It’s time to be reflective and think back over the past year’s gigs. As ever it’s been a mixed bag – sherbet lemons and razorblades as always.
January and February were quiet…too quiet. I saw the reliably wonderful Skinny Girl Diet at the Barfly and had my first encounter with Abjects. Catching this same band later in the year was a revelation – either my radar hadn’t yet warmed up in January or else they had improved beyond measure.
In March I saw The Men at Village Underground. It was the second loudest gig I have been to in my entire life (Swans in their heyday hold that dubious honour) and my ears were effectively ruined for the next three days. It genuinely hurt.
Undeterred I headed to the Buffalo Bar (RIP) to relive the mid-Eighties madness of A Witness and The Cravats.
At Brixton Windmill I enjoyed an all-day festival and particularly the performance of Ravioli Me Away, who were dressed as KISS at the time and have one of the songs of the year in ‘Cat Call’.
From there I trotted off to the O2 to see Miley Cyrus redefine the arena experience with a show that was so gleefully over the top that there wasn’t any point in the two hours that weren’t completely bonkers. I especially enjoyed her tribute to her dead dog Floyd accompanied by a vast inflatable model of the unfortunate creature that shot lasers from its eyes. It was both barmy and deeply moving.
In contrast, in the Autumn I saw Lady Gaga at the same venue and it was like spending an evening with an Agony Aunt who occasionally shook her ass at you. 1-0 to Miley.
I saw Tune-Yards twice in 2014. I was out of sorts for the Village Underground show, grumbling about the audience having the temerity to enjoy themselves. At a later show at Brixton Electric I was able to lighten up and enjoy the continued genius of Merrill Garbus.
In May I had my first encounter with Autobahn, a full blooded, honest-to-goodness rock band with a dynamic lead singer and a gale of sound that pinned your ears back. I later saw them in the confined spaces of the Lock Tavern on the Camden Crawl. Autobahn went off like a rocket about a foot away from my face. It was majestic and awesome and the best thing I saw all year.
I really enjoyed this year’s Crawl and it is a great pity that within days the whole enterprise fell apart in acrimony and unpaid debts. It’s unlikely to be back, but I shall treasure memories of a warm day outside the Camden Town Brewery watching Jeffrey Lewis frolic in the sunshine.
Another festival that went belly up was the Jabberwocky event at the Excel Arena. I benefited by attending a hastily re-arranged Deafheaven / Chelsea Wolfe show at the Garage.
Loop came back from nowhere at Heaven and were marvellous. I saw The Fall for theumpteenth time at Stamford Bridge and was blown away by how invigorated they are in their current line-up.
In July I saw a jaw-dropping show from Japanese rockers Babymetal. I loved it to bits, but one clumsily worded sentence earned me the wrath of their fans. Apologies.
In September I finally saw Desperate Journalist do themselves proud at Madame Jo Jo’s, another venue that did not survive theyear.
But as one venue closes, others are discovered. The latter part of the year saw memorable shows at Oslo (Carter Tutti Void, Stealing Sheep) and – my venue of the year – The Shacklewell Arms.
At the Shacklewell I saw terrific performances by White Lung, Skinny Girl Diet, Abjects, Girlpool and The Coathangers. I’m back ther early in 2015 for New York synth punks Pop. 1280 and I’m excited already.
In a move that no-one could have foreseen, Kate Bush returned and was utterly awesome. It was more like a lavish stage musical than a gig, but it was wholly extraordinary, not least in that she did it entirely on her own terms and barely played any of her most famous songs.
A claustrophobic Goat gig at the Roundhouse put me off that venue for good (so no Ride in 2015).
There were two stand out shows at the end of the year. ThePop Group were all kinds of magnificent at Islington Town Hall and Charli XCX blew the roof off at Heaven.
All praise too to Kero Kero Bonito and Bo En for a show at Electrowerkz that completely subverted what I expected from a live performance.
Looking back, it was a great year. Again.
Now… on to 2015.