Live Reviews

– Thomas Truax –

Trof, Manchester. 21/09/2009

Not only is Thomas Truax a talented songwriter and musician, he is also an inventor of probably the most bizarre looking instruments you could possibly imagine. Now the tricky thing for me to do here is explain what each of them does, but I shall try my best. Apart from his guitar and loop pedals, the most used of these is. . . . 

Sister Spinster… 

 

She (as he likes to refer to her) is the percussion and back beats for a majority of his songs. As you can see above she is a rather strange looking creature, but the bumps, bangs and clicks she creates as her main wheel spins are amazing. Most of her parts and extremities are adjustable, along with the speed at which she rotates.  Next up is

The Hornicator….

 

This started life as your bog standard gramophone horn, but has since had an upgrade. Now included is a set of strings that can be played with a violin bow, a kazoo and microphone. As with all of his instruments it is connected to the loop pedals, which means he does not have to play each individual part at the same time. Along with the uses I have listed, it can be used as percussion too, by being tapped on the metal casing with his ringed finger it creates a clicking sound, and alternatively by patting it with his hand you get a duller thudding sound. To play the kazoo and also to create vocal loops, the whole of his face will often be buried deep into the horn, which can make him look like a strange half human half elephant mythical character. 

The Backbeater….

 

The title of this one gives a helping hand to my description, it basically does what it says on the can. When switched on it spins around on his back to create added percussion. On the end of some of the spokes are small LED bulbs that make it look like some kind of alien scanner.

The Stringaling….

The two main parts to this are a small bongo-like drum with a trailing tumble drier tube underneath, that can change the sound depending on how long you let it trail. Also included is what seems to be the inside workings of a musical box with the winding handle protruding from the side. 

Now I have attempted to explain the instruments to you, I can get down to tonight’s gig. 

Up on the second floor in this tiny room with the stage taking up almost a quarter of the floor space, Truax introduces us to Sister Spinster whilst he sets her hammers into place. Once she is set in motion, he reaches for the Hornicator for tonight’s opening song, The Cannibals Have Captured My Nicole Kidman. For the next song Stranger on a Train, Sister Spinster is set to a much faster pace for this almost country styled offering. As suggested in the title, this is all about the joy and misery of travelling by train. 

When the cogs finally stop beating we are given Inside The Internet, in which Truax shows he can perform beautifully with or without his home made devices. The next two are taken from his latest album Songs From The Films Of David Lynch. Firstly is the instrumental Audrey’s Dance which is from Twin Peaks and the second being Blue Velvet, to which the small crowd let out a few woops and cheers when he starts. In both of these he manages to keep much of their original charm, whilst at the same time adding his own quirkiness. 

As I have seen his performances on two previous occasions, I was very much hoping he would perform Full Moon Over Wowtown. Not only is this a great song, but I know what is to come once started. On the end of his now unplugged guitar, is a small torch that shines on the ceiling to create the effect of moonlight, which he then uses as the centre of attention whilst singing. As he plays his guitar, the light then starts to move around and he proceeds to follow it wherever it may go. This brings him off the stage into the crowd, then out onto the smoking balcony, down the stairs to the other bar, where I presume many of patrons are wondering what the hell is going on. Back up the stairs and then even up to the toilets. Once back in our small room, he then perches on the end of the bar, whilst still singing and playing. With a little bit of foot room available, he manages to stand on the bar before jumping back to the ground. As his guitar playing speeds up he ends up just spinning around on the spot to the point of dizziness before ending the song. 

The closing song for tonight is I Close My Eyes and even though throughout there have been a few instrument malfunctions, none of this seems to have been a problem for any of us lucky enough to be here. 

Click here to listen to some of his offerings on his Myspace page.

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– Billy Childish & Musicians of the British Empire – –

The Dirty Water Club, London. 18/09/2009

At the beginning of August I had a decision to make. This was due to the fact that Billy Childish and Musicians of the British Empire had lined up two dates at The Dirty Water Club in Tufnell Park. I had to decide whether to attend one or both. On deciding to attend just one, I then had to choose which one, so I chose the September date, as opposed to the October date. 

This journey down from Salford would make it the fourth time I have seen them play this year. I would very much like to be able to say that I have been an avid follower of Mr Childish since he started his musical career back in the late seventies. Unfortunately, I can’t even brag that I discovered him in the eighties, or even the nineties. For me, it was only a couple of years ago that I was loaned the appropriately titled “My First Billy Childish Album”. 

Within seconds of hearing the opening track, I was hooked. I immediately did a search on the internet to see what I could find out about the purveyor of this fine mix of blues, garage and rock n roll. To my amazement I discovered that this man is so much more than a talented musician. On top of this, when I saw the enormity of his back catalogue, there were two thoughts that crossed my mind. Firstly I wondered how I could have ever considered myself a true music fan without ever having heard of him, and secondly, if I ever wanted to own his previous recordings, I would have to take a trip to the bank to take out a sizable mortgage. So if like me you are new to him, do as I did and do a quick bit of research (or click on the picture above) and I’m sure you will be suitably impressed. Anyway, back to the gig. 

First song played tonight is Joe Strummer’s Grave taken from the album Punk Rock at the British Legion Hall. It’s a great opener and gets you all revved up for more of the same. After this, we are informed that his performances with the MBE’s are to be put on hold due the fact that his bassist wife, Nurse Julie, is pregnant. Amid the shouts of congratulations, I was rather glad at my choice of this gig above the October one, as it had now been cancelled. We are then told that in the meantime, he shall be reforming the Buff Medways with Johnny Barker taking over on bass. According to Childish, the only difference will be the backing vocals will now be slightly higher in pitch. 

After a few more tracks, it is clear that Nurse Julie is the main theme running through the set list, as many of the songs she lends her vocals to are included, such as He’s Making a Tape, Date with Doug and Snack Crack. Even though it is clear that she is struggling to find a comfortable place to rest her bass on the bump of her child to be, she gives a great performance and it will be a shame she won’t be on stage again for a while. 

Others played tonight are Lie Detector, What’s Wrong With Me and Thatcher’s Children. When we get to hear the acapella John The Revelator, the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, as they always do when I see this performed live. The last song for tonight is Archive From 1959 and it’s time for them to vacate the stage, but not before their traditional salute and bow to the crowd. 

All I can now do is look forward to my next journey south for another fix of Childish & Co.

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– Bob Log III –

– The Ruby Lounge, Manchester. 17/09/2009 –

bob log III Photograph courtesy of Matthew Pitchford.

Have you ever seen a one man band? Have you ever seen a one man band wearing a pair of Chelsea boots? Have you ever seen a one man band wearing a pair of Chelsea boots and an electric blue human cannon ball jump suit that is adorned with red jewels down the sides? 

I would put a significant wager on most of you answering “No” after the second question. As if all of the above is not bizarre enough, how about adding to the equation, a spaceman’s helmet with an old-fashioned telephone handset glued to the front as a microphone. At this point only a very small fraction of the population would be able to answer “Yes” and those people have obviously had the pleasure of seeing Bob Log III. 

Born in Chicago and raised in Arizona, he spent his early years listening to artists such as AC/DC, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Bo Diddley, and Chuck Berry. At the age of just eleven Bob had picked up his first guitar and by the time most of us had left school he had progressed onto playing slide guitar. 

Now we all know that someone with an individual instrument does not construct a one man band. So to create the rest of the ensemble, his left foot plays the cymbal, whilst the right plays a small kick-drum and both are operated by kick pedals. 

Tonight is my first experience of seeing him live, so I make sure I am stood right up front. On the stage is a small stool and the two lone instruments as mentioned above. The set up is very simple, the two instruments are wired up to a small amp with a lone microphone placed in front of it that is connected to the P.A.

As we are all waiting, we here the guitar being played even though he and his said instrument are nowhere to be seen. Then from through the crowd and onto the stage our entertainer appears, only this time he is wearing a regular suit with his helmet. 

When he finishes his guitar intro, the Deep South accented voice from under the helmet introduces himself and proceeds to slip off the suit quicker than a professional stripper to reveal one of his trade mark jump suits. 

Now sat astride his stool, legs apart and feet firmly placed on each of the kick pedals we get down to some serious fast paced blues. We get started with Bump Pow! from his latest album. His vocals that emanate from his telephone microphone are virtually unrecognizable under the sound of his instruments, but this is of no concern to any of us onlookers. 

Between songs we are treated to his tongue in cheek humor, in which he constantly refers to himself in the third person. Another of his comical character traits is the constant reminder that he should have numerous of beers, especially whiskeys, bought for him by the crowd throughout the show. Upon the offer tequila, he explains that it’s the only drink that makes him punch the law in the face, and then proceeds to drink the tequila. 

To see him sit and perform live, you could be forgiven for thinking that each of his limbs are possessed by demons, as it would be impossible for any normal human being to be able to control them separately in such a manner and at such high speeds. 

As par for the course at his gigs, he beckons for two ladies from the audience to each take a seat upon each of his knees and then powers into another of his songs and in the process, bouncing them around in such a manner that their eyeballs may not stop spinning for days to come. 

By the end of his set, I am truly gob smacked at the showmanship, musical ability and genius I have witnessed here tonight. May Bob Log III’s reign as blues man extraordinaire continue!   

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– Kendal Calling Festival –

Lowther Deer Park, Penrith. 31/07/2009

NOW in its fourth year, Kendal Calling has grown at an unprecedented rate. When it opened its gates for the first time in 2006, the capacity was a mere 900. This weekend they have sold all six thousand tickets for its arrival in the beautiful surroundings of its new location, the Lowther Deer Park in Penrith.

On arrival at the main entrance on Friday morning, there is a queue of easily a thousand eager punters heavily laden with their weekend necessities. By the time the main arena opens at five o’clock, the campsite is now well and truly starting to bustle with activity.

The first act on my agenda for today is Captain Hotknives from Bradford on the Kaylied Stage. He opens his set of acoustic punk story telling with I Hate Babies. The tent is now full with highly amused onlookers as belts out more of his highly amusing angst ridden songs. The one thing I found a little concerning is that the stage he is playing is set in the family area of the arena.

By the time I get over to the main stage Goldie Lookin Chain are already into their set. They give the crowd exactly what they want to hear with all their usual welsh swagger and endless energy. As on each of the following nights, the headline act is onstage at the early time of around nine o’clock and the first of these is The Streets.

Mike Skinner and Co have had a few bad reviews of late, so I am interested to see for myself if any of this is true. Thankfully, this is not the case, as the whole set, including many favourites such as Fit But You Know It and Let’s Push Things Forward, have the crowd bouncing around.

As with all festivals, it is hard to get to see many sets in full, due to the timings and as I get to the We Are Calling stage, Fight Like Apes are already in full flow. Front girl May Kay and partner in crime Pockets are as always, working the crowd into a frenzy with their high octane sound.

Saturday sees the arena opening at the earlier time of eleven today and second to take to main stage is Manchester’s very own Whiskey Cats, who give a great performance of their fast paced indie pop. Up next is Smoove and Turrell who are currently breathing new life into the British funk and soul scene.

Even though it is now approaching early evening, the arena is looking rather bare of people wanting to catch any live music. So as my friends are here with my goddaughter, we head over to check out the family area to see what many other festivals have now given up on. The Tribe of Tat are a creative collective that are on hand with their drum workshop, mask making sessions and face painting, to give kids and adults alike a break from the usual festival normalities of just watching bands and queuing at bars.

Back at the main stage again and Oldham’s Twisted Wheel are giving it their all with another cracking live set. As I get up to the Traffic stage to see human beatboxer Beardyman, I can clearly see from the bottom of the hill that it is going to be a struggle to get into the marquee. Even so I try my damnedest and the furthest I get is about a foot inside. It is possible that the main stage may have been a better choice for this extremely talented lad from London.

Down the hill again and The Zutons are now taking up their positions for tonight’s headline spot. Abi Harding, is as ever, the standout band member in her bright red outfit as she dances around whilst playing her saxophone and jumping in on backing vocals. All the hits, such as Always Right Behind You, Pressure Point, You Will You Won’t and Valerie are given an airing.

As the main stage closes for the night, I get up to the We Are Calling stage in time to catch the fantastic electronic dance-pop trio Chew Lips. As always, singer Tigs is a force to be reckoned with throughout this very short but sweet performance.

Sunday afternoon sees the sun making a welcome appearance over the Cumbrian hills and I decide to make my way to the SNO!zone. Eighty tons of real snow has been trucked in to create a snow beach and sledging slope for all to enjoy. With deck chairs and a cocktail bar, it a great area to relax and enjoy the clear skies.

My first pick for today is Micky P Kerr with his unique mix of poetry, folk and hip hop. He warms us up with a couple of his poems, then picks up his guitar and is joined by Stiffy D on the keyboard. As he goes from one song to another, it is clear that this guy is a not only a talented singer and songwriter, but he has whit in abundance too. The two stand out tracks for me are Banned From Morrisons and I’m Not Arrogant (I’m Better Than You).

My final port of call for the weekend is The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show. It would be fare to say that by now festival fatigue is starting set in across the thousands of people that have been here since Friday, but it is about to be severely kicked to one side for the next two hours. From the second Mr Charles, in his Paparazzi Suck t-shirt and his cohorts grace the stage and spin the first track, the energy levels can only be described as frenzied.

Every person inside and outside the tent have found there dancing feet are loving each faultless choice emanating from the speakers. This set alone would be worth the weekend ticket price and by the time he is spinning his last few choices, the stage is now full of friends and VIPs dancing. There is no doubt that Charles has the best job around and he enjoys it enormously and for this it is hard not be extremely envious. This was most definitely the highlight of the whole weekend and I am thinking next summer they should headline the main stage at every festival.

Back at the campsite it is now bewitching hour, as it is at most of the summer festivals around the UK, with the usual small crowd of idiots that think they can run riot by setting fires to anything they can find and in the process changing the mood of the weekend. The only other issues that occurred in the three days were the timings of bands being changed at last minute and a problem with toilets not being cleaned enough for the first two days, which was due to a problem with the contractors and was eventually resolved on the final day. Overall I would highly recommend this as an alternative to the much bigger and less friendly of the music festivals on offer throughout the summer months.

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– Billy Childish –

24:7 Theatre Hub, Manchester. 19/07/2009

Billy_Childish_pic1[1]

As the Manchester International Festival came to an end, the 24:7 Theatre Festival held its official opening night in a small function on the ground floor of New Century House. Finding tonight’s venue was not the easiest of tasks, as it is tucked away in a corner of a dark back street between The Printworks and the CIS Tower. 

Our fine city has seen many spectacular events over the recent weeks, but tonight’s launch party has brought something to rival many of the rarities that have been on offer, as we are given a rare treat to be in the company of Billy Childish. 

In this small room sits around sixty people eager with anticipation at this evening’s appearance from whom many would describe as a living legend. His poetry, paintings, novels, films and photography have a well deserved cult following, and that’s not to mention his back catalogue of over 100 albums. 

Dressed in beige salopettes and shirt and a brown trilby, the distinguished tall figure with his handlebar moustache, takes to the small makeshift stage much to pleasure of everyone here. 

The first thirty five minutes finds us being given many of his dark, explicit and sometimes slightly comical confessional poems. The first of which is The Billy Childish, which gives us a brutally honest insight to the man stood in front of us. 

I must admit at this point that I have never been a great fan of poetry, but the words I am hearing tonight are a far cry from the ones I had thrust upon me in my school days and at the end of each short reading I am ready for more of his stark, but intriguing writings, that open a doorway into his world. 

Between readings and whilst finding the correct page in the correct book for his next offerings, his anecdotes to fill the gaps show us a gentler and funnier side to this deeply creative man. Other pieces we are given are A Sad Donkey and A Fat Man Smiling, She Wasn’t Knitting and Island Life. 

With his books now cleared to one side, it is time for the musical side of Mr. Childish to get an airing. In true blues style, this is one man, one guitar and one amp, and for me, the highlight of the evening. His mastery of playing and singing is second to none as he launches straight Baby Please Don’t Go. 

When we get to The Bold Fusilier/The Rochester Recruiting Sergeant, he has to remind himself of how the song goes. This is common place at his gigs, but is to be expected when you have as many songs as this prolific songwriter has. The same happens again during the start of Thatcher’s Children, but nobody here cares in the slightest. 

Without a string plucked, he belts out the haunting John The Revelator which sends shivers down your spine. As the time draws toward midnight everyone is spellbound throughout Upside Mine and Hollis Brown and all too soon his set is over.

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– Optional Wallace –

Academy, Manchester. 18/07/2009

wallace

The usual step up from headlining your own small intimate gigs will see you generally filling the support slots for bigger names. The main change will be that you now know the audience are not there to see you and have in all honesty, probably never heard of you. Even though this is a daunting task to take on, any band serious enough about their craft will have to jump from playing to family and friends and take their music out to the critical masses.

With all of this taken into account and you find yourself opening for The Fall at a hometown show, this can only add to the pressure. Fans of Mark E Smith and his ever changing ensemble can be hard to please at the best of times and tonight will be no different.

At half past eight the venue is now over half full when the Manchester trio Optional Wallace take to the stage. On first appearance they may not give the impression of three blokes who would be in a band together. Danny Foster (vocals/guitar) is dressed very casually, Neil Meehan (Bass/backing vocals) is a tall imposing figure clad all in black with his face half hidden behind his fringe and Matt Anderson (drums) looking rather dapper in a shirt and tie with a tight fitting waistcoat.

As soon as they launch into their first song Code of Silence, all preconceptions are put aside. The fast paced guitars and Matt’s tribal drumming hit you like speeding train and continue to do so throughout the set. By the end of the next offering “Generation”, the crowd are starting to take more notice and seem to be warming to the hard, but melancholic sound they are hearing.

What Goes Around is fast and choppy and would not have been out of place on the infamous Factory Records label. Danny’s vocals are strong and clear and have a slight feel of Placebo front man Brian Molko. Neil’s bass playing style is frantic from start to finish as he thrashes away whilst occasionally stamping on his effect pedals.

During The Ladder and Movie Star they continue to impress and by the time they reach their last song the crowd have been well and truly won over. So as support slots go, this was a resounding success and Optional Wallace’s fan base will surely have grown from this short but sweet performance.

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– Kitsune Maison Party –

– CHEW LiPS/Autokratz –

Deaf Institute, Manchester. 17/06/2009

kitsune

To celebrate the seventh instalment of the much acclaimed Kitsune Maison compilation series, this ultra cool label have taken on a month long tour to spread the word. Starting and Paris and ending in Hamburg, it shall cover the U.K, Europe and even as far afield as Japan. 

Ever since the inception of Kitsune back in 2002, the French musical masterminds behind the label have managed to keep finding the newest names from around the globe. Bloc Party, Digitalism, Hot Chip, La Roux, Little Boots and Manchester’s very own The Whip and Delphic, are all part of the electro indie-pop family. 

Many of the acts from this latest release will be appearing at the different venues as it travels around the globe and tonight sees three of the nineteen in attendance. 

The first of tonight’s live acts are CHEW LiPS, a south London trio made up of multi instrumentalists Will Sanderson and James Watkins, with singer Tigs at the forefront. 

As the two boys are in position and get their first track Salt Air underway, there are a few bars played before Tigs cockily strides onstage looking like something from a 60s sci-fi movie in her silver top and short blonde hair. When she finally enters into the first verse, her amazingly distinctive voice is barely noticeable above the sound of the music. 

By this time, all the people that were hanging around in the main bar, have now made their way upstairs to the music hall to take in this electronic pop that is on offer. 

With Will and James almost static, apart from heads bobbing along to sounds they are delivering, this leaves Tigs as the main centre of attention as she prances around almost horse like whilst looking over us with her wild staring eyes. At times you would be forgiven for getting a cold chill down your spine if she was to catch you looking at her. 

During Gold Key, she takes a leap onto the bar and dances her way from one end to the other, much to the delight of all in attendance. Once back in her rightful position upon the high stage, she has a short, but rightly deserved rant at the slightly static crowd, by asking “are you still alive Manchester?” 

Dancing feet are suddenly set in motion as the intro to their single Solo rings from the sound system. This may not be due to being scared witless by her words of criticism, but simply because it is a fantastic song. All the movement off stage was all a little late in the day as this is to be the end of their all too short set. 

To fill the gap whilst the changeover is happening, producer, master of the remix and music maker in his own right BENI, is to spin his selection of vinyl to keep our appetites wetted. Being part of the Bang Gang DJ crew, he certainly knows his craft well and proves his worth with the choices delivered. 

The stage is now set with two tables side by side with laptops and gadgetry securely in place. Many yards of gaffer tape have been applied to the numerous trailing wires from all the equipment to be used by tonight’s headliners. 

Russell Crank is one half of the London duo autoKratz and is also the only figure on show as the music starts begins. It’s a good few moments before the shaven head David Cox ambles into view clutching a couple of beers and explains his delayed arrival is due to him being a bit busy. 

Once he has taken up his position, they launch into Always More, which is the opening track of their debut album Animal. Immediately the atmosphere switches from a midweek gig, to a Saturday night at a top dance club. 

Whilst their recorded music seems to have a healthy dose of electro-indie in the ilk of bands like New Order with added BPMs, they take this to a whole new level when playing live. Next up is The Idiots Are Winning, with its vocoder style vocals and fast paced disco beats, you could easily be listening to a new track by Daft Punk. 

The energy that David gives off is contagious, whilst away from his microphone or laptop, he is bounding around to the massive techno sounds that you would find common place in the better clubs of Amsterdam or Berlin. 

Other blistering album tracks such as Stay The Same and Can’t Get Enough are also given the extended treatment. All through the set Russ’ concentration is apparent from the constant frown on his face as he peers at the screen of his laptop. The only break from this is when he reaches round to give his knobs a good twiddling and at the same time wiping the sweat from his brow. 

By the time they leave the stage, the temperature in the room has risen drastically due to the audience being taken into an almost frenzied state. I’m sure it won’t be long before autoKratz are thrilling crowds at many of the bigger club night around the world.

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– The Lovely Eggs/Hotpants Romance –

Fuel Cafe, Manchester. 01/06/2009

Eggs and Watermelons

Upstairs in this tiny venue, sees the opening night of a six day UK tour. In these six days there shall be no fewer than nine shows, which will include appearances in bars, charity shops and even one on a beach. 

As the three girls that make up Manchester’s very own Hotpants Romance take up their positions, it is clear to see they are more suitably attired for the sizzling heat than any other person in this room. The shortest of shorts are as always, the order of the day with this noisy pop-mongering trio. 

Before the first note is played, the level of unprofessionalism here is apparent, but don’t let this fool you, as this is not what they are about. The old punk ethos stands proud here, where taking up your instruments of choice and having a go, clearly out ways any intentions of grandeur. 

The first couple of songs encompass the usual false starts and are rough not only around the edges, but right through to the core. As if by magic, when they play Relax, they manage to pull off an uncharacteristic and almost cohesive song from start to finish. When they give a cover Twist and Shout an airing, everyone here is enjoying every missed beat and out of tune vocal arrangement.

 For the next to last song Summer Romance, bassist Lowri needs to have her book of lyrics on hand to sing from, as the other two girls just crack on with their respective rolls. 

Interval time is upon us and Lowri swaps her bass guitar for the bands merchandising box, which doubles up as an old style cinema usherettes tray so she can peddle her wares to all and sundry. 

Now is the turn of Lancaster’s Lovely Eggs, a boy/girl duo that create a sound so diverse, it would be hard to place in any genre known to man (unless any of the record shops suddenly decide to give up an area for fun/noise/happiness). 

Front girl Holly is shyly fronting the pair with her guitar and David is perched behind his once basic drum kit, which has now been upgraded to include a squeaky horn, bicycle handle bars with bell and recorders as they head into their set of kooky kitsch. 

The first of the album tracks to get an airing is Sexual Cowboy which is followed by I Like Birds But I Like Other Animals Too. After these is a short but sweet song about an American artist called Jon Carling. 

Next is Mices, which sways from gentile and jaunty to thrashy in the blink of an eye. From this they rock straight into the O Death, which gives Holly’s vocals a good airing. Oh The Stars sees David discard his drum sticks and take his ukulele in hand for this quaint and cute track. 

There is a short break here to announce the winner of tonight’s raffle. The prize is to have a song written about you by both of our fine hosts. After a short poem courtesy of the winner, is Pa Pa Pa and I Collect Snails. The latter is apparently about David’s fascination with hoarding/collecting things of all types.

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– Little Boots –

Club Academy, Manchester. 13/05/2009

LittleBoots2[1]

At the tail end of last year, 130 of the UK’s leading music critics and broadcasters came together to compile the BBC’s Sound of 2009. The final list included many acts that you will have heard day after day over the airwaves, such as La Roux, White Lies and Lady GaGa. 

Sitting pretty at the top of the list released in December, was Blackpool’s very own electropop Christmas fairy Little Boots. At the time, she (Victoria Hesketh) had a back catalogue of releases that matched her shoe size, which for those who do not know, is a measly three. 

At around 9 o’clock the stage is now decked out with a solitary drum kit and all the relevant electronics for the show, these include a couple of keyboards, a stylophone and her favoured Japanese Tenori-on. 

Although everything is in place, there is a technical issue that halts proceedings for around twenty minutes or so. Eventually, the lights from the rear of the stage come alive almost blinding everyone in the room, which is now packed out from front to back. 

Fresh from last nights live performance on Later With Jools Holland, she bounces onto the stage looking full of giddiness and excitement in her purple ruffled dress, much to the delight of the eagerly awaiting crowd. 

The first of tonight’s electronic delights is “Earthquake” and it would seem there is still a slight issue with the sound, as her vocals are not as clear as they should be. As we enter into “Meddle”, this seems to have been rectified and her voice is now crystal clear and sounding as good as she looks, which is very good indeed. 

Unlike the other female pop musicians that are currently surfacing this year, Victoria has less pretence about her. At moments between songs she seems genuinely overjoyed with the turn out for this opening night of her tour. 

Her song “Magical” which is one of her older tracks is pure disco and even has a slight hint of the massive 1979 hit Ring My Bell by Anita Ward. 

With the release of her debut album “Hands” only weeks away (6th of June), we get to hear many of the tracks, including “Mathematics”, “Tune Into My Heart” and the more down-tempo “Click”. My personal favourite has got to be “Remedy”, which is full of driving bass throughout. 

“New in Town” is her next single to be released on the 25th of May and before giving this an airing, she informs us of the news, that only moments before tonight’s show it has been added to the “A” playlist for Radio 1. 

Last of the main set is “Love Kills” which is a cover of a Freddie Mercury/Giorgio Moroder song and at points almost slips from classic dicso into hi-energy. The encore tonight is an extended version of “Stuck on Repeat” which she dedicates to her parents and cousins that are all in attendance. 

This evening’s show has certainly proved that Little Boots is a thoroughly down to earth girl, who can create all her own fresh pop from scratch. 

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– The Nightingales/Ted Chippington –

Night & Day Cafe, Manchester. 27/04/2009

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I am betting there are not many occasions when the P.A. system at the Night and Day Café has had church organ music piped through it. But tonight this is the case, as Reverend Ted Chippington graces the stage with his presence. 

It is almost two decades ago that Ted first started doing stand-up under the guise of Eddie Chippington. He is highly regarded in the comedy world and has inspired many of today’s big names, Stewart Lee and Richard Herring being just two of a long list. 

His dead-pan routine makes Jack Dee look like Lee Evans and his anti-comedy gags will have most unwitting onlookers bemused at what they are witnessing and hearing. Even so, there are people here tonight that have travelled to see him from as far afield as Hull and Derby. 

In 1990 he packed it all in to take up the career of truck driving, as too many people were finding him funny. Thankfully, in 2006 he slipped on his teddy boy coat again to see if he could confuse another generation of gig goers. 

With tonight’s short set, he certainly manages to rework some of his older gags to make them even more ridiculous. He also gives us a couple of his trade mark true stories, only this time they are delivered in German. 

Towards the end he gives us a rendition of Alvin Stardust’s “I Feel Like Buddy Holly” which is barely recognisable apart from the opening line, as all lyrical content is stripped away and filled what can only described to those lucky enough to be familiar with his work, as Ted-isms. 

Within minutes of the stage being vacated, our post punk Brummy hosts have taken up their positions and are ready. 

Tonight sees only four of the six member line-up that had toured Germany. For some unknown reason, the two American girls, Christine and Catherine were not allowed entry into the UK and were turned away by the chaps at Heathrow customs at the weekend. 

The Nightingales have been critically acclaimed ever since forming in 1979. No other band apart from The Fall had recorded as many sessions for the late John Peel over the years. Mark Riley, for whom they were playing live on his BBC 6 Music radio show before tonight’s show, has always been a fan and describes them as “Legendary”. 

As soon as the first sounds emanate from the speakers, you are hit by the intense darkness they have successfully created over the years. Singer Robert Lloyd has vocals that are deep enough to turn your hair grey with fright, but at the same time you are drawn in by his motionless stage presence. 

The set provided for us tonight is full of random pickings from their back catalogue. Tracks from earlier albums “What’s Not To Love” and “In The Good Old Country Way” are given an airing. A selection from “Insult to Injury” including, “Crap Lech” and “Little Lambs” are reminders that even with their most recent recordings, they have not lost any of the original ingredients that have made them the un-crowned kings of true rock and roll. 

Throughout the set, Lloyd is clearly struggling with back pain and often takes up a posture reminiscent of the nightmare landlord Rigsby from the television series Rising Damp.  Another drawing presence on the stage is drummer Daren Garratt, who’s precision and speed is truly sublime. If you were to have your eyes closed, you would be forgiven for thinking that there are at least three of him playing simultaneously. 

After fifteen songs have been completed, the black suited Nightingales are finished for tonight and leave us all in no doubt, that they still have the veracity and talent to continue for years to come.

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– The Days –

Night & Day Cafe, Manchester. 21/04/2009

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SLIGHTLY later than originally advertised (seven weeks and one day to be precise), the boys from Devon finally make it to Manchester on their 13-date UK headlining tour.

Fresh from completing 25 shows with Scouting For Girls and releasing a single on Atlantic Records back in January of this year, it is now time to take the reigns for themselves. Unfortunately the venue tonight is rather sparsely populated.

This maybe down to the fact that it is a school night, as the genre they help to fill could be mainly listened to by a younger crowd. This eventuality does not seem to affect them in the slightest, because as they enter into the opening song ‘No Ties’, they give it their all, which does not wane at any point throughout the night.

Front man Luke belts out his lyrics whilst comfortably beating away at his keyboard as if he was born to do this from day one.

At the same time bass player Dan strides around the limited stage space playing his guitar with ease and also occasionally jumping in on vocals to great effect. After ‘Confession’, ‘Give It Away’, the self-titled ‘The Days’ and ‘Who Said Anything’, the pace is slowed with ‘Kate’.

The reason behind the postponement of the February date, was due to guitarist Tim suffering from a tropical virus and being in and out of hospital.

Thankfully, he seems to have made a full recovery, as he is on top form along with the rest of the band.

Pressed up against the front of the stage there is a handful of gleefully happy girls that are filming and photographing every onstage move. Quite often Luke will look down and smile for the cameras, much to their giggly appreciation.

As the set list reaches double figures, they give us their own personal take on Usher’s ‘Love in This Club’, the video of which got crazy viewing figures online.

To end tonight’s performance is their latest single to be released ‘Never Give Up’. This is a great pop single and is easily the stand out track of tonight, as it is the one that gets most movement from the crowd.

There is no doubting that The Days are a musically tight combo and have some great catchy tunes, for these two reasons alone, I believe they will continue to bring in more and more fans as time rolls on.

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– The Leisure Society –

Ruby Lounge, Manchester. 10/04/2009

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Tonight is one of those nights when there are two gigs on at two different venues that you don’t want to miss. Fortunately for me, the first band I wanted to see is due to play at eight fifteen and the second at nine thirty. So I am glad to say that after a hurried walk from one end of town to the other, I am in plenty of time to get to my second intended destination, meet up with a couple of friends, purchase myself a drink and get a decent vantage point before the band take up their positions. 

The original venue for tonight was meant to be part of a charity gig at Salford’s Trinity Church, but for some unknown reason this event was cancelled. Thankfully though, rather than having to postpone to a later date, The Leisure Society managed to relocate tonight’s show to The Ruby Lounge. 

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Nick Hemming started his musical career in Burton-Upon-Trent in a band that included Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine. After the two aforementioned members left to head into their now well chosen paths. Hemming moved to London in 2006 to join forces with another fantastic multi-instrumentalist Christian Hardy, where they then proceeded to build today’s current line up of talented musicians. 

Onstage and on time, Hemming is sat on his stool centre stage and looking very dapper indeed. Other members may not be as well turned out, but you do get a feeling of typical Englishness, even when looking over to the area inhabited by the string section, where a bearded bloke is sat wearing a checked shirt and a Trilby hat with a feather tucked into it, the only thing he is short of is a piece of straw freshly picked from a grain field protruding from the corner of his mouth. 

As soon as the first notes of “Love’s Enormous Wings”, which is the closing track on the debut album “The Sleeper”, emanate from the stage, you are immediately transported to a more tranquil place. The next song “Darkest Place”, we are informed is about depression, but the way it is put across in music, gives the total opposite feeling. 

Next is a cover of Gary Numan’s eighties electro hit “Cars”. You would expect a version of this without any synths or more modern forms of technology to not really work, but this could not be further from the truth, as it is transformed into a beautiful and calming moment. 

When the intro to last years single “The Last Of The Melting Snow” starts, the whole of the crowd (which includes The Housemartins/Beautiful South’s very own Paul Heaton) goes deathly silent with anticipation of hearing this sublimely gorgeous song, and to say the hairs on my arms stood on end would not be a lie. 

Others taken from album are the title track “The Sleeper” and “A Short Weekend Begins With Longing”, and to see us on our way tonight is the new single “A Matter Of Time” which is yet more of their uplifting sensibility. 

The whole of their set gives a feeling of floating on air which does not cease as they leave the stage. No matter what your musical tastes, The Leisure Society are a band that I defy anyone not to like.

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– Kid Carpet –

Jabez Clegg, Manchester. 02/04/2009

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Looking around the upstairs room at tonight’s venue, I am sad to say, the numbers are very low. I find this all the more shocking, as I have had the joy of seeing Kid Carpet on two other previous occasions, both of which were packed out. The first two bands on had brought their own contingency with them, but by now, had either left or retired to the downstairs bar, seemingly not knowing or caring who they were sharing tonight’s bill with. 

Ed’s music has been described as kiddy disco punk, now this may give the impression that the sound he creates is for the lower end of the age scale, but this could not be further from the truth. A contributing factor for this description could lie in his use of Fisher Price toys/instruments, such as children’s plastic guitars and tape recorders as well as his table top of samplers, effects and miniature keyboards. 

Since his live debut at Bristol’s Watershed Media Centre in 2003, he has built up a fan-base that comprises of Willy Mason, Badly Drawn Boy, Mylo and The Presidents of the United States of America. On his latest E.P “Make It Look Good”, there is a great Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobious Pip remix and also a Japanese version of “Can’t Stop The Pop” featuring Chi from The Go! Team on vocals. His video to “Failed World Record Attempt” managed to clock up over 19,000 hits in just ten days. 

Most other artists may be disheartened by the lack of audience and be tempted to give an under par performance, but this does not seem to be in Ed’s nature, as he proceeds to give us a thirteen song set, whilst throughout, bounding around onstage in a manner that would put the late James Brown to shame. 

The second song in is “I Don’t Want To Fall In Love With You” which is a look in his usual comical manner at the downfalls of relationships. After this is “Green And Pleasant Land”, an ode to the beauty of this fine isle we live in, as observed from the inside of a bus on his travels. In “Ace Like Space” he gives a list of chat up lines that we may have all well used whilst at nursery school. Then it’s time for “Employee Of The Month”, a song that any person who is in a dead end job can easily relate to. When we get to his take on Van Halen’s Jump, his energy is now infectious and you feel like using the sadly available space to do as instructed by the song title. 

After the show I ask him not to bypass Manchester on his next tour of duty due to tonight’s turn out, which I hope he certainly does not. So if you are ever in need of a night out that will keep you smiling for days on end, please heed my advice and check out the one man electro fun machine that is Kid Carpet.

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– I Bike MCR _

Islington Mill, Salford. 27/03/2009

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After a windswept mass bike ride around the city centre, it is a short detour at the end of the route to converge at Islington Mill in Salford for the “I Bike MCR 2009 Festival” grand opening party. As well as live music in the downstairs room of this former cotton spinning mill, there is the “Rollapaluza Roller Racing”. This is where two cyclists battle it out on a pair of vintage rollers (bicycles without its front wheels) connected to a huge dial over a simulated 500m distance, which is a bit like an extreme sprint class. 

The first to take to the stage in tonight’s lengthy line-up is “7 Hertz”. This Leeds trio give a chin stroking set of their classical jazz improve, that would not been out of place in the bohemian hangouts of the fifties. Next up is “Gareth S Brown” with his keyboard and laptop. Also from Leeds, he sits behind his two instruments of choice looking quite lonely and nervous. His entire set is made up of strange sounds and beats streaming from his laptop with the accompaniment of melodies thoughtfully bashed out on his keyboard. 

Throughout both of these sets and all others to follow, is the constant distraction of the “Rollapaluza” racing which was only ten yards or so from the stage. Half way through a song you would suddenly be interrupted by the screams and encouraging shouts of the people watching the race entrants. 

“Geekgirl” from Manchester are next up onstage and take us away from the previous avant-garde sounds emanating from the sound system. All dressed in white and with front woman Fia sporting a full tennis players outfit, they manage to retrieve some of the attention from the ongoing racing. The sound this semi acoustic trio provides is loud, powerful and grungy throughout. 

As if listening to your varied music collection on the shuffle setting, “The Lovely Eggs” now take the reigns to put a massive fun filled smile across everyone’s face. Hailing from Lancaster, this couple brings a welcome break from anything that means anything. Their raw garage sound and simple uncomplicated lyrics can quite easily revert the most sensible of grown ups back to their rose tinted childhood days. Tracks such as “I Want To Fall Off My Bike Today” and “Jon Carling” could have easily been something that Holly or David overheard whilst walking past an enfant school playground and then elaborated on this to create a song. It is this beautiful and naïve unfussiness that sets them apart. As well as being a joy to listen to, both band members tonight have cheeky grins throughout, that give you the impression they may just have let off a stink bomb in the head masters office or put a whoopee cushion on his seat and then ran off before they can get caught. As they leave after giving us “Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion?” you are left with a feeling that you’ve managed to escape the confines and struggles of adulthood for a short while and nothing bad could ever happen in the world. 

More fun is now starting with the arrival of “Hot Pants Romance”. This is now the time for anyone harboring feelings of music snobbery to clamber onto their saddles and pedal for the hills very quickly. These three girls (yes, all in hot pants), including their accident prone drummer, that seems to collect injuries in her spare time, are not professing to be talented musicians or singers. The noise they give always gets the same reaction from an unsuspecting audience. Leaving many scratching their heads as to whether they are for real or not. My answer to anyone asking this question is “Do they have to be?” and it would seem to be that I’m not the only one, as they get plenty of support slots and gigs. 

We are now into the small hours of Saturday morning and the last two bands are of a similar ilk to each other, both giving us a lively ska punk set each. First is “John Player Special” and they seem to be slightly forgetting some of the, punk ethos by worrying about the quality of the sound and also refusing to play last. So to close this opening party is “The Autonamds”. They are a talented bunch with a message. Beanie on sax adds an extra element to the sound and also jumps in on vocals with Iain on occasions too. It may be late on in the evening, but with songs such as “Apocolypse No!” and “Great Benefit Cheat” the few remaining attendees have certainly been persuaded to find their dancing feet.

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– Casiokids/Flashguns/The Answering Machine –

The Ruby Lounge, Manchester. 10/03/2009

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CLASH Magazine proved their worth tonight with a line-up of three acts they are backing to go on to bigger things in the near future.

First up on tonight’s rolling headline tour at the Lost & Found clubnight, are the Norwegian analogue masters Casiokids with their deep electronic dance grooves, topped off with addictive melodies.

On initial sight, you get the impression that these boys from Bergen, could rewire a broken keyboard, blindfolded, with one hand tied behind their back. However, preconceptions are quickly put aside as they enter into their opening instrumental track, ‘Togens Hule’. This is one of those tunes that once heard, will create a pleasurable ear worm for the foreseeable future.

Next is the equally fantastic ‘Grønt lys i alle ledd’, which is the other half to the previous double a sided release. In this all too short, seven-song set, instruments and stage positions are regularly swapped.

All lyrics are sung in Norwegian, with the exception of a version of Ivor Cutler’s ‘Darling Will You Marry Me Twice?’ and before leaving the stage, give us new single ‘Fot I Hose’, which includes a festoon of beats, drums and cowbells.

Filling the middle slot on the line-up are the mighty Flashguns. These fast-paced, ’80s inspired indie rockers pulled out of last year’s ‘Road to V’ competition to concentrate on their A-levels, even though they were in the running to win.

Singer/guitarist Sam Felix Johnston is a breath of fresh air with his on-stage energy. Every chance he gets in-between lines, he and his highly adorned guitar, can be seen frantically skanking over every inch of available stage, even at times falling to his knees whilst thrashing at his six strings.

First in the set is ‘Bells at Midnight’ and James Wright on keyboard/glockenspiel is looking either moody or bored, which continues throughout. A couple of tracks in and it’s time for the latest single ‘Locarno’, which is yet another chance to for Johnston to show off his youthful liveliness. During the last track ‘St. George’ Wright has a sudden burst of bounding around and then their time is up.

Now the hour has arrived for local heroes The Answering Machine to take up tonight’s headline spot. The gap between crowd and stage that has been predominant throughout has now been filled.

Again, as with the other two previous bands, a new single has just been released. ‘Cliffer’ is the second of their set and already singer Martin Colcough seems to be suffering from the heat.

With all members firing on all cylinders, they slow down the pace a little for ‘Emergency’. Next to last is ‘Oklahoma’ and this gets a great reaction from the Mancunian fan base.

After ‘Obviously Cold’, which Colcough most certainly isn’t, the night is over and it is time for Same Teen DJs to take over for the rest of the evening.

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– Fight Like Apes/Underground Railroad –

Roadhouse, Manchester. 01/03/2009

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WITH only 10 minutes to go before Underground Railroad take to the stage, there are possibly no more than 20 people populating The Roadhouse. Which is unfortunate, not necessarily for the Parisian trio that are providing the support tonight, but mainly for anyone that missed out on this chance to see a truly amazing band.

The art-rock, leftfield-punk sound they powerfully create would not be out of place with many of the early acts signed to Sub-Pop, such as Tad and Mudhoney. As they enter into their seven-song set, the numbers have now more than doubled.

First is ‘Headache’, taken from the debut album Twisted Trees. The shared vocals of Raphael Mura (drums/keys) and Marion Andrau (guitar) are reminiscent of Black Francis and Kim Deal (Pixies) and they equally match that infamous pairing.

During the next five songs, which are all taken from their latest album ‘Sticks and Stones’, J.B. Ganivet thrashes away at his bass guitar in such a manner, that you are surprised it stays in one piece.

Last but not least, is ‘Pick the Ghost’, which is the title track of their latest E.P. and I for one, am hoping they return to play our fine city very soon.

The time has now arrived to see if tonight’s main attraction can impress live, as much as they have with their debut album Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion.

Even though tonight’s event is surprisingly not sold out, it would appear many have paid on the door, as the venue is now full. From the moment the triple Meteor Music Award nominated foursome bound on the stage, they are up for the craic with the audience and it is clear antics are afoot. ‘Something Global’ is tonight’s opener and is followed by track four on the album (with a title I dare not repeat on this website).

For the intro to this, Maykay (vocals/synth) and Pockets (synth) each with a metal folding chair, clamber on the large speaker cabinets that line the front of the stage and then proceed to smash them together as if replacements for more traditional percussion instruments. Maykay, in her red hot-pants, makes a grab for her microphone and hurls herself into the crowd.

Throughout the set of nearly all the album tracks, including the last two singles ‘Lend Me Your Face’ and ‘Jake Summers’, the majority of the crowd are on the receiving end of repeated jesting from the stage, due to their static state.

Any fool that decides they can heckle tonight, are left in no doubt that our hosts have turned up fully loaded with sharpness and wit, and it will, if needed, be showered upon them.

‘Snore Bore Whore’ is the last of the main set and by now the place is bouncing. For the encore we get two more, ‘Knucklehead’ and ‘Battlestations’. During which, we are invited to join them onstage. There is a mad dash by all here and at the end of the song there is a huge game of pile-on being played centre stage.

A fantastic night with two fantastic bands – the best show I’ve been to for a long time.

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– School of Seven Bells/Apache Beat/Kyte –

Night & Day Café, Manchester. 27/02/2009

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THE first band to take to the stage tonight at The Night & Day Café, are Apache Beat. This five-piece from Brooklyn, New York, fronted by the Siouxsie Sioux-esque Ilirjana Alushaj, give us a short but powerful set of their punk-wave style.

Even though Ilirjana is a fixating character in the forefront, it is hard not to be amazed by drummer Angus Tarnawsky tucked away in the back, who gives an amazing performance from start to finish.

Next up, is Kyte, flying the flag for the U.K on tonight’s American led line-up. These boys from Leicestershire have more than once been likened to early Sigur Rós, which is hard to disagree with. Their shoegaze post rock has a sound that would not be out of place in much larger venues, or maybe even arenas.

The B-side to their 2007 debut single,Boundaries, was used for a trailer in the U.S for the highly acclaimed series, The Sopranos. To be associated with such a show in any way, no matter how small, can only be seen as something special.

As the boys finish their set and start packing up, there is a slight frenzy as our headline act, are at the same time attempting to set up. This we are informed, is due the late return of their equipment being loaned to Five O’clock Heroes.

So at a later than advertised on-stage time, Benjamin Curtis and the Deheza twins, are ready, as are the crowd at this sold out gig. The temperature in this hotter than the sun venue has now risen immensely, even so, the gorgeous twins are looking cooler than ever. The two white guitars stand out like spots on a domino on the all black clothed band members.

During the first song, there seems to be a little trouble with the sound, as the feed back threatens to pierce many an ear drum of the audience. This is quickly fixed as they enter in to the empyrean melodies of their single, Iamundernodiguis, which is included on the newly released debut album, Alpinisms.

The previous single, Half Asleep, is also given an airing. Both of these where performed live in session the previous day for BBC 6 Music, where they have been a permanent fixture on the playlist of recent months.

Towards the end of this all too short show, one of the twins enquires “Is there anywhere to go after the show?” with a few suggestions of “Back to mine” from some of the puppy-eyed, wishful thinking male members of the crowd. It now looks like the heat may be getting the three band members as they leave the stage, but after several minutes of chants for more, they return to perform one more song and then it is over.

It is now time for us to leave the dream like state The School of Seven Bells have provided this evening and head home. 

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– Imelda May –

Academy 3, Manchester. 23/02/2009

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WHEN Imelda May takes to any stage, it is hard to see how anybody could possibly see past this vision of beauty that stands before you and concentrate on anything else.

This is soon put aside with the amazing talents that Imelda and her band members individually possess.

Dave Priseman – trumpet/flugle horn/percussion, Darrel Higham – Guitar, Al Gare – double bass/bass guitar and Steve Rushton – drums, are all masters in their chosen fields and can suitably impress.

As we board our rockabilly rollercoaster for the evening, ‘Feel Me’ is the first of tonight’s treats to be taken from the gold-selling album ‘Love Tattoo’.

As well as the title track, we are gifted with ‘Big Bad Handsome Man’ and the skiffle sensation that is ‘Wild About My Lovin’’

Next up is a reinterpretation of the Willie Dixon-written blues song ‘My Babe’, which was a hit for Little Walter way back in 1955.

As with any cover they take on, they give it the respect it deserves, whilst at the same time giving it the May makeover.

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Also covered is The Beatles song ‘Oh! Darling’, which they have recently recorded for the forthcoming ‘Live at Abbey Road’.

In this, the outstanding strength of May’s vocals can be felt reverberating through every bone in your body.

Shortly after, she proves her range with some gentile crooning in ‘Falling In Love With You Again’, which she dedicates to a couple of attendees celebrating their 47th wedding anniversary.

The recent passing of great Lux Interior, gives them a chance to show their appreciation by rocking and rolling through ‘Primitive’ by The Cramps. Following this is the mariachi-tinged ‘Watcha Gonna Do?’.

Throughout the evening, each band member at some point bestows upon us a mastery of their instruments. With each solo given, we look on with amazement and give thanks with much deserved applause.

Tonight’s set is completed with their most commonly known track to date, ‘Johnny Got A Boom Boom’.

This really gets the massively age ranged crowd bouncing around as if attending a space hopper convention.

Encore time arrives and Gloria Jones’ ‘Tainted Love’ is given an airing. It’s all too soon and it is time leave.

There is no doubting that intimate gigs like this one, will soon be a thing of the past, as it is clear that Imelda May and her boys are destined to be discovered by many more admirers of their skills.

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– John Cooper Clarke –

Dancehouse, Manchester. 13/02/2009

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IT’S gone 10pm when our very own Broughton Bard strides gingerly on stage at Manchester’s Dancehouse Theatre. Clutching a bottle of water in one hand and tatty carrier bag in the other, there is no mistaking this instantly recognisable skinny figure.

As the years have passed since his support slots with bands such as The Sex Pistols, Joy Division and The Fall, John Cooper Clarke’s gigs have departed from the typical poetry recital, to a more intimate affair, including comical tales and jokes, interspersed with his uniquely styled poems.

Reaching into his carrier bag to produce a highly disorganised clip file, he gives a quick fix of jokes to fill the time whilst he rifles through loose pages of crumpled papers, to find tonight first poem, ‘Hire Car’.

This gives us the reasons of why we should not buy our own car and a list of how to treat the hire car as badly as possible. Next is the four-lined ‘Home Honey, I’m High’, his tribute to Martini.

Before giving us a reading of ‘Attack of the 50ft Woman’, he tells us of how his failing eyesight was the cause of him originally thinking the film was in fact, about a soft woman, rather than a 50ft woman and how this would not be as good a grounds for a film.

The Dracula story is also on his hit list tonight, by pointing out how in the beginning, the count was immortal, but then as time went by he could be killed in many different ways. Most of which, would kill any human being too.

Delving into his mass of papers again and he manages to find ‘Beasley Street’, a tale of a slum class street and its inhabitants. As many towns and cities have been changed and updated since this was released in 1980, he thought he should do the same here.

The newer version, ‘Beasley Boulevard”’, gives us a view into how this once down trodden area has been regenerated, with money and the upper-classes.

We are now heading well into the second hour, when the town of Burnley and its population take a bombardment of light-hearted abuse.

One of the last, but most wanted to be heard, is ‘Evidently Chickentown’. This finely-tuned tirade of words contains more expletives per sentence, than any Quentin Tarantino film could ever dream of.

As the clock approaches midnight, our intelligently funny and humble host gathers his papers from the stage floor and leaves.

There is no doubt tonight, that JCC should and will continue to be a one off wordsmith of the highest calibre.

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– La Roux –

The Roadhouse, Manchester. 07/02/2009

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THE boys behind Manchester’s bi-weekly Contort Yourself night at The Roadhouse managed to pull a rabbit from the hat tonight.

The decks this evening are adorned by Rachel Barton (BBC Radio 1), Emma Chibuku and Natalie Esquire (Murkage).

If for one moment you think this all-girl line-up could not be topped, then think again, as everyone in this tiny 200 capacity venue are to receive a treat with a live set from La Roux.

Unless you walk around with your eyes and ears shut, you will have noticed that the styles and sounds of ’80s are making a comeback.

Many acts and bedroom producers have done this with ease of late and with much popularity. So if you thinking that this red haired siren from Brixton may be just hitching a lift on the latest bandwagon, then you are gravely mistaken.

Now lets be honest here, the ’80s synth sound generally didn’t have much depth, it was mainly generic pop music, but it was enjoyable.

Of course there were exceptions to this rule; bands such as Depeche Mode did give it a darker edge.

This is where Elly Jackson sets herself aside from the others of today, as her songs are deeper and have more feeling.

This is also why she has been named as one of The Sounds of 2009 by the BBC and has also been chosen as the support on Lily Allen’s upcoming UK tour.
It is nearly 1am when the five synths and one laptop are switched on and the stage lights up, all be it very slightly.

The first of this short set is her soon to be released second single ‘In For The Kill’, which if you have not seen the video for this yet, I would highly recommend doing so.

After ‘Tigerlily’, ‘Armour Love’ and ‘I’m Not Your Toy’, which are all hopefully to be on the Polydor released debut album later this year, we get to hear the massively catchy ‘Quicksand’, her first single which was released by the ultra cool Kitsune Music label.

By this time, even the onlookers that are not familiar with whom they are seeing and hearing, have been won over by the dark electronic beats and melodies that are being complemented by Jackson’s vocals.

After ‘Bulletproof’ the set is unfortunately over, but I’m sure this is only the beginning of what should be a great year for La Roux.

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– Half Man Half Biscuit –

Academy, Manchester. 30/01/2009

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ON arrival at Manchester’s Academy 1, it is clear to see that Half Man Half Biscuit are very much a boys band (not boy band), or maybe I should re-phrase that to a mans band.

Blokes in their late thirties and early forties make up a large percentage of this audience. Some have dragged their girlfriends or wives along with them and some have brought their kids, but the majority are with their best mates.

At a little just after 9.30pm the lights dim, smoke fills the stage and from the speakers drones some dark moody music. Anyone who has ever been to one of these gigs before will know, this is, to coin a phrase, “slightly over-egging the pudding”, as what is to follow is not to be some over the top breathtaking showcase.

As the four band members take up their positions, a deep cheer erupts from the crowd. The kind you would hear from any football terrace the length and breadth of the country, as the home team emerge from the tunnel on to the pitch.

Without any messing about, apart from singer Nigel Blackwell seemingly unimpressed with the fact his guitar lead is rather knotted, they acknowledge the fans and get cracking with what they are here to do.

The opener for tonight is ‘Took Problem Chimp to Ideal Home Show’, which is from the 2008 album “CSI: Ambleside”.

At this point I have reposition myself several times, as my view is obstructed by the usual annoying people holding their mobile phones aloft, so they can film some unrecognisable distorted clips, to upload onto YouTube the very next day.

With not much chat from Blackwell between songs, they then trundle through many more tracks from this album, such as ‘Bad Losers on Yahoo Chess’, ‘Blue Badge Abuser’ and the minute long ‘Petty Sessions’.

Interspersed with these, we are given some treats from their back catalogue. Favourites like ‘Restless Legs’, ‘Trumpton Riots’ and ‘Joy Division Oven Gloves’ are all sang along with at full volume, by the now ever so slightly inebriated Biscuit faithful. Into the encore for four more and tonight’s cover version is a rendition of Manchester’s very own Hollies track ‘The Air That I Breath’.

This may not seem like a great night out to those unfamiliar with HMHB, but this is what the fans expect, a no frills performance from an almost legendary act.

They show up and get the job done every time!

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– Duke Special –

The Deaf Institute, Manchester.  25/01/2009

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SOMETIMES a gig is just a gig, but on other occasions they can be much much more. Tonight’s sold out performance on the top floor of The Deaf Institute is by far, the latter of the two!

Before Peter Wilson, A.K.A Duke Special and his percussionist ‘Temperance Society’ Chip Bailey show themselves at around 9.30pm, it would appear that Steptoe and Son have emptied a trailer load of junk onto this miniscule stage.

Items such as pots and pans, a big bunch of keys and an old white plastic record player. All of these are in fact played and used throughout the show.

As this seemingly shy showman takes his place at his piano and begins his first song, the crowd, which includes variations from pensioners’ right through to the pink haired and tattooed, fall deathly silent as if they have been put under a spell.

By the time he reaches his third song ‘Sweet, Sweet Kisses’, he is joined by percussionist Bailey.

The sound this charismatic duo create, is frankly beautiful and amazing; it is guaranteed to put a smile on the most miserable of faces.

Audience participation is called upon many times in the course of the evening. This works really well as there seems to a warm affinity between the Duke and his followers.

If you think his self-described “hobo-chic” appearance is strange, his vaudeville-esque antics between songs will have you both bemused and intrigued.

One of these moments, sees him pacing along on top of the bar ringing a bell, whilst a record of religious spoken word is played.

Another that stands out, is when Bailey takes over the stage to treat us to a percussion solo.

This may not seem anything out of the ordinary, until you see that his choices of instruments are in fact an egg whisk and a cheese grater.

It is well past the one-hour mark and we have been given some truly breathtaking songs, such as ‘Digging An Early Grave’ and also the snappily entitled ‘Those Proverbs We Made In Winter Must End’.

Both of which are taken from his latest album ‘I Never Thought This Day Would Come’.

Just when we thought our evening was coming to a close. Our Duke informs us, that he and his upright piano are to hijack the open mic night in the downstairs bar.

As many people as possible are now crammed into this smaller area, but nobody seems to mind the limited space, as we are given five more instalments before our night is over.

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– The Only Ones –

Academy 3, Manchester. 24/01/2009

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OVER the past few years, we have seen an abundance of bands reforming. Some have worked and some have not. So there is always an air of anticipation when heading to one of these gigs, and tonight is no exception to this.

Slightly later than expected, Peter Perrett and Co took to the stage in this intimate venue.

Perrett is now looking rather frail and his choice of past time for the last 30 or so years has certainly taken its toll.

Dressed all in black and sporting a large pair of sunglasses on his gaunt face, he looks like he may crumble under the weight of his guitar.

As soon as they have gathered themselves, they begin their set with the track ‘The Immortal Story’ from their first album.

Straight away this does not feel like four old men trying to recapture their youth. It is also clear to see why they have such a cult following, as they still have a sound that no other act could recreate.

The third song they give us, ‘Black Operations’ is to be on the new album expected out later in the year.

This is where the line is drawn on whether reforming was a good idea or not. Thankfully if this is track is anything to go by, they have done the right thing. As it has all the hallmarks of The Only Ones of yesteryear.

After 20 minutes or so, it is time for a five song acoustic set and stools are brought onto the stage for this.

Perrett explains they are needed as they are not as young as they used to be. The sit down may have been necessary, as he does not seem to be at full strength.

In this set is a version of their most popular hit ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ and it still sounds great unplugged. As does ‘Special View’ and ‘It’s The Truth’.

Back on with the electrics and they give us a few more new songs mixed in with old favourites like ‘The Big Sleep’ and ‘Me and My Shadow’. During which, all band members show there prowess and mastery of their music abilities.

On returning to the stage for the encore, the worn out looking front man apologises for not giving a very good performance, which I don’t think anyone there would agree with. To see us on our way, we are given the original version of ‘Another Girl’ and ‘The Beast’.

By the end of the night, this does not seem like a reformation, but more like unfinished business. And for this reason, I for one shall be at the local record shop on the day the new album hits the shelves!

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– The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster  –

Dry Bar, Manchester 31/12/2009

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2009 will see Dry Bar on Oldham Street turn 20 years of age. It was another creation from Manchester’s legendary Factory Records and was given the number of Faç 201.

I have personally attended some memorable nights there since it opened on July 25, 1989, including the first year of In The City, with Mark  Lamarr and John Peel playing some of there favorite music – New Year’s Eve 2008 shall also be added to that list of great nights I’ve experienced in this Northern Quarter hostelry.

Eighties Matchbox were to take to the makeshift stage in the back room at just after 11pm.

It was apparent, even before their first riff had pumped out of the Peavey speakers, that the flimsy security barrier was being rather overwhelmed.

As my grandmother used to say “It was as much use as a chocolate fireguard”.

Without the presence of any security at stage side, it was only a matter of seconds into the first song that the barrier was resting against the stage.

This was speedily rectified by the positioning of a couple members of staff to push the barrier back against the crowd and away from the almost toppling PA.

As soon as singer Guy McKnight let rip with his first blast of menacing vocals, there was no doubting that these boys from Brighton had not left any of their raw power behind.

It was also not long before the charismatic front man was leaving the comfort of centre stage to surf over the top of the tightly packed in Matchbox congregation.

Even though this was the sixth show in six days, the whole band gave it their all in treating us to a great mix of album tracks and singles.

As the night drew close to midnight, they gave the countdown into the New Year and then continued to test the speakers to the max with more of the same spine-chilling, bass heavy energy.

Even just standing on the sidelines and observing this immense spectacle took your breath away and left you not quite knowing what year you had just entered into, but you knew you had entered it with the rocket fuel that The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster had supplied.

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