Futureshock and Awe

January 17, 2010 at 6:06 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , , )

Future Of The Left – The Freebutt, Brighton – 04/12/09

It would appear that the audience for punk, and indeed straight-up rock music as a whole is rapidly diminishing. True, the Freebutt does feel pretty rammed from my vantage point tonight, but on closer inspection this is largely due to the massive supporting column that has been handily plonked right in front of the stage, forcing the crowd into two equally crushed groups. There is still a fair amount of space at the back of the small venue, and with reports that Future Of The Left have been performing to crowds of 50 and 60 on the tour, the signs for the future of balls-to-the-wall rock are worrying.

This is a huge shame, as Future Of The Left seemed to have defied the odds and finally escaped the trappings of being two-thirds of legendary underground band Mclusky, by releasing one of the albums of the year with ‘Travels with Myself and Another’. It was a taut, focused album that perfectly fused lean, hardcore rock with a witty pop sensibility, and the reviews that followed suggested the band, and hardcore rock in general, may have been in line for more mainstream success.

Support act Tubelord manage to weave twitchy guitar lines and intricate drum patterns round some heavy, but fairly standard shouty choruses, and seem to have the whole quiet, quiet, quiet, LOUD! dynamic down to a tee. There is a bit of innovation in the more intricate musical passages, and the band seem very tight and together, but the lack of variety between songs coupled with the nagging feeling that all this had been done to death a good ten years ago didn’t really hep their cause.

Future Of The Left on the other hand, may not be overly original and have about as much subtlety as Katherine Hamnett’s wardrobe, but what they do, they do very well indeed. Opening with the savage ‘Arming Eritrea’, their ferocity is evident from the get-go. Lead singer Andy Falco’s hammering at his guitar, veins popping and eyes bulging as he screams ‘I’m an adult!’ into his mic like a tantrum-ing two year old in Tesco’s.

‘Stand By Your Manatee’, a song which seems chiefly concerned with the shame of eating with plastic cutlery, bounces along with a surprisingly jaunty riff, and maintains much of its harmonising charm in the live setting. Lyrically, it provides a glimpse of the band’s dry humour, which is further evidenced later, as the band relax into some genuinely hilarious back and forth with the eager audience.

Some tracks, notably ‘I Am Civil Service’ and ‘Land Of My Fathers’ are bereft of some of their on-record intricacies in favour of a blanket of screaming aggression which makes them sound a touch samey at points, but for the most part the live transition is near perfect. ‘Chin Music’ and ‘The Hope That House Built’ showcase a perfect mix of violence, wit and pop-savy choruses, before closer ‘Cloak The Dagger’ ends proceedings in an ten-minute orgy of feedback, audience participation, screaming and general mayhem that sends everyone home happy.

First published in XYZ Magazine

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Does It Offend You? Well, Only A Little….

January 17, 2010 at 5:55 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , )

Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Concorde2, Brighton – 19/11/09

The mosh circle, such as it is here, is like some kind of crèche for kids with ADHD. Tiny limbs fly around in joyous abandon even during the two support acts, whose mediocrity is rewarded with a display of exited adoration by those already crushed together at the front, thrilled to be let out on a school night. The over-eager dancing and general sense of being in a school disco is clearly bothering some of the older spectators, but it does make for a great atmosphere, and after all, it’s hardly as if we’ve come to see Sigur Rós.

DIOYY make the kind of music that is pretty much pointless to experience from a distance. There is barely any traditional musicianship to admire, little emotional connection to be made to the band other than a hyper-aggressive sense of anger and for the most part very little to be enjoyed in the way of melody. What they do specialise in, is a sound-clash of old school Prodigy beats, Daft Punk style synth lines and hyped up punk vocals delivered with power, force, and absolutely zero subtlety or originality. It’s a dirty, almost guilty pleasure that serves little purpose other than to soundtrack an evening’s wasted abandon, but on that level it delivers pretty well.

https://i1.wp.com/www.xyzmagazine.co.uk/img/live_does_it_offend_you_yeah_concorde_grace_langley_191109_03.jpg

The band begin with a fairly slack version of ‘With A Heavy Heart…’ which doesn’t generate nearly as much heat as it should, although the crowd are up for it immediately, before segueing straight into ‘Weird Science’. This comes over much better, as do the other tracks that make the band sound like tight electro DJs, as they actually end up sounding tighter than the more band-based songs. Immediately proving the point, ‘Being Bad Feels Pretty Good’, drifts by in dull anonymously, while ‘Doomed Now’, with its distorted vocals and emphasis on clashing guitar and synth lines is riotous, with the atmosphere towards the front verging on actual violence.

A couple of new songs are aired with mixed results. One tentatively entitled ‘Techno’ takes the tolerable bits of Kasabian, ramps up the intensity and then drops a massive techno bassline underneath to great effect. ‘Over Your Shoulder’ on the other hand, merely sounds like Kasabian being covered by a bad Bowie impersonator which is every bit as terrible as it sounds. ‘Lets Make Out’ sees the band accompanied by some kids from the crowd, but as none of them seem to know the chorus (which consists of shouting ‘let’s make out’ repeatedly), the whole exercise is rendered pretty pointless.

A mixed bag then, but on form (a frenetic ‘Battle Royale’ and closer ‘We Are Rockstars for example) DIOYY are capable of delivering some truly joyous moments of wasted, violent excess. On this basis, it seems to suit the kids just fine.

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From Here We Go Sublime

January 17, 2010 at 5:43 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , )

The Field – Audio, Brighton – 11/11/09

There is an enticingly strange selection of sounds emanating from Audio’s basement room tonight. An unholy union of trance and techno assaults the senses, played with power and intensity by an odd looking quartet, whose only connection seems to be a telepathic understanding of how each track should evolve.

While The Field started life as one man’s experimental DJ project, the recent release of second album ‘Yesterday And Today’ hinted at an evolution in sound, from bedroom atmospherics towards a more varied musical palette based around live instrumentation. As a result, tonight’s performance is enriched by the heady throb of a live bassist, the cataclysmic drumming of a man who bears an uncanny resemblance to WWE’s The Undertaker, and the fruits of a man sat with a laptop who is either a vital component of the group’s sound, or is simply an accountant sat doing their tax returns.

The Field, scary drummer watches on...

In amidst the chaos, stands Axel Willner, hunched over an array of mixing equipment and looking somewhat like a depressed Nordic fisherman. The Field is very much Willner’s project, and as such, he remains the focal point around which his live cohorts must work. The simplest of basslines weave in and out of the mix, fleetingly pushed to the front, before being swallowed in the melee surrounding them, whilst the tiniest alterations to the drum patterns help slyly subvert the rhythm of each track, in a way that seems almost unintentional. Indeed the focus on repetition within each piece often gives the listener the impression that they have been listening to the exact same song for several minutes, before suddenly realising that its fundamental principles have long since been changed in their entirety.

The overall effect occasionally makes for a rather disconcerting experience. The outward simplicity of each track constantly negated by the scope for alteration that the band finds within them, twisting each phrase into something vibrant and new. Most importantly though, The Field provide uplifting ammunition for those who simply came to dance. While most revellers are left in a trance like state of hypnotic wonder at the whole experience, there are still a fair few flailing limbs about to endorse the pure pleasure derived from the ominous bass rumblings, compressed drums and eerily distorted house vocals of tracks like ‘Over The Ice’. In fact, come the final song of the set, the crowd are practically baying for an encore, which they are given with a joyous rendition of ‘A Paw In My Face’. It leaves an indelible print of happiness and warmth on the beaming faces of the crowd as they are hastily hustled out into the night air. Just as well, it’s freezing outside.

First published in XYZ Magazine

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‘Like Watching The A4 Paper Taking Over The Guillotine’

January 17, 2010 at 5:27 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , , )

Everything Everything – Jam – 03/11/09

It’s nice to be surprised sometimes. Having become fairly well acquainted with Manchester’s Everything Everything through both their performance at this year’s Great Escape festival, and a fairly rigorous addiction to their MySpace page, I was expecting quite a lot from tonight’s performance. What I wasn’t expecting was two support bands providing quite so much in the way of killer pop hooks, brilliant falsetto vocals, laptops on ironing boards and live trumpet sampling. Both Brighton’s Rob The Rich and Scottish electro multi-instrumentalists Findo Gask were superb in their own right, and while space considerations prevents a full discussion of exactly why, my advice would simply be buy some tickets and find out for yourself.

Findo Gask - More To Follow, Hopefully.

By the time Everything Everything have morphed from enthusiastic onlookers into the evening’s main event, there is a palpable sense of anticipation in the air. They open proceedings bravely with the light ambience of ‘Tin’, which features beautiful vocal harmonies over a dreamy Eno-esq electronic soundscape. It’s a low key start, but in the context of the rest of the night’s offerings, gives a breathtaking display of the band’s versatility. Debut single ‘Suffragette Suffragette’ follows soon after, and somehow succeeds in marrying a Battles style drum and keyboard backing to a heavy guitar break reminiscent of Radiohead’s ‘Myxomatosis’ and a perfect pop chorus.

It is this kind of thrilling hybrid of styles that is central to the band’s approach. They wilfully chuck everything they feel like into a musical melting pot, twice, with scant regard for time signatures or the difficulty that HMV’s shop assistants will have in filing their CDs. There are moments tonight when this doesn’t always work. Some of the subtle nuances of tracks like ‘Hiawatha Doomed’ for instance, are somewhat compressed by the Jam’s low ceilings and cramped stage with only a few fragments of melody and some strained vocals surviving.

Overall however, they demonstrate an incredible flair for a huge range of musical styles, often within the same song, with the result that many of their four minute songs sound like absolute epics. ‘NASA Is On Your Side’ for example, starts a bit like a weird of hybrid of Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’ and ‘Hmmm Hmmm Hmmm’ by the Crash Test Dummies, before gradually easing through 80’s balladering and into Sigur Ros territory.

It has the potential to sound like an unbridled mess, yet every song has a definite structure, sometimes only discernable after a few listens, and more often than not reveals an uncanny pop sensibility. The best is saved till last with a double whammy of ‘MY KZ, YR BF’, which features one of the best pop choruses of the year, and ‘Photoshop Handsome’ which perfectly sums up their crazed kitchen-sink alchemy in four minutes of perfect pop, at the end of a near perfect night.

First published in XYZ Magazine

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Miles Ahead

January 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , , )

Dizzee Rascal – Brighton Dome – 27/10/09

Dizzee Rascal as photographed by Rosie Johnson

Dylan Miles has come a long way from the ‘Boy In Da Corner’ of a Bow Street council flat spitting paranoid rage over an unnerving assortment of hacked up digitised weaponry. It only takes a cursory inspection of the assembled masses at the Dome tonight to prove beyond doubt that Dizzee Rascal has truly graduated to bone fide pop star status. Sweaty gelled-up lads rub up against glow-stick wielding ravers, who bounce into indie kids clad in scarves and sunglasses, while a smattering of middle aged mums and dads try in vain to keep an eye on their wildly over-stimulated offspring.

This transformation may be troubling to some purists, and it’s pretty obvious from the get-go that tonight’s show is going to be about as grimy as Kym Woodburn’s kitchen, but it’s hard not to smile at just how far Dizzee’s come with just his natural talent and good natured cheek to guide him.

The queen of grime....

Dizzee arrives, bang on time, to a rapturous ovation and immediately launches straight into a hyper aggressive ‘Bad Behaviour’ from his latest ‘Tongue and Cheek’ LP. It’s a brutal and discordant opener that recalls Public Enemy at their finest, but the host of new tracks that follow, including ‘Road Rage’, ‘Cant Tek No More’ and ‘Money Money’, offer little variation from a deep house and booming drum-loop backing,  and have the effect of blanketing most of Dizzee’s lyrics. Even ‘Flex’, while still deservedly a crowd favourite, is stripped of the horn lines and subtle synth effects that made it sound so innovative on record, and as a result ends up blending into the rest of the set.

One of Dizzee’s biggest achievements has been how he has constantly developed his musical palette to incorporate a huge range of styles, but it seems he has eschewed this variety in his live shows in favour of the more upfront dance beats that have carried his last three singles to no 1. This is perfectly understandable, but hopefully his recent Electric Proms show could give him the inspiration to use a range of styles and even live instrumentation in the future.

It’s a minor gripe however, as the 2nd half of the show, following a quick costume change, is absolutely superb. Dizzee rattles off hit after hit, starting with ‘Jus’ A Rascal’ and ending with a predictably euphoric version of ‘Bonkers’ which sends the crowd into raptures. Tonight Dizzee Rascal not only proved not only that he is now among the major league of UK performers, but also just how naturally it comes to him. If he could just have the courage to let some of his earlier work and album tracks breathe for themselves, he could find himself on the way to the global stardom that he deserves.

First published in XYZ Magazine

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You Say Party, We Say Sigh….

November 20, 2009 at 8:16 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , )

Bloc Party, Brighton Centre, 24/10/09

Things aren’t looking too promising in the Bloc Party camp right now. The London based four piece have already confirmed that this ‘Bloctober’ tour will be their last before a lengthy hiatus, and recent quotes from drummer Matt Tong suggest that he may not be re-joining the band when they return. Tong’s absence would be a massive blow for a band who have faltered somewhat since the release of their excellent debut, ‘Silent Alarm’, four years ago.

Indeed, perhaps the biggest problem with follow up ‘A Weekend In The City’ was just how far Tong’s incendiary skin work had been pushed into the background in favour of Kele Okereke’s vocals. It would be a real shame if they were to break up completely, and possibly an even greater shame if they chose to carry on without one of the key elements that made them so interesting in the first place, as there are moments tonight when they sound like the best band in Britain. Sadly, there are also times when they sound utterly uninspiring and pedestrian, and it remains to be seen which of these elements will ultimately win out.

Clad in a white ‘Waste Man’ t-shirt and peaked cap, Kele bounces onstage to a rapturous reception as the band take their positions for opener ‘Waiting For The 7.18’. It’s a bit of a strange choice to open proceedings, but works about as well as any song about waiting for a bus can expect to, mainly due to the closing refrain of ‘Lets drive to Brighton on the weekend’. It’s followed by ‘Halo’ which ups the energy levels nicely, before the band launch into ‘Positive Tension’, which proves to be distinctly anti-climatic. Much of this is down to the way in which Kele chooses to alter his delivery, deliberately dropping words from the end of lines, and letting others run over into the next. It is a trick he will repeat throughout the night, and only serves to severely disrupt the flow of what should have been a highlight, making it sound rushed and under-performed.

Much derided recent single ‘Mercury’ gets an early airing, and perversely is one of the first songs that really shows what the band can do in a live setting. The rolling dubstep style bass line, distorted brass and skittering drum beats manage to dominate the track and ramp up the tension in a way they never quite manage on record, while Kele’s wild feral yelping works better as an addition to the collage of sound, rather than its centre point.

This issue becomes fairly crucial throughout the show, as tracks like ’The Prayer’, ‘I Still Remember’ and ‘Two More Years’ drift by in a sea of repetitive vocals and tame instrumentation. It is only when Russell Lissack’s searing guitar is allowed a chance to break through that songs like ‘Trojan Horse’ offer up anything of interest, and sadly this happens all too rarely. When they do get it right however, the results are ferociously brilliant, as an incendiary triple whammy of ‘Hunting For Witches’, ‘Song For Clay’ and ‘Banquet’ aptly demonstrates. ‘Hunting For Witches’ in particular marries thunderous drum beats and bass lines with the menace of Lissack’s descending guitar riff and a host of unsettling sound effects.

The band finish strongly with an encore that includes both ‘Flux’ and ‘Helicopter’, which sends everyone home happy.  However, the fact that three albums worth of material has only managed to produce a handful of moments that really excelled in a live environment suggests that the band may have stagnated slightly. Hopefully Bloc Party’s planned hiatus will provided an opportunity for members to recharge their creative batteries and come back stronger with some fresh ideas and finally fulfil their early potential. 

First published in XYZ Magazine

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Speech Therapist

November 20, 2009 at 7:56 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , )

Speech Debelle, Brighton Coalition, 8/10/09

Typical. You finally get signed, get your album released, find yourself nominated for the Mercurys, win the damn thing against all expectations and then have the dubious pleasure of hanging out with Mr Gordon Brown and hearing your music pumped out of branches of Topshop across the country. Your management then sends you off on a mammoth tour of the UK and Europe to capitalise on your newfound fame, and less than two weeks in, your voice goes.

It doesn’t bode especially well for the evening ahead, particularly when Speech Debelle steps onto the Brighton Coalition’s small stage and immediately becomes embroiled in an unintentional slapstick routine involving her mic stand and cable.  She announces her predicament in suitably croaky tones, but assures us that it will give the show ‘character’, before shyly introducing herself, and thanking us for turning up. It’s a slow and somewhat nervy start that sees a few worried looks exchanged between audience members, many of whom are only here off the back of that Mercury win.

Even launching into opener ‘The Key’, things seem a little muted. Without the addition of a horn section, her paired down backing band (one acoustic guitar, one double bass, one small drum kit) are more a subtle accompaniment to Debelle’s wordplay, than a means to drive the songs along. The overall effect isn’t helped by the fact that it is pretty difficult to make out any of the lyrics that Debelle is laying down, particularly as this is her main strength. Almost as one, the crowd lean forward, as if attempting to lip-read some recognisable line, and it is through this close attention to the detail of her songs that the performance, and Debelle’s work as a whole,  starts to make more sense.

Speech Debelle as photographed by Lucie Goodayle

It takes time, but like some of the most rewarding music, Debelle’s quiet, confessional tones start to reveal a delicacy and minimal beauty rarely found in UK hip hop. The likes of ‘Searching’ and ‘Go Then, Bye’ unfurl themselves gently, and as Debelle’s vocals become more confident, they begin to sound clearer, and sit more comfortably in the midst of  the simple guitar and bass lines emanating from the stage behind her. Best of all is an exquisite rendition of ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, which utilises the instruments onstage superbly, with the throbbing bass suggesting a barely concealed anger beneath the vulnerability of the delicate guitar work.

She finishes with a beautifully intimate ‘Speech Therapy’, bowed bass and swooning backing vocals perfectly framing her delicate voice, and with that she’s gone leaving the crowd hungry for more. It’s a fantastic turnaround, and proves that there is still space for performers who eschew brash showmanship and immediate thrills for a subtler, more human approach. Whether this will work in a larger setting remains to be seen, but on the strength of tonight’s performance Speech Debelle should still be a hot enough prospect come next year’s festivals to find out.

First published in XYZ Magazine

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Fake it till you make it….

October 21, 2009 at 1:35 pm (Gigs, Music)

Hockey, Brighton Digital, Oct 1st 2009

Talk about ticking all the right boxes. If it wasn’t for their rather uninspiring moniker, it would be nigh on impossible to believe that the quartet of hipsters currently strutting around Digital’s tight stage like demented peacocks hadn’t been invented by some savvy A&R man in an evil lair somewhere.

Hockey as photographed by Rosy Johnson

Hockey as photographed by Rosy Johnson

Having begun as a two-piece sometime in 2002, Oregon’s Hockey have since doubled in size, honed their sound with former Talking Head Jerry Harrison, and have begun receiving rave reviews both in America, and more recently, the UK. Much of this is due to the their zeitgeist hugging and infectiously danceable 80’s style electro funk, and a recent touring schedule that has seen them rubbing shoulders with the similarly hyped Passion Pit and Friendly Fires. Tonight however, they are the main attraction, and a predictably young and sweat-sodden crowd has gathered, eager to see what the fuss is all about.

Dressed in what appears to be a Topshop dress beneath a ridiculously high collared leather jacket, and topped off with a fairly superfluous headband, lead singer Ben Grubin bounces across the stage like a hyperactive puppy as the band launch into ‘Work’. The band’s strengths as a live proposition are immediately obvious, with the hitherto laid back album track re-energised as a pounding, immersive floor filler. Not only do the band sound tight and focused, but crucially they are able to build on the basic arrangements of each song, extending and distorting their components through superbly executed instrumental breaks. Making full use of Digital’s shin-shakingly loud PA system, tracks like ‘Learn To Lose’ and ‘Wanna Be Black’ are embellished with addictively propulsive base lines and some fairly unexpectedly heavy riffs courtesy of axe-man Brian White.

The band seem keen to show that they are not limited to simply ape-ing their 80’s heroes, and display a fair degree of versatility for such a young outfit. Grubins dons a Dylan-esque acoustic guitar and harmonica combo for the country style ‘Four Holy Photos’, before lurching off into Studio 54 territory with a startling rendition of ‘3am Spanish’ which sounds alarmingly like Blondie covering ‘Eye Of The Tiger’. Indeed, while the shifting of pace and divergence of styles occasionally falls flat, such as the encore of ‘Everyone’s The Same Age’, for the most part they manage to pull it off. So much so, that by the time ‘Too Fake’ arrives to send us on our way, it feels like a final flourish of excellence, rather than the one big hit they can rely on to get the crowd involved. So another test successfully passed, and proof that if anything, Hockey are actually a more interesting proposition in the flesh than they are on record.  With album sales continuing to fall at an alarming rate, it’s a trait that should serve them well.

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A Sea-Change Within A Sea

June 5, 2009 at 4:27 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , , , )

The HorrorsConcorde2, Brighton04/06/09

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It must be pretty difficult to be a lead singer without an instrument.

Guitars almost instantly instil a veneer of cool over pretty much anyone who picks one up, so standing in front of a sweaty and expectant crowd with nothing other than a massive fringe to hide behind must be quite a daunting prospect. Singers have attempted a variety of stances/poses/gimmicks to overcome this issue, and most importantly give them something to do with their hands while performing. From Liam’s stock-still, hands behind the back, chin thrusting defiance, to the outright insanity that Iggy brings to a stage, the great frontmen always find a way of feeling comfortable in their own skin. The rest end up looking like Tom Chaplin.

''Shit, what do I do with these things?'

''Shit, what do I do with these things?'

Faris Badwan may not have reached the upper echelons of greatness as a frontman just yet, but there are signs that he and his band are taking increasingly large steps in that direction. That The Horrors are even being whispered about in this vein will come as a big surprise to those who (incorrectly) wrote the band off as a bunch of over-dressed Shoreditch art-school posers whose talent was inversely proportional to their hype.

Yet the quality of their new material, the darkly atmospheric kraut-gaze of new LP ‘Primary Colours’, has seen critics falling over themselves in a search for new superlatives. As a result, the Concorde2 is full of fans old and new, intrigued to see how their new sound translates live. The make-up of the audience is a fascinating mix in itself. Heavy metal fans clad in Metallica tour t-shirts rub muscular shoulders with a troupe of fragile looking kids done up like a cross between Miss Haversham and Alex DeLarge while down at the front, a posse of what appear to be teenyboppers thcream and thcream until they are thick with each dimming of the lights until their heroes appear.

The Horrors, Brighton

The Horrors, Brighton

Once they do, it is straight down to business as the band launch straight into a feedback driven ‘Mirror’s Image’. Gone is the over the top on-stage theatrics, the scaling of every available wall and, to a large extent, the sartorial over-indulgence that categorised earlier shows. In fact there is very little audience interaction throughout the entire set, other than Faris lamenting Brighton’s seagull problem (‘I tried to have a spot of lunch earlier, but a bird stole it’).  It seems instead that the band have ditched some of the excesses of the past in favour of melting down elements of Neu!, The Jesus and Mary Chain and the entire ‘Nuggets’ compilation and spraying the results over the audience in a vast and complex wall of sound. To be fair they no longer need to rely on kooky wardrobe design or crazy stage antics to cover for a limited set list, and the fact that they are able to engross the crowd with a set made entirely of new material is testament to this.

There remain a few problems however, most notably the quality of the sound which all but blankets out some of their subtler nuances with a clatter of over mic-ed drums and piercing squalls of keyboard. The result is that Badwan struggles at times to make himself heard above the racket behind, especially on the tracks that don’t require much in the way of wide eyed howling. The superb Shangi-La’s ape-ing spoken word breakdown of ‘Who Can Say?’ for instance, is rushed and barely detectable when it should provide the focal point of the song.

However, as the band get into their stride, the arrangements tighten up somewhat, and with their singer providing a compelling focal point amongst the pounding psychedelic lights and incessant motorik throbbing, the whole experience becomes increasingly seductive. Coming across as a deranged cross between Syd Barrett and Robert Smith, Badwan stands, arms aloft at the front of the stage in a Canute-like attempt to control, or at least rise against, the crashing seas of light and noise behind him. Only in the fog of the Spacemen3 style ‘I Can’t Control Myself’ does he look a little lost, a high priest of desolation collapsing uncomfortably into a passable impersonation of a insolent toddler. But for the most part he owns the stage brilliantly, and no longer looks desperate to hide away behind his impressive mass of hair, or go charging off into the relative anonymity of the crowd.

The band storm through a hyperkinetic ‘New Ice Age’, with Faris’ cries (‘THE AGONY!!!’) reverberating round the venue, and driving those at the front into a pulsating shoal of sharpened limbs and thrashing necks. A beautiful, note perfect ‘Sea Within a Sea’ ends the show on wave after wave of blissful, undulating keyboard riffs that see the band off into the wings, before the crowd demands their reappearance for an encore.

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With a nod to their older fans, and a malevolent glint in his eye, Badwan launches into a power trio of hysterical, Cramps style gothic punk favourites from the first album, starting with a joyous, bouncing ‘Count in Fives’ that sees the front rows completely lose the plot. The largely spoken word ‘Sheena Is A Parasite’ elicits a similar response, before the classic riff of ‘Gloves’ builds to a suitably chaotic finish.

And with that, they are gone. Another test successfully passed along the road to fulfilling some of that early hype, and, one hopes, towards the emergence of the first truly captivating British frontmen to appear since a certain Pete Doherty.

Originally published in the Brighton Magazine

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The Great Escape Festival – Day 3

May 27, 2009 at 2:45 pm (Gigs, Music)

graetescape2008logo

Ah, if only more Great Escape venues shared their toilets with two-bit karaoke bars or similarly empty establishments, things would be so much easier. Komedia could be accessed through some organic juice bar, the Brighton Fishing Museum would provide a handy gateway into a number of sea-side clubs, and one could nip into the Mash Tun for a swift pint only to emerge in the spacious Corn Exchange and actually get to see The Maccabees. It would certainly beat all that queuing.

The Veils@Horatios

The Veils@Horatios

Sadly only one venue that I know of offers this particular quirk, but it is a serendipitous discovery that allows us a second view of the excellent Veils ***. Sadly Horatios end of pier charms are no match for the acoustics of the Sallis Benney Theatre, and the sound is too muddy and compressed to really do the band justice. The strength of their arrangements however, ensures they leave a lasting impression on the crowd. Finn Andrew’s voice is rich and powerful enough to fill any venue, and with the lead guitar lines taking on greater prominence the band discard some of the subtleties in favour of a harder, blues orientated set.

The blame for our late arrival at Horatios can be laid at the collective feet of The Levis Store and the Great Escape’s text service, who have conspired to seduce us into believing that tickets for a ‘secret’ Babyshambles gig are available from Churchill Square. Needless to say this information is received just as we are approaching the pier, necessitating a frenzied and ultimately fruitless detour through a packed and muggy town centre.

Luckily for those who have missed out on tickets, the aforementioned gig is to take place on Audio’s outside patio. This leads to hundreds of fans lining the streets outside the venue, leaning precariously out of overlooking balconies, and cramming themselves into the adjacent Amsterdam Bar in the hope of catching a glimpse of their wayward hero. The band are a good hour late, but the waiting hordes are finally rewarded with a short set of fan favourites including ‘Pipedown’ and ‘Fuck Forever’ and get to witness Pete’s footballing ability first hand when he dispatches a football thrown up to him from the crowd with a well placed header.

Thankfully Audio is a little less packed out for the double header of The Soft Pack *** and Hockey ***** later in the evening. Unfortunately for the former, the sound levels within the cramped venue are not what they could be, and the more melodic parts of the band’s set are suffocated in a haze of compressed top-end thrash. As a result, The Soft Pack’s Modern Lovers meets In Utero era Nirvana stylings sound one dimensional and half formed, which is a shame as there is a faintly detectable suggestion of compelling guitar work running underneath it all. At least the guitarist provides some visual amusement, as he continually contorts his face into a passable impersonation of a Care in the Community kid in the midst of visiting his first prostitute.

The Soft Pack - Cum-face guitarist not pictured

The Soft Pack - Cum-face guitarist not pictured

Hockey, on the other hand, have no such problem. Their DFA inspired hyper-funk connects with the audience immediately and by halfway through their second song there is not one stationary set of feet in the whole venue. Smooth bass lines intersect convulsive guitar riffs, while the swirling synths coat the entire set in a soulful warmth that perfectly accompanies singer Benjamin Grubin’s vocals. Tracks like ‘Work’ and ‘Too Fake’ sound instantly familiar, while at the same time lending themselves perfectly to extended improvisations that ramp up the intensity. At this rate, they will be household names within a year.

From here it is straight off to the Concorde2 for a night of live dance music form two of Brighton’s finest. First up is Evil Nine ***** who have gone the whole hog and fully expanded into a four-piece live band, and proceed to take their music far beyond the limitations of their initial break-beat style. Throwing everything from Afro-beat to fuzz-rock into a huge melting pot of invention, they manage to combine dark, sleazy basslines and overdriven guitar with dub vocals and infectious pop hooks, laying them perfectly over incessant beats. The genius of it is that it doesn’t just feel like a pair of DJ’s who have roped in some mates to lend their set an air of heightened musicianship. Instead, they come across as a fully formed and tightly rehearsed band, working as a unit to produce something that is more than the sum of its parts.

Freeland brings the festival to a suitably messy close

Freeland brings the festival to a suitably messy close

Following this, we have Freeland ****, whose set is slightly closer to a conventional live take on his work as a DJ. Again, the line-up is augmented by guitar and drums, with Freeland himself strutting around behind a bank of keyboards like some rockabilly SS commander, and pumping up the crowd with his dance-punk vocal delivery. Whereas Evil Nine win the crowd over with exotic rhythms, panache and band interplay, Freeland elects to simply bludgeon them into submission with intense salvos of dark power, as unrelenting blasts of bass and strobe hammer the crowd into joyful oblivion. There is (slight) respite with a closing ‘We Want Your Soul’, which at least offers a recognisable refrain for the audience to shout back with, but for the most part this is a set done Freeland’s way; dark, dirty and totally unstoppable.

Final Thoughts

As we stagger out into the night and begin to contemplate a return to our bleak non-festival existence, there are a few additional observations which warrant a mention. These are:

1)      Honourable mentions to a couple of bands I missed for one reason or another. Including The Temper Trap (everyone I know who saw them said they were excellent), The Bombay Bicycle Club (constantly clashed with other gigs), The Big Pink (who cancelled), and Casiokids.

2)      Drinks prices. £3.60 for a small plastic bottle of Carlsberg? Really? I know you’re not making much on the door, but there was an occasion where we elected to go to a pub for a drink rather than watch some random band at Komedia as we simply couldn’t afford to drink there. We’re not all industry insiders you know.

3)      The organisation was, I think, better again this year. The head honchos seem to have realised that it’s probably best getting some of the bigger, headlining acts into the Corn Exchange, as it’s massive. Yes, there were still queues, but other than putting the band on the beach and the audience in the sea, there’s not much else that could have been done.

4)      There were some slight odd bits of scheduling however. Hockey played twice at two of the smallest venues in the festival despite being one of the more hotly tipped acts to appear, and separately ticketed bands should not be classed as part of the festival. Making people pay twice to go and see Kasabian may seem like poetic justice for having no taste, but it still seems a bit unfair.

5)      More bands in the daytime next time please. We like bands, and we like drinking in the day.

First published at TheBrightonMagazine.com

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