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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Rizzle Kicks - O2 Academy - Glasgow (27/11/12)

Into the breach once more, or in a less literal sense, here I am in the O2 Academy waiting for Rizzle Kicks to come on.
This is another of my daughters favourites, and to be honest one that I don't find overly offensive to the ears, so I wasn't expecting this gig to be the nightmare that others I have attended in her company have been.

I was wrong.

The first act is Little Nikki.
The UK's answer to Rhianna.
Comparisons between the singers need to put into some context though.
If Rihanna is Harrods then Little Nikki is Poundland.
She has a guy on the decks accompanying here and a dancer.
One solitary dancer.
He mainly gyrates randomly about the stage, but on occasions there's some choreographed stuff where he and Little Nikki come very close to being in step with each other.
The guy on the decks fills the gaps with the age old 'let me see your hands in the air' and the obligatory 'make some noise.'
It feels like I've been sucked into some alternative reality where life is made up of MTV soundbites.
Technically Little Nikki is a very good singer who possesses a soulful voice, but this musical direction she is pursuing is being played out all day every day, and I doubt that she will float to the top unless she can give it more of a twist.
The highlight of her set was when a very small sample of mirror in the bathroom by The Beat was sused, and and that's not saying much.

Beside me during Little Nikki's set I had a young man and his lady friend either arguing, or maybe they were rehearsing for s future Jeremy Kyle show appearance.
Apparently he thinks that she's a mug for staying with Dave who beats the shit out of her.
According to her he has a cheek to slag Dave as he's out with her while his girlfriend is at home with his kid.
Oh, but it gets better.
He's not sure if it is his kid so that makes his night out with her at Rizzle Kicks okay.
As this conversation was slurred on a decibel level that beat the sound system that Little Nikki was using into submission I think that everyone in a ten foot radius was aware of the dispute.
I think everyone within that area also heard me sigh in relief when she stormed off shouting 'I need a piss. Are you coming?'

Nina Nesbitt was the second of the supports and she's angling to be the female Ed Sheeran, but falling far short of that.
She finished her slot with a cover of the Proclaimers 500 Miles that had the crowd emphatically roaring their approval, but this is Glasgow and a drunk wandering home singing anything by the Proclaimers can get a round of applause so the response isn't saying much.
Fans of Nina Nesbitt are apparently called Nesbians.
There's a fact for you that I gleaned from the flyer.

Here's another fact for you. Little Nikki smells of coconut.
I know this as she stood next to me for a couple of seconds after Nina Nesbitt went off and for 30 minutes after it I was still breathing in Bounty fumes.

Rizzle Kicks are as slick as a greased pole at farmers fair.
So slick that mid second song I felt the nudge of deja vu.
I've only seen a few videos and television appearances by them, but that's enough to get a handle on the whole performance.
The band they have are super tight and really beyond criticizing, and to be fair so are the two lads of Rizzle Kicks.
They never miss a beat, or an intro, and their high energy act is relentlessly exhausting.
It's definitely a value for money show as they don't give anything less than 100% from start to finish, but there's nothing in it that lifts my spirits or forms a connection.

The relatively young audience love it and that's great to see as this is a real band playing and not some pop diva lip syncing to a backing track, but it's not enough for me.
All my years of gig going have allowed me to see this so many times that when I indulge in live music I want to see something less slick, or so slick that I can't tell if the performance is choreographed or not.
Out of ten I'd give the Rizzle Kicks boys a five.
Once they have shed the teenybopper fanbase they are talented enough to possible surprise us all with something that has more depth to it, but time will tell.
Meanwhile the kids love them and for now that will do.

Warning : A pint was an eye watering £3.90

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Eureka Machines to play Glasgow

With the Scabies/James/Texas Terri show looming as the last itsaXXXXthing promoted gig of 2012 I thought that maybe it was time for me to look at next year and see what could be sorted out for 2013.

So a couple of emails later the groundwork had been laid for a show that I consider to be rather special, and then a few days ago all the little pieces fell into place and I am very very very pleased to announce that the fantastic Eureka Machines are going to come to Glasgow in April.
The twentieth to be exact. 
It's a Saturday night and going by the amount of messages I've received since mentioning it on facebook I can safely say that some people are as excited at the prospect of the band playing as I am.

I can also say that I'm really chuffed that both The Bucky Rage and Eddy and the T-Bolts will be loosening off the roof for the Eureka Machines to blow it off.

If you haven't heard the band then shame on you, but don't worry about it as you can jump over here and check them out.
For those who can't be bothered clicking on the link then here's the skinny.
Eureka Machines are led by sometime Wildheart Chris Catalyst (He's also been in The Sisters of Mercy and the much better chunk of Jon Poole madness that is the God Damn Whores) and have been described as Green Day and the Beach Boys going at it bare chested in the yard as the Foo Fighters stand by and referee the carnage.
Not bad eh?
For those who just skimmed through that there's a video below all these things called words of their latest track for you to wrap your ears around.
If you are still reading then you can access the facebook invite page here.
If you are that way inclined you could also tell all your friends about the show.
It's a nice thing to do and you will be rewarded with lats of happy people smiling at you on the night.
Tickets will be available from Tickets Scotland from next week.

Turbonegro - King Tuts - 24/11/12 (Glasgow)

It's safe to say that my Turbonegro cherry was well and truly popped last night.
While some played the Hank and the Duke comparison game after the show, my ignorance of what a Turbonegro gig was like with Hank at the helm allowed me to wallow in just how fuckin' good the band are in the here and now.
Turbonegro are the sleazy ambASSadors of fist pumping, foot stomping, rabid head banging rock and roll.
A band who have a mission to spread the word of fun filled debauchery to the masses, and while their tongues are firmly in the cheeks, they are still taking that mission very seriously indeed.
From stadium stages to club sized holes in the wall they have played them all, but the surroundings of King Tuts was pretty much the perfect receptacle to hold all the overflowing adulation for the band in.
A venue that can hold a few hundred people in a tight embrace is were the real shit goes down, and it would be roughly accurate to say that just about every square metre of the floor had the foot of a member of the turbojugend laying claim to it.
The amount of denim on display would have some assuming that they were at a Status Quo gig, but those hoary old rockers never attracted such a fucked up, but still stylishly decadent, crowd of malcontents, and they never will.
Back patches showed that the pilgrimage to Glasgow had been made from all over England and Ireland, and some of the accents I heard were definitely from the European mainland.
That a band can draw so many people from different walks of life together under a roof to celebrate something that is so joyously barking mad is for me somewhat magical.
I doubt that anyone wandered off into the night harbouring any sort of disappointment as the band delivered everything that was promised with a set that had a good grip of Sexual Harassment, but also held all the classics from the past close to its chests.
Every song was blasted out with a kiloton of energy behind it, and the fans of the band reciprocated by thrashing around in an orgy of lost abandon to every move that their heroes made.
Self control was evidently something that isn't required at the gig, and everyone in attendance freely gives themselves over to letting go of all the shit in their lives in exchange for a free pass to party with no constraints.
From the outside looking in some would say that the lunatics had maybe taken over the asylum, but with no negativity being given any attention on a night that played out to a backdrop of zero drunken incidents, or arsehole behaviour of any type, I could argue that the real lunatics were safely being held outside in the wider world allowing us to just get on with our celebration of raw rock and roll.
It doesn't get much better than that.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Imagineers/The Limoncellos/Julia Doogan/Alan Frew - Su Casa - 15/11/12 (Ayr)

I'm not sure if it's a case of absence making the heart grow fonder, but it was nice to be back in Su Casa again.
The light, warmth, and smells of coffee and cake emanating from the venue were akin to a positive siren song that was guiding us from the cold and dark evening outside to the safe haven inside.
So who were we to decline the offer.
Once seated it wasn't long before Alan Frew opened up the evening with a short, but exquisite set.
I haven't seen Alan perform recently, and while I have always been impressed with his material, voice and musical ability, it seemed to be that there was another little touch of magic this time out.
Something that you can't really put your finger on.
It's possible that his recent short tour of the north of Scotland has revitalized him, but whatever it is I'm sure most would agree that this was a set that displayed Alan's many talents in a very flattering light.
With some new material that he has been working on with Mark Rafferty on the horizon it is certainly looking like the future is full of promise.

Unfortunately any bonhomie that Alan had woven into the room was swept away with what could have been the most unsatisfying performance I have ever seen in Su Casa.
Julia Doogan, while technically singing well, looked as if she would rather be anywhere else other than with us.
If there was an award for heavy sighs and the dramatic rolling of eyes to convey a degree of disgust then this was a gold medal performance.
Any talent that Julia has was vastly over shadowed with the poor attitude that was on display.
For all intents and purposes it felt as if the audience had arrived just in time to miss an argument, but had to sit through the uncomfortable aftermath that's heavy with the fallout.
This was also the second time that I have seen her perform a without a set list, and it seem obvious that having one would have allowed the performance to flow far better than it did.
Without it we were left having to squirm as she half spoke to herself about what she should play next.
It was an awkward appearance and one that I wouldn't like to see again.
When this happens you sometimes have to ask yourself if your own lack of enthusiasm is misplaced, unbalanced and even unfair, but as the night progressed others commented similarly so make of that what you will.

Following on from Julia were local band The Limoncellos who were making their debut in Su Casa
It was a performance that they would probably rather forget as one technical issue led to another and another, but their set was nowhere near as bad as they may think it was.
I would personally rather see a band that can bring a bit of passion to a performance, even if they are stumbling through difficulties, than a note perfect but sterile one.
There was plenty to get your teeth into as they stumbled through their set, and that's a good thing.
If a band can maintain the attention of an audience even when things aren't going well then consider what the reaction would be if they nailed it.
In among a few original they placed a couple of covers that displayed a range of influences.
First was some Springsteen and then the leftfield choice of Radiohead.
Both appeared to polarize the audiences opinion of the band, but once again I could argue that this is a good thing.
At times a band should challenge those they are there to entertain and that's certainly what The Limoncellos did.
Hopefully we will be hearing more from this band in the near future as there's something there. 
Maybe a spark that could be lead to something rather special.

The Imagineers, who finished the night, are still knocking it out of the park for me.
With each performance they incrementally get better and there's no sign of them slowing down or dropping the ball.
The semi acoustic style suits them and they effortlessly ran through all the what can now be called fans favourites as well as slipping in some rousing renditions of both Shackles and Albert Einstein that both appear on their latest ep.
That they aren't gracing the charts and playing here, there and everywhere, across the globe is a mystery to me.
Few would disagree that they are an act that tick all the boxes.
They write excellent songs that are designed to get everyone to clap, stomp their feet and sing along to, their level of musicianship is beyond reproach, and damn, they even look good.
Record label executives should be in the car park bare knuckling it out over who gets to sign them up.
When I think about some of the bands that have had bidding wars surrounding signing them it just seems ludicrous that The Imagineers aren't one of them.
Give it a month or two to see what happens though as the new ep is once again what we in Scotland would commonly refer to as 'a belter'.
I have high hopes for these guys and I'm not looking to change my mind any time soon.
Tomorrow better belong to the Imagineers. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Alabama Shakes/Dylan LeBlanc - Barrowlands - 13/11/12 (Glasgow)

In May Alabama Shakes provided me with one of the best gigs that I have ever attended.
A show that pretty much set the benchmark for live shows in 2012.
Now here we are as the year eases ever closer to ending and the band are back in Glasgow, only this time they have nothing to prove.
Between then and now they have taken over the world, and virtually everyone has fallen in love with them.
Anyone who has been following their ascendency is well aware that they have been leaving a trail of ecstatic reviews in their wake as they have move from one country to the next, and the chances of a stumble now will not be on the cards.

However prior to them taking to the stage of the legendary Barrowlands Ballroom we were to be entertained by Dylan LeBlanc, a singer songwriter who similar to Alabama Shakes, The Secret Sisters and a whole fistful of other talented musicians, comes to us from Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Sadly his performance fell far short of emulating the successes of those who have preceded him to these shores.
Dogged by a shockingly poor sound he was lost to the majority of the audience.
The reverb on his vocals made it virtually impossible to make out a single word that he enunciated, and it looked like Melvin Duffy couldn't hear anything from the monitors and was trying to play along by watching what Dylan was doing.
Even Ben Tanners (Alabama Shakes) guesting on keyboards was pretty much a redundant exercise as virtually nothing could be heard of him.
I don't recall the last time I have seen a support battle on through such a horrible sound.
Hints of just how good Dylan LeBlanc actually is were on show during his heartfelt rendition of the Rev Al Green's 'Let's stay together', but I suspect for many it was too little too late.
I happily went and bought his latest CD, but I will have to wait until he returns to hopefully see him perform a set that will show him in the best possible light.
I could say that it was hugely disappointing, but my disappointment wasn't rooted in the performance, but rather the issues that surrounded it.
I sincerely hope that others in the audience were picking up on that instead of writing Dylan off.
A great shame really.

The sound issues failed to make the leap from the end of Dylan's performance to the beginning of Alabama Shakes though.
Once Brittany and her boys came on it was all systems go.
Or was it?
For me the rawness of the show earlier in the year was gone, and was replaced with a slicker, and probably more assured performance.
It's as if the band have become more comfortable with the world they exist in after initially being thrown in at the deep end, and that comfort has served to eat away slightly at the passion.
Then when you add on the repetitious nature of being on the road for so long the result seems to be that all the gloriously organic and explosive delivery of the songs has been tamed to an extent.
Not a lot, but just enough for the show to feel quite different from what I had expected.
Brittany still sounds stunning of course, and the band are exceptionally tight, but even the new songs - which bode well for the next album - sound pretty polished.
Maybe too polished.
It's strange to say, but while I really enjoyed myself at the time all I have done is pick at it in the cold light of day.
I'm not sure if it is the familiarity with the material that has had a bit of an impact on my enjoyment, or that having experienced the King Tuts show this outing suffered in comparison, but it would be fair to say that the buzz I felt earlier in the year that lasted for days was already fading as I was leaving the venue.
Then again it is possible that it was the size of the venue that took some of the enjoyment away, and what the band deal in is best allowed to push at the walls of smaller clubs.
If that is the case then there's not a lot that the band can do about it.
Possibly I'm just feeling that they are victims of their own success.
A great gig in reality, but one that had just too much to live up to.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Burnsfest 2012

Every once in a while a gig comes along that raises the bar, and the line up for the first Burnsfest in Irvine has shaped up to be one of them.
With over twenty acts on two stages it looks like a smorgasbord of guaranteed talent has been laid on to whet the appetite of the most critical of music fans.
Whatever you want they have got it.
Looking at the list of talent it reminds me of this years Noizy Social Club festival in Cumbernauld.
That was another that was brimming with bands and artists who could well be on the cusp of breaking through.
I've been rather unstinting in my praise for both The Holy Ghosts and The OK Social Club and both are featured.
Along with them it isn't just the cream of the Ayrshire crop either.
Johnny Graham, the man behind all of this, has went near and far to secure a line up designed to knock peoples socks clean off.
Check it out.

Main Stage;

 The OK Social Club, The Holy Ghosts,Louie Deadlife (Hector Bizerk), Holy Pistol Club, Rose Parade, Soldier On!, Colin Hunter, Dirty Looks, Twisted Illusion, All But Gentlemen and Sticks n Stones.

Acoustic Stage;

A Band Called Cadence, Mairi Kerr, Johnny Graham, Alan Frew, Matt Scott, Taylor Buntain, Allan Trotter, David McIntyre, Anna Sweeney, Andrew Nicol and more TBC.

At a tenner a ticket what's not to like.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Marshall Chipped - Statues

Marshall Chipped loves REM - well pre megastardom IRS years REM for definite – and this admiration simply can't be ignored.
From the opening line the shadow of the boys from Georgia looms large throughout, and while I would love to be able to say that there are points on the album that the music shakes loose from its influences that's not really the case.
Even when the ouvre of electronica is explored it sounds like an experimental b-side by Stipe and co.
Not that this is to say that Statues is a bad album.
Far from it in fact.
It has a firm grasp of a certain sound from the eighties and manages to make it sound fresher than it has any right to, plus the song writing manages to pull it up by the bootstraps allowing it to reach for some badly needed identity of its own
Personally I would rather hear the material stripped down and played acoustically, but that's just me.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Smoke and mirrors...again.

Sometimes it is advantageous to take a step back and think about the big picture.
Take the current hot news topic that is the Welsh care home paedophile allegations that have followed on from the Jimmy Savile storm.
Up close there's no real difference between the two.
Powerful people are being accused of the most heinous and perverse behaviour, and in general the public are quite rightly horrified.

We do appear to be seeing two distinctly different approaches in how the accusations are being dealt with though, and we should all be thinking carefully about why this is.

When the news broke about Jimmy Savile the press weren't slow in naming names and dropping very heavy hints about those who may or may not have been involved.
The blood was in the water and it was feeding frenzy time on Fleet street.
Headlines screamed at us on a daily basis about how stars of the seventies where quaking in their platform shoes.
Now cast your mind back a few weeks and ask yourselves if you remember any great push to dampen down the flames, or even a whispered plea to halt the hysteria and focus on facts.
Personally I don't recall any such thing.

Now jump into the present and it's a whole different story.
Philip Schofield has been slapped down for handing over a card with some names on it to the prime minister, even though no names were mentioned and no one could really see them.
Newsnight has been dragged through the dirt along with the BBC for 'not' naming someone.
This has now led to the Director General resigning.
The reaction from the establishment when considered in this light does seem to lean towards suppression of information doesn't it?
A push to move the attention away from the actual abuse claims
To me it also seems to scream that some people in society are fair game while others are certainly not.

Now to consider the big picture for a moment.
Who is really overly concerned about the Schofield incident, and who really thinks that Newsnight are guilty of more than poor judgement in thinking that as the establishment would have treated a hint about one of their own in the same way as they have the heavy hints in the Savile case?
How can any of these headline grabbers be considered more serious than the allegations of child abuse?

Lets consider some of the other water muddying exercises.
Who harboured any thoughts that allegations could have turned into a gay witch hunt?
I didn't.
I have a clear distinction in my mind between homosexuality and paedophilia.
There's already been a few mentions about how those investigating the allegations need to be careful that some are not made falsely to secure financial compensation.
Isn't that just a pre-emptive strike in sowing some seeds of mistrust as to what may be revealed?
It's akin to saying 'well whether guilty or not we will never really know'.

I think we should all be very careful to what we subscribe to and as I've said take a bit of a step back and look at the big picture here.
My view is that a can of worms is in the balance and those in power are doing their level best to ensure that it doesn't hit the tipping point because if it does then there's no way back for them.  

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Assessment

He's looking at me across the desk and if this was a poker table I think I would fold.
There's not the hint of a smile or a frown displayed across his countenance, no sweat glistening on his brow, no flicker of movement that would render some humanity to his features.
His face is an emotionless mask with nothing to read from it.
If he were to blink I would either sigh with relief or jump in shock.
While I ponder this I can hear a clock ticking somewhere, and the sound of the second hand is a repetitive and thunderous assault on the vacuumous silence that fills the room.
It's all rather strange that I can hear the clock, hear my own breathing, but nothing else.
Is he even breathing?

Should I say something, or is it better to wait for him to speak?
As each second stretches into the next, the point where I could have said something, anything, seems to fall further behind.

Christ it sounds like the clock is hooked up to an amplifier that's turned up to the Spinal Tap eleven.
There's a chance that if he does speak now I'll not be able to hear him over it.

The ludicrous idea of jumping up and shouting BOO into his face nudges into my head and acts as a catalyst for a smile to nervously jump to my lips.
I tighten them to hold back a hysterical giggle and in that moment when my attention is distracted, that tiny increment of time, I hear a sigh escape from him.
A sigh that is apparently the signal that the meeting is to commence.

'So you have been sent here for an assessment. Do you understand what this entails?'
His voice is soft and sounds cultured, but there's a shade of an accent at the end of each sentence that give it away that he wasn't always one of the old school tie boys.
Elocution lessons, some repetitive course of language tapes maybe.
A desperate need to hide his roots a certainty?

'No. I don't know why I'm here.' What else could I say? There's really nothing more to it.
'I was taken from the hospital directly to this room and then I was asked to take a seat by the orderly and...and well here I am.'

'Do you feel well?' His lips barely move and the words float across the room at me.

'Maybe we should define what you mean by well.'

'What does well mean to you?'

'I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure that I used to know what it meant to me, but that was a long time ago and things change.'

He looks at me again, lets the time stretch out between us.
There's something about his eyes now. The blank unfeeling stare has left and curiosity has taken residence.

'Are you ill' bursts from him in a surprising change of tactic.
It's delivered rapidly and with force, but still barely rises above a whisper. For a moment I feel words rising to blurt from my lips, but I quickly bite down on them as I understand that this is part of the game.
I give him 'do the doctors say I'm ill?' and watch closely for a clue, a small hint as to what he is thinking.
He glances down at the paperwork in front of him and his eyes flick from one side of the page to the other.
I imagine that if there was some force behind his attention then there would be little indentations appearing in the paper like a trail of tiny footprints left by invisible feet

'The doctors opinions are irrelevant. We make the decisions.'
As he hasn't raised his eyes to mine I'm not sure if the comment is directed at me, or if he has unconsciously aired a mantra that he clings to.
I wait for some indication of what it could be, but nothing is forthcoming.
His index finger of his right hand begins to rise and fall beating out a cadence on the rich, dark, and so very shiny mahogany desk next to where he has sat my file.
My file is positioned centrally, and it's entirely believable that if the expanse of wood was measured from corner of sheet to the precipice of the desk on each side that it would be exactly the same to the millimetre.

'Is there a point in time when you could enlighten me as to when you felt that you no longer fitted in?' This time he is looking directly at me.

'I wasn't aware that I didn't fit in until you mentioned it. So my realization of this only goes back as far as that.'
Then in a voice that I hope sounds nonchalant I add 'two seconds ago.'

He rises from his chair swiftly at that, and turning his back on me takes a couple of steps to the bookcase that has been looming over him.
I notice for the first time that there's nothing on the spines.
Each are identically bound in red leather, but it looks like they have chosen one and cloned it to fill the rest of the bookcase.
As he seems to be in no hurry to continue conversing I use the opportunity to quietly lean forward and move my file an inch to the left.

The long drawn out gaps in the conversation, and the minimalistic interaction from him, is a glaringly obvious play on increasing the tension in the room.

He turns and gives me what I would presume is a look that is supposed to convey disdain before walking around the desk and standing behind me.
His presence out of sight feels slightly threatening, and it takes a monumental effort not to turn around and keep him in sight.
I begin to count the books, but after twenty my eyes start playing tricks and I'm no longer sure of how accurate I have been so I start again only to lose track around the same point again.
It's difficult to keep it straight in my head as there is nothing to differentiate them from each other so I give up.

'Did you move your file?'
'Are you sure'
He leans in so close to my ear that I can feel his breath caress it and says again slowly and emphatically 'did you move your file?'
I turn quickly and say 'No' directly into his face and he jumps back from his crouched position and stumbles slightly before regaining some partial composure and returning to his chair behind the desk.

I ask if he is finished and he nervously glances about before muttering that he is.
All the emotion that was previously absent has taken control of him. His lips twitch, droplets of perspiration break loose from the pores on his forehead and his eyes hold no secrets.

As I rise from my seat he looks pathetically hopeful when he asks if he has passed.
There's no point drawing it out for him.
'No. I'm sorry, but you just haven't got what it takes to be an health assessor. I could point out your failings, but there's just too many to mention. The balance is all off. In hindsight I think you will come to accept that there was no point that you were in control, and being in control really is everything.'  

The clock is ticking.

Well it looks entirely possible that Sandy, the proprietor of Love Music in Glasgow, could edge closer to literally being the last man standing when it comes to independent record stores in Scotland, as this morning I was saddened to read a statement from Avalanche in Edinburgh covering what may be their demise.

News like this always throws up more questions than answers.
The decline of physical sales of music has been ongoing for a number of years now, and the rise of the legal and illegal downloading of digital media has no regard for the survival of the record store owner.
That's a fact.
The writing has been on the wall for those who chose to read it, and the only option that the future will allow will be that once the majority of shops have closed then the ones who remain will possibly be viable due to their speciality status.
It's not a thought that fills me with joy, but it does seem to be the only realistic end game result that will be available.

Now I could open up the can and let the worms make their break for freedom, and then draw attention to each and every one as a symbolic reason for the downfall of the record store, but I'll not.
The reason being that most of them have been beaten with a stick for so long that we are all well aware of every detail of the consensus of opinion on the matter.

However one issue that I do want to highlight is how the public perceive artists.

I'll quote the Avalanche statement here.

'However the biggest loss has been in selling local and Scottish bands. While our reputation has grown our sales have plummeted. As many will have heard me say more than once selling an album to fans is the easy bit. Selling it to those who don’t know the album or artist is far harder and often time consuming. If that is all that is left to a shop it simply isn’t economical. Even the latest Meursault album which is at No. 2 in our chart achieved that with just a quarter of the sales of the first album. Seventy per cent of those sales were on my recommendation.' 

….and there's the rub.
How do you sell a bands album, ep or single to an audience that will not purchase anything at all unless it's on heavy rotation on their televisions, has featured in a reality 'find the star' (sic) competition, or the artist already has a stadium tour tucked under their belt?
There's even a microcosm of this with music fans.
'Oh Folk Music Weekly haven't reviewed it so I'll not bother.'
How do you do it?

Obviously it's not everyone, but the majority do appear to equate fame with quality.
They have success ergo they are good.
The truth of the matter is that having not heard of an artist has no relevance to the quality of the music at all.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about.

Many moons ago I took my daughter to a show in the cavernous SECC and accepted a lift from the mother of one of her school friends.
On the journey to Glasgow she was making some light conversation and mentioned the last few gigs that she had attended.
All the artists that she had seen could be described as mega stars.
There was no real thread of a musical genre weaving its way through the acts she ticked off.
Rock bands, RnB acts, big events like the MOBOs (of which she commented that she had never seen so many black people in the one place before. Imagine that. At the MOBO's. My flabber was gasted.) and indie acts were all mentioned.
When she stopped for breath I was asked who I had seen and I mentioned a few.
Some I would consider quite famous, but she hadn't heard of any of them.
Her follow on question was interesting though.
She asked why I went to see bands no one had heard of.
I didn't correct her by pointing out that just because she hadn't heard of them that no one had, but instead said that someone has to support them so that their potential can be realized, and people like you can see them late in the day when they play the SECC.
My catty remark wasn't really picked up on, but neither was the logic to it.
I genuinely suspect that she could possible think that bands and artists just appear fully formed lording over platinum sales and tripping down red carpets at premiers.

I'm drawing attention to this as my experience wasn't an anomaly.
This is pretty much the norm, but it was a conversation that was memorable because it very blatantly covered the issue.
There was nothing vague about it, and she did in fact say 'I only go to see famous bands' at one point.

I could pull in a few threads here and draw comparisons to how some will go to see a band, but have no interest in seeing the supports.
It's sort of the same deal, but I'll not insult anyone readings intelligence by going into it.

Anyway, back to the question. How do you sell music that people haven't heard to them?
The answer is that probably with a few exceptions you can't.
No matter how altruistic the reasoning is behind the business, and regardless of how much passion the individual has for what he does, the bottom line is that punters need to be keying into what they have to sell, and unfortunately there doesn't seem to be enough of us any more to do that.

It's a very sad day.

...and now with a heavy heart I think I will go and listen to my Murderburgers/DeeCracks split vinyl album that I bought from Love Music and try and cheer myself up.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Slings n arrows.

Here we go again.
The usual sniping from the shadows, but instead of an anonymous post, as I rarely allow them the oxygen of publicity, we have the nom de plume of Harry.

Have you been paying the support bands for you gigs?
A little bird has said that you havnt/
Naughty Naughty. Pot Kettle.

I suspect the spell check on your PC has went on strike Harry.
Over worked, stressed and under appreciated I suppose.

Okay. The supports for Hurray for the Riff Raff were Matt Scott, Little Fire and The Dirt.
I don't really need to talk about specific figures, but feel free to ask them if they were financially rewarded for their time and effort.

The Wooden Sky/Evening Hymns gig had James Foley and Belle in the meadows in support, and prior to the actual gig I explained the circumstances of it being a last minute booking, and because of this money would not be available to pay them.
Instead I offered to provide them with some drink, guest list places, and they were all welcome to attend the remaining three gigs in the year that I was promoting.
Both James Foley and Belle in the meadows were agreeable to this, and I am sure that they would vouch that they were treated well.
Personally I would have both acts play again on a bill that would provide enough income to reward them for their time.
I'm pretty sure that both would be accept the offer.

Cal Murray and Alan Bishop of The Red Eyes supported Kirk Brandon. Give them a wee shout and they will put your mind at rest about payments.

Finally I had Rose Parade, Johnny Graham and Matt Scott opening up for The Dreaming Spires.
Both Johnny and Rose Parade got their expenses and I've yet to give Matt his.
The reason he didn't get paid on the night was because he left early due to him feeling a tad unwell.
I actually offered to get him the cash yesterday from the bank machine when I coincidently met him in passing, but he declined and said he will get it later.
Not really the actions of a man who thinks he will be stiffed for the money is it?

As I have said. Get in touch with them if you so wish. I have nothing to hide.
Bit doubtful that you will though as then you may have to reveal your identity.

Some may wonder why I am drawing attention to this small, and rather pathetic, comment from you Harry, but silence on my part would allow a seed of doubt to be planted in the minds of others.
Now I can't have that can I?
Regarding the pot and kettle. 
Now wouldn't it be very silly of me to be publicly less than enthused about pay to play and other exploitative practices, and then emulate the behaviour of the bottom feeders?
It's really not my style.

Below this is a wee update about how the coalitions use of Atos has led to peoples last weeks on this earth being a disgustingly miserable experience.
Be a good chap and do something useful with your time and sign the petition that it links to
You never know. It may make you feel better about yourself.

Do one thing today to make a change.

Very often people claim that signing a petition is a waste of a minuscule amount of ink.
Or if you want to bring it up to date the signing of an e-petition that takes seconds is just too much of a hassle to be worth the effort.
I can understand why this is an attitude that is clung to by many.
How many times have signatures been collected from us all covering too many issues to mention that have resulted in absolutely nothing happening?
Each time we give of our opinion in opposition to a government measure our raised voices appear to fall on deaf ears.
When this happens we have two choices. We can shout louder, or just give up.
Sadly, very often, we choose the latter option.

However sometimes doing something, anything, is better than doing nothing.
So in this spirit I would urge those who are reading this to go to this page and sign the petition.

It will quite literally take a matter of seconds to sign, and in doing so you may save some lives.

If we all focus on this one petition, sign it and spread it about, then in doing so we may manage to get the numbers up to a level that the media have to pick up on it.
If this then happens resulting in even more people signing it then we can send a warning shot across the bows of this government.
Make them sit up and take notice that we will no longer accept their demonization of the least able in our society.
That we are not being suckered in by their spin, and refute their claims that our economic woes can be fixed by cutting financial aid to those who most need it.

According to reports approximately seventy people die a week in the UK who Atos have claimed were fit for work.
So fit to resume work that they are now dead.
Please think about that for a few minutes, and while you do please consider members of your own family.
Seventy people a week is seventy families mourning.
It could be yours.
Seventy individuals whose last weeks on this earth were filled with fear and uncertainty.
It could be someone you love.
Seventy people a week is three thousand six hundred and forty people a year who are judged fit enough to work and very obviously aren't.
These people are very obviously not slackers, not leaches feeding off the state.
Their deaths prove that they weren't conning the welfare state.

If you do one thing today then make it signing this, and please then go on to raise awareness of it by passing it on to others.
Those in power need to be held accountable for their actions, and we need to make it clear to them that we place them in the positions they hold to represent us all, and not just their friends who they lunch with.

Electric 6 - Absolute Pleasure

It's a harsh fact that very few bands are able to maintain a stable level of fame and fortune.
Most follow a trend, and that trend is that one year they can be riding high in the charts, walking down red carpets, selling out stadiums and drawing the attention of the paparazzi like flies around the proverbial.
Then the next year they're headlining bars, being featured in 'where are they now' articles in music magazines and getting restraining orders that state that they are not to go within ten feet of a professional photographer.
There are of course exceptions to the rule.
Some do cling onto a a healthy level of patronage from fans and manage to carve themselves a niche in the music business that no one seems to be able to prise them from.
Others, like Electric 6. stick a middle finger up to waves of popularity, latest trends, and those who base their lives around aligning themselves to whose hot and whose not.
Instead they tour, make an album, tour, make an album, tour and then make another album before touring again ad infinitum, and they do this with style, panache, and a bleary eyed wink to the whole sordid world of the music business.
So in other words by dint of not giving much of a fuck they are in fact far more relevant than they are often credited as being.
They exist to entertain and party with their fans, and it really is as simple as that, and if you consider that being able to entertain is far more important than the trappings of fame then it's hard not to accept that these guys may well be one of the best acts in the world.
Look back on their career and regardless of chart positions it's a fact that they have yet to release a poor album.
So far there hasn't even been a hint of filler on anything.
Live they give one hundred percent every night that they play, and then they push it harder again to ensure that when their fans leave that they don't just think that they have seen a good show, but instead know deep down that they have.
There's no half measures, no quarter given when they hit a stage, and now we have proof of that with their latest release, the career encompassing Absolute Pleasure.
Originally it was allegedly supposed to be a double album with the first disc featuring their debut 'Fire' being played in its totality, and the second being made up of the bands favourites from the rest of the albums.
Unfortunately that wasn't to be, and instead its a seventeen track hit and run molotov cocktail of a live set that screams what Electric 6 are all about.
A schizophrenic mix of punk, funk disco and rock.
My only complaint about this album is that the title doesn't really convey how good it is.
They should have called it 'We are fuckin' awesome. You know it'.

Dick Valentine live review  

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Neil Young Busking (Glasgow)

While wandering around the internet it's often surprising the curios that can be stumbled across.
Here's Neil Young playing outside Glasgow Central train station in 1976

Neil Young - Old Laughing Lady (1976) by Julos77

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Green Day - Dos!

To the sounds of screams of 'sell out', every ones current band that they love to hate - unless you are fourteen - Green Day are back with the second of their three albums that will be getting released.
Imaginatively (sic) entitled Dos! it's been punted forth early due to the cancellation of tour dates necessitated by the rehab visit of front man Billie Joe Armstrong.
Once again here will be those who will give it scant attention, but that's there loss.
While there's nothing ground breaking on show, and nothing that will rival Dookie, I'm of the opinion that along with Uno! it's doing a great deal to wash the taste of 21st Century Breakdown out of our mouths and draw a line under the American Idiot period.
It's a nicely paced album. Well produced, well written and performed to.
None of that will of course matter though.
It's increasingly looking as if the dice has been tossed and Green Day are yesterdays winners.
I'm not sure what the future will hold for the band.
It's entirely possible that their fan base is large enough now to weather the storm of declining global popularity.
Regardless of record sales - which will still be healthy - it now seems that people have went beyond talking about the band as a trio who make music, and are more apt to discuss musical stage shows and television appearances rather than anything else.
Bit of a shame really as Dos! Is pretty darn good all things considered.

The Jim Jones Revue - The Savage Heart

From the very first spin of the disc (yeah it's vinyl) it seems rather obvious that Jim Jones and his Revue have slightly slipped out of the Jerry Lee Lewis groove that they have so successfully mined to draw attention to their talents, and are now intent on beginning stage two of their world domination plan in a rather spectacular fashion.
Never fear though, as there's no dropping of the boogie woogie, and the piano driven rock and roll is still resplendent in it's domination of the sound, but on this outing there's a more balls to the wall expansion to the material that's pushing at the boundaries of what has come before.
They're no less rockin' nor rollin', but it's easy to imagine that this small change in direction will neatly provide them with a bridge that will allow them to cross from club stages to much larger ones with relative ease.
If on the last few releases they were making music that would blister the paint on the walls then this is the album that will shake the earth......hard.
Even when the band take it down and stretch out with a less than hurricane force track there's still a great deal of power tightly wound into the delivery.
There's a earthy and primal feel to pretty much everything that these guys do.
It' also seems to me that Jim Jones is now intent on flavouring his present with his past with some leanings towards the sonic assaults that were The Hypnotics and Black Moses on this album.
Not that this is something that is detrimental to what the band are doing now as from what is on offer here I could argue that he has a keen ear for what will work within the framework of what they are doing.
It's only the good stuff that's being incorporated .
I doubt many would disagree that with each album the Jim Jones Revue incrementally get better and better, and right now there's no sign of the progress slowing never mind halting.
For those who maybe did consider them to be a one trick pony then there's ample proof on The Savage Heart that they're not.

The Peckham Cowboys - Flog it

This isn't a new album, but as it was sorely overlooked when it was released and the band are about to return with their sophomore outing and a tour then it's deserving of a revisit.
So what's the deal?
Well The Peckham Cowboys are pretty much the definitive bad boy band in the classic rock and roll mould, and a bit more than that.
To be completely frank about it debauchery rarely sounded so intoxicatingly attractive to the ears.
Everything they do hangs by a thread, or their studio recordings would lead you to believe this.
You could imagine that wherever they go that there's a trail of wreckage left in their wake.
Broken dreams, broken hearts and broken bottles is currency in their world.
When you tick off a list of the bands who wear their rock and roll outlaw status on their sleeves for the world to see it's actually difficult to fit this band in with them.
The unintentional remit seems to be to take the template that they hammered out and use it as a launching pad to anarchic oblivion.
For some it may be a little too much, a little too dangerous.
If you want to get on board with them then there's no pretense that everything is going to be all right.
Flog it is an acid drenched, vodka shot to the eyeball at 3am. 
It's a shotgun butt to the head and a mind fuck of a trip through the fevered dreams of Hunter S Thompson, but only if Hunter was a black seventy year old blues man from Mississippi who had a sixteen year old girlfriend and a hard on for punk rock and burning shit down to the ground.
So yeah, pretty much the dogs bollocks really.

Aerosmith - Music from another dimension

There's a bit of smoke and mirrors going on here.
When Aerosmith claimed that they were going full circle with 'Music from another dimension' most fans thought that they were going to revisit the seventies era with the Toxic Twins looking to get some dirt under their fingernails.
I doubt that they were expecting that full circle meant back to Permanent Vacation and no further.
So yes, they did jump back into the past, but just not as far as most of us would have liked.
Opening track LuvXXX could be Love in an Elevator part deux,
After that rolls to its end the album trundles on with varying degrees of success.
Over all it's better than Get a Grip, and it would be fair to say that it could knock at least eight lives off of Nine Lives, but Pump would comfortably reach the finish line before this outing.
Tyler still sounds fantastic. You've got to give credit where it's due and Perry and co aint slouching in the musicianship department either.
Lets just say that while the band aren't treading water, they aren't really looking to go too far from the comfort of the shallow end.
It's not a bad album, and better than the last few, but it aint what it was cracked up to be so it's suffering from the heightened expectations.
They set the bar high and just managed to slip under it.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Lisa Marie Presley - Storm & Grace

I'll not be the first, or the last, to say that Lisa Marie Presley's previous endeavours as a recording artists have done very little to impress.
Equally it could be said that I'll not be the first or last to say that there's a rather large shadow that will always loom over everything she does.
However this legacy that she must carry around with her like a ball and chain has always allowed me to think of her as the under dog, and we always want the under dog to win out in the end don't we?
The higher the odds of failure the sweeter the victory when the prize in in their hands.
So it feels good when I hear this as it finally sounds as if she has found her own voice.
Richard Hawley and Fran Healy who were both involved in the song writing appear to have avoided taking the lead, and instead it's possible that their approach has been to simply take Lisa Marie by the hand and reassure her that wherever she wants to go they will be there for her.
If this was the case then they should be lauded for providing the support that has ultimately led her to create music that she should be very rightly proud of.
There's a great unburdening aspect to the lyrics that's enticingly personal and I suspect that there were a great deal of ghosts laid to rest as the sessions drew to their conclusion.
On Storm & Grace we are really witnessing the watershed moment when someone draws a line under their past and embraces the coming dawn regardless of what it will bring with it.
A brave, and ultimately very fulfilling release.

The Machines - The Machines

There's a few of them kicking about.
Punk bands from the late seventies that is.
A rule of thumb for most people is that if they didn't make it big then it would maybe be good idea to leave the lone demo tape and press cutting in the memory box and keep the stories of the glory days for sharing over a pint with mates.
However there's always those little diamonds in the rough that shine as the exception to the rule, and that's where The Machines come in.
Formed in 1977 they lasted for about a year and did a hit and run on all the legendary clubs, and managed to get an ep out that Record Collector has in it's top 100 rare discs to grab if you can.
Not a bad innings really, but the story didn't end there, as late in the noughties the reformed and managing to neatly avoid going down the UK82 punk dead end street and released a fresh ten track album that highlighted that there was life in the old dog yet.
Quite a lot of life in fact.
Now both the ep and the album, along with four unreleased demo tracks from the seventies, has surfaced on a one stop for the lot CD simply entitled The Machines, and there's very little on it that the band would need to hang their heads in collective shame about.
You really don't have to consider the songs in the context of their time to wring out any enjoyment from them as they sound as good as anything that the young retro whipper-snappers are releasing just now.
This is punk rock from when it was still taking rock and roll and giving it a bit of a boot up the arse. There's no post punk meanderings, or the nonsensible smash the system roar that was to come, just good honest rockin' with a snarling street level slap to it that the world needed at the time.
That stuff never grows old really.