Thursday 21 July 2011

The Good Natured, Josh Osho, Lovelle at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen - 20 July 2011

The Good Natured

There are those who feel that they haven’t had value for money unless a band has played for three hours. Not me. I like a bit of brevity.

I’m in the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen for a Gold Dust night and the emphasis is on sets that are short, sharp and sweet. No-one gets more than half a dozen tracks, if they’re lucky.

That said, it’s a slightly odd bill, with such a disparity between the first three acts and the headliners that there is a complete cultural apartheid. The composition of the crowd changes almost one hundred per cent.

First off this evening we have Lovelle, a highly personable and extremely talented R & B/Soul singer. She says that she’s nervous but it doesn’t show in her performance, which is absolutely note and move perfect, I suspect even down to the ‘ad-libs’. She’s accompanied throughout by a scary Catweazle-looking dude on an acoustic guitar.

Lovelle is very impressive, but in a Brit School world, she faces a lot of competition. In two years time she’ll either be massive or out of the business.

AlunaGeorge are also on a soul kick and remind me of school discos back at the end of the Seventies, when I’d just hate everything and try to sneak ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ on when the DJ wasn’t looking. When punk broke, the main opposition wasn’t metal or prog, it was The Commodores.

Aluna is long and thin, with a nasal, high pitched and rather whiny voice. George bobs behind a keyboard and ticks things along with a series of glitch-y bleeps and bloops. There are two other guys on stage, but they aren’t considered important enough to be included in the band name.

And then, amidst the dross, a miracle. They announce their next single ‘You Know You Like It’ and it sounds awesome, an absolute monster of a track. Terrific stuff, but sadly unrepresentative.

{DISCLAIMER: When preparing this piece I listened to said track in the cold light of day. It’s nothing special. But last night, in the live setting, it was great}

There’s a lot of buzz about the place for Josh Osho. And you can see why – he’s got all bases covered.

His set ranges from plaintive ballads, to hands-in-the-air party tunes to urban soul. When Josh sings, he reveals a fantastic crooning voice. He’s easy on stage, he’s pleased to see us and is generally as charming as hell. Another potential star in the making.

The tracks ‘Birthday’ and ‘Redemption Days’ are massive crowd pleasers, the latter featuring a Ghostface Killah sample approved by the man himself. Osho’s forthcoming album is 'executively produced' by RZA (whatever that term means in reality), but it shows the level of support and expectation that surrounds this very talented young man.

After Josh Osho, we have the changing of the guard, as the R & B posse leave and the indie kids press down the front. It’s the place to be.

Singer Sarah McIntosh adheres to a simple rule. As long as you start and finish a song actually standing on the stage, you can mess about on the floor of the venue all you like for the rest of the time.

This is The Good Natured’s first gig since McIntosh’s recovery from a broken leg, and she’s keen to make up for lost crowd invasion opportunities. For most of the time she can be tracked around the venue by the huddle of people surrounding her, cameras and phones recording her every move.

The band use the occasion to unveil a new toy. This is billed as a ‘laser harp’ and allows McIntosh to ‘play’ beams of light in the manner of Jean-Michel Jarre. Or at least pretend to, because it doesn’t appear to make any noise. Looks good, though.

The songs sound excellent this evening, which is ostensibly a showcase to launch the band’s new Skeletons ep. I’ve only seen The Good Natured once before and already everything sounds like greatest hits – a good measure of how catchy these grandiose electropop tunes are.

It’s been a really enjoyable evening. In addition to the headliners I’ve seen a couple of excellent performers in a genre that I’m not often exposed to. Well done to all involved.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

The 1234 Shoreditch - 9 July 2011

Throwing Up

I’m here once again at 1234 Shoreditch, the boutique music festival in the heartlands of hipster heaven.

Things are a bit shaky at first, with all the bands appearing to have technical problems at the same time. I wander from stage to stage watching musicians huddled around their equipment and looking a bit baffled. There’s not a lot of music being played.

After a long delay Argentinean Big Beaters Polen get things off to a lively start. They look like a cheap 80’s sci-fi flick and even have a heavily synthesised vocal that sounds like a guttural Dalek. They’re good cheesy fun, and props to their two pals dancing like loons at the front of the stage.

I find Rainbow Arabia a tad disappointing on the main stage. I’m a fan of their Los Angeles take on eastern rhythms, but in the flesh they seem rather lethargic. I had hoped that they would be more uplifting.

The four girls from Novella have drawn a large crowd in a sweltering tent. And…they’re alright. Decent and straightforward songs are mostly well put over. However, they do have two singers and one is markedly better than the other. This band is worth keeping an eye on.

I soon tire of the elaborate facial hair and proggy tendencies of Love Video and head off to get me some Sex Beet.

These lads jangle along at a jaunty lick. For promoters eyeing up an act to attract followers from the likes of The Drums, they could be just the ticket. It’s nice to hear a pop band play fast. One of the happier bands of the day.

Nitewreckage are just bizarre. This band includes such diverse talents as a visibly over relaxed Dave Ball (ex Soft Cell) prodding a piece of hand-held kit the size of an ash tray, a dancer who is so thin that she looks as though she would have to run around under a shower in order to get wet and a fierce (and funny) Boadicea of a front woman who may be filling in until Pat Evans leaves Eastenders. I like this band, because they are largely mad, but the tent does get emptier the longer they go on.

Stage timings are all over the shop, so I catch less of Throwing Up than I had intended. Two thirds of this band used to be in Headless and this band has a lot of what I liked about them, namely thrashy, heavy guitars and shouty female vocals. I wish that I had seen more of them.

Echo Lake are doing good business crowd-wise. Unfortunately I can’t quite share the general enthusiasm. Linda Jarvis is not so much a singer as a sound effect, cooing and aahing over a wash of guitars. It all sounds very relaxing, but there is no dynamism or much to distinguish one song from another.

Over on the main stage, consummate live performers The Chapman Family are delivering a fine, if largely familiar set that draws an appreciative crowd. Some uber fans have even kitted out their baby with blue ear defenders so that it can join mum and dad in sticking its head in the speakers. All seem to be having a good time, so calls to the Child Protection services are put on hold.

One of the themes of the day is to try to arrive at a tally of bands that incorporate one or more members of Bo Ningen. Patent Saints certainly do.. They nurdle along playing a flamboyant organ-driven space rock. It’s ok for a bit, but like much of this type of new psychedelia, it’s clearly more fun for the musicians involved than it is for their audience.

Lydia Lunch on the main stage is a revelation. She’s dark and malign, obscene and a lot of fun. Her voice is a low and lascivious croaking rasp, her band a perfect accompaniment, slow and sludgy and monstrously heavy. Her profanity strewn version of ‘Your Love Don’t Pay My Rent’ is my personal highlight of the day.

From here on, I find that things kind of peter out. While some of my gang enjoy the free form musings of Damo Suzuki (more Ningen here), I discover Toy. They look like Spinal Tap, but play mostly instrumental Krauty, motorik music that always seems to be building up to the start of some mighty anthem without ever delivering one.

I eschew The Raveonettes on the main stage, not because they are not good, but because I can’t face picking my way through the throng to get close enough to see and hear them properly. I make do with Warm Brains, who are pleasant enough but don’t leave any kind of impression.

By now it is getting late and there is no one else due on that I would particularly care to see.

It’s been a thoroughly decent day out, let down only because I didn’t find any acts that completely blew my socks off. Glad I caught Lydia though.