Tag Archives: music

Gigbeth band review

Here’s what I thought of the bands I saw at this year’s Gigbeth, I will write a separate review of the festival as a whole.

Young Knives – really tight musically, nice bit of onstage banter. ‘Special effects’ were provided by a lonely bubble machine and it was a joy to see The House of Lords jumping up and down like a 5 year old trying to pop them! I actually knew more of their songs than I thought I did, and they were more punky than I imagined they’d be, which worked really well live. Glad to be able to see them for the first time in a small and intimate setting (The Barfly).

Pete Ashton and his Thingamachines (or whatever he’s decided to call them!) – disclaimer: Pete is a mate and it was great fun seeing him unleashing his bleepy machines on an unsuspecting public for the very first time. The whole thing was a bit of an experiment and people were encouraged to come and have a go at twiddling knobs and waving lights about. Those Things don’t half make some fantastic noises, now if only they’d learn to behave and do what they were told! I’d like Pete to perhaps be slightly less experimental, figure out which configurations of knobs make them do which sounds and ‘play’ them more like a traditional instrument and build up a tune perhaps by layering live sampling and looping over some beats.

Rich Batsford is a hugely talented piano player and a thoroughly nice chap. His tunes are beautiful, just not sure that the 4Talent stage at Gigbeth was the right venue for him? Would love to hear him play on a sunny afternoon at the Moseley Folk Festival or something.

Iain Woods and the Psychologist – I found Iain Woods very interesting. The audience was definitely split down the middle. He came on stage with an arrogant attitude, some were even calling him ‘obnoxious’, but I think an onstage attitude can make for very interesting entertainment. It’s an offstage attitude that I can’t stand, but Danny Smith, who interviewed him after the show for Rhubarb Radio, assured me he was a nice guy. The fact that I passed Iain in the corridor soon after he came offstage and he gave me a big cheesy grin, still buzzing from his first (hard to believe) gig seems to confirm that.

The band consisted of Iain on vocals, a smiley chap with really long dreads on beats and two live string players. Also, interestingly, they had a couple of girls standing behind the audience, doing live paintings and fiddling with various images on layers of acetate, which were projected onto the wall behind the band.

I wasn’t sure about Iain’s voice to start with, it was quite raw, it reminded me of Tricky a little but perhaps that’s because the first track was quite trip hoppy. But when he did an acapella cover of Lauryn Hill’s Ex Factor that we really got to hear how amazing his voice is.

The beats were fantastic and really got me dancing and the strings were great too. Difficult to categorise this band, at times trip hoppy, dancey (Faithless-esque) and R&B (please ditch the cheesy lyrics though!), they have the potential to be huge.

The Keyboard Choir were just that, a band made up of 5 keyboardists including the ‘conductor’ at the front. I thought that the louder and faster they got, the better they sounded! I found the quiet introductory experimental sounds a bit boring, but when they built up the layers into a wall of sound they were much better. Still we slipped off after a couple of songs to go and check out…

Musical Youth – not really much to say about them, they were as professional as expected, great sound, but some of the covers were not my cup of tea. Also found it extremely odd to be sitting down (in the South Birmingham College auditorium) and found myself trying to chair-dance to some cool reggae beats.

Kano – was 45 mins late, which upset my other half, but didn’t bother me too much because the DJs who were on were playing some fine tunes (not sure who they were). I had a good old dance to the bouncy basslines, I showed them youngsters a thing or two, I can tell you ;)

It must be really difficult to do hip hop live, I’ve seen a few terribly muddy attempts in my time, but Kano has a really clear and distinct voice, even when he was rhyming really fast. I much prefered his rap/hip hop stuff to his more melody based R&B, which I found a bit cheesy.

Anyway, Kano had a great stage presence and he really seemed like he was enjoying himself. If he gave up the cheese and found the right producer, he could be the UK’s answer to Eminem/Snoop Dogg etc etc.

Sugarhill Gang – they were on so late that I was too tired to appreciate them properly and it was bladdy freezing in the Custard Factory. Rapper’s Delight was pretty momentous and their cover of Apache was ace, but I felt like there was a lot of filler.

Supersonic Saturday

I know that Jon has already written up his thoughts on our time at Supersonic, but I’m deliberately writing this before reading it or any other reviews.

I don’t know why I haven’t been to Supersonic before. Thankfully this year, a very positive experience at the Capsule gig that was part of last year’s Gigbeth, plus various people banging on about how great it is (including Pete and Russ L and the Plan B review) convinced me to try it out. Being a massive fan of new music, in particular eclectic and uncompromising music and living in Birmingham, I finally realised that I couldn’t possibly *not* go!

As it was the first time we’d been, we decided to just go for one day and chose the Saturday mainly because I knew I’d have a day to recover before having to go to work on the Monday! By the end of the Saturday I’d had such a great time that I was considering trying to get tickets for the Sunday too. However by the time Sunday came I’m glad I didn’t because I needed some time to physically recover from Saturday and basically take everything in. In fact I almost needed more time between acts to take in each experience. Yes I am complaining about too much of a good thing! Anyway I’m rambling, now for the important bit, the music.

Caught a tiny bit of Justice Yeldman, not sure if he started early, but if he didn’t he was only on for about 10 mins. I say ‘only’ but actually he was so intense that that was probably long enough. Unfortunately, he’d already started when we got to the Factory stage so we were right at the back. I couldn’t really see what he was up to and I get the impression that watching him is an important part of the experience. The sounds he was making with a sheet of glass and a microphone were very impressive, the blurty electronic farty noises in particular meant that those of us at the back of the crowd were unable to surpress our giggles. Anyway, I won’t say any more about Justice as I’m sure there were people who saw the whole thing from nearer the front who could do a much better job than me.

After supping a quick cup of tea, admiring the cakes (willpower held up for once!) and chuckling at the sheets of Black Sabbeth laid out to colour in (nice touch) at the Old Library, we went to see Efterklang.

I was sure I’d heard a couple of their tracks on MySpace and been a bit nonplussed, so I wasn’t really expecting great things, but they were great. They looked amazing in their capes and jodphurs and sounded just as good. At first I thought they were a bit like Polyphonic Spree (possibly influenced by their outfits), but then Jon said they reminded me of “that band you like” Arcade Fire and as soon as he said that, I agreed. There’s something about those kinds of bands (probably the multiple harmonic vocals) that make me think they might all live in a commune together just making music together. That being a good thing for music, it’s ability to really transport you somewhere else. The Outside stage was great. The elevated position of the stage meaning that everyone could see without having to stand on tiptoes and strain their necks to see over people’s heads. My Efterklang dance style was head nodding, swaying and leg jiggling. Will definitely give Efterklang another listen.

Before Efterklang’s set ended, we decided to go and see the last bit of Beestung Lips. We’d discovered Beestung Lips at Capsule’s Gigbeth night and totally fell in love with them, partly because of their music and partly because of their self-deprecating charisma. They’d performed there sans singer and after we bought their CD that night, we agreed that we actually preferred them without the singer. So we were glad to see that they were again a threesome at Supersonic. Unfortunately we only caught the last half of the last song, but still managed a bit of manic jumping about. I got the impression that the sound quality for the Factory stage was not quite as good as for the other stages, did anyone else notice that?

Then, after a tip-off from Pete, we went to see Oxbow on the second stage. They had already started and were very loud even before we got there and we approached with caution. Not knowing what to expect we hung around at the back of the crowd for a little bit but then a couple of songs in we realised that they were something special. We were soon down the front, admiring the singer’s passionate performance. He started out wearing a suit, then seduced the audience by removing items of clothing one by one and was soon down to his underpants (although he left his socks and shoes on which made us chuckle). Musically, even though they were very loud, the sound quality was amazing. They were very melodic, heavy but almost jazzlike at the same time. Pretty hard to describe actually, I get the impression that the live experience might be better than listening to a recording as their stage presence was so integral to the experience, however I will go and seek out some of their music with an open mind. The live experience totally blew me away and I’m really struggling to describe it, I just knew I’d experienced something very intense and special and felt almost dazed and unable to speak for about 5 mins afterwards. My dance style was heavy, jerky head and body shaking.

Really could have done with a break after Oxbow to truly let the experience sink in, but it wasn’t long before we went back to Stage 2 to see Fuck Buttons. They are just two guys and a load of electronic gadgetry. The first ‘track’ they did was without the constaint of any beats. This really gave me the impression of what they were all about. Wonderful feedbacky, tweaked, intense layers of sound. I remember closing my eyes at one point and almost felt like I was sunbathing with the soundwaves penetrating my skin in a warm and soothing way (soundbathing?!). After that they added the beats which got lots of people moving. After a while though, I closed my eyes and just felt like I was back in a club, I kind of forgot I was watching a live act. In a way, I felt like the beats were pretty standard dance beats (hard house-esque) and I found myself listening to and dancing to them rather than tuning into their other sounds which were totally original. I don’t know what the answer is to that, maybe have the beats lower in the mix or is there an original way of producing beats, I don’t know. Anyway, they were still great, both of them were jumping around and obviously enjoying themselves which always helps. My dance style: clubstyle, hands in the air, ravey skanking.

I was looking forward to Battles. I’d actually done a bit of homework before going to Supersonic and had checked out as many bands as possible from the Saturday lineup via the writeups on the Capsule site and their handy MySpace links. Anyway, from a quick listen to the tracks on their MySpace page, Battles had impressed me straight away. I’d liked all the tracks, in particular one called “Atlas” with its ‘Pinky and Perky’ style vocals and music that seems to be signalling the imminent arrival of the vikings! They didn’t disappoint live. Again the music was intense, but the sound quality at Stage 2 was excellent. The drummer in particular impressed and the whole band put so much effort and energy into their music that they were exhausted by the end of the first track. But still they carried on in the same vein. One of the early tracks had a weird time signature that I couldn’t work out so my dancing was all over the place. However, when they got round to playing “Atlas”, I involuntarily started doing the ‘spotty dog’ and so did a number of other people in the crowd. Wonderful infectious music (Jon said he couldn’t remember the last time a band made him whoop uncontrollably!) with some great electronic twiddly bits and vocal effects. Really looking forward to checking out the whole of this band’s work and think they’re the one I’m most likely to listen to afterwards.

In conclusion, I’m kicking myself for not going to many Capsule gigs before, but plan to rectify that from now on. Totally loved Supersonic. I have overused the word ‘experience’ in this post, but that’s what it was. It wasn’t just a case of listening to a series of bands, certainly the ones I saw were so passionate and put so much into their performances that I really felt like a part of it too.

I remember leaving the festival feeling incredibly *lucky* that Lisa and Jenny Capsule are from Birmingham and not London or even another country. That really struck me from looking at the bands’ tour dates on MySpace, a lot of them were doing international tours and making a special effort to come to Brum and be part of Supersonic. Capsule ask us to spread the word far and wide, but in a selfish kind of way, I don’t want Supersonic to get any more popular. I’m not sure it would work in a less intimate setting than the Custard Factory. It seemed the perfect size, I loved being able to get close enough to see as well as hear the acts. The festival was very well organised, and every act started on time.

Jon said that it restored his faith in music, and we were a little concerned that there didn’t seem to be many youngsters in the crowd. Who’s going to grow up being so inspired by these acts to make their own incredible music, we wondered.

Anyway, I will *definitely* by back next year, possibly even for more than one day if I can work out a way to pace myself!

my ipod changed my life (and other ramblings)

About six weeks ago, some idiot decided to ram me up the boot in a 4×4 (but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Anyhoo, the upshot of this is that I’ve been without my regular vehicle for about 6 weeks. I actually really liked my courtesy car – a Ford Fusion Plus – but it had one drawback: no cassette player. “No what player?” I hear you youngsters cry, surely that’s a step backwards. Well it’s not the casette player I really want, it’s the ability to play my ipod on my long and boring 45 min commute to work (yeah I know, I would consider getting public transport if it wouldn’t take me several hours!). I’ve tried the itrip thingy, but it was a bit rubbish, something to do with there being a big metal roof between it and my car radio aerial methinks, maybe they’ve improved the technology, who knows, but for now, I’m happy to make do with a cheapo casette adaptor. The sound quality is far from perfect, but to be honest, I’ll sacrifice that to be able to have the choice of thousands of tracks. I get bored of music very quickly you see! and besides, I’d rather listen to an amazing track at less than perfect quality than a rubbish track at perfect quality. So the past couple of cars I’ve had, I’ve swapped the CD player for a casette player, much to the bemusement of some.

So how have I coped with several weeks’ commuting without my beloved pod? Not very well, that’s how. I Suppose I could have burned a couple of CDs but I couldn’t really be bothered and it was only supposed to be for a week originally. So, on my way to work, I’ve mainly been flicking between the radio stations Radio 1, Radio 2, Kerrang! and Galaxy. So, why those two commercial stations and not b/r/m/b, B/e/a/c/o/n or whatever? Well basically, I reckoned that I would be pretty safe that neither Kerrang! and Galaxy would not subject me to any R/o/b/b/i/e W/i/l/l/i/a/m/s! Aside from the adverts and rubbish presenters, they do at least make some attempt to be music focussed in their particular genres, if a little too predictably poppy at times.

Aanyhoo, back to my original ramblings! I’m not adverse to a bit of pop music and I love cheesy dance music (guilty pleasure!) and some urban stuff so I usually like most of the Radio 1 playlist, if only the presenters wouldn’t yabber so much. I know many people hate Chris Moyles and he does do the most yabbering out of any radio presenter I’ve ever heard I think, however compared to S/c/o/t/t M/i/l/l/s, Moylesy seems positively witty. I normally switch to another channel when Moyles is talking, but I don’t feel the need to swear at the radio if I accidently hear him speak like I do with SM. So why do I hate SM so much? Well, he’s the most unfunny, uncharismatic, insincere radio presenter I’ve ever heard in my life. He tries to be deadpan, but he’s not clever enough to carry it off. Setting up/directly insulting/hanging up on listeners/members of the public on the phone is not funny. Using other people’s ‘jokes’ or catchphrases from 10 years ago that weren’t funny then (e.g. “er, hel-looooooooo”) is not funny. Not knowing or caring anything about music while presenting a show on Radio 1 is not funny, although I’d have to blame his bosses for that one. Surely, there must be people out there who both care about decent music and are entertaining. I’d settle for either at a push, but I can’t accept neither.

Kerrang! is ok in very small doses, but they only seem to have about 10 records on their playlist, I like listening to some of the brand new stuff they play, with the exception of “Ruby” by Kaiser Chiefs, if I never hear that song again, it’ll be too soon! The ‘classic’ stuff they play only seems to consist of Guns n Roses, who I used to love, but Kerrang are doing their best to put a stop to that!

Radio 2 was pretty much a last resort for me at rush hour times – I’m 32, I’m not dead! The music is a bit hit and miss for me, they do try to play some new stuff, but Wogan going “hmm, that was the erm hmm Magic erm Numbers, now I’ve had a letter from Mrs Miggins blah blah geriatric moans blah blah” kind of ruins it for me. I’m afraid I can’t stand C/h/r/i/s E/v/a/n/s either, I don’t believe he likes music and I don’t find him entertaining in any way. But the final straw for the drive time show for me was when he played the new Sophie Ellis Bextor track (pretty good) and asked S/a/l/l/y T/r/a/f/f/i/c whether she agreed it sounded like Gwen Stefani. She had no idea. Now Radio 2 claim to be a music station not a talk station, am I right? Well why not get someone who likes music to read the traffic out too? It’s not like Gwen Stefani is some obscure underground act, she’s mainstream popular culture, you’d only have had to turn your TV on at some point over the past couple of years to know what she sounds like. So actually I’m not really accusing S/a/l/l/y T/r/a/f/f/i/c of not liking music, but of being seriously out-of-touch with popular culture. She must be a bloody good traffic reader-outerer that’s all I can say! Actually I think they only employed her because of her surname ;-)

Overall, Galaxy faired the best for my own personal taste. These days they seem to play poppy dance tracks (fine by me), poppy hip-hop tracks (also fine by me) and rubbish slushy R&B tracks, during which I reach for the dial. Yeah, the presenters and the adverts are as annoying as hell but the station does have a couple of half hour slots where they mainly play music, which usually coincided with my driving times luckily.

So anyway, I now have my car back and have been enjoying my drive to work a lot more! What I really like to do is to record the Radio 1 specialist shows (such as Mary Ann Hobbs, Gilles Peterson, Zane Lowe, Pete Tong, Annie Mac etc.) onto SD card on my digital radio and transfer them to my iPod. That way I get to hear all the new stuff when it suits me. I guess my ideal radio station would be Radio 1 from 7pm til 4am, but all day. So probably a little bit 6Music with a bit more new music and dance stuff. I think what I’m waiting for is some kind of portable listen on demand device for radio.

On a final note, I am going to contradict myself here and suggest that people don’t refer to Radio Stations as a whole, but rather to particular presenters or shows. It annoys me when people say “Radio 1 is shit” when what they mean is “daytime Radio 1 is shit”. There is such a vast difference between the daytime content and the evening content that it’s ridiculous to try and lump them together. Same goes for Radio 2, I know there is some decent stuff on there and some specialist music shows, just not at the right times for me. One would never talk about TV stations in this way, well not the main terrestrial ones anyway “oh I don’t watch BBC 1 anymore”, actually maybe one would, but you know what I’m getting at!

free music!

Last year, I downloaded the South by Southwest festival Showcasing Artists torrent, which contained over 600 tracks available free to download legally. The download spanned quite a lot of genres, including indie/alternative, rock, metal, hip-hop and bluegrass; and included some established artists as well as many I hadn’t heard of. I still don’t think I’ve listened to them all yet, but I have discovered quite a few gems so far. Of the tracks I was previously unaware of, these are my favourite discoveries so far:

“October Language” by Belong (post rock)
“Black Hand” by Cadence Weapon (hip hop)
“Mothure” by Chas. Mtn. (acoustic)
“Laughing Machines” by Coaxial (trip hop)
“Second Son” by Elliott Brood (bluegrass)
“Bedside Table” by Flip Grater (guitar)
“Drink to Moving On” by Grand National (guitar)
“Bombs in the Distance” by The Holy Fire (guitar)
“Psychic Connection” by Hyperbubble (electro)
“When the Stars Shine” by Instruments (acoustic)
“Kukicha” by Jad Fair and Lumberob (er?!)
“Drive You Faster” by John Schooley and His One Man (guitar)
“Snow Falls in November” by Julie Doiron (acoustic)
“Good Man” by King Straggler (acoustic)
“Transition” by The Longcut (guitar)
“Mantra” by Lovetones (guitar)
“Duluth” by Luke Zimmerman (acoustic)
“Fingerprints” by Maggie Walters (acoustic)
“Even Without You” by The Magnolias (guitar)
“The Hypothesist” by Novillero (guitar)
“Modern Swinger” by The Pink Spiders (guitar)
“love i have 4 u” by Ron Franklin (acoustic)
“Don’t Believe Everything You Hear” by Shane Bartell (acoustic)
“Breathe” by Sistas in the Pit (guitar)
“Dark and Weary World” by South Austin Jug Band (bluegrass)
“19 Million AC” by The Spits (guitar)
“Abitudine” by Subsonica (guitar)
“Last Kiss” by T.D. Lind (acoustic)
“Louise” by Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail (guitar)
“Every Little Bit” by Thee Fine Lines (guitar)
“Tale From Black” by Tunng (acoustic)
“Understanding The New Violence” by Uncut (guitar)
“White Noise” by The Vacation (guitar)
“You Are a Knife” by Veto (guitar)
“Violet Furs” by The Whigs (guitar)
“House of Sin” by ZZZ (guitar)

Of these, I think two tracks are outstanding:
“Last Kiss” by T.D. Lind and “You Are a Knife” by Veto

News of the SXSW Showcasing Artists 2007 free download came to me via Pete Ashton. I’ve just finished downloading it (739 tracks – took about 2 days!) and am looking forward to diving in.