Facebook Slider

Supersuckers, Bannerman's, Edinburgh

 

Seeing a band for the first time in 20+ years, all manner of expectations/concerns run through your mind in the lead up. Discovering the act in question is now operating as a trio rather than a quartet, for one thing, is bound to make you question how particular songs are going to sound. Given also the numerous personnel changes experienced in the second half of the unit's 30 year existence, with only one original member in the line-up, anything is possible with such a Trigger's broom of a band.

Singer Eddie Spaghetti has had a bad time of it over the past 18 months or so, culminating in treatment for throat cancer. That and the hard living which may have contributed to it no doubt go some way to explaining why the vocals tonight initially sound like two Lemmy impersonators have taken to the stage. The sound mix is also rather muddy for the first few songs so in combination it’s pretty hard to tell what’s being performed, other than lead single ‘The History Of Rock 'N' Roll' from current album Suck It. Add to that the not-much-above-plodding pace of the initial part of the set and the times when a second guitar would be an obvious boon & it’s looking like this dip into nostalgia has been a bad idea.

Yet, at what has been the best filled show I’ve been at in the past month (including the theatre), I’m clearly in the minority in being here for a trip down memory lane. Those who’ve followed the band more religiously than I since the ‘90s aren’t lacking in enthusiasm & this, coupled with an improvement in the mix and, for my part, the inclusion of a few more recognisable songs, turn things around handsomely as the 30 minute mark is passed. Even the schtick about being “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world” doesn’t seem tired.

Songs old and new follow thick and fast, with a preference for numbers from The Evil Powers Of Rock ‘N’ Roll and including Thin LizzyMerle Haggard covers. Thankfully they steer clear of country tunes other than that, the interest in that having lost its novelty for me a long time ago.

Second album La Man Cornuda is the one I could never really see past & so it’s what I’ve continually measured the band against. Performing ‘Creepy Jakalope Eye’ from it at half speed is therefore a major crime in the latter half of the show. Third album The Sacrilicious Sounds Of … is weak in comparison but does contain ‘Born With A Tail’ and, in closing with that in rousing fashion my earworm for the following day was assured. A show then of notable ups & downs but, at least on Spaghetti’s part, after 30 years in the one job how many of the rest of us maintain full consistency of performance?  

Read more...

Deer Tick, Whelan's, Dublin

 

It’s Deer Tick’s first visit to Ireland in four years. The band are due on at 21:15 but after the support act, Joanna Barbera, plays the lights go out. It seems like it’s a very specific band request to add atmosphere but, after 15 minutes, a venue official takes to the stage to tell us that the power is out in this area of Dublin and is not expected back on until at least 22:00. The band themselves emerge from the gloom, by the light of a smartphone, to apologise for the delay and promise us a full set.

By request or not, we have been granted a unique gig with a special atmosphere. Electric Ireland are shockingly efficient and get the juice back on before 10. The band are out sharpish and dive straight into things. Guitarist Ian Patrick O'Neil says that they were considering doing a fully acoustic set if the outage continued. John McAuley, O'Neil, and drummer Dennis Michael Ryan each take the lead on a song to kick off the set before all four approach the mics with some impressive and uplifting harmonies. They’ve just released a cover of The Pogues’ ‘White City’ recorded with Spider Stacy and they play it with the verve that this crowd would expect from their ex-pat brethren.

McAuley has claimed in the past that his musical awakening came through Hank Williams and it shows. Country music is big in Ireland but it is far from cool, yet this band hit all the right notes. More importantly, they avoid playing all the wrong ones. Even with the Mustang guitar strapped on and playing a ballad, McAuley sings without the painfully stereotypical country twang. Stripped of that affectation, songs that might come across as clichéd instead sound heartfelt. The slight growl in his throat illustrates why he was chosen for the one-night-only Nirvana reunion this year. The voice is lived-in and the approach is fresh.

O'Neil swaps his axe for a mandolin without sacrificing the vibe. He discusses how his grandfather arrived in Massachusetts and “I guess they stole one of the L’s from O'Neil” but how “this year I got my dual citizenship and they gave it back for my Irish passport.” It’s the most Irish thing I’ve heard an American say and it’s clear that this band belong here. During the intro to ‘Look How Clean I Am’, McAuley picks up his beer bottle with his mouth and downs it to great applause.

When people talk about Deer Tick, they often speak of the duality of their music. Maybe it’s more pronounced on their albums but there is no obvious dichotomy in their live set. There are moments in their jams when they sound like The Stone Roses or Michael Jackson but nonetheless there is a consistency to their sound and a universality to their performance that is undeniable. What’s really strange is that with the harmonies, the stylistic approach and, particularly, with the mandolin, this is exactly the type of band that my mother brought me to see as a child but updated with 30 intervening years of musical evolution integrated into the set. This is a group of excellent musicians doing what comes naturally. Deer Tick are that rare band that are super cool, with their finger on the pulse, but you could bring your parents to see them and everyone would enjoy it.

Read more...

They Might Be Giants, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

When asked if I wanted to cover this performance, the teenaged me mentally shouted Yes! Of course! Hits like 'Don’t Lets Start', 'Istanbul', 'Whistling In The Dark' and 'Particle Man' flitted through my mind in quick succession. So, clearly, they entered my scene in 1990 with Flood. They entered the Queen’s Hall scene with 'The Communists Have The Music'. They also entered the scene playing to a sold out crowd, many of which were sporting t-shirts through the TMBG ages and stages.  A group of TMBG Super Presidents were flocking to the stage in front of us. As was expected, the band played several numbers from their latest album, I Like Fun. 'Let’s Get This Over With' was a crowd favourite.

The chat from the band was excellent. They clearly enjoy performing together. This trip they were accompanied by Curt Ramm on trumpet, whose talent ‘is contagious.’ Their joy extends to involving the audience in their chat and observations from their travels of the tour so far. One was faced with the confusing vision of pastries served upon a stone for his birthday during his stay in Edinburgh. Ah yes. The ubiquitous slate and how handily it dumps all your food onto the floor if not held perfectly parallel to the ground. Physics. I’m sure they understand that.

John Linnell talked about his walk through passport control and how usually one can be expected to be met with a seriously unhappy, unsmiling person.  Instead, when he said he was travelling with his band They Might Be Giants, the guy behind the glass started singing lines from 'Birdhouse In Your Soul'.

John Flansburgh, the other founder and writer, mentioned the “sweet life of the 1%,” referring to the people sitting high up in the balcony. There was mention of their having left a country going through difficult times to tour in a country where everything was peaceful and sorted. Long pause …

At one point Flansburgh orchestrated the band and the audience, gesticulating towards which part of the ensemble was to make a noise. I wouldn’t say we made beautiful music, however it was interesting.

During intermission, I took in the crowd and was pleased to see different ages representin’. There were parents with their teen to 20-something year old children, a group of youngsters that had stumbled upon the band through their own curiosity, the mid-lifers (ehem, my crew I think) and beyond. During the intermission, very confusingly, 'Walk This Way' with Run DMC and Aerosmith played on the large screen to a completely different soundtrack. Just another thing to add to the quirkiness of the performance.

I was hanging out next to the stage, close to where Linnell’s accordion lived, with Main Squeeze stickered onto it. I thought that rather hilarious. What I did not find hilarious where the two tall dudes standing in front of me, tipping their heads towards each other every 10 seconds to talk. Please be mindful of the shorties behind you that want to fully enjoy the experience and not have to peep around your heads whilst you talk about what? That cool thing that was done on the guitar? What you had for breakfast? The state of the country? That can wait.

They were called back to the stage for two additional encores, both planned for but hey, these guys are great on the showmanship. The set ended with 'Fingertips' and the audience playing along.

Something to watch out for: the band will be releasing an animation to go along with 'The Communists Have the Music' this week. We were encouraged to share this on all of our social media channels.

Read more...

Since Yesterday, Leith Theatre, Edinburgh

En route to the Leith Theatre I was caught up in a downpour. Never before have I looked in envy upon someone wrapped up head to toe in what looked like a wet banana. Why am I telling you this? Because it's my excuse for showing up ridiculously late to the Since Yesterday event, an event that ended up being something a little bit unexpected.

Unfortunately, I only caught the last two songs of The Van T’s act. What I did see however, was a band that gelled well, rocked well and thanked well (expressed extreme thanks for being involved in the event several times.) I have not followed the progress of The Van T’s but will be sure to keep them on my radar.

As I waited for Sacred Paws to gather themselves upon the stage, I had a look around the venue. It has only been a few months since I last attended an event there, that being Hidden Door. The large bar area was opened up to the public – I’m sure this was not on offer to us previously. Tonight’s entertainment was brought to us as part of the Light On The Shore with Edinburgh Gin Seaside. Thought I’d support that – so I participated by having a Gin and Tonic.

What can I say about Sacred Paws? Singer/guitarist Rachel Aggs is so completely likeable, you can’t help but smile throughout the set. She welcomed us in with her smile and I thought how rare it is to be addressed with such enthusiasm. Hers was the kind of stage banter that makes you feel like she’s talking to a small group of mates. Easy. Open. Silly and fun. Shoeless dancing, shimmying, hopping, the girl gets into it and looking around me, I could see more than just the usual head bopping going on. Halfway through the set, Aggs and drummer/vocals Eilidh Rogers treated us to their original band of two. It was so clear we were getting down with their post-punk poppin' indie attitude. Sacred Paws should be seen in the flesh – as much as I enjoy their music through my headphones on a crowded bus, experiencing their live show is a joy.

I wasn’t entirely sure what the rest of the night would unveil. Even after reading the info on The Edinburgh International Festival website, I think you would be hard pressed to predict how it was to fit together. The event was created to ‘celebrate the music of women-fronted Scottish bands and the new generation of musicians who are challenging the gender balance.’

The house band comprised of girls on keyboard, drums, guitars, bass and sometimes cello. They handled the quick changing genres with impressive dexterity. The Twinsets with Rachel and Gaye Bell were up first, looking relaxed and happy to take the stage. 'Walking On The Sand', written by their father, brought many smiles to the crowd. The Ettes followed and what a force! They introduced one of their songs by explaining that they wrote the song age 17 in a bedsit in Leith and here they were, performing it at the international festival.

Lungleg’s Jane McKeown belted out a mighty fine 'Kung Fu On The Internet'. Most of the acts were pretty quick, with only one or two songs to make their mini sets. I filed this one under ‘check her out when I get home’ as this was new to me. Having grown up in deepest darkest Nebraska, much of this hour was a revelation.

As the night progressed, I whirled around and took in the crowd behind me. This was one of those rare opportunities where I could have brought along my 18 year old daughter (if I had one), and my mother (if she weren’t in the States). Something for everyone? Seldom does a music event cater to such a variety of people. This made it even more exciting – the knowledge that celebrating women in the Scottish music scene had brought out people that might not usually venture into the venue or out for a night of tunes. It was apparent that many were having mental jaunts down memory lane and it was touching to see how affected many were by what was happening on stage.

Strawberry Switchblade were the final act in the string of female talent. By their second song they were warmed up and feisty. They had the crowd La la-ing along to 'Since Yesterday'. Again, the crowd were happily singing along and hey, if this was your first experience of them then what a great little introduction.

Bossy Love finished off the night with attitude and a black jumpsuit – a staple in many a performer’s wardrobe this season.  

Read more...

Mogwai, Leith Theatre, Edinburgh

The music strand of the International Festival continues at the Leith Theatre with a blast of post-rock from Mogwai with support from Rev Magnetic.

Rev Magnetic are a project of Mogwai collaborator, Luke Sutherland. They have a similar use of dynamics to Mogwai in their songs often beginning quietly and building to a wall of distorted sound. The vocals are sometimes quiet and clear and sometimes processed to produce a robotic sound. The performance is notable for these contrasts of loud and soft, clear and distorted, simple and processed. A notable stage presence is Audrey Bizouerne who brings energy to the stage with a clear high vocal and a gusto to her bass playing that makes it seem like a lead guitar at times. The vocal arrangements are quite complex but when they work they produce an almost grand, choral sound. There is probably a lot of development to come from this band as they clarify that sound but it will be one worth following.

Mogwai follow and are greeted with great enthusiasm by the Leith crowd. Their stage set uses long coloured light boxes either side of a central gap which can sometimes appear like an abyss and sometimes like the gaps in parting clouds letting in the light. This abstract light show accentuates the moods of their music but never becomes too proscriptive in its interpretation.

The opening is the soft chiming of ‘Heard About You Last Night’ which acts like a call for the attention of the audience and then develops into a blissful dream of the previous night’s action with the occasional black regret of episodes best, but not, forgotten. The set continues with a mix of tunes but the early part is heavily from their most recent (non-soundtrack) album ‘Every Country’s Sun’ which they are just finishing touring. ‘Party In The Dark’ is an up-tempo celebration where the use of echo creates reverberations like the voices of a thousand strong choir. Other numbers have an even more ethereal effect with ‘Don’t Believe The Fife’ feeling at times like a grand deep ocean exploration submerged under a kilometre of water with the muffled, echoing of notes bouncing off caves and rift walls on the sea-floor.

 

A Mogwai gig is an opportunity to be enveloped in their sound starting quietly but often building to huge, trouser-flapping volumes. Theirs is music to stimulate the imagination. It’s like being a 12-year-old kid who has the gates of Jurassic Park opened for them and told to go play with the animals. Mogwai often have limited edition prints available at their concerts and, for this one, the picture of Godzilla breathing down fire on Edinburgh Castle seemed a perfect starting point for many of the imaginings that this gig brings to mind. The sound is often majestic but somehow never takes itself too seriously.

 

‘Coolverine’ follows with a stately intent and then there is the attacking discord of ‘Old Poisons’. The closing numbers are some favourites from earlier albums. Their version of ‘Remurdered’ is the epitome of the wandering slow-build of volume in Mogwai’s music to a climax in a grand layering of musical textures. The numbers build to a prog-rock length with the final encore of ‘My Father My King’ which could have scored the Mongol Horde thundering in their tens of thousands across the Steppe. A gig that in more than one way was a blast.

Read more...

NEU! Reekie! At The Edinburgh International Festival : The Pastels, Leith Theatre

Neu! Reekie! curate the second of their two nights at Leith Theatre. The themes tonight seem to be the ‘DIY or die’ ethic and also playfulness. In opening, compere Kevin Williamson explains that the showing of an Adam West-era ‘Batman’ TV episode instead of their usual avant garde animations or films was a conscious ‘fuck it’ to the reviewers that always comment on these.

After Batman, the opening artist, Molly Nilsson, quietly walks on stage and sets her backing recording running which she will sing over. Her music is a lo-fi synth-pop which akin to the over-produced ‘80s without over-stepping into pomposity. The sounds have a self-consciously vintage feel so this does not feel like merely apeing a style. She achieves this although the echoing drum machine, the dramatic tempo changes and the simple synthesiser chords often have a power ballad feel. Her clear, dark and moody vocals blend with the music as she sings in an innocent way about social problems in ‘Money Never Dreams’ or ‘Let’s Talk About Privileges’.

The political theme continues next with the spoken word element of the evening, Linton Kwesi Johnson. Kwesi Johnson is the father of dub poetry, which is a lyrical chanting to a reggae rhythm. Unlike his records, tonight he performs without any music. He is a small, well-dressed man with suit and tie and trilby hat, whose burring baritone rolls out his patois words to the rhythm. He delivers his poems in a deliberate, serious manner that fits their political content.

We get a series of poems from the ‘70s and early ‘80s which aim to show that his was the rebel generation as they defied the idea that the minority are powerless. He contradicts the idea that the Caribbean community in the UK wanted to remain separate and celebrates that they have achieved integration. The most powerful of all his pieces, ‘Sonny’s Lettah’ was part of a successful campaign to challenge the courts’ application of an outdated law (the so-called Sus Law). He talks through the social context of each piece as the black community seek to integrate into the UK. The fight for the investigation of racist murders at Newcross in an extract of ‘The Newcross Massacre’. The struggle against policing tactics such as Operation Swamp in ‘Di Great Insoreckshan’.

Without explicitly saying so, he provides a living example of the power of community to successfully challenge institutional behaviour through a self-created protest movement. He receives an attentive hush from the audience throughout the performance, which breaks into a the cheering ovation at the end.

Next on stage are The Vaselines, a Scottish five-piece band fronted by Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee. They are an indie-pop, Glasgow band known for a lo-fi sound and sexually suggestive lyrics. The band had a short initial life at the end of the ‘80s and broke up after one album that was then cited by Kurt Cobain as a strong influence. Their independent credentials were further burnished by the fact that they did not seek to capitalise on this fame upon re-forming in 2008.

They open with ‘High Tide Low Tide’ an upbeat, rock and roll tune which they sing with a lusty enthusiasm and then remind the audience where they do not come from with ‘I Hate the ‘80s’. The simple ringing guitars and unprocessed sound match this rejection of the decade of leg-warmers and yuppies.

Kelly and McKee had a reputation for sharp dialogue between songs as befits an exchange from former lovers. They do not disappoint in this as when McKee asks her monitor to be adjusted, ‘Could I have a bit less of Eugene?’ and he replies, ‘You’ve had all of me’ to which she quips straight back, ‘It wasn’t very much’ and they both laugh.

The highlight of the set was their version of a song that Nirvana famously covered, ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’. The melacholic vocals of Kelly contrast with McKee’s light but forceful voice to create a strangely nostalgic protest. Other songs exhibit more of the playful side of their banter such as the brief and bright ‘Molly's’ Lips’ and ‘Exit The Vaselines’, which is, of course, not the final song of the set.

Their songs cover love, sex and death with an innocent, melodic vocals but they are clearly a rock band as Kelly’s final act of playing his guitar over the back of his head seeks to emphasise. A delicious sweet and sour.

Last up are The Pastels, who appear as six-piece using wind instruments to good effect in creating their dreamy indie-pop. The relaxed nature of the band is immediately apparent as Stephen Pastel (lead vocals) is ready to begin but then realises that his guitar is not plugged in so we have a few embarrassed seconds of  equipment fumbling. They open with a dreamy instrumental that sets a misty atmosphere. The songs are full of pretty melodies such as ‘Check My Heart’ and allusions using the weather, ‘Summer Rain’.

The Pastels weave a spell with their music. Theirs is an intimate sound of friends  taking an evening walk under the sodium lights of the city’s suburbs. The set builds this mood finally meandering to a more exotic place with a psychedelic rendering of ‘Baby Honey’ in a lively tempo set against a pulsing drone. A dreamy pop experience.

Read more...
Subscribe to this RSS feed