myspace
Listen: Tristram Myspace

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Week 12: Sunday 27 March - Roddy Woomble, Union Chapel, London

Roddy Woomble (of Idlewild fame) played a selection of his new solo material at Union Chapel on Sunday night.  It was a lovely gig and sounded beautiful in the venue.  He even threw an Idlewild song into the encore (You Held The World In Your Arms).  Here's some pics taken on the night....  

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Week 11: Wed 16 March - The Decemberists, Hammersmith Apollo, London

I've never been to a gig before where the lights went down and the audience was instructed to introduce themselves to the people next to them and then wave at those above them on the balcony by a Voice of God, but then I'd never seen The Decemberists before.  Led by a quirky frontman Colin Meloy (who from the moment he walked on, I thought resembled the old man character in UP, don't ask me why) the group walked on to rapturous applause - they're certainly a band with a dedicated following. I've only got their last album "The Hazards of Love" which I have only recently given a proper listen and grown to quite enjoy.

They played a lot of tracks off their new LP 'The King Is Dead', with old favourites thrown in.  I was only familiar with a third (if that) of their set, but enjoyed the gig nevertheless.  They're great at interacting with the crowd who absolutely adored them.  At time's Colin's vocals grated, and it was a bit too country for me, but I'm definitely going to investigate some more of their back catalogue after seeing them live.

Blind Pilot were supporting them on the tour.  I bought Blind Pilot's album '3 Rounds and a Sound' a couple of year's ago, so it was a nice surprise to find out they were touring with the Decemberists.  They only played a short set which went down well and sounded great.  I would really like to see them again in a more intimate setting though.


Listen: The Decemberists MySpace
Listen: Blind Pilot MySpace

Cherry Ghost played Union Chapel on Sunday night (20th).  I was working but got to see most of their set.  I didn't have high hopes for it as I found the album a bit mediocre and their performance didn't really blow me away.  They delivered a series of songs which each sounded similar to the last.  Union Chapel is a great place to see live music (not that I'm biased) and that certainly helped Cherry Ghost who sounded nice, but that was it, it was nice, it wasn't exciting or interesting.  I was thoroughly bored by the end, just willing them to play 'People Help The People' as it's the one song I'm most familiar with.  They ended on that before the encore, but played it slightly differently to the original version and it just lacked something.  They redeemed themselves a bit by playing 'Mathematics' in the encore but on the whole it was quite a dull performance of some quite dull music.


This week I have become hooked on Wolf & I by Oh Land.  It's a great song, I love the vocals and eerie harmonies.  I thought I could be onto a winner with this one, so went and listened to some other tracks, but so far they've not really grabbed me and are a lot poppier than this single which is a shame, but it's a great song nonetheless.

Listen: Wolf & I - Oh Land

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Week 10: Mon 7 March - The Phantom Band, Dingwalls, Camden

It's fair to say I wasn't in a very gig-going mood last week when heading up to Dingwalls in Camden to see The Phantom Band with my boyfriend (who's a big fan and was really looking forward to the gig - sorry!).  He gave me one of their albums in January and I had listened to it a few times, but not enough to become familiar with the songs before the gig. 

Fellow Scottish band Found opened the night with a short set which didn't really do it for me. The electronic element didn't really work - they'd have been better off with a standard drummer; and some of the harmonies were a bit off.  This only compounded the mood that I didn't feel like I wanted to be there.

Luckily, The Phantom Band came on and from the outset my mood lifted whilst listening to their catchy, percussive songs.  It helps that the front man is very charismatic which made the whole gig much more interesting, but generally, the band mix intricate melodies, harmonies and percussion to create great songs.  The crowd were all dancing and bouncing along. I wasn't overly convinced by their album before seeing them live, but now I've revisited it and have enjoyed it a lot more as it's easier to appreciate all the layers within each song.

Overall a very good band to see when in a bad mood. It's hard not to find yourself bouncing along with the beat and enjoying their banter. Thank you to The Phantom Band for being that little bit different and providing a breath of fresh air.


Listen: The Phantom Band Myspace
Official: The Phantom Band

Week 9: Wed 2 March - Vessels, The Borderline

I've been a bit slow with my blog updates lately, but the good news is even though I've not been blogging about it, I have been keeping up the resolution.  

Two weeks ago, I went to see Vessels at The Borderline.  My delay in blogging about it was caused slightly by the fact I didn't really know what to say.  I'm not really au fait with prog-rock so I don't feel too confident writing about a genre I don't usually listen to as I have very little to compare it with.  That said, I'll approach it merely from an enjoyment point of view, and on the whole, I really enjoyed Vessels.

It was a completely different gig experience.  My friend described them as "guitars to melt your face off" - perhaps that's an accurate enough description.  We were struck by a wall of rousing energy from start to finish.  I was mesmerised by the speed at which the drummer's sticks were moving - he was phenomenal - it was quite the aerobic workout.  They've got some great grooves and riffs in their songs, so the lack of lyrics wasn't really noticeable as you're too wrapped up in what they're all doing instrumentally.

They're definitely a band worth seeing live, I'd be keen to check them out again.


Listen: Vessels Myspace
Official:  Vessels

Monday, 28 February 2011

Week 8: A good week for gigs - Glasser, NME Awards & British Sea Power

Week 8 was a busy week on the gig front and none of them disappointed.

First up:
Tuesday 22 February - Glasser, XOYO, Shoreditch
I received Glasser's album 'The Ring' through the Rough Trade Album Club late last year and hadn't really given it much attention until I saw she was playing at XOYO in February.  After a few listens, I'd really got into it and was looking forward to seeing her live.  The music can be compared to Bjork, it's experimental electronic sounds in which Cameron Mesirow's voice is used as an additional instrument, and wow, what a great voice!  They played through the whole album so it was only about an hour long set, but Glasser came on at the end to sing an acappella folk song to appease the crowd who were keen for more.  

This was also my first trip to XOYO which is a good little venue.  Sight-lines aren't great in various spots of the venue which isn't helped by the stage being quite so low, but the sound system is great so it'd be a good place to see showcase style gigs and club nights.  Overall an enjoyable evening.  I'd be keen to see Glasser again when she's got some more material.
Listen: Glasser Myspace

Next up:
Wednesday 23 February - NME Awards 2011, Brixton Academy
I had the great opportunity to work on the NME Awards 2011 as a talent liaison, mainly looking after My Chemical Romance.  It was a great but quite surreal day; walking around backstage I bumped into Dave Grohl, PJ Harvey and Kate Moss amongst other celebrities.  I was able to knock off at 10pm which meant I was free to watch the Foo Fighter's extended set with a beer in hand.  

Dave Grohl received the Godlike Genius Award and said they'd had to option to play 5 songs after accepting the award, but instead, they decided to play a whole gig - a whole 90 minute gig I might add.  They started off by playing their new album "Wasting Light" in its entirety before unleashing a greatest hits set and the venue went wild!  Apparently there was lots of broken furniture after their set, which isn't surprising seeing the amount of booze the awards guests had put away before dancing on tables and chairs.  My fears that I wouldn't see a band who could rival the Manics' 10/10 set were put to rest by the Foo Fighters who played hit after hit, including one of my all-time favourites 'Stacked Actors'.  

Here's what they played after finishing "Wasting Light":

All My Life
Times Like These
My Hero
Stacked Actors
The Pretender
Learn To Fly
I'll Stick Around

Monkey Wrench
This Is A Call

It was a brilliant end to an awesome event - the Foo Fighters know how to put on a great show.

Lastly in week 8....
Sunday 27 February, British Sea Power at The Forum, Kentish Town
We arrived just in time to catch the last few songs by Team Me - a young band from Norway who sound similar to Freelance Whales.  They won us over within a couple of songs with their energy, enthusiasm and catchy songs.  It was so good to see a band really enjoying their performance and trying to engage the crowd rather than standing still, bashing out mediocre tunes (Chapel Club....).  Anyway, we enjoyed them so much we bought their EP.

After Team Me finished, the crew went about setting the stage for British Sea Power which included a lot of foliage and a giant projector screen.  

This is a band who really pay attention to presentation, which even extended to their merchandise stand - if there was an award for the best merch stand at a gig these guys would win with goodies including a specially brewed British Sea Power beer, fudge, mugs, t-shirts, pin badges, LPs and CDs - all presented in a quintessentially British way.  I went home with a British Tea Power mug which will sit nicely on my desk at work.

Anyway, back to the gig...  British Sea Power are a band with a core following of old and young fans alike, and The Forum was crammed full of them last night.  They delivered a great show which was nearly 2 hours long - not bad for a Sunday night.  They played a mix of songs spanning all their albums, including songs from the 'Man of Aran' soundtrack which were accompanied by footage from the film on the giant screen.  Highlights included Waving Flags & No Lucifer - it's safe to say 'Do You Like Rock Music' is my favourite of their albums.  I find they're a band who I really enjoy about 2/3 of the songs by but the others I tend to zone out in and this happened a little during the gig.  On the whole though, a brilliant and energetic performance which really livened up an otherwise slow Sunday.

Listen: British Sea Power

Monday, 21 February 2011

Week 7: Wed 16 Feb - Chapel Club, Heaven, London

I was quite looking forward to seeing Chapel Club after hearing their courtyard session for The Fly out the window when I was working at hmv Live.  They sounded great and I really liked their singles 'Surfacing' and 'All The Eastern Girls'.  Unfortunately, these were the two best songs in their set and the rest was quite monotonous and uninspiring. 

Heaven was sold out and completely jammed full of people keen to see a band who I considered would be amongst 'the next big things'.  I'd become wary before the gig as their album had received a luke-warm reception but I was still expecting a good show.  They opened with Surfacing which I enjoyed, along with the rest of the crowd.  Then they proceeded to play album tracks for the next half an hour which quite honestly all sounded a bit too similar to one another to be interesting.  Frontman Lewis Bowman has a great voice and they could do something much more interesting with it, but the melodies were all quite safe and formulaic.  They don't seem to experiment enough which is a shame as Surfacing and All The Eastern Girls are good pop songs in their own right, but when played in the context of the album, they just sound like all the other songs.  

I wouldn't rush to see these guys again, nor will I rush out to buy their album, but judging by the rest of the crowd who seemed happy enough listening to a mediocre indie band - they'll do just fine.


Listen: Chapel Club Myspace

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Week 6: hmv Next Big Thing festival

Last week was the hmv Next Big Thing festival which  I was working on, so sticking to my resolution was especially easy.  I dropped into various gigs during the week.

Highlights were:
- The Phoenix Foundation, Upstairs at the Garage as part of the Memphis Industries Night.  I've heard a few of their songs on the radio since, and quite like them.

- Morning Parade at Heaven, supporting the Airborne Toxic Event - great band, these guys sound very polished and I can see them cracking the charts - they've got the right sound to appeal to the masses, kind of Killers-esque rock with a great vocalist and they give a great live performance.  Sure we'll be hearing more from this lot in 2011.

- Sissy & The Blisters - I'm mentioning these guys merely because they were a very sweet and polite bunch who deserve to do well.  They've only been gigging for 6 months and by their own admission they tend to split the audience with their music, but they sounded great and I'm sure they'll find their niche.

- Josh Weller at the Jazz Cafe - Josh is a good showman who likes interacting with the crowd.  The audience seemed to react well to his music which was good, but not great.  It's quite simple poppy music and it's hard to see how it'll make him big.

- The Airborne Toxic Event - I really don't get the following for this lot.  They were a lovely bunch, but their music didn't really grab me.  Still, this was the largest of the hmv Next Big Thing gigs and was sold out, so they're obviously doing something right for some people...

- The Chapman Family and Mazes at The Garage - again, not my cup of tea.  Sadly we left before The Young Knives in order to scoot over to the Jazz Cafe to see Josh Weller. 

- Banjo or Freakout and Dutch Uncles at the Memphis Industries Night - sadly neither of these bands lived up to my expectations.  We ended up leaving after a couple of Dutch Uncles songs.  The Phoenix Foundation should definitely have headlined this night.

- Heart Kill Giant, Upstairs at the Garage - I'd listened to this lot online before popping upstairs to see them, but from the outset they were out of tune and the songs just didn't sound right live.  A band who sound good in the studio but need a lot more practice in the live sphere.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Gig #5: Friday 4 February - hmv Next Big Thing presents: James Blake, The Borderline

The Borderline was packed to the rafters with industry and fashionable folk eagerly awaiting this performance by James Blake. It was definitely the hot ticket of the hmv Next Big Thing festival, evident by the lack of space in the room and folk backed up the stairs trying to catch a glimpse of the man everyone's talking about.

James entered the stage accompanied by a drummer and guitarist who he later introduced as two close school friends.  As he sat down he said "Next Big Thing, no pressure then" and you kind of felt for him. In the space of a couple of months since all the hot tips for 2011 lists were announced, James has come from the relative unknown, signed to a major record label and found himself the subject of critical scrutiny - this gig had a lot riding on it.

His set was short, maybe 5 tracks or so, including the hit 'Limit To Your Love' which included some bass trickery in the dubby parts, making the metal flues on the ceiling shake and the whole venue reverberate.  Fans basing their interest in James Blake on this one song may have been disappointed by his other tracks which weren't quite of the same chart-topping mould.

Blake is obviously feeling the pressure to deliver, with his album being released tomorrow and having already received some scathing reviews. He said at one point "remember to listen to albums on your own with the lights off before reading reviews" and I couldn't help but think I'd enjoy the music more in that setting too.  I wasn't buzzing with excitement by the end of the gig, but then again I wasn't expecting to be. I liked what I'd listened to prior to the gig, but I was always sceptical about how it would translate live.  He's evidently a talented producer but the performance of his music is something which needs a bit of work, it's not quite as cohesive as you might expect considering the hype surrounding him.  If he successfully rides the storm of critical acclaim in the coming months I have every faith that things will only get bigger and better for James Blake.  He's definitely a curious one to watch.

James Blake myspace

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Gig #4: Mon 24 Jan - The Head And The Heart, The Lexington, Islington

This was The Head And The Heart's first UK gig having recently signed to Heavenly Recordings and for a debut show, it was pretty damn good.  The Lexington was full to the rafters of industry and indie kids alike and I left feeling we were onto something with this band, a bit like when I saw the Fleet Foxes for the first time.  We went in a little blind, having only heard a handful of songs online before the gig, but were won over by their excellent poppy-folk harmonies.  The three lead vocalists, Josiah, Jon and Charity indulged in banter between songs and were obviously very excited to be on these shores (they were over supporting The Walkmen at Shepherds Bush Empire the following night).  The songs are really well written and live their performance is surprisingly polished considering they've been together not long over a year.

Highlights were: Down In The Valley; Sounds like Hallelujah; Rivers & Roads and Winter Song.   Really looking forward to the release of their self-titled album on 18 April and I might have to break my 'no duplicates' rule, as I'm quite keen to see these guys again this year.  They're playing another gig in London in the spring supporting The Low Anthem at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  The fact I can't stop listening to them since the gig must be a sign they were good!

Support came from The Mariner's Children and The Fancy Dress Party.  I've seen The Mariner's Children a few times and really enjoyed seeing them again although the sound was a little dodgy which meant a few of the nuances in their music got lost but on the whole a very enjoyable performance.  I've got an EP of theirs but I'm really looking forward to seeing a full album from this lot soon.  The Fancy Dress Party weren't bad, quite a young studenty folk band from Essex.  Their songs were pretty simple and again the sound for them wasn't fab, they didn't really do it for me, but as they're just starting out, perhaps they'll be ones to watch.

Overall it was a really enjoyable gig and I was pleasantly surprised at how good The Head and The Heart were - definitely one for a sounds of 2011 list.


The Head and the Heart Myspace
The Mariner's Children
The Fancy Dress Party 

Official sites
The Head and the Heart

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Gig #3: Sat 22 January - Manic Street Preachers, Brixton Academy

Wow, what can I say?  The curtain rose to reveal a luscious red back drop and glitzy stage props, illuminated one by one by spotlights before the Manics entered the stage. From the moment they opened with Slash 'n' Burn we knew we were in for a good night.  This gig was rescheduled from October when James Dean Bradfield was taken ill and unable to perform - I'd luckily managed to buy a standing ticket for the rescheduled date and am so glad I went.  James said they'd pay the audience back in kind for having had to change the date, and they did through a series of their greatest hits, with a few newbies thrown in for good measure.  Inevitably there were songs they didn't play which I was itching to hear (I was especially disappointed that the Friday audience got This Is Yesterday sung acoustically by JDB and we got Small Black Flowers - pah!), but when you've released 10 studio albums, I suppose you can't please everyone.  

I've seen the Manic Street Preachers more times than I can remember, but this gig was definitely up there with my first time seeing them at Reading Festival in 2001.  They're as good as they've always been and don't get the recognition they deserve.  I've followed this band for 16 years so it's difficult to be impartial, but the audience was a mix of staunch Manics followers and newer fans of their recent material and everyone seemed to be having a great time.  They know how to put on a show with the right mix of upbeat and slow brooding songs.  One thing's for sure, this gig has set the bar high for the rest of the year.  Perhaps Arcade Fire at Hyde Park will be a strong contender for gig of the year.....

British Sea Power supported the Manics and played a great set spanning their releases.  Highlights for me were the tracks from 'Do You Like Rock Music' - No Lucifer, The Great Skua, Waving Flags and Canvey Island.  Seeing them again reminded me to revisit their old albums and check out their new album 'Valhalla Dancehall'.  Perhaps I'll catch a headline gig of theirs later in the year.

Watch: You Stole The Sun From My Heart (acoustic)  ignore the terrible singing from the guy recording it!
Watch: Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky
Listen: Manic Street Preachers myspace
Homepage: Manic Street Preachers
Listen: British Sea Power myspace
Homepage: British Sea Power

Manic Street Preachers set list
Slash 'n' Burn
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough 
Motorcycle Emptiness
(It's Not War) - Just The End Of Love
Everything Must Go 
Roses in the Hospital 
My Little Empire 
Postcards From A Young Man
You Love Us
Suicide is Painless (Theme from MASH) (Johnny Mandel cover
A Billion Balconies Facing the Sun 
Motown Junk 
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky (Acoustic)
You Stole The Sun From My Heart (Acoustic)
La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)
Some Kind Of Nothingness 
Me And Stephen Hawking 
A Design For Life 

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Gig #2: Wed 12 January - Singing Adams, The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch

I was really looking forwards to this gig for two reasons.  Firstly, being a big Rumble Strips fan back in the day, I was looking forward to seeing Henry Clark do his first solo gig. And secondly, I really like the Singing Adams' new single 'I Need Your Mind' and had high hopes for the rest of their material.

The Old Blue Last was pretty busy, packed with friends of the bands and evidently some Rumble Strips and Broken Family Band followers.

Unfortunately, Henry Clark's set was a little disappointing, not least because I had it in my head that Henry was the lead singer of the Rumble Strips.  After half an hour deliberating which member of the band we were going to see on stage, I realised I was thinking of Charlie Waller and had no idea who Henry was (he plays trumpet and piano in case you wanted to know).  That aside, I was willing to give him a listen, but after a couple of songs I lost interest.  Perhaps this was due to the general sound level being a little too low, making it difficult to listen to his mix of Graham Coxon-esque ditties, but the patterns created on the wall by the mirrorball whirling around also became a little more interesting than the music.  Perhaps that's a little harsh...  My friend quite enjoyed it, but it didn't capture me.  Maybe it would have been better to see Henry in a more intimate and quieter venue.  Anyway, it was his first gig, so things can only get better, right?

Next came the Singing Adams.  They got off to a good start, and the tempo picked up three songs in when they played 'I Need Your Mind' - obviously a few fans of it in the room.  Highlights aside from the single were 'Giving It All Away' and 'Injured Party'.  The rest of the set was a mixed bag, and I can't say I came away thinking there were many other stand-out songs but then I'm unfamiliar with the material, as were most of the audience.  I'll definitely give their album a listen when it's released later this year and perhaps go and see them again once I'm familiar with more than a couple of songs. 

Listen: Singing Adams Myspace 
Homepage: Singing Adams

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Gig #1: Thursday 6 January - Dropbear, The Buffalo Bar, Highbury

A friend's band who I'd not managed to see until now and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  There was a good crowd down at the Buffalo Bar and Ben's guitar riffs had people dancing.  Although not my usual cup of tea, Dropbear are technically tight and well rehearsed, and they deserve a bigger following than they currently enjoy.  Keep your eyes peeled if you fancy a decent rock night out, there'll be plenty more gigs in the year to come.

Sound like: Incubus, Muse, Soundgarden, Iron Maiden, Chilli Peppers.
Rating: 7/10
Listen: Dropbear Myspace