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Friday, 31 May 2013

Events for Charity / Goldblade - Ivory Blacks - 050/05/13 (Glasgow)

This was one of those rare beasts where musically everything just fell into place.
Multiple bands over a whole day and no one dropped the ball once.
In fact no one even fumbled it.
Exceptional performances from one and all from start to finish, and all for charity to.
So I think everyone should collectively tip their had to Events for Charities who had tirelessly organized an event over multiple venues and days in aid of Yorkhill Children's Hospital.
It's these sort of events that can be described as going above and beyond the call of duty.
Outstanding effort from everyone involved.
(Including the DJ who feels excluded from all the reviews and comments about the night)
(Insert smiley emoticon here, maybe even one with a wink)

Brothel Corpse Trio opened the show and I was personally very pleased to see them there.
James Edmond had seen them play a few nights earlier at a show I had organized and immediately offered them a slot based on nothing more than their performance.
Very often gigs are offered to mates, on condition of how many punters a band can pull, and a whole raft of other things that have nothing to do with the music.
This was different.
Their inclusion on the bill was rooted in just how good they are as a live band and nothing more than that.
From the first song it was very obvious that as a band they wont be on the bottom of the bill at anything for very much longer.
Each gig has seen them pick up fans and the rise to the top of the bill looks to be assured.
Hovering in the no man's land between punk and psychobilly they are all about the girls, the tattoos, the hot rods and necrophilia.
They are going to have to get a t-shirt that says 'lock up your undead as the Brothel Corpse Trio are in town'.

Next were Buzzbomb meaning Billy was on double duty as he is also in The Brothel Corpse Trio.
So with a quick swap of a double bass to just bass he was back catching his second wind to deliver with his band mates a torrent of punk rock.
It's all well executed and sits comfortably between the sounds of the UK and the US.
Hard enough when it's needs to be, but always with an eye on the melody.
There's a few bands over the years that I've seen multiple times and have yet to see them post in a performance and Buzzbomb are one.
You don't get anything less than a one hundred percent performance from these guys.

The Jackhammers portray the village idiot persona wrapped in the sounds of garage rock.
They do it so well that they blur the line leaving the audience to wonder how much of it is actually a joke.
Close your eyes to just listen to them and the sloppiness that the spectacle promotes slips into the background and leaves the music to do much of the talking, and then what you come to realize is that it is all a joke.
One that's perfectly executed.
These guys can play, but for the uninitiated, or those who have had a humour bypass op, they may not get it.
Worth persevering with until you do get the joke though.

It's been a whole year since I've seen the Skarsoles, and I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder as I found myself thinking about how much I'd missed them.
There's nothing new in what they do.
It's pop punk ska in all its glory, but damn they do it well.
It's just a shame that people weren't up dancing to them.
The early slot on the bill would be the reason for that because if you put them in a room of drunken people at 9pm on a Saturday night then it would instantly be party time.

Alkotron for me are a show stealing act.
They slip in quietly and then just go about their business without much fus,s and I really can't put my finger on it, but come the cold light of day they are the act that I always remember.
They are probably the punkiest band on a punk rock bill because they refuse to be mired down by uniformity.
From what they play to how they dress others could mistakenly ask what so punk about them.
That's akin to the wood and trees argument.
It's that they do not kowtow the perceived uniformity of punk rock that makes them more punk than others.

The Red Eyes are a band that I have run out of things to say about.
How often can you realistically point out that they are consistently fantastic.
It's all there. The song writing, the musicianship and the delivery.
Bloody faultless, again.
It feels that I am selling them short by not waxing lyrical for multiple paragraphs, but all I woud be doing is reiterating what I have already said countless times.

Goldblade lost me over recent years.
It felt like the rut had been driven deep, too deep, and even weeks prior to this I seen them opening for the Misfits and found myself wondering when the energy would return, when the passion for something differenmt rather than the by numbers performances that I had gotten used to, would be shaken off.
Then here it was.
I couldn't put my finger on what the difference was, but finally here was the fork in the road and John Robb was turning his back on the safe route and instead looking to lead the band to pastures new.
It was a subtle difference, and maybe something to do with the new studio album about to be released, but the energy had a more chaotic feel to it rather than it just being a part of the show that people have now come to expect.
If I had strayed from the fold here I was being ushered back in.
John was a dervish on stage and the band rock solid behind him.
I had harboured serious thoughts of the performance ultimately being an anticlimax to the night, but I was wrong.
Very very wrong.

With this singular show they turned it all around and the Goldblade with all the promise they showed when I seen them on their very first UK tour was back.

The Specials - Barrowlands - 09/05/13 (Glasgow)

They say that history repeats itself and I have seen no evidence to disprove that.
Instead when The Specials played the first night of two in the Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow what we got was that statement firmly hammered home.
Formed in 1977 they went on to reflect very eloquently much of what was wrong with the era.
Through a brutally honest assessment of their surroundings they managed to strike a chord with many that reverberates down through the years and still makes complete sense in the present.
Especially as it would appear that we have come full circle and history does appear to be repeating itself right now.
The casual racism, the tribal idiocy of some, and the economic disaster that was ushered in by a Conservative government were all tackled back then, and now here we are in 2013, and if you swap Thatcher to Cameron, the National Front to the EDL, the West Indian community for the Muslim community then we have an eerie overlap.
The faces change, but to an extent it's the t-shirt slogan of 'Same Shit, Different Day' writ large over us all.
So with this in mind it has to be said that as The Specials have the material that is as relevant now as it ever was, then all they had to do to impress was to make sure that it sounded solid in the here and now.
Not a tall order really, but even though I fully expected them to be good my high expectations still didn't come close to the reality.
After a very long wait for them to appear (Doors opened at seven and the band came on just after nine) all was forgiven when they launched into their set.
It' was a breath snatching performance that rarely let up.
The heat actually became tremendous as a sold out crowd exerted enough kinetic energy to power a small town for a week.
If you could harness the energy and loop it back to run the sound system then there would have been been no need to use any in-house electrics.
Technically you couldn't honestly fault them.
Between the band and the audience it was as if we were all in a race to the finish line and it would definitely be a photo finish.
Highlight of the evening for me was strangely enough the big hit of Ghost Town.
I've always rated it, but there was something about it being played live that charges it with a great deal more meaning.
While there was no fighting on the dance floor that I seen it's a fact that when I visit my own town centre that I can say that 'this town is coming like a ghost town'.
While it would be easy to lay claim to the band benefiting from the nostalgia market you would be hard pushed to find a band from that era playing the same material and it still maintaining the same cultural relevance and punch.

It was definitely a bucket list gig for me, but one I would be happy to tick off again and again.

Take it or leave it. A word of warning.

Society runs on the construct of getting something for something.
We can hear this echoed in everyday speech.
'An honest days pay for an honest days work.'
'You don't get something for nothing.'
The so called entitlement society is currently lambasted at every turn and in that itself is just the latter 'you don't get something for nothing' phrase oft repeated with a jumble of different words.

People can rush forward to claim that I am wrong and provide examples of people they know who often do selfless acts for others, and at an initial glance it is easy to accept that, but dig deeper and it is rarely true.
What these people can get is a sense of satisfaction, a boost to their self worth, a goodwill favour in the bank to be collected at a future date, the respect of their community and more.
Not that I am criticizing these people.
In fact I find their actions often worthy of praise, and the goodwill they receive for helping others is well deserved and should never be withheld from them.
They deserve our gratitude.
It still remains that when one individual is helped then the person providing the help benefits by giving themselves a positive boost to their psych though.
There is still a quid pro quo process at work.

This something for something attitude works fine in the main, but it also lends itself to being exploited.
This exploitation comes into the equation when the balance is off.
It happens when one party takes a large slice of the cake, and then leaves a minuscule amount for the other who participates in the transaction.

If you want an example consider one individual who ask another to build a garden shed for them as a semi-favour.
Let's just say they know each other from the pub.
The first pays for the material and that comes to £100 and then they excuse themselves and leave the second individual to spend three days constructing the shed.
The second individual also provides all the tools required for the job to be done.
Once finished the person is paid £30 for their efforts.
It's a mate and it's a semi-favour so that's fine.
The first then sells the shed for £600.

It's no longer fine is it?

The balance has shifted drastically.

This is something that can be described as being unethical, but then again others would be quick to say that 'it's just business'.
Those who say that it is just business are unsurprisingly in the main the ones who are sitting with a cupboard full of cake though.

So now I will get to my point after laying that groundwork, and it is a word of warning to musicians.

Only ever pay to have your material used when you have weighed up all the benefits to yourself and there is a balance there.
When you enter into an agreement that allows one participant to profit through your providing of your artistic labour then you must think very clearly about it all.
You may be participating in your own exploitation by jumping into bed with them.
A sensible approach would be to ask yourself right from the get go what is in it for them, and what you will get in return.
Weigh it up, and then decide what you want to do.
Take a week to do it.
Consider if the offer is mutually beneficial, and if so then go for it.
If you can live with the losing out a little on the deal, but still think it is advantageous then that's fine.
If you are however looking at a very slim slice of the cake then please do yourself a favour and refuse to pull a chair up to the table.

Of course there will be enticements added to the deal to make it appear more attractive.
There always are.
Beware of them.
A good deal doesn't need enticements.

Basically just never casually jump into an agreement.

If for instance you want your material aired on a radio station then why pay for that when there are so many who are passionate supporters of music and will gladly offer airtime at no cost to you.
What they are looking for is an audience and then sponsorship and advertising to create a solid financial foundation to their project.
To get that they need to accrue quality material to play and find a niche market to promote it to.
You are helping them reach their goals by providing them with your material, and in return they are helping you by promoting your music to a (hopefully) ever growing audience.
There's that mutually beneficial deal right there.
If they were to ask you to financially contribute something to ensure airplay, or increased airplay, then what has happened is that they have just asked you to build a shed for them.

Think about it.

Be part of the solution and not the problem by refusing to be exploited.

Hypno Doll House - Cosmic Toy Shop.

I just finished reading a book about psychopathy.
That may not be apparently relevant, but within the book it covered how society changes and labels are increasingly required to be applied to peoples behaviour.
There is a need to categorize everything into neat little boxes and anything that doesn't fit is viewed in a negative light.
The idea that we should conform to a base level, or be marginalized, is sort of what I am getting at, but if we were all to conform to that lowest common denominator of so called normality then maybe we should be asking ourselves what we would lose.
One thing that we would lose is Hypno Doll House.
Using a rhythmic approach to looping what sounds like random noises, that may or may not have been created by toy instruments in your front room, and chanting/singing over it wouldn't fit into a society supported template of how grown adults should behave.
It is bloody great though, and it's people like this who add the colour to the monochrome existence that some would have us hurtle towards.
Take this sort of eccentricity out of the world and what we are left with doesn't bear thinking about.
It would be an act that would be akin to levelling the mountains and filling in the sea so that our physical landscape was just a dull grey flat expanse of nothing for as far as the eye could see.
I'm going to refrain from describing them in genre terms.
That would be futile.
Just a combination of words thrown together that weren't really anchored solidly in the ground.
There's a tribal aspect to what they are doing, a hypnotic element to them to, but that's as far as I would care to go in trying to entice people towards being open enough to listen.

Hypno Doll House are the beginning of a journey you would have to decide to take on your own accord.

The Civil Wars – Live at Eddie's Attic.

There's no reason to include this review as this is actually the debut from The Civil Wars and it's nearly four years old, but I've been listening to it a great deal over the last few days and....well I just want to share it with you all.
It's a free download.
So you can jump in and take it as a gift from the band to you, and for my part I will say that it's as good as anything that I have ever shelled cash out for.

Anyway, deep breath.
I've always thought that John Paul White had a voice that sounded like Jeff Buckley.
If Jeff had come from Nashville of course.
There's a warmth to it, and a strength that can take it wherever he wants.
That's not to detract from his singing partner Joy Williams and her contribution to the music in anyway though.
There a yin and yang element to what the Civil Wars do.
Two separate approaches that have a distinct sound that can then be joined together to allow their voices to neatly spoon.
It's when you slip on headphones that the real magic begins to reveal itself.
An enveloping warmth fills your head.
No great heat, but a warm glow that permeates deep and eases stress away.
It gently pushes its way forward and creates a moment in time that holds sway and disallows the sharpness of life to tear at you.
It's an aural respite from the world outside the door that's similar to a long and uninterrupted soak in the tub to candlelight (Yeah. Even us guys like that. Don't let anyone tell you different.)
By the time the set reaches the Cohen cover tension has left the building.
If you aren't aware of The Civil Wars then you really should do yourself a favour.

I sincerely doubt that you would regret taking the time to hit a download button.

The Mystery Girls – Radioactive

We should be eternally grateful to The Stooges for one simple reason.
That reason being that they were the catalyst that has brought us so many ramshackle punk bands stumbling out of the garage with slack jawed attitude and a handful of fuzzy chords to slap us with.
The Mystery Girls are yet another one to add to the ever growing list of those who have no fear of existing in the shadows bereft of the success that may have been available to them if they had chosen a more fashionable way to exercise their artistic talents.
No one sits at home and gravitates towards playing garage punk about being into rubber love if they give a toss about a full time career in music, and that's not a bad attitude to have.
It strips bare all the bullshit, and while the music is dirty it's also got a purity to it as it is played for all the right reasons.
Take songs like 'I'm so tired of you' and 'Signs
It's the Ramones, and some may well ask 'but why write a song in the style of the Ramones/'
The Mystery Girls would probably turn that on its head and ask why not write a song in the style of The Ramones, and there's some sense to that.
If they want to do it then who has a good enough reason to dissuade them?
There's a reason why music like this never dies.
Why it always exists on the margins.

You can't quantify it, but you can feel it has some fucked up worth.

The Correspondents – What's happened to Soho?

Benny Goodman is on the decks and getting the Studio 54 crowd to shake their booty to some electro swing.
The ghost of Quentin Crisp is whipping up the Warhol crowd and everyone is welcome to get their groove on with them.
It's as if The Correspondents are providing the soundtrack to a movie that's set in an alternative universe.
It's Blade Runner and The Great Gatsby mashed up and reflected in the shards of a broken glitter ball.
If Digable Planet was the US rap reaction to jazz then this is the UKs reaction to swing that brings urban drum and bass and Downtown Abbey together with gritty style.

I'm still playing catch up with these guys as this isn't their latest release, but I'm enjoying every spat delivered kick along the way.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Evening Hymns/Two Wings/Jamie Flett/Jim Dead - Pivo Pivo - 21/5/13 (Glasgow)

I'm going to make an exception and review a gig that I promoted.
The slings and arrows of accusation of blowing my own trumpet can be cast this way if anyone feels the need, but to be honest I'm not going to be talking about me.
The reason that I am tapping on the keyboard is a simple one.
I just want to share the experience because the artists who performed deserve to be mentioned in glowing terms.
They deserve the attention of music lovers everywhere and if my writing about them attracts some listeners then I am happy. .
There's nothing more to it.

Last night in Pivo Jim Dead was the first to perform opening for Canadian band Evening Hymns..
He's an easy going guy and it was a pleasure to finally meet him face to face prior to his set.
Liking him as a guy was a double edged sword though.
There is nothing worse than enjoying a performers company and then having to watch them play a less than impressive set.
What do you say after it?
Maintain the honesty and bluntly state it wasn't as good as you thought?
Or do you point heavenward and scream only to run away when you have distracted their attention?
I have expectations of everyone who plays, and I set them high.
Fortunately, over time it has been rare for anyone to really disappoint me, and as in this case often those playing effortlessly skip over the bar of quality I have set and leave me a bit breathless with just how damn good they are.
With a thirty minute set Jim covered material from his debut album and his more recent release 'I'm not lost', and while I have been very impressed with the studio material the live versions fill a room and carry their own power.
There's something solid about what he does.
It's as if he is the anchor in the room and everything is tethered to him.
All attention gravitates towards him and there doesn't appear to be any learned stagecraft involved.
Instead it feels organically pure.
Just when we thought that we had managed to get to grips with him he then eased into his last song without any musical accompaniment.
Credit has to go to the sound engineer for capturing this to.
There was a clarity to his singing that sounded alive.
The silences between the lyrics were as important to the performance as the words were.
I could sincerely describe it as a master class performance.
One that other artists could learn a great deal from.
Nothing was being pushed hard.
There was no strain exerted.
This singular song encapsulated everything that is good about live music.

Others who have seen Jim before commented that while they have always enjoyed his talent that they had never witnessed that before.
Quite literally you could have heard the proverbial pin drop as he sang.
I don't know if it was a combination of things that led to it, but I am very pleased that I was there to lay claim to having seen it.

Jamie Flett I thought was a known quantity to me, but with some additional musicians joining him I would have to say that I got exactly what I didn't expect.
This is the thing with what I would describe as real musicians.
Everything is fluid to an extent.
Every time a song is approached there's some shading to it.
No two performances will sound the same at all.
It's maybe not as noticeable if the same line up of musicians play the same song night after night, but when you drop people out, add in others, leave the violin out, add a bass guitar or one of a thousand other permutations then the end result is always different.
That's really what Jamie is like.
He's the drop of water on the back of your hand that never follows the same path to your fingertip.
There's the structure of the material that is the skeleton that everything else hangs from, but each time that you see him the muscle added allows the songs to take on different shapes.
His album 'Tales from the cuckoos nest' has been a firm favourite of mine for many months now and to see the songs given breath and sent forth from the stage is a joy in itself.
Like others I am never short in singing his, and his bands, praises to anyone will listen and this show easily vindicated my vocal faith in them.
I suppose what I am trying to convey is that Jamie is a bucket list artists.
Get his name down on your list and make sure you see him before it's too late for you.

Two Wings were the act that for a period may or may not have been playing.
I'd been messaged by the label who are releasing the UK version of Spectral Dusk asking if they could be added to the bill.
I was initially unsure as at that point I had no idea who they were.
Once I had heard them I was happy to include them on the night though, but then all went quiet and it was only a short period before the gig took place that I received word that they would indeed be playing.
It wasn't a hassle and you roll with these things.
All was to be fine.
In fact more than fine.
With a range of members taking on vocal duties it's a broad pool of influences that they can dip into and then mould together.
There's been much said about the idiosyncratic delivery of one particular vocal that reminds everyone of early Kate Bush, but it has to be said that it adds rather than detracts from the over all sound.
Not being easily slotted into a genre to aid a description is also something that is a positive rather than a negative.
While every night on pretty much every stage there are acts sticking to a formula, and very often doing it well, there is still room for a band who can hang onto something a bit more unique.
The bottom line is that Two Wings sound like Two Wings.
You can nail some influences on them, but the over all approach to their songs eclipses what lurks beneath.
They are carrying what they do well and it shouldn't be too long before their name starts cropping up on the lips of the cool kids.

Evening Hymns for me were the shining jewels in the crown of the evening.
Bringing a more electric sounding set to Glasgow in comparison to last time they still managed to maintain what I would describe as a hyper-connection with an audience.
There's a distinct move forward in another direction from the material of Spectral Dusk with the new songs sounding far more upbeat, but the set still features plenty from the album that had everyone talking.
It can be an emotionally raw experience for those who witness it.
As before Jonas lays himself bare in the lyrics and the honesty revealed eases people into empathy mode.
It's not just in the songs, but in how he engages between them that creates a connection.
In another life he could probably lead a cult or sell snake oil so maybe we should be thankful that he hasn't chosen to use his talents to beguile in a less positive manner.
Previously, and on the basis on the performance in the 13th Note last year, some may have considered it all a bit too much the..
I didn't, but sometimes the revealing of emotions can be hard for some to engage with.
This time, with the new material on show, there's some respite from that depth of sharing though.
Songs that don't draw the listener into a contemplative union, but instead a joyous communion.
I wouldn't claim the balance was off before, but just that it has shifted now.
It's not better or worse, just different again.
Still power, still making a connection and still providing memories that don't fade with the coming dawn.

Today I have an inbox full of messages sharing how much they enjoyed the bands performance.
They all say completely different things, highlight different moments and express different perceptions of what they witnessed, but what they all share is an appreciation of just how good this band are.

No one has to take my word for it though.
Buy Spectral Hymns and catch them next time they are touring.

They don't do disappointing.

Tommy Clark and what he did last night.

Jim Dead
You know every once in as while an amazing gig turns up and you think I am NOT going to miss this.
Well last night was one of those nights, but there was a problem.
Like the bus we wait on that’s late only for two to then arrive at once I had the option of two shows.  

What one to go to?

Well of course I did what every good music fan would do and hot footed it between them to catch as much as I could. 

The first performance was from Jim Dead who was playing in Pivo Pivo.
I managed to get in early doors and grab a beer and play catch up with some folk early doors including Jim before he took to the stage.
As I took a seat Jim casually walked on stage and began tuning his guitar.  There was the usual people chatting as is the way of things.  Then suddenly Jim looked up and with a simple strum down the strings he begun. 
Right from that moment everything changed.
His set consisted of some songs from his new EP ‘I’m not lost’ and other stretching back through his extensive back catalogue. Songs that I am familiar with, but it was obvious I was in the minority as those around me were wakening up to what Jim does.
Then as he came towards the end of his set something amazing happened and it’s not something I have very often seen.
He stopped strumming his guitar and began to sing acapella. It was totally unexpected, but in that moment perfect.
It is a sign of real talent when someone can hold a rooms attention just with their voice and no accompaniment.
Taking a glance around I noticed that even the bar staff had stopped to listen to this. 
I have seen Jim play several times but never have I experienced such emotion in an audience of his. 
Amazing probably doesn't come close. 
A better adjective for it, to quote the man next to me, was captivating.  On form like this I can’t fathom why Jim doesn't play to larger audiences, but then again maybe that’s not what it’s all about.
A bigger venue with a larger, and noisier, audience would probably take something away from it. 
The intimacy would be lost. 
The connection made stolen from the moment. 
So in hindsight this has to be described as special.
I hope that it can be repeated given the right situation, but if not I am very pleased that I witnessed it.  

From Pivo I did the mad dash up the hill to King Tuts for a 4 band bill featuring The Likely lads, Stonehouse Violets, Soldier on and Steady State Regime. 
As I arrived at the venue the latter of the bands were taking the stage. 
Steady State Regime could be described as Kasabian meets The Stone Roses.
Not a bad thing in my book.
I managed to take in most of their set which consisted solely of original tracks. 
I was surprised to be told that this performance was after only two rehearsals with their new drummer Paul Slavin.
I was highly impressed with how tight they were albeit with a few stage winks. Bands shouldn’t be up to speed so fast when breaking in a replacement, but they carried it off without breaking a sweat.
There’s already some tracks recorded and very soon I will have them aired on the 3rd Class ticket on Mesi radio and others can pass on what they think.
Literally diving onto stage with some obvious hunger were Stonehouse Violets who similar to Steady State Regime were bedding in a new drummer.
Not that you would pick up on the change, unless of course you were looking.  Mikey looking forever the rock front man told the crowd ‘we don’t have long here so lets get on with it’, and then did just that.
Thrashing through an upbeat set it was back to their best for the Violets who had slightly let me down last time with a performance that may have dipped due to some over indulgence of spirits on their part.
I said when the previous drummer Scott left that they had big gloves to fill, but Matthew has brought a different style and energy to the band and he has to be applauded for slipping in and making the drum stool his own. 
Seeing Stewart jump off stage and play a solo in the crowd was another highlight of a far too short set.
A short sharp burst of rock and roll that hinted again at the band being one to watch.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to catch The likely lads set due to being caught up in conversations about future airing and possibilities of sessions in the future.  Watch this space for updates!!!!
I headed back into the venue with an expectant crowd for the appearance on stage of Ayrshire mod band Soldier On, and they didn’t disappoint with an explosion of colour and sound from the first beat. 
There’s no reverse gear with these guys. It’s all full steam ahead.
Over the last few months they have worked hard at building up a solid fan base and they were out in force and with their usual mix of upbeat originals and covers the band whipped them into frenzy.
The band know how to work a set and there’s no lulls. It just starts hard and fast and builds ever stronger as it progresses until they bring the curtain down on yet another fantastic night for those lucky enough to see them.

A night to definitely remember.   

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Temperance Movement/River 68s - Nice and Sleazy - Glasgow (08/05/13)

Wednesday wasn't a good day.
Early in the morning, and without much fanfare, a malignant misanthropic malaise descended on me.
As each minute slipped by it dug its claws deeper into my psyche and embraced me ever tighter to its bosom.
It would be fair to say that by noon I hated everything and everyone.
Even Travis Bickle.
Fuck the rain coming and just washing the scum away.
Let it come and sweep everyone away.
Bring on some biblical sized disaster and be done with it.

Pain can be the catalyst for feelings like that, and I am in pain.

It radiates from my fractured arm, my chipped wrist and ankle, and it throbs across my cracked rib, and I hold it responsible for much of how I felt.
The dull ache has been with me for weeks.
Although it certainly feels longer.
It's a gnawing pain that rarely subsides unless it is being blanked out by a much sharper one.
The secondary pain is one that snatches my breath away, brings tears to my eyes, and is akin to what I imagine holding a naked flame to a raw and exposed nerve ending would feel like.

I'm sick of it.

So sick of it that I thought twice, and then a third time, about just giving the trip to Glasgow to see The Temperance Movement and the River 68s a miss, but a part of me knew that I would regret it.

As William Congreve said 'Music has charms to soothe a savage beast, to soften rock, or bend a knotted oak' and if you swapped savage beast for my emotional well being, rock for bone and knotted oak for muscle then good music was probably exactly what I needed.

That was my focus.
To just tune everything around me out, and stand alone and let the music wash over me.
Let it smooth away every sharp edged stabbing pain and soothe me.

I knew it would be a gamble though.

Not every show can carry deliver, but I decided that the options where to allow myself to continue to hate everyone, or try and find my way back to some semblance of balance.

The River 68s were a good therapeutic start.

Unfortunately I had short changed myself by turning up just in time to catch the end of their set.
Having seen them before I am well aware of how good they can be, and from the plaudits being voiced around me it was obvious I had missed a great performance.
The sound as I walked into the cave that is Nice and Sleazy's was the best I have ever heard in the venue, and Craig McCabes vocals were coming through not just loudly, but with perfect clarity.
Things have went a bit quiet of late in the River 68 camp, but that is going to change.
Take my word on it.
The next year is going to see them kick some doors in.
The buzz that surrounds The Temperance Movement right now is just waiting to be passed over to The River 68s.
A solid debut album will ensure that they draw attention to themselves that could lead to pretty much anything.

Nothing is quiet in The Temperance Movement camp right now though.

With dates in venues to small to hold them creating a bit of a frenzy for tickets, and a forthcoming appearance on the bill with Bruce Springsteen, The Black Crowes and Alabama Shakes at the Hard Rock Calling festival in London, the band are currently on the cusp of reaping the rewards that they have been working hard towards achieving.

Is it all a case of the Emperors new clothes though?
All talk and no walk?

The answer is not at all.

Everything I wanted was there for me to take.
I stood near the front and felt the hairs rise on my neck.
I closed my eyes and the music held me, and it did in fact incrementally make me feel better and better.
It was as if I had created a small bubble for myself to exist in and my only connection with the world outside was the music of The Temperance Movement, and do you know what?
It's all that was needed.
The savage beast was soothed and the muscles in my neck lost their tension.
My loathing for humanity took a back seat and I felt a nudge of positivity for the first time that day.

As the night progressed the set went from being good, to great, to then reaching, and attaining that magical moment that goes beyond it just being another show.
I've spoken about it before.
That shared communal experience that sits outside what is normally expected.
When they turned off the pa and did an acoustic version of a forthcoming album track called Chinese Lanterns they struck a chord with the audience that will lead to those who witnessed the show to be able to say in years to come that they were there.
Nothing more will be needed to be said.
'I was there' will convey it all.
What they created in that moment can't be repeated on a stadium stage, and it will only rarely be created in small venues.
That's because everything has to fall in place at the right moment.
It's when metaphorically speaking the stars align.
Drop some unknown quantity from the equation and it can't have the electricity of life breathed into it.
For me this was to touch aural nirvana.
A small glimpse at something that is mainly indescribable because it goes beyond being conveyed in a review.
It has to be experienced as anything other than being there in the moment will just be a facsimile that lacks all the shading and passion that the original has.
If the live experience is the original painting then the description of it is just the paint by numbers version being regurgitated in a cack handed manner.

Bottom line is that The Temperance Movement probably stopped me from setting fire to the world and watching you all burn.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Billy Bragg - Tooth & Nail

Right now, right at this very second, Billy Bragg has matured into something that I doubt anyone would have expected from him.
From wandering around shopping centres with an amp strapped to his back he has came from virtually buskers roots to national prominence, and in doing so comfortably taken on the mantle of the elder statesman.
When you listen to Tooth and Nail it's not too difficult to see how gradually this has happened though.
He's the aural equivalent of a fine wine.
Lyrically he is fighting fit, and musically he has stretched himself with ease into painting from a broader pallet.
He is without a doubt reached a point in his career where everything is just clicking into place.
If every artist is on a journey then Billy Bragg has reached the borders of a land where the sun is warming his face and everything is fine and dandy.
Not that this has led him to rest on his laurels.
It's not the end of the road, just the crossing point where he can step forth with some confidence and take in his surroundings and relax into where his career has taken him.
The soft lilt of a country twang on the guitar, the Guthrie influence, his socialist roots and punk attitude are all expertly balanced in the mix on this.
If you have been following his career then this could just be the release where the album that you can hear in your head has been birthed.
There's nothing negative that I can say about it.
Nothing constructively critical.
It fits like a new jacket that has been tailored from one that you broke in over many years.

Quinny - Read all the rumours

Every single week I could lose count of the amount of new music that I am introduced to.
It's a mammoth task to lend your ears to it all.
The range of music covers the truly horrendous to the truly magnificent with the vast majority of it all hovering somewhere between the two points.
(All of course just my opinion for the positioning.)
If I was to provide a visual aid it would be an isosceles right triangle.
At the apex on the left towering high above everything else would be the commonly less than impressive material, and as you taper down then at the very edge of the sharp point on the right you will find the rare gold dust.
It's on the tip of the sharp edge on the right that Quinny's forthcoming 'read all the rumours' sits comfortably.
The indie pop tag will be grafted onto it, and who am I to argue with that, but each song reveals itself to be more than capable of stretching genre definitions.
There's a loose grouping of music that can simply be described as having a classic sound and pretty much any genre can sit comfortably under the classic umbrella and this is where we have Quinny.
Effortlessly easing from the intimate to the grandiose, from the soft to the hard, he slips in and out playing tag with the listener and delivers a cohesive sound that just wraps you in its embrace and will not let go.
I would be genuinely shocked if this was to slip below the radar.
Good things must be waiting around the corner for him.
The talent that is displayed across the breadth of these songs does not deserve to go unnoticed.
I don't do anything as crass as song, album, ep of the week, but if I did........well you know where I'm going with that.
There's a launch show on the 30th of May in The Old Hairdressers in Glasgow.
Entry is £4 or £5 with the ep,.

New Found Glory - Mania

I love the Ramones.
Always have done.
From the very first time that I heard them I was bowled over, and their music has been a constant companion throughout the vast majority of my life.
I am such a fan that I even have the legend 'gabba gabba hey!' tattooed around my right ankle.
So if there's ever a body needing identified on crimewatch, and all they have is a right foot and a bit of an ankle and that's what is written around it, then you can safely pick up the phone and say that there's a good chance it's me.
I also like New Found Glory, but not to the extent that I would bother getting anything to do with them tattooed on me.
So as I love The Ramones and like new Found Glory there's a good chance that if you pair them then I'll get along fine with whatever the outcome is.
Well that's what I thought, but 'Mania' is just a straight take on the bands classics, and each time I listen to it the tracks beg the question why I'm not just listening to the originals.
New Found Glory to great versions of the songs, but so what?
It's all a bit pointless really.
If they were to encore a live set with this collection of Ramones tunes I would drag my carcass to the front of the crowd and even at this late age I might even indulge in some crowd surfing, but without the live environment and the excitement that is embodied in a band going for it with big shit eating grins I'm not really seeing the worth in this.

Friday, 3 May 2013

The live music conundrum

Things have been going very well on the promotion front for a while now.
There has been five shows in a row that sold out and I am very proud of that.
Currently higher profile bands are frequently getting in touch about future shows instead of me chasing them up, interesting opportunities are being offered on a daily basis from a few venues and others, and probably best of all has been the word of mouth praise that has been showered on me.
The appreciation of my efforts from all the acts who have played, those who have attended, and those who I would describe as ethical individuals who are the oil that keeps the music machine running smoothly has been reluctantly welcomed on my part.
Reluctantly because I just feel that while I am playing a role in bringing the music to people I am still but one link in a chain made up of many.
After all it is the bands/artists who really do all the work on the night.
And on the flip side welcomed as it's from my peers.

Anyway, I guess I just want to say thank you to everyone, but I also want to touch on The Strawberry Blondes show that took place a few nights ago.

This was the first in a while that didn't sell out.
I'm a realistic sort and fully expected that a show was looming that wouldn't, and I was/am completely one hundred percent fine with it.
I was wanting to look at why that was though.

To get it out of the way I should stress that a lower than expected turn out had nothing to do with any of the acts who played.
Without exception I would recommend them all.
Not just for being very good at what they do, but because of their professional attitudes towards playing.
Each of them could have business cards printed that say 'We are shit hot, and we don't do hassle'.
In fact I would comfortably go as far as to say that The Brothel Corpse Trio, The Media Whores, The Red Eyes and Billy Liar are all acts that could very easily headline a show on their own merits.
While the Strawberry Blondes credentials as a vibrant live act can easily be backed up just by highlighting that they have been invited to join the Vans Warped tour of the US.
No small potatoes for a punk rock act from deepest darkest Wales.

So here's some obvious reasons as to why the gig wasn't as successful as it should have been..

One is that the gig was on a Wednesday night.

It's not anywhere close to being ideal when you are looking to get people to come out and sample live music.
Plenty of us all have responsibilities during the week that need to be considered.
There's work in the morning, getting kids to school, covering the night for childcare if required, and that just three things for the older music fan to think about.
I guess what I am saying is that I appreciate that it isn't easy.
Still, there is a part of me that thinks I wonder how many people were watching the television and hadn't bothered because..........well they couldn't be bothered.
These people are fully entitled to do that and I'm certainly not having a solid dig at them.
Freedom of choice to do whatever you please is something I actively advocate, but I was talking to Mickie Stabbs of the Strawberry Blondes about the amount of venues on the gig circuit that are closing, and really the only thing that can be said is that if you don't use them then you lose them.
So next time a band is playing that you fancy maybe some, and obviously not all, should think about reasons why they should go and not why they shouldn't.
It's just a tiny shift in perception, but it could make a huge difference.

Another things is cash, the filthy lucre.

There's not a lot of it going about.
I get that.
I really do.
I don't have financial backers or a trust fund to dip into.
No one is bank rolling the gigs I put on and money is tight.
Then again there is that shift in perception again.
I have literally had people at the door of a gig asking what the £5 entry fee is for.
Once you tell them it's to cover paying the acts and venue hire etc they roll their eyes and look at each other as they telepathically agree with each other that they are getting ripped off.
Even though they aren't.
These are the same people who wont question the costs of a continental beer in a city bar.
It's as if there's a logic fail going on and they can't pair the cost with putting a show on with how much it is worth paying to be entertained.
£4.50 for a pint that can be sunk in 20 minutes of sipping on it.
No bother.
£5.00 for four bands entertaining you for a three hours or more.
Not so sure about that eh?
They are happy to pay for any service or goods that is going, but can't wrap their heads around why they should be pay to be entertained by a live band on a club level.
That needs to be addressed and I'm certainly not the first to mention it and I doubt I'll be the last.

Then there's how some view live entertainment.

Quite literally, and more than once, people have said to me 'I only go and see famous people'.
It's a breathtakingly absurd assertion.
Unless people invest their time in going to see bands then they limit the opportunity for them to break through.
The x-factor, and talent shows that peddle the same thing, have skewered peoples views on how to become more successful in the field of entertainment.
Very few people just appear over night and then a week plater play a stadium.
In the main it is a hard slog of club after club, and very often rejection after rejection, as they chip away at the apathy until they finally hit a tipping point and recognition for their artistic worth becomes forthcoming.
This is the norm.
The reality for the vast majority of musicians.
It actually boggles my mind why there is a solid grouping of our society who are happy to wait to see what is being offered.
It's akin to going to a restaurant and asking the waiter to decide for you what you should eat.
So if you do like music, and I assume that as you are reading this that you do, then on an evening when you are at a loose end have a look at what is on out there.
Once something catches your eye have a listen to the band as there's genuinely plenty of options to do so from links on facebook to youtube footage and once you are comfortable with a band you have heard then take the plunge.
This is where I could put up one of those memes from facebook, but I'll resist.

I am saying none of this for people to be swayed towards the shows that I put on, but shows in general.
Get out there and enjoy them.
They are about the cheapest form of entertainment going, and for every act that doesn't impress I bet you will see one that does.

To press the point that I know people can't go to everything, I'll unhappily admit that I missed a gig last night, and it will probably be the same tonight
The fantastic Primevals are playing for just £6 in the 13th Note with a support bill to kill for and right at this very second I am already regretting that I wont see The Creeping Ivies.

Anyway, we can't go to everything, but maybe sometimes we can make a little more effort.

There's some poster art over their on the right for some gigs I'm putting on.
Have a listen and come along, and as mentioned if none of those pique your interest then keep looking and go and see someone.
There's amazing acts playing every single night.
I sincerely have no doubt of that.
Go on and enjoy them.