Facebook Slider

Joan As Policewoman - Liberty Hall Theatre, Dublin

It’s the first night of Joan As Policewoman’s Irish tour.  In the gentile surroundings of Dublin’s historic Liberty Hall various cups of tea are scattered about between a baby grand, a Fender Twin amp and a mysterious, vintage style preamp on the stage of the Public Sector Union’s headquarters.  Joan Wasser has been performing as Joan As Policewoman since 2004 and released seven albums.  Tonight we are promised an anthology of her solo work in a resolutely solo presentation. 

She takes the stage in shoulder pads and glitter to open with ‘To Be Lonely’ and ‘Wonderful’ at the piano.  In this environment, her every breath rings around the theatre.  After ‘Warning Bell’, there is an awkward silence as Wasser checks the tuning on her telecaster and stretches her fingers into guitar picking shape.  She sips her tea and plaintively croons an ululating sigh. 

She dedicates a song to Elliott Smith which seems to satisfy the hipsters in the audience.  You can actually feel their smugness bloom in the darkness.  Beside me a cross legged, barefoot man in shorts complains about the quality of the craft cider.  Between songs, the forced laughter of the arthouse greets every mumbled utterance from the stage.  

I’m starting to miss the band and feel a little restless in my chair when Wasser introduces the mysterious box.  It’s a Roland Rhythm Ranger (1973).  Between the Roland and her loop pedal the sound fills out and the gig picks up some momentum.  The fuller arrangement feels more satisfying but the whole show has started to feel like a joke that I’m not in on.  The identikit singer-songwriter arrangements are generic and, though the control she exerts over her voice is admirable, there is nothing to grab on to.  It ends up like listening to the audiobook adaptation of a teenage emo kids diary. 

Eventually every precious, self-conscious note begins to grate and I know I’ll have to leave before I start to hate her recorded works too.  She plays a cover of Damon Albarn’s ‘Out Of Time’ and Prince’s ‘Kiss’ but they are indistinguishable from the general melange.  We leave, unimpressed, but we appear to be in a minority as the reaction between songs suggests that there are a lot of satisfied customers here tonight.

 

 

Read more...

Metz, 9294, London

 

From behind metal barriers and the hulking/towering mass of a security guard I'm watching the sound engineer from the 'safety' of backstage at 9294. He's grinding his face into the palms of his hands as his mind recoils in horror at the sights before him and thoughts he must have. I guess mainly whether the sound system will be giving out before or after being pushed to or beyond its very limits, and what if anything he'll be able to do to solve this worst case scenario before the crowd turns ugly. Below him a sweaty mass of undulating rockers flail and tear themselves apart like a demented human accordion as  'Mess Of Wires' blasts through the stacked speakers on either side of the stage, may the rest in peace(s). Hayden (Percussion) smashes on a garbage can lid that's been repurposed as a cymbal while Alex (Guitar/Vocals) and Chris (Bass) hammer out notes a-la-Scott Pilgrim.

Just minutes ago Alex was pacing back and forth psyching himself up backstage for his set, now he's belting out the gospel, "alright were not stopping let's fucking go!" he wails into the mic as song three of the power set, 'Get Off', picks up the tempo. The notes thrash out at us in a throttling and unrelenting cacophonous battering, "I see it coming true, I see it coming unglued" rings in my ears. Not only is it hot AF (everyone has been reduced to a mess of bodily fluids) in this windowless warehouse conversion but Metz have just come to the end of a string of shows throughout the UK. The crowd has come to yet another end of a work week. It's Friday we're all shattered but Metz and the audience alike have dug deep in some sort of weird suicide pact for one final showdown, we're all going out guns blazing. What we're experiencing can only be properly describe in biblical terms but as I've never read the bible I'm going to be doing some serious paraphrasing. Picture Metz as the final line drawn in the sand between us (humanity) and the barbarian hordes (everyone not in here but also in here at the same time), the battle waging is in front of us, in us, all around us and for our very SOOOOOOOULS. Wave after wave of sounds come crashing raining down deafening blows exorcising our demons (hearing) with each blast, salvation is ours at last. The fire and fighting spirit inside of Metz is giving the audience one helluva run for their money, it's a fight they don't plan on coming back from, it's all or none.

There's a lot of competition in the music business here in the UK and admittedly around the world. Bands tour, a lot, and sometimes when they get to you they're likely out of steam and running on fumes. Their cut-loose antics like crowd surfing come off more as a gimmick they've locked themselves into from past days of glory. I remember the first time I saw Crows at Birthdays years ago I was in fear for my very life. Most recently when I saw them play again at the O2 after a lengthy UK tour the show felt like an old man easing into a warm bath, harmless. A queue had formed by the stage where old and young alike took turns clambering up and 'stage diving' if you could even call it that. It looked more like kids waiting to use the slide on a playground. Metz have been around since 2008 and live were like Balboa in Rocky, unpredictable south paws with their gloves full of rocks each blow just as dangerous as the last.

People might say they've seen a show like Metz, "they're just Canada's answer to the Oh Sees" but they're wrong I've seen both live. Don't get me wrong, I'm an O.S.'s fan and they bring it for sure but their shows are always huge and sold out. Arriving early I've never been able to get much closer than halfway to the stage; they've also got 2 drummers. You can go see Metz and feel like you're in a giant human accordion when they play as the crowd lurches forwards and backwards with a way bigger sound. At any moment you can feel the tension in the air that someone will flip a switch and the mass will turn into a cannibalistic orgy and gosh darnit you just can't put a price on that! The feeling at their show is electric, both you and the band are in a euphoric state of indestructability. The gang comes back to the stage for an encore and belch out 'Acetate':

"She's barely breathing/I'm wading through puddles on the floor/We're all moving backwards/Even dead men float"

Yup, that just about sums it up. I give Alex a hug after the show and instantly regret it as I peel myself off a layer of mucus clinging to his entire body. "Gross, but that's what I'm talking about" I say, he clocks my accent, "thanks man" he smiles, "much appreciated". Feeling's mutual my dudes. 

Read more...

The B-52s, Hammersmith Apollo, London

If you fancy seeing the biggest and best display of vintage Hawaiian shirts your best bet is a B-52s gig, and you're still on time as they're halfway through their Farewell Tour.

I got to see them for the first (and last) time on Sunday at the Apollo in Hammersmith, and I must say that show became one of the highlights of my life, I'm sure it'll be the background image of the ending credits when I die.

We had stalls (standing) tickets but we knew the front was going to be a seated area, so we assumed there'd be a few rows of seats, then space for the people standing and then the balcony for more seating. I was pretty disappointed when I saw the entire crowd was sitting and the area for the standing ticket holders was just the corridors behind and around the seats.

Anyway, we bought merchandise and rushed down the corridor on the left side, getting as close as we were allowed to the stage. I didn't even buy a drink, there was no way I was going to miss even a tiny bit of the show for going to take a leak.

After a short wait, the band appeared on the stage and every single soul in there who could use their legs stood up on them.

They opened strongly with 'Private Idaho'. Fred Schneider in a striped colourful shirt, Kate Pierson with rainbow flared cuffs and Cindy Wilson (with the biggest hair) rocking an iridescent extraterrestrial suit; all dressed to celebrate Pride.

The crowd (mostly double my age) became young and crazy straight away. I don't think I've ever seen such happy faces with no free food around.

Everybody went nuts at 'Channel Z', atomic lasers falling from the sky (where's my umbrella?). People who were standing around the back kept trying to make it closer to the stage but someone from security was there each time to catch them, I gave up about trying too. And talking about security and staff from the venue, I'd never seen them enjoy a gig they're working at that much.

The song that united everybody the most was probably 'Roam', the band seemed so cheerful during the performance too. 'Dance This Mess Around' was also a blast, at that point I was way too excited and needed to get closer to the stage, but more and more security staff kept showing up.

After performing 'Love Shack', the band left the stage to get ready for the encore.

And then, following one of the best setlists ever, the best encore of all times: 'Planet Claire', '606-0842' and of course, 'Rock Lobster'. I totally lost it at the last one and rushed to the very front to join all the 'Rock Lobster' fans. There were people with 'Rock Lobster' t-shirts, a lobster plushie and a bunch of people with lobster fairy lights around their bodies (how did I not think of that!?).

I am still amazed at the energy and stage presence of the B-52's at their age (Schneider turned 68 a few days ago!), their voices hadn't changed at all either. If you were thinking about going to see them in this last tour, fucking go for it!

Thank you B-52's!

Read more...

Boy Harsher, Workman’s Club, Dublin

It’s a hot and muggy June night in Dublin and the Workman’s is close to capacity for Boy Harshers first Irish show.  The sweat is heavy in the air of the darkened venue and the condensation is dripping from the much needed glasses of cooling beer.   Its a late start for a midweek show but the turnout is remarkable.  Even for support act, Gross Net, the main room is tightly packed.   It’s the first I’ve heard of Philip Quinns solo project but he was a good choice for this show.  The Girls Names guitarist plays a series of atmospheric instrumentals that could be mistaken for Boy Harsher’s own work.

Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller take the stage without ceremony and the drones begin.   With Muller whispering into a walkie talkie and Matthews doing her Alison Moyet-in-an-echo-chamber thing, there’s a distinctly German vibe from the Massachusetts outfit.  There’s no between song banter or audience interaction but the pair seem to be enjoying themselves in an ubercool, stand-offish way.   The whoops and holler that greet ‘Yr Body Is Nothing’ seem at odds with the detached aesthetic until Matthews starts jumping around. Mullers head bobs in time with the beat as the crowd screams and latecomers push their way to the unadorned stage.

After four songs, we finally hear from the band. But Matthews chat is lost to the excited din of the crowd.  I step outside to cool down a little and take in the sunset. When I re-enter my glasses immediately fog up in the thick, moist atmosphere as Boy Harsher turn the tempo up.  At this point we’re a long way from the arthouse. This set is more at home at 3am on a festival stage.  The sparse, moody textures of Careful are eschewed in this milieu for an industrial tinged, electro crusade.  Their minimalist techno comes off like like the poppier end of the noise scene.  Outside the studio environment, where the music is about textures andsoundscapes, Boy Harsher have a new life on stage.  The beats are heavy, thebass is relentless and, though the vibe is arty, the feel is of a party band. But it’s a party for the cool kids who don’t want to be seen to try too hard.

Boy Harsher’s stage presence is strong. It appears that the music is being generated by their bodies through an effort of will rather than by instruments.  It’s the type of performance that would benefit from a spectacular light show.  They make a token but striking gesture of acknowledgement towards this when Matthews shines a handheld array of green spots on Muller.  She swings its beam over the audience and the mirrorballs in the venue feel their first light of the evening.

It’s short, barely 45 minutes, but not a moment has been wasted and the cries for an encore begin immediately when the duo exit the stage.  There’s little doubt that they’ll do more songs. The crowd has not moved. Everyone is afraid of missing another killer tune.  ‘The Look You Gave (Jerry)’ is one of the more intense songs from Careful but it seems tame compared to what has preceded it, though you’d never guess from the reaction of the now-devoted fans.  As a recent convert to Boy Harsher, I went in to the show with expectations of a decent gig.  The band not only exceeded those expectations, they stomped all over them and gave us more than we had any reason to suspect.

 

 

Read more...

Lacuna Common, Blondies, London + Interview

 

Outside The Social last Friday I've arm-locked Be Good's Ash into having a pint with me when the latest re-incarnation of Dr. Who walks by I'd later come to know as Alfie, frontman of Lacuna Common. Ash struggles trying to explain L.C.'s sound as he introduces him which I take as a good sign, I'm now curious.  'You should come check us out, we're at Blondies next week' he says from behind a pair of unsuspecting spectacles, I accept...suspectly. 

 I pull up to the East-End dive where Sharmaine, one of three sisters that run the joint, is behind the bar. We're greeted with a sweet hot smile and an ice-cold pint. Chilling in the garden the place fills, swelling up with sweaty bodies pretty quickly. Leaning against stacks of upturned stools while the ice-machine beneath me plops out cubes, distorted thrashing coming from the speakers inside, that's our cue. We cram our way to the front where three-headed beast Alfie (Guitar/Vocals) Tom (Bass) and Gabe (percussion) dig in blocking the only fire-exit with a wall of flesh and sound.

They kick (literally anything kickable within leg reach) jams out from a muted but power packed set which neither Tom or Alfie can sit still through. Tom throws his bass in one direction while his feet go in another.  Alfie's pushing and thrashing his way into and back out of the crowd while simultaneously asking them to get closer. Gabe's in the back but wants to get out there too but unfortunately for him they've had to shackle him to the kit for just that very reason. Know your role drummers! From their eight song set five songs cut deep. 'Zacharia' was described as a track about a night out that went wrong. I feel a more apt description would be about a night out that went wrong and then the music that followed was the soundtrack to said night(mare) playing hard as it chased you relentlessly through the streets thirsting for your blood.

'Tucked-In' and 'Sensibility' all have lo-fi scuzz rock written all over them but they've also got these hooks in them that carry shattering and piercing projectiles that scatter in every which way (most of which get into your eyes but also your ears) making the tracks completely unpredictable. I like groups that've got variety in their repertoire as much as the next guy but unpredictability within the track itself?  That's my jam, it's easy to see now why the tongue tied description of their sound was the best description of all. You'll hear echoes in the vocals from the likes of early Arctic Monkeys but that's where the similarities between others end.

The set finished off with 'Under The Lamplight' and 'Not The Same' which are two tracks currently out on their latest vinyl release 'which you can buy from my Dad for a fiver in the back' Alfie muffles into the mic. The songs are a good indicator of the direction the trio are heading in next with a little hard work, effort and luck. Graduating from high school house parties under the lamplight with your mates towards University Towns like Oxford, that the band calls home, and towards bigger venues like the festival circuits.

I caught up with the guys outside for some fresh air as they smoked cigarettes draggin' one of the upturned stools between us, the ice machine, and the caved in sofa Gabe was currently perched on to start recording. The boys were still full of energy and positive vibes and had a lot of fun during the interview which made it fun for me. It was hot, overcrowded and stuffy so I'd like to say an extra special thanks for taking the time. 

Cpt: So I'm by the bar ordering a drink and I hear the bartender ask this woman getting her next beer how her day's been. She says, 'oh you know, I'm having a sort of miss your mouth sort of day today'. The bartender doesn't process this and just offers up an 'oh-yeah' while the words make another round in her noodle pressing her to stop and say, 'wait, whaddaya mean?' 'Well, I was in an important meeting and I went to grab a sip of my drink, missed my mouth completely and ended up pouring the entire contents of the glass all over myself.' So I guess my first question to you is do you often have, 'miss-your-mouth-moments' and what have they been like?

Tom: Yes, all the time.

Alfie: Yeah, like about an hour before our set, in the pub we were at, where we at?

He seemingly says into the ether, an echoed reciprocates an answer from the band's unofficial autobiographer.

'The Clapton Arms'

Alfie: Completely poured it down my chin.

Gabe: What's the worst time you can do that though?         

Cpt: That's actually my question to you.

Stop stealing the spotlight Gaaaaaaaaabe.

Tom: On a date is pretty bad?

Cpt: On a date, isn't that, endearing?

Alfie: What about a Christening? That's pretty bad.

Gabe: Dropping the baby? That would be even worse. We've gone straight into it.

Cpt: Okay, I'm going to try and pull us back. Fastest things on 4 legs you can outrun, you can't say shit like frog or tortoise or anything fucked up like that.

Tom: A Tortoise

Cpt: I *JUST* said you can't s.......

Gabe: What about a hedgehog? Those things are rapid!

Gabe has clearly lost sight of the question, I also believe he's mistaken hedgehogs with mythical video game franchise character Sonic the Hedgehog. Personally I'm pretty confident I can outrun a hedgehog. Maybe.

Alfie: (a bunch of words I cannot make out on the recording) dog, I can probably outrun him.

Cpt: A dog? That's a pretty lofty statement.

Alfie: Small legs.

Cpt: Still, any dog is pretty impressive. Tom?

Tom: Uhhh, can you come back?

I'm about to get to Gabe when Tom has an idea:

Tom: A badger, I reckon I could outrun a badger?

Cpt: Fuckin' badgers are tenacious, don't fuck with badgers!

They find this statement hilarious but apparently none present have gone down the YouTube rabbit hole of badger videos.

Cpt: They're fucking crazy man, do you know what they do? They eat snakes! They get bit, their body metabolizes the poison while they take a nap, they wake up and they find the snake that bit them and eat them. Leave them alone. For your own well being.

Alfie: I say I can easily outrun the new Catfish And The Bottlemen album, if it had legs!

The band falls into hysterics but I've heard something different in person than now on playback.

Gabe: That is the best answer I've ever heard.

Cpt: Any what, cafeteria woman?

They all repeat Alfie's words to me but I cannot comprehend what they're saying properly so I continue on with a sense of bravado that makes my mishearing sound confident enough to go unchecked. It works, thanks Picard.

Gabe: Although, I do feel you could outrun any cafeteria woman because of their aprons, you know, constrictive, isn't it?

Cpt: Yes, there is that but also the footwear, those crocs are as useless as they are an eyesore.

Alfie: Aaaaaaaaalright, NEXT QUESTION!

Gabe: Alright, for 500,000.

This guy, this guy is stealing my light. This is my time Gabe.

Cpt: Okay boys, this'll be the last question because I end up hearing my voice too much on playback and it's way too weird hearing your own voice all the time. Uh, which I guess you kinda already know as musicians.

Alfie: Yeah, try being in a band

Cpt: Final question, reality rider vs ultimate fantasy rider?

Tom: Now we get Old Blue Last beer.

Alfie: Now we get a crate of warm beer and some water. Dream rider would be like, Kahlua?

Gabe: THAT'S SAME FUCKING THING I WAS GOING TO SAY!

Perfect timing brings our interview to a close as Sharmaine comes out yelling (clearly on the recording it was so loud) 'sorry guys gotta bring everybody in now' bringing our interview to a close. Head out to see a Lacuna Common at their next gig but make sure to bring pocketfuls of eucalyptus leaves because you never know right?

Read more...

Gnoomes, The Shacklewell Arms, London

Last Thursday I got to see a band that was once arrested for looking suspicious because they were wearing denim jackets and hats (and for being high, mostly); Gnoomes introducing their new album MU! at The Shacklewell Arms.

Unfortunately I didn’t make it on time to catch the first band (Terravi), so I sat down at the bar area with a beer and cheesy chips (damn good, btw) to wait for the second one. The venue was surprisingly empty for a Thursday night, so there was nobody standing between me and the guy who suddenly dropped his entire drink after reaching his table and I got to witness it all (and point and laugh).

The second support band was Japanese Television, which I’d missed in other occasions so this was a pretty lucky line-up for me. Instrumental psychedelic rock tends to bore me after a bit, but these guys have some unique spookiness in their sound that keeps you alert and curious, like a crocodile dentist.
They weren’t very engaging with the crowd and each of them seemed to be on their own little planet, but the crowd was absolutely loving it. Harry Dean Stanton (yes, he’s dead) was standing nodding at the very front, approving of their performance. If you think you’d enjoy music that sounds like the soundtrack for a cheap-budget space ghost movie, make sure you check them out at their EP launch this July at The Waiting Room (Stoke Newington).

And then it was Gnoomes’ turn. They weren’t wearing denim jackets or hats and they looked dead serious; especially their newest member Masha (synths).
MU! is an adventurous yet spotless album, and they performed it beautifully. Their sound was intricate and deep, enough to make this man next to the stage shake and make praying motions (really intense and creepy).

One of the things that made their sound so detailed and diverse was the ridiculous amount of pedals lined up in front of the guitarist; rampant during songs like 'Ursa Major' and 'Utro', more melodic and Tame Impala-like for 'Glasgow Coma State' and very melancholic '90s sound for my favourites, 'Sword In The Stone' and 'How Do You'.

It was clear that the addition of a new member had made them much MUCH better, giving each of them the opportunity to develop and enhance their sound, and I bet the crowd could tell; it was a perfect gig. They don’t seem to have any more gigs planned in London for now, but do yourself a favour and go see them next time, and check their album out in the meantime! 

Read more...
Subscribe to this RSS feed