Archive for January, 2007

Shameless Plug: Get Girl, Kill Baddies, Save Planet @ The Night & Day, 3rd February 2007

get girl, kill baddies, save planetWe’re not usually ones for club nights, or for shameless promotion of said nights in the hope of getting a freebie, but this one looks like a winner and comes courtesy of fellow Manc blogger Jon The Beef of Black Country Grammar fame. It promises to be a regular event and the first one takes place at the Night & Day on Saturday 3rd of Feb from 10pm to 2am and will include tunes from the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Bloc Party, Blondie, !!! and Isaac Hayes. Entry is £6 but a quick email to ggkbsp@googlemail.com will get you in for half price. DJs include Jon himself as well as Pasta Paul from Piccadilly Records and Sunta and Sapnarella from XFM, whatever that is. For more details check out their MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/ggkbsp.

Posted by The Ledge on 28th January 2007 at 1:28 am | comments (6)
File under News.

Gig Review: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Bridgewater Hall, 24th January 2007

Joanna Newsom’s wonderful performance at the Bridgewater last week was always going to be in the back of my mind when we returned to the hall on Wednesday night to see Will Oldham play his first gig in our fair city for quite a few years. It would be grossly unfair to compare the two: Newsom was born to play venues like this whereas I imagine Oldham’s reaction when he saw the hall for the first time to be along the lines of “What the fuck!”. After leading his band on to great applause he muttered something about not being used to playing such formal occasions, though he seemed to be dressed for the part, with dark suit and black shirt offsetting the waywardness of his beard.

They kicked off with “The Lion Lair”, a marvelously raucous reworking of the Ease Down The Road track, and followed that with the rather less successful reworking of “The Ohio River Boat Song” from Greatest Palace Music album. Will certainly doesn’t believe in resting on his laurels and most of what he played was radically different from the quieter, more pastoral, studio versions of the songs. “A Suckers Evening” throbbed with a brutal menace while “Master And Everyone” was practically unrecognisable, all scruffy guitar and wailed vocals. And therein lay the problem: the songs in the form presented did not suit the reverential environment of the classical music hall. Where guitars rose politely from small speakers suspended high above the stage they should have been roaring out of stacks either side. Piano trills should have drifted in and out of earshot with the ebb and flow of a jostling crowd. Drums and bass should have been thundering through our bodies. Instead we sat there, quelled by the austerity of our surroundings and our naturally British trait of deep repression.

Still, the band put in a great performance with Oldham in mesmerising form as they rattled through songs old and new, borrowed and blue, his unique, powerful voice filling every corner of the hall as he twitched, shivered and kicked his way through the likes of “All Gone, All Gone” and John Martyn’s “John The Baptist” as if possessed. The band were joined, belatedly, by Dawn McCarthy to add her vocals to tracks from the latest Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy opus The Letting Go. McCarthy, who had missed her first cue to appear even after Will had the whole audience call her name, was also support for the night under the moniker Faun Fables and put in a fairly entertaining set of acoustic folk, accompanying herself on guitar and occasionally singing a capella while stomping vigourously on the stage. The ancient Greek folk song she played and the song which she claimed was a big hit in Poland in the Seventies broke up the set nicely but ennui set in during the final two songs.

McCarthy’s eventual appearance during the Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy set was greeted warmly by the crowd and the Letting Go songs were superbly executed with McCarthy’s celestial wail circling Oldham’s earthly warble just as it does on the album. Though “Wai” didn’t work too well despite being one of the quieter tracks of the evening there was a storming version of “Strange Form Of Life” and a stunning, haunting “Then The Letting Go” which surpassed its recorded counterpart.

The encore included the excellent single “Cursed Sleep”, a soporific “You Have Cum In Your Hair And Your Dick Is Hanging Out” and things were wrapped up nicely with a joyful cover of Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”. Though I enjoyed the performance I left slightly disappointed. The Bonnie Prince should have been tearing up the Academy with this set; for the Bridgewater Hall the hushed beauty of these songs’ originals would have been much more appropriate and would have made for a more satisfying evening.

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Then The Letting Go

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Master And Everyone (live)

Posted by The Ledge on 27th January 2007 at 12:28 am | comments (9)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews.

Digital Vinyl #1: The Triffids – Field Of Glass

In this new Indie Credential feature I’ll be raiding my vinyl collection for some rare nuggets from yesteryear. I’ll rip them kicking and screaming into mp3 format, pops and crackles intact, and serve them up for your listening pleasure.

The Triffids - Field Of GlassThe Triffids’ Field Of Glass EP is a genuine lost classic. Released in 1985, the EP is a record of their Peel Session recorded in November 1984 and produced by Mark Radcliffe, who was then an in-house producer at the Beeb before embarking on his glittering DJ career. Radcliffe did an excellent job in capturing a performance that was so visceral and intense that it’s no wonder that the three songs were never re-recorded for a proper release. To my knowledge none of these recordings have ever had an official CD release.

Listening to the three tracks it’s fairly obvious that lead Triffid David McComb was in a bad place at the time. McComb was an alcoholic and heroin user whose substance abuse led to a heart transplant at the age of just 34 and eventually to his sad, early death two years later in 1999. The first two songs, “Bright Lights, Big City” and “Monkey On My Back”, deal directly with McComb’s drug abuse and are infused with bitterness and desperation. They’re brilliant songs but I’ll post them some other time.

The song which gave its name to the EP tells the tale of a loner who has some unrequited love issues with a rich girl who’s just finished school. He pleads with her to ride with him on a baking hot summers night and she goes along. Driven mad by the intolerable heat and by her rejection he murders her. Or at least that’s what I can make out. McComb’s performance on this recording is incredible; he completely inhabits his role as the protagonist, giving voice to his inner demons, howling into the black night. He is matched every step of the way by his band with Martyn Casey’s imperious bass, Robert McComb’s twanging guitar and Jill Birt’s eerie organ propelling the song along, stacking up the tension, getting faster and faster until it all breaks down and the band leave McComb to himself as he becomes more and more tormented and deranged. When the band burst back in at the end to glorious effect the song comes full circle and suggests that our anti-hero has been fantasising all along. What is clear is that, not for the first time, a Peel session produced something out of the ordinary, a performance that could never be repeated to such devastating effect.

The Triffids – Field Of Glass

Posted by The Ledge on 21st January 2007 at 10:17 pm | comments (12)
File under Digital Vinyl,mp3,Reviews,Track Reviews.

Gig Review: Joanna Newsom & Northern Sinfonia at Manchester Bridgewater Hall, January 15, 2007

On Sunday night I was upstairs checking my email. As I started to cross from one room into another, to turn off all the excess lights, I heard what I thought was our cat making a horrible noise – I thought he might be in pain. I started down the stairs when little Cosmo ran up them, fleeing from the kitchen but otherwise fine. I could still hear the noise. Halfway down I realised that The Ledge was in the kitchen listening to The Milk-Eyed Mender. ‘Aha!’ I thought, ‘My first impression of Joanna Newsom really was not so off-base, she really does sound like an injured cat yowling.’ But that’s a bit unfair really. Although her voice is, shall we say, unusual, it has its own character and I’ve actually grown quite fond of its unusual tone since The Ledge first tied me down and forced me to listen to “Bridges and Balloons.”

Since then, we’ve seen her live twice: once at the Academy 2 where even The Ledge struggled to see her over the heads of the giant men who turned out in support, and once at All Tomorrow’s Parties where her set was plagued by drunkards talking so loudly it was difficult to hear her during the quieter bits of the songs. Needless to say, we were ecstatic about the prospect of seeing her in an appropriate setting! No worries about the acoustics and lack of visibility in the Academy 2. No fears of drunken chatter drowning out her vocals. Just the amazing acoustics of the Bridgewater Hall, Joanna, her harp and a classical orchestra. We missed out on the opening act as we were having a drink in the bar, and as we filed into the hall we were surprised and pleased to note that signs indicated she would play with the orchestra for an hour, take a 20 minute break and then perform another 40 minutes unaccompanied.

First emerged the orchestra, tuning their violins and cellos. Then she emerged, all smiles, looking dwarfed by the conductor and two further musicians, a drummer/backing vocalist, and a guitarist who also played banjo and bazouki throughout the course of the evening. She then proceeded to launch into a breathtaking and exhilirating run through her second album, Ys, from start to finish. She was, despite the numerous musicians behind her, very much the centre of attention and while The Ledge tells me he was fascinated by all the different musicians playing their different parts, I couldn’t take my eyes off her hands up and down the harp, wondering how she managed to play so perfectly and sing such complex and skillfull poetry so sincerely at the same time. The first two numbers, “Emily” and “Monkey and Bear” despite their length, flew past. I was surprised to hear a male voice, before I realised the percussionist was singing harmonies. It worked very well. Then the orchestra put their instruments down and watched as Joanna performed “Sawdust and Diamonds” by herself, the most moving part of the first half of show. They picked their instruments back up as she concluded with “Only Skin” and “Cosmia,” giving many kudos to the orchestra between songs and gushing and smiling at the audience reaction. Then she exited for the interval.

When she re-emerged, along, she immediately leapt into “Bridges and Balloons” which sounded magnificent, her fingers flying up and down the strings of the harp, mesmerising. She then performed what she called an old Scottish folk song as well as a new track, accompanied by the bazouki player and the singing percussionist. She also did a startling version of “Book of Right On” and the highlight of the set, the tender “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie” before finishing with “Peach, Plum Pear,” the latter half only broken by more praise for Northern Sinfonia and a brief exit while the crowd bayed for her return. When she finished and the lights went up, the young woman sat behind me had tears in her eyes. While I wasn’t quite moved to tears myself, it was a remarkable performance and I’m looking forward to her ATP performance in April, even if I have to endure more infuriating talking and a lack of concert hall acoustics.

Joanna Newsom – Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie

Joanna Newsom – Monkey And Bear

Posted by JustHipper on 16th January 2007 at 11:38 pm | comments (7)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews,Uncategorized.

Gig Review: Sodastream, Kro Bar, 12th January 2007

The first gig of a new year always seems to be a low-key affair. Last year it was ¡Forward, Russia!’s in-store at Piccadilly Records and the year before we saw a little-known band called Editors play to 30 people at the Night & Day. Gig-going activities for 2007 were kicked off on Friday night at Kro Bar, opposite the University Union on Oxford Road, where Hey! Manchester and PopArt vs Industry had put together another excellent line-up to follow on from the Klondyke Club gigs of last November.

We arrived just as Julian Donkey-Boy was starting up. Looking a bit like a younger Graham Coxon with his geeky, thick-rimmed specs and Telecaster, the quiet, unassuming young man from Moston treated us to six or so songs brimming with melody and melancholy. There is certainly an alt.country leaning to his work and I noticed the occasional Bill Callaghan affectation in his voice while also being reminded of Pavement and even Grandaddy on a couple of songs. Apparently he sometimes plays with a full band and that is something I’d certainly like to hear.

Newport’s Gethin Pearson And The Scenery were up next and were far more upbeat and played a confident set of melodic folk pop that perhaps deserved a better reaction from the crowd but in the intimate confines of a small room above a bar, and with a subdued crowd, many of whom won’t be seeing their twenties again, there was never going to be any huge display of affection or band/audience interaction, which didn’t seem to please Gethin Pearson too much. They were very good, however, sounding very much like Bright Eyes with Pearson, who reminded me a bit of a young Damon Albarn, funnily enough, the focal point of the five piece. They played a particularly good country number with violin and slide guitar working brilliantly together but throughout the performance the harsh, trebly sound of the bass seemed at odds with the elegant swagger of the other instruments and was a detriment to their overall sound. A promising band, nonetheless.

Airport Girl were the least impressive band of the night. They played a quite stately yet downbeat indie pop but there was little variation in the songs and I spent much of the gig wondering how a band with six members, including a cellist and an underused keyboard player, could sound so small and hemmed in. Maybe it was just the venue.

I vaguely remember Sodastream getting into Peel’s Festive Fifty in the late ’90s but until this gig was announced I didn’t realise they were still going. They are an acoustic duo from Australia made up of a singer/guitarist and a double bass player who sings backing vocals; an odd combination, maybe, but it works brilliantly and they put in an excellent set that was ecstatically received by the crowd. The songs were low-key, gentle and tuneful and, though the band have been compared to Belle And Sebastian in the past, I thought they sounded more like The Go-Betweens, particularly the late, great Grant McLennan’s output, and of the whimsical pop of many of the Flying Nun bands from the late ’80s.

There was no doubting that the musicianship and songcraft on display easily surpassed anything else we’d heard that evening; Karl Smith’s sweet vocals and delicate guitar picking and Pete Cohen’s mastery of the double bass, whether plucking or sawing away with a bow, or, indeed, his abilities on the musical saw which he took to for one song, all served to add a lush beauty to the songs that the previous bands could rarely muster. The country lilt of “Keith And Tina” was the hightlight of the main set but the three encores they played at the behest of an increasingly verbal audience were sublime and capped a great start to 2007.

Sodastream – Keith And Tina

Sodastream – Charity Board

Posted by The Ledge on 16th January 2007 at 7:18 pm | comments (2)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews.

Arcade Fire Tour, Ticket Agencies Crash

Anyone manage to get Arcade Fire tickets this morning? I sure hope so cause they’re pretty much the best live band I’ve ever seen. We’ve scored a pair for both nights in Manchester but the whole experience left me fuming, not ecstatic.

This morning at about 8:50am I set out to find out who was selling tickets. The Ledge was going to try and get tickets for March 8 at the Manchester Apollo and I was meant to try for tickets for the following night, March 9. Ticketline had them “on sale soon,” Ticketmaster had them “on sale Friday at 9:00am, More info here” and See Tickets was producing an error message saying the server was busy, please come back later. At 9:00am Ticketline crashed and I was getting a “cannot contact site” page error. Ticketmaster was showing the tickets as on sale but everytime I tried to order I was told there were no tickets available for that event – making it appear sold out. I knew that could not be possible so I kept trying. At about 9:12am I was told they could sell me two seated tickets (crap seats as well), and as I was at work and did not want to risk losing tickets altogether and as Ticketmaster claimed they were the “Best Available” I purchased them. I received an email from The Ledge as I was doing this saying he had managed to get 2 tickets for the gig on the 8th, also really poor seats, and that it had only taken him 2 tries – so make that what 9:05am and already all the standing tickets and half the seats had gone?

What I want to know is, why does this happen every time a popular gig goes on sale? Inevitably, as the tickets go on sale not a single online ticket seller can cope with demand and their sites crash. Now, probably everybody does what I do which is open three windows and buy from whoever delivers the goods first. This means every person trying to buy tickets has at least 3 sites, so they’re all getting the same huge volume of traffic. But, if they were all reliable and did not crash, then I wouldn’t try all three at once, I’d only go to the one I preferred. For some reason, however, despite the fact that this situation probably occurs once a week, at least, these sites, who charge outrageous amounts of money for the privilege of using them, can’t manage to up their bandwidth. You’d think they could cut some sort of deal with their hosting company to give them enough bandwidth to cope with for a couple of hours around the sale of major events. By not doing so, they not only anger and frustrate customers, but they pretty much show their complete disdain for their customers – much like when they don’t really actively pursue touts on auction sites since they can’t be bothered to make the effort since profit is profit.

Since this morning, there are already tickets up on eBay at outrageous prices and companies such as TicketTout.net are selling the tickets at between 4 and 9 times the face value. Do a Google search for “TicketTout” and look at the reviews people are writing about them all over the internet.

What still floors me is that this shoddy service is allowed to continue. Ticket agencies can add whatever surcharges they want onto tickets – The Ledge paid £2.75 this morning for the privilege of printing off his own ticket at home using his own paper and printer ink. Touting is legal as re-seller agencies are allowed to buy up hundreds of tickets for even small-ish gigs to resell at outrageous prices, and auction sites are perfectly happy with their members doing the same. If it is illegal for sporting events, why is this not illegal for all events? It’s just as much a problem and a pain for music fans as for sports fans, and it’s just as lucrative an industry.

Sadly, we remain in the same position as ever, which is either deal with the industry as it stands or stop going to gigs. You can, however, sign an e-petition to make ticket touting illegal on the government’s website.

As ever, if you didn’t manage to get tickets this morning, don’t go to eBay, try Scarlet Mist.

Posted by JustHipper on 12th January 2007 at 5:04 pm | comments (4)
File under Rant,Tickets.

Great Band, Shit Song #2 : “Baby Genius” by Eels

Electro-shock Blues is not only my favourite Eels album, it is also one of my favourite albums ever. The songs relate E’s experience with the suicide of his sister and the death of his mom from cancer and it came out about the same time I lost my father. The Ledge bought it for me after we heard Steve Lamacq play the closing track, “P.S. You Rock My World,” and I commented on how good Beautiful Freak was and how much I’d enjoyed seeing them on the small stage at Lollapalooza the previous summer.

The album itself is a curious mixture of sadness, anger, resignation and astute observation on the smaller details of illness, depression and coping. At various times you can feel his frustration at being unable to help his mother and his attempts to understand his sister’s action. Ultimately, despite the overwhelmingly depressing subject matter, he manages, in his unique way, to capture both a mood of sorrow and a sensation of hope, as he closes the record with the words:

Laying in bed tonight I was thinking
and listening to all the dogs
and the sirens and the shots
And how a careful man tries to dodge the bullets
While a happy man takes a walk

And maybe it’s time to live

To me it summed up the whole experience of the album. It’s essentially a trek through the stages of grief, from Denial to Acceptance, and with acceptance comes the ability to move on.

Sadly, in the middle of all this is the irritatingly twee piece of drivel that is “Baby Genius.” Sandwiched in between the two gems that are the album’s first single, “Last Stop: This Town” which is about wishing you could fly away with the spirit of a suicide victim and “Climbing To the Moon” which is about a terminal patient accepting his fate and pledging to make the best of the time he has left, there’s this semi-sarcastic, pseudo-lullaby that sounds like it’s a parody on some choral Christmas carol. When I hear it what I hear are the words “baby Jesus,” which may be what was intended, but who knows. Either way it’s not what I want to hear in the middle of a rather sombre and personal record. As far as I can tell, it’s nothing more than a strop about being frustrated with a young smart-ass. Melodically, it does not fit, it’s like a commercial break at the peak of the action, and lyrically it does not fit as it has nothing to do with anything else on the album. It’s not like they needed the filler, the album would be plenty long without it. Moreover, if intended to offer some light relief from the heavy subject-matter, it fails at that as well, since it sounds more like a cry of frustration at goodness knows what put to cheesy kids music box and it is hardly amusing or mood-lightening. Sadly, it’s another one of those songs that leaves me shaking my head and wondering why a band would break the flow on a phenomenal record with toss like “Baby Genius.”

Eels – “Baby Genius”

Eels – “P.S. You Rock My World”

Posted by JustHipper on 10th January 2007 at 9:31 pm | comments (8)
File under mp3,Track Reviews.

News: Hold Steady tickets now available at a reasonable price

Tickets to see The Hold Steady at Jabez Clegg on 13th Feb are now on sale at Ticketline at a cost of £7 inc. booking fee and around £1.75 for delivery. They don’t seem to be up on the website just yet but you can call 0161 832 1111 to book or call in at the box office in St. Anne’s Square.

Thanks to Matt from Club Fandango for getting this sorted out.

Ticketline

Posted by The Ledge on 9th January 2007 at 1:31 pm | comments (15)
File under News,Tickets.

News: Arcade Fire Annouce (and stream) New Single!

I know we’re a few hours behind the mighty Pitchfork with this one, but Win Butler has announced on the Arcade Fire website that the first single from their forthcoming album Neon Bible will be ‘Black Mirror.’ If you click Win’s name in the previous link and go to Win’s Diary you’ll find an MP3 of the new song. Oh, and it’s ace!

If you’re too lazy to follow the link, the album is out on March 5 here in the UK.

Posted by JustHipper on 7th January 2007 at 10:38 pm | comments (1)
File under News.

See Tickets, Buy Tickets, Go Bankrupt

Hurrah! The Hold Steady are touring and will be playing at Jabez Clegg on 13th February. The Hold Steady currently hold the title of “Band I Most Want To See Who I Haven’t Seen Already And Haven’t Died Or Split Up Yet” in my own pathetic reality. It’s a Club Fandango promotion and if you go to their website you’ll find a link to buy tickets which will direct you to the See Tickets website. Once you’ve found the gig on See Tickets you’ll first notice the very reasonable price of £6 a ticket plus the obligatory booking fee of 75 pence. But look further to the right and you will notice that See Tickets are charging an unholy £4.85 per transaction for delivery. Blimey. If you want to buy a single ticket then it will cost you a total of £11.60 which, for a £6 ticket, is a massive 93% mark up.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of this attempt at legalised robbery, I firstly did a little research on the See Tickets site and found that for all other Jabez Clegg gigs listed the delivery transaction charge was £2: still a major rip-off for the price of a stamp, an envelope and 15 seconds of someone’s time, but a bargaining point nonetheless.

I then tried to find if any other agents were offering tickets: they weren’t. I phoned Piccadilly Box Office but to no avail and also phoned Jabez Clegg where I was told that they don’t sell tickets at the venue and was then given a number to ring for tickets; the number was for Piccadilly Box Office.

Next, I disguised myself as a humble punter and phoned See Tickets to book a single ticket for the gig in question. Naturally, I was exasperated when the guy at the other end tried to charge me £11.60 for a £6 ticket and put the phone down before he could relieve me of any of my hard earned. So I phoned See Tickets customer services to complain about the astronomical transaction fee and was told by the pleasant young woman on the other end of the phone that See Tickets always send out “standing only” tickets by special delivery (she didn’t explain why). “But,” I protested, “why is the transaction fee for all the other Jabez Clegg gigs only £2?”. At this point she put me on hold as she investigated. When she came back a couple of minutes later she told me that the tickets had to be sent special delivery as See Tickets had not been given permission by the gig promoters, Club Fandango, to reproduce any lost tickets. Now, See Tickets use a company called SMS for their special deliveries and if you’re not in when they attempt to deliver you get a card through the door asking you to phone them to arrange a time for the delivery. They do not have a depot that you can go to to pick up the tickets yourself and they will not deliver without a signature. The delivery times are half day slots except for Saturdays when they could arrive at any time between 8am and 6pm. So, for your £11.60 you’ll probably have to spend all day Saturday at home, waiting.

I then checked Club Fandango’s website to see if any of their other gigs were being sold through See Tickets. They weren’t: all the other gigs on the site were being sold through either Ticketline or We Got Tickets, two of the less unscrupulous agents on the block. However, the website does have a link that lets you send them an email request to reserve advance tickets for all of their gigs, to be picked up and paid for on the door, presumably without even a booking fee attached. Yippee. I duly sent a request for two tickets along with an abridged version of these events and a few questions about what See Tickets had said and whether tickets would be available from any other outlets. I’ll let you know when I get a reply.

So, all you sniffling indie kids, hold steady if you want tickets to see The Hold Steady. Get over to the Club Fandango site and hit the “Advance Tickets” button and ask them kindly to hold your tickets on the door.

Club Fandango

The Hold Steady

See Tickets

Jabez Clegg

The Hold Steady – Positive Jam

Posted by The Ledge on 5th January 2007 at 5:55 pm | comments (13)
File under News,Rant,Tickets.