Monday 27 December 2010

Call Of The Wyld Review Of 2010

(Gratuitous but obviously necessary picture of Oral Oral bassist's bum from this year's Offset Festival. She didn't turn to face the crowd at any point.)

It is traditional at this time of year to mull over the past twelve months and revisit high times, low lights and possibly put together a blooper reel. Or something.

The year started properly with an evening of wild Japanese mayhem at the Bull and Gate as Molice and Moja rocked like demons to a crowd of ooh, several.

In February I did my biggest gig of the year, when Rammstein bought their brand of naughty but nice, cruel but surprisingly camp metal to Wembley arena. I’m a sucker for a good show, and the Germans always deliver. It’s a shame that smaller venues such as the Enterprise and the Lexington are not conducive to the use of flamethrowers.

February also saw an extraordinary evening at Cargo in the company of Merrill Garbus, aka tUnE-yArDs. A real talent, raw and wild as hell.

In the Spring I saw The Primitives at the Scala, the first in a conceptual series of gigs from 80’s twee pop exponents who have reformed in the wake of significant deaths. The second was the Darling Buds who played at the 100 Club.

By complete co-incidence it was just twenty four hours later that the 100 Club was revealed to be in danger of closure and the great and the good made appropriate noises about the need to keep it open. I’m somewhat ambivalent – the nature of music in London (and other cities) is that music may move from place to place, but it keeps going. This year has seen the closure of places such as The Luminaire but I’ve also been to new places like CAMP Basement. As I’ve ruminated here before, there is a real feeling that the centre of music in London is shifting from North to East.

To my mind the 100 Club is only worth saving if it is a thriving venue for new and current acts. If they just want to be a museum dedicated to the past then they might as well open a Hard Rock Café on the premises. To be honest, I’m much more disheartened that the Café De Paris has stopped showcasing young bands in favour of more lucrative, but aesthetically pointless tribute acts.

There was a rather underwhelming Camden Crawl this year, but May also saw one of the gigs of 2010 – the exuberant Canadian double header at The Lexington, when first Rich Aucoin took audience participation to unprecedented levels by acting as cheerleader while we did all the work, and then The Pack AD blew our socks clean off and somewhere way down the road.

The Lexington is Call Of The Wyld’s venue of the year. I don’t think that I’ve ever had a bad evening there and have seen some top bands. The range of beers downstairs is almost unparalleled in a music venue and the place is run with real love by some great people.

May will also live in the memory as the month when I saw Japanese pop idols Hangry + Angry at the Underworld. The only time I’ve seen a gig end with a question and answer session with the audience.

June was the time when dinosaurs walked the earth. Joan Jett was terrific at the 100 Club and Patti Smith surprisingly good humoured and relaxed in Hyde Park.

In July I spent a blisteringly hot day at the Shoreditch 1234 festival and caught a delightful set from Von Haze. I admired tent divers tombstoning into the crowd during a Rolo Tomassi performance and stood in the dark for an hour as These New Puritans vainly tried to plug an oboe into an electric socket. Or some other such technical difficulty.

August saw what I suspect I’m going to call my gig of the year – the first time I saw Warpaint; in this instance at CAMP Basement. That I had gone into the gig suspecting that it would all be a bit ‘meh’ made it all the better when we got a bogglingly marvellous and enjoyable show that completely confounded all expectations.

The way in which the Warpaint album is being marketed as an accompaniment to dinner parties / recreational cannabis use reminds me to give the Call of the Wyld Award for Ubiquity at Gigs to The xx. This year I couldn’t move at a gig without knocking into members of the band that won the Mercury Prize.

In September I spent a brilliant weekend at the Offset Festival. This event goes from strength to strength and I really didn’t have a duff experience among nearly fifty bands that I saw over the two days. If they could resolve the jinx of the Sunday night headliners, it would be utter heaven.

This was also the month that I finally saw Yuck for the first time. I really like them and am glad to see that they are getting some love in other quarters and are being tipped as ones to watch in 2011. It will be interesting to see how they do – there are two very distinct strands to their music and while I can see a mass market for their gentle, acousticy numbers, I wonder if a wider audience will appreciate their guitar-scree Sonic Youthy side.

I saw a compelling, but bizarre performance from Soap & Skin at the Union Chapel. I don’t mind tortured artists, but Anja Plaschg did genuinely appear to be in some distress for most of this gig.

Disappointment of the year was probably Zola Jesus at CAMP Basement. I can just about put up with her on record, although I find the fulsome praise that she attracts somewhat baffling. Her live show was dreary in the extreme, a one trick pony honking out a succession of tuneless dirges. The xx seemed to like it, though.

Another BBC tip for 2011 is Esben & The Witch who seem to have been regarded as Next Big Things for a couple of years, and unless I am wrong, are or were managed by one of the guys who contributes to the BBC’s music content. Coincidence? For legal reasons, let’s say “Yes”. I saw E & TW twice, once at Offset when they were terrific and once at Electrowerkz, when their limitations became starkly clear. I suspect that I’ll only be able to fully judge when the album comes out early next year.

And it was great to see The Blood Arm again for the first time in a couple of years. If you could bottle the Blood Arm experience, you’d make millions.

On the recorded music front, there were fine albums from the likes of O Children, The Pack AD, Cold In Berlin (who will get a full review on here as soon as I can find time to squeeze them in), The Indelicates, Teddybears, The Fall and Warpaint.

I’m so damned new fangled / confused that my album of the year is not an album at all but rather a pair of files that can be downloaded for free from the website of Computer Magic. These are a pair of ‘EPs’ called Hiding From Our Time/Hiding From More Of Our Time and to say that they are a complete knockout does them a serious disservice.

They are the work of a solo artist called Danz (or Danielle) and she has produced these demos over the past year. The songs are delicate, achingly poignant affairs which are also cracking tunes. The quality here is staggering. Watch her go in 2011…

Individual tracks of the year are very hard to assess, as they differ depending on mood. There’s a good selection on the music player at the top of the page at the moment. I am inordinately fond of Pepper Rabbit’s “Older Brother” though.

That’s it for now – back in the New Year. I’ve got a few things lined up…

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Frankie Rose and The Outs, Hawnay Troof at The Luminaire - December 14 2010

Frankie Rose and The Outs by Tim Griffin

The Luminaire shuts at the end of the year, so this is my last chance to savour the place. I’ve not been uncritical of the venue in the past, as I’ve always associated it with a frustratingly lax approach to band timings. However, I’m still sad to see it go. As a breathless and sweating Hawnay Troof exclaims later in the evening “Venue shuts, venue opens, it’s the circle of life!”

We start proceedings with Amelia Rivas and Christian Pinchbeck, who perform as Elephant. Amelia dabs at a keyboard, while Christian wrestles and frets away at a guitar. Theirs is a rather plaintive and melancholy sound, as desolate as an empty ballroom, but also somehow ineffably lost and sad.

Not a party band then.

We follow with the latest live incarnation of Alessio Natalizia, who works under the name of Banjo or Freakout. Tonight he is joined by two other musicians to form a fuzzy low-fi three piece unit who experiment with lengthy drum and guitar work outs. These jamming sessions are leavened by Natalizia’s quiet voice as he imposes structure and song craft over the din. I think that it works very well.

I’m particularly intrigued by the drummer, who watches his band leader like a wide-eyed hawk, apparently terrified of landing a beat out of place.

Vice Cooler aka Hawnay Troof is a man of the people. In fact tonight he is a man among the people, an army of one with a mission to get the party started and to get London to make some noise!!!

His is an exhausting non-stop power ball of a performance, leaping on and off the stage, executing full tilt forward rolls and getting the audience down on their knees. He does a fantastic job, as initially the crowd is too self conscious to do anything but look nervously at each other. By the end everyone is yelling and whooping on command and well warmed up for the main act.

I’m a big fan of Hawnay Troof and am delighted to see him in such surroundings. Last time our paths crossed, he was stuck on a big stage and unable to properly interact. But boy, does he work hard. If he keeps this up he’s going to end up very fit or very dead.

I’m also glad to see him, because it gives me an excuse to post this marvellously stupid video footage of him being humped by a bulldog while performing earlier this year.

Hawnay is wearing the same costume tonight. Sadly, the dog could not make it.

Frankie Rose has spent time drumming in bands such as Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and Dum Dum Girls and it is not altogether surprising that she and her current band The Outs tread in similar territory.

It’s the final night of the tour and I can’t help but feel that the band are a bit frazzled, tired and just glad to bash out one last show so that they can get back home.

Not that Frankie and the rest of the gang aren’t having fun. They play a simple, stripped down take on classic Sixties girl groups, without as much of the amplified reverb employed by Frankie’s previous bands.

Frankie Rose herself is very nervous and anxious to please. She tells of how she was originally scared to come to the UK because she thought that we were fierce and unfriendly. However, on this tour she has been introduced to strange concepts such as the savoury pie and football and as a consequence feels a lot happier. I wonder if her unease is because in her own band she plays guitar and leads proceedings, whereas in the past she has been by necessity, stuck in the background.

Included in the set is a version of the Vivian Girls' “Where Do You Run To” and it rather unfortunately sounds better than the bands’ own material. That could be down to my own familiarity, of course.

The band finishes and I wave goodbye them. As I prepare to do the same to the venue, I’m slightly confounded that the evening has run like clockwork and has actually finished slightly ahead of time. Incredible! Well done, and good luck, Luminaire.

Monday 13 December 2010

Ty Segall and Dignan Porch at CAMP Basement - 11 December 2010

Ty Segall (Photo by Eric Rex)

When you imagine going to CAMP Basement for a Christmas gig, you get an image in your mind’s eye of an outrageously over-the-top grotto, staffed by flamboyant characters dressed in Santa and elf costumes.

The reality is much more mundane. It is indeed a basement and the décor (pipes, ducting and an unevenly tiled floor) would be more in keeping with an episode in the Saw franchise.

For the second gig in a row, I arrive just as the first support act is finishing. I’m getting very poor at judging when events start when it is known that there will be an early conclusion – in this case because they want to turf us out to make way for a club night.

So I see relatively little of Weird Dreams. I’ll leave it at that.

Dignan Porch are much more my can of Red Stripe. They play a perfectly acceptable guitar and keyboard brand of indie pop and have actually written some decent songs, which is always a bonus.

It is extremely warm down here in the basement, and I admire the fortitude of the band’s bass player, who is not only wearing a heavy coat, but is also swaddled in an enormous scarf. It is only at the end of the set that he can take it no more and rips his layers off. You can practically see him steaming.

Ty Segall and his band hail from San Francisco and are in thrall to classic guitar rock. They certainly blow the cobwebs away with their blend of hard riffing and yelped vocals.

The DJ has been warming us up with Firehose, Grant Hart, Jay Reatard etc and Ty Segall and co sound right at home in this company. The crowd get excited and mosh about at the front. The band take a truncated rush through Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ and the moshing erupts into stage diving and crowd surfing.

A grand time is had by all. Segall is clearly very moved by the love that he is getting from the crowd and is effusive in his thanks.

For an encore we get a massed bawl-along version of The Vibrators’ “Baby Baby Baby (Won’t You Be My Girl)”.

Then it’s all over and we are encouraged to head off into the wilds of Shoreditch.

Not perhaps a vintage night, but a fine example of a small scene enjoying itself. And I can’t get that damn Vibrators song out of my head now…

Friday 10 December 2010

Homesick Hustlers / The Puppet Masters at Camden Barfly 09 December 2010

The Puppet Masters

I leave the office as the protesters attempt to break in

I arrive at the Barfly just in time to catch the last thirty seconds of Phoebo. The resulting snap judgement is that I’m sorry to have missed her. I’ll do better next time.

This evening is the culmination of a sterling project run by The Roundhouse, who over the past ten weeks have “selected four emerging young bands and teamed them up with industry professionals and inspiring session players to improve their sound”. This all sounds very worthy, but the proof is going to be in the performance.

The bands tonight are all very young and very raw, and that is in no way a bad thing – if an act has any spark at all, you should be able to detect it even at this early stage.

The first band that I can give my full attention to is The Puppet Masters and they turn out to be rather wonderful.

Very much at the hard rock end of the musical spectrum, the immediate focal point is the arresting singer Maya Talwatte. Not content with modelling a skirt that appears to have been made out of Christmas wrapping paper, (and not very much of it), she writhes like an eel and, when at a loss for anything else to do, wiggles her bum at the crowd. I’ve seen whole careers built on a lot less.

Her wild-eyed nature child routine plays like a happy amalgam of Kat(i)es Bush and Jane Garside and her roaring vocals work well against the heavy grunge rock of the band. When they start off I initially think that they have a good sound, but not necessarily any songs to go with it. However, after a couple of tracks, everything suddenly starts to click and from then on it is fun all the way. The moment when the singer’s flailing arm whacks a guitarist in the face draws a huge laugh.

The Puppet Masters have real potential and all they need to do now is get more gigs under their belt.

All the acts tonight are well supported; none more so than the next bunch.

Homesick Hustlers have such a wild and devoted following that there are screams every time their name is announced from the stage. Real, Beatles, knicker-wetting screams. Bloody hell!

The MC for the evening introduces the band (squeals) and says that they are uncategorisable. He suggests “swamp blues” and the audience hoot in derision.

Once Homesick Hustlers actually kick off, I’m equally baffled. Most acts can be lazily described as “sounding like band A meets band B” (see my comments on the last act), but with this lot there are so many points of reference that I’m spinning round like a compass at the North Pole.

The band has two singers. Ewa Leszczynska can belt like a bluesy night club trooper and acts as foil to the quite extraordinary loose limbed antics of Ben Walker, who even at this embryonic stage is one of the most effortless charismatic front men I have seen in years.

He half shouts, half sings, half raps. That number of halves doesn’t add up, but this band are way stranger than mathematics. There are elements of hardcore rock, blues, pop and hip hop. To do the analogy thing, the band that they most remind me of, although they sound nothing at all like them, is Rolo Tomassi. There is the same wild sense of anything goes, different styles in bizarre collision, sounds jammed together because it is too much fun not to do so. One track is a kind of bluesy hip hop and another may be a pop rock number. It all works and there are some great tunes here.

The tightly packed crowd are going bat poop crazy and at times the screaming almost drowns out the band. Bloody hell! Again!

At the end, the audience is invited up on stage to sing along with crowd favourite ‘Dr C’s Diagnosis’ (“too much sugar in the morning” apparently). A bevy of young girls surround guitarist Tom Owen and, stroking his hair, squeal at him. He looks both sheepish and delighted. The drummer and bassist, who have been superb tonight, are rather left out – such is the fate of drummers and bassists.

The final act of the evening has to follow that, and that they can’t is no disgrace. The Stowaways are much more traditional indie than either of the previous bands and, although hampered by sound problems, show that they have a singer with a fine falsetto voice. However, to go back to that ‘spark’ that I alluded to earlier, I’m not sure that they have got it.

It’s been an evening of terrific fun. Congratulations to The Roundhouse and all the acts. Tonight the Barfly, tomorrow the world?