Archive for November, 2007

Gig Review: Devastations @ Leeds Faversham, 24th November 2007

Devastations at Leeds FavershamLast night we were headed over to Leeds to take in Devastations opening for Scout Niblett, having grown to really love the new Devastations album, Yes, U. The only thing I knew about Scout Niblett before last night is that she once opened for Shellac, as we have her name on a Shellac gig poster. That is still all I know about Scout Niblett as apparently she fell ill the previous night and has cancelled her last two performances. We were sorry to hear that because being ill is not nice and we figured if somebody had opened for Shellac they might be worth hearing. However, as the Faversham website said that Devastations would be headlining, we weren’t that sad.

Needless to say, we turned up just shy of 10pm to be told it was free to get in and that Scout Niblett would not be appearing. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a bad turnout, with the room about 1/3 full when opener Paul Marshall appeared on stage with an acoustic guitar and the most amazing indie combover I’d ever seen. He played dark, sincere acoustic songs which sounded great for about the first 15 minutes and then started to drag a bit. I think perhaps he needed some other musicians backing him up to provide more texture. It’s possible he has that normally. He wasn’t half bad though, and was very enthusiastic. He even spent most of Devastations’ set stood next to me dancing gleefully (and he told his girlfriend not to stand in front of me because she was a good half a foot taller). So he gets my vote.

By the time Devastations appeared on stage, a full 15 minutes earlier than listed, the room was looking reasonably full. There were clearly some fans in the audience, as several tall 40-something men tried to push their way in front of me, and there were clearly some people who’d come down for Scout Niblett and figured they may as well stay. It would not be an exaggeration to say that 60 minutes later, if it even took that long, the entire room was a room of Devastations fans, because they were simply stunning. Whereas at ATP earlier in the year we had been mildly disappointed that they were not as intense and moody as they sounded like they would be from the description in the program, this time they were far more intense, moody, snarling and full-on than we expected.

Conrad Standish of Devastations live in LeedsOpening with “Oh Me Oh My” from the current album, we knew within notes that the new tracks would translate beautifully live, taking on an angrier hue. In fact everything sounded more noisy, more emotional and more growling as the band positively took over the small stage and the room with three instruments, a sequencer and some shared lead vocals. On record, particularly on previous long player, Coal, I often found the tracks tended to blend together and to sound rather disconcertingly too much like the Tindersticks. Live, all comparisons went away, as only Conrad Standish’s vocal phrasing remains reminiscent of Stuart Staples. They were more of a blindingly fervent mixture of Jack and The Drones with a bit of Roxy Music thrown in at times.

They tore through a set consisting mostly of new tracks including “Black Ice,” “Mistakes” and closer “Rosa” as well as a track or two from Coal and a track off their first album (which we don’t have) that they said was the first song they ever wrote and I think is called “Previous Crimes.” On the back of it, I may be on Amazon in a few minutes trying to order the first album. This was the track that made me recall The Drones with its meandering, gritty, low-key vocal and its dark and dirty blues rock chorus.

Needless to say, Devastations put in a stunning performance which was thankfully longer than the thirty minutes they had been scheduled to play. This only begs the questions of: when are they coming to Manchester and why haven’t more people heard this band yet?

Here’s a video of “Previous Crimes” that I took at the gig:

Devastations – “Oh Me Oh My”

Devastations – “Rosa”

Posted by JustHipper on 25th November 2007 at 2:47 pm | comments (5)
File under cancelled shows,devastations,Gig Reviews,leeds faversham,mp3,paul marshall,scout niblett,video,youtube.

Gig Review: New Pornographers, Manchester Academy 3, Nov. 20, 2007

Kathryn Calder of The New PornographersTo say I’d been looking forward to the return of the New Pornographers to Manchester was an understatement. The new album, Challengers, is a great romp and the addition of Kathryn Calder as a full time member of the band has added even more spark to the massive harmonies. Even knowing that neither Neko Case or Dan Bejar could be bothered coming over to Europe (even though they’ve played all the American dates), did very little to dampen my excitement.

First, however, we had to endure a band called It Hugs Back. Now, they weren’t the worst opening band I’ve ever seen. They play very American-influenced indie guitar rock and a couple of tracks early on in their set were not bad. The last two songs, which they said were their singles clearly sounded like they’d been written to record label specifications about “how to write a radio-friendly single” and they were pretty mundane. Frankly, however, the name “It Hugs Back” is so bad, and so evocative of whingey emo, that even if they had been the best band I had ever seen in my entire life, I would never buy one of their albums. I’d be too embarassed to have that CD in my collection. Sorry guys, but I have to draw the line somwhere. I mean, I can handle a name like “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness” mainly because it pretty much describes what they sound like. “…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead” is just clever. “Death Cab For Cutie” evokes smiles. But, “It Hugs Back”? Really? I don’t think so. As I have no idea what “It” is, I certainly don’t want “It” to be tactile. Stand back please. Way back. Further still. Thank you.The New Pornographers Live

Now the New Pornos…the last time I saw them, in the Night & Day touring Twin Cinema, had been a great gig but for one problem – the sound was so poor that we could barely tell what songs they were playing. We couldn’t hear the vocals at all. I assumed it was the venue as occasionally the sound is ropey in there. It wasn’t the venue. While we could distinguish the songs this time as the instruments sounded great, we could still barely hear the vocals. One guy even told the band and they tried to fix it. Sadly, they didn’t quite manage. As so much of their sound is in the complex harmonies, this does detract a bit from the sound. Thankfully, their enthusiasm on stage more than made up for the problems with the sound.

The set was great. Gleeful opener “All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth,” from Challengers moving quickly into “Use It” from Twin Cinema. “Jackie Dressed In Cobras” which appeared about five songs in sounded so different without the distinctive sound of Dan Bejar that I almost didn’t recognise it, but A.C. Newman more than compensated for his absence by making the vocal all his own.

Blaine Thurier of The New Pornographers gives Justhipper some feedbackI was thrilled to hear “The Laws Have Changed” which is the song that got me interested in them in the first place, recent single “My Rights Versus Yours” was an enthusiastic singalong and “Mass Romantic” kept the pace. The crowd were friendly and even the young hecklers stood behind The Ledge were more amusing than anything. With such a full stage I didn’t know where to look. A.C. Newman never stops moving, Kathryn Calder never stops smiling, drummer Kurt Dahle was pulling weird faces and kept sticking his tongue out in between delivering backing vocals, and Blaine Thurier kept making eye contact with much of the front row, smiling, nodding, and, in my case, giving me the finger as I photographed him playing the harmonica.

The energy actually kept building from start to finish right through to main set-closers “Sing Me Spanish Techno” which prompted lots of dancing and “The Bleeding Heart Show” which suffers a bit from the lack of Neko’s booming voice coming in at the end, although maybe this was because we could barely hear Kathryn Calder singing and not so much the actual absence of the queen of alt.country.

The encore of “Letter from an Occupant” and “The Slow Descent into Alcoholism” was the perfect finish to a great set, especially as we made away with a full, sealed bottle of beer, kindly donated to me by Kurt Dahle as he came back onto the stage.

We walked away infinitely satisfied with the performance delivered by a group who are rapidly becoming one of the most-played bands here at Indie Cred HQ. Hopefully they’ll be back again soon.

There’s a link to the full set up at Thunderfrogs.

Or, you could just listen to a couple of tracks:

The New Pornographers – The Bleeding Heart Show

The New Pornographers – Challengers

Posted by JustHipper on 24th November 2007 at 2:37 pm | comments (4)
File under ac newman,dan bejar,Gig Reviews,kathryn calder,manchester gigs,mp3,neko case,the new pornographers.

Video: The National play “Green Gloves” at Manchester Academy 2, 4th November 2007

This was over a week ago so it’s a bit too late for a full review but here’s a video I shot of The National playing “Green Gloves” at the Academy 2 a week last Sunday, with support act St. Vincent on backing vocals.

The National @ Manchester Academy 2It was a great gig with St. Vincent going down very well and impressing with her brilliant (and quite unique) guitar playing, her excellent use of the looping pedal and her wonderful vocals. The National were on spellbinding form. After opening with “Start A War”, followed by “Mistaken For Strangers” and “Secret Meeting”, I simply lost track of events, so wrapped up was I in the proceedings. The Boxer material sounded especially good, with much of it escaping the confines of the dark and muted atmosphere of the album to blossom into dynamic rock masterpieces while still retaining that dark heart, thanks to Matt Beringer’s unholy croon. The National: great on record, even better live.

St. Vincent – Marry Me

The National – Wasp Nest

Posted by The Ledge on 16th November 2007 at 6:58 pm | comments (3)
File under manchester academy 2,st. vincent,the national,Uncategorized,video,youtube.

Gig Review: The Shins, Manchester Academy, 8th November 2007

Vampire Weekend @ Manchester AcademyVampire Weekend seem to be all the rage on the bloggernet at the moment but I can’t really see what all the fuss is about. Yes, they play the sort of concise, tuneful American indie pop that is bound to please much of The Shins’ audience, and they’ve got this whole Bhundu Boys thing going on with the guitars and rhythms that will make them stand out a little from the pack, but they’re just too clean cut and polite for my tastes, even more so live than on record. The opening “Mansard Roof” and the closing “Oxford Comma” were probably the best in a bunch of songs that routinely failed to pique my interest, though they did go down well with plenty of other people on the night and the band even managed to conduct a successful sing-a-long at one point.

The Shins @ Manchester AcademyWhen The Shins played Manchester earlier in the year their stage dynamic had noticeably changed: it seemed that keyboard player/guitarist Marty Crandell had been asked to tone down his act. Marty was known for goofing around on stage and was involved in most of the between-song banter, taking much of the limelight away from James Mercer who seemed quite content to get on with his singing duties. At this year’s Leeds Festival I actually queued at the NME signing tent for a good hour or so to get my programme signed (in the hope of increasing its value to something close to what I actually paid for it) and to specifically ask Marty “How come you’re not goofy anymore?” in a kind of tribute to Dennis Pennis’ Steve Martin interview. The band were in danger of exceeding their time slot in the tent and, inevitably, the queue was cut at a point just a couple of people in front of me and, despite prolonged protests by JustHipper, our good friend Wendy and I, I never got to ask the question.

I still want to know the answer because I feel that The Shins have lost a little of their spark as they attempt to conquer the mid-sized venues of the world; the combination of bigger venues and less audience banter making for a less edifying Shins concert experience than of yore. This was in evidence through the first half of this gig. Despite the brilliant opening gambit of “Sleeping Lessons” and “Turn On Me”, a superbly beefed up “Girl Inform Me” and a grinding, shuddering “Sea Legs” it all felt a bit flat. Oldie “When I Goose Step” passed almost as high above my own head as it did most of the audience, I’ve yet to really understand the appeal of “Girl Sailor” and both “Turn A Square” and “Mine’s Not A High Horse” sounded solid and dependable rather than inspired.

The Shins @ Manchester AcademyIt all changed with “Phantom Limb” with its shimmering guitars and stately melodies; their best song, perhaps the best song to released in the past year by anyone. They’d been saving all the special stuff for last and I’d forgotten exactly how good their special stuff was. We got the gorgeous country lilt of “Gone For Good”, a slowed down, countryfied “New Slang” (which, curiously, seemed to be the cue for a lot of the youngsters around us to start chattering at each other), the bulletproof melodies of “Kissing The Lipless” and “Saint Simon” and an exhausting “Know Your Onion”. It was blistering stuff as the band found their groove and didn’t let up, closing out the set with “Australia” and encoring with the plaintive “Past And Pending” and the manic pop thrill of “So Says I”. They pulled it out of the bag in the end but it’s a worrying prospect that as they play bigger and bigger venues – as they certainly should be doing in the next couple of years – they might lose some of the charm and charisma that made their early shows so special.

Vampire Weekend – Mansard Roof

The Shins – Phantom Limb

The Shins – Girl Inform Me (live on 6music)

Posted by The Ledge on 15th November 2007 at 11:10 pm | comments (6)
File under Gig Reviews,manchester academy,mp3,Reviews,the shins,vampire weekend.

Gig Review: Beirut @ Manchester Club Academy, 6th November 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to the concert. There was a young couple in front of me on the way down to the basement of the University Union where the Club Academy is situated. When they reached the bottom of the stairs the young girl asked the guy collecting tickets what time Beirut were on. He pointed to the running times posted on the wall next to him which read:

Doors: 7:30

Jaymay: 8: 30

Beirut: 9:30

Curfew: 11:00

He then added that the support band were just about to come to which the girl replied “Which one?”.

“There’s only one” said the doorman at which point the boyfriend turned to go back upstairs to the bar.

“Hang on,” said the confused young lady as she grabbed his arm, “don’t you want to see The Doors?”

JayMay @ Club Academy, ManchesterJaymay, it turned out, was 15 minutes late, but put in a pretty good set, which was fortunate as I was massively put off by her name, what with it bringing to mind a certain twat in a certain hat. There are plenty of female singer-songwriters who play the same brand of acoustic folk but this slip of a girl in a big hoodie managed to win over the crowd with her tales of love and loss in her native New York City. A couple of songs stood out while the rest were amiable enough and at the passing of each song there seemed to be more and more cheers and less and less audience chatter.

Beirut @ Club Academy, ManchesterBeirut were magnificent. I wasn’t even looking forward to the gig that much as I never managed to really get into their debut album Gulag Orkestar, although their latest, The Flying Club Cup, has been slowly wheedling its way into my heart. This band, with their take on traditional Bavarian and French folk music (and I have no idea how authentic a sound they actually create), demand to be seen live. There were all manner of instruments on stage from ukeleles, trumpets and sundry horns to violin, glockenspiel and accordion and it was the instrumental passages in the songs that provided the triumphant rabble-rousing crescendos that got the crowd cheering mid-song and even hollering along to trumpet solos as in the brilliant “Postcards From Italy”. As I’d expected it was the new material that really left its mark on me from the opening “Nantes” to the splendid “Forks and Knives (la fete)” and the especially beautiful “In The Mausoleum”, a musical high point for the band full of yawning violins, stirring clarinets and anchored by a solid swinging double bass. At the heart of all this is the sickeningly talented Zach Condon who conducted his orkestar with a broad smile on his face giving the impression that he was enjoying this more than anyone else in the room, which he most probably was. Lucky bastard.

Beirut – Elephant Gun

Beirut – In The Mausoleum

Posted by The Ledge on 10th November 2007 at 5:05 pm | comments (32)
File under beirut,Gig Reviews,jaymay,mp3,Reviews,the doors.

Gig Review: Mark Kozelek @ Dancehouse Theatre, Manchester, 30th October 2007

With JustHipper on her sick bed this week I went alone to the Dancehouse Theatre last Tuesday night for a rare opportunity to see Mark Kozelek, he of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon fame, live in concert for only the second time in my life and a good 13 or so years since I saw Red House Painters at the much missed Duchess Of York in Leeds. Looking back I’d say that JustHipper might have been better off back at home as to enjoy the Kozelek live, acoustic experience you’d have to be on more than just nodding terms with much of his back catalogue and while I am, she certainly isn’t. There are some sizeable gaps in my Kozelek record collection, however, notably his AC/DC and Modest Mouse covers albums, probably because I’m a fan of neither band and can’t imagine that even Mark Kozelek can make them sound good.

Kozelek cut quite an imposing figure as he strode onto the stage and took his seat. He’s a muscular guy. I imagine he enjoys surfing. Like Jack Johnson. He tuned his guitar to a different tuning – it’s the first song; why wasn’t the guitar already tuned? Anyway, he kicked off with “Salvador Sanchez” off his brilliant Sun Kil Moon album Ghosts Of The Great Highway and he sounded fantastic, his big hands picking out beautiful melodies from his acoustic guitar while his voice was pure, effortless and perfectly tuned. For the second song he was joined by Red House Painters guitarist Phil Carney and for the rest of the set their guitars dovetailed beautifully.

There was plenty in the set that I didn’t recognise: the Modest Mouse cover “Tiny Cities” was surprisingly good, “Trucker’s Atlas” had me wondering where I could get hold of it (doh, it’s Modest Mouse again) and there was what I assume is a new song that mentioned all sorts of European cities that was also rather pleasing to these ears. Things did however start to drag a little as time wore on. All the songs were similarly paced and were punctuated by long periods of guitar tuning and little chat. He spoke to the audience occasionally; there was a conversation about the forthcoming Ricky Hatton fight with Floyd Mayweather and some advice for one punter with a bad cough to go to see the doctor. There were meandering versions of “Gentle Moon” and “Carry Me Ohio” from Ghosts, the songs’ taut melodies loosened and stretched to their detriment. My mind started to wander and I became acutely aware of how uncomfortable the seats in the Dancehouse Theatre were and of how warm it was in the venue. I suppose if the seats where softer and they had just a little of what you could call legroom then a few people may have found themelves nodding off.

Fortunately the gig ended on a high with a brilliant reading of “Duk Koo Kim” which ended abruptly with Kozelek dropping his guitar to the ground and stomping off. The lights went up but the crowd were unperturbed and eventually he returned to play “What’s Next To The Moon,” which, for me, was a revelation: how he can make an AC/DC song sound like Leonard Cohen in his prime is beyond me. He finished with a superb “Mistress” and that was that. As great as it was in parts, I left feeling slightly underwhelmed by the performance as a whole. I don’t know if he ever plays with a full band these days but, if he did, I imagine it would be a much more rewarding experience than this.

Sun Kil Moon – Carry Me Ohio

Mark Kozelek – Salvador Sanchez (live)

Posted by The Ledge on 4th November 2007 at 11:33 pm | comments (4)
File under dancehouse theatre,Gig Reviews,mark kozelek,mp3,red house painters,Reviews,sun kil moon.

If I’d Wanted to Be Trampled By Elephants, I’d Have Gone on Safari.

Gig Goer(s) of the Week, part 9 – Peter, Bjorn & John at Manchester Academy 2

I think I should start a blog about manners and politeness. Clearly there are a lot of people who don’t know how to behave and who have no respect for themselves or for those around them. As a child the phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” was drilled into my head over and over again. I think it’s pretty good advice and I do my best to follow it. Sadly, most people do not.

Last night, despite still having the remnants of a nasty ear infection and despite being utterly exhausted from a sleepless, strange and rather promising week, realising that I could get to the front and actually see the gig, even though we turned up quite late, I dragged The Ledge to the front of the Academy 2. I mean, it’s Peter, Bjorn and John, right? Even though they “rock out” a bit more live, I didn’t expect any more of a hassle than occurred at Leeds Festival, which was to say none at all as the crowd were very gleeful and friendly. Stood to my right was a rather drunken woman who was swaying about, but she kept smiling at me. Her boyfriend looked disinterested in Maps, but you can’t please everybody.

About four songs into the main set this woman, who had been singing loudly (off-key) and rather gleefully, disappeared, presumably to the bar or the toilet. Immediately upon her leaving, this monster with a face that could crack glass pushed her way next to me. She started bouncing about like a mad lady and was, for all intents and purposes, bodyslamming me. Her singing involved lots of “la la las” as she didn’t know the words. I elbowed back a couple of times, wary that she had a full glass of red wine and I was wearing my favourite stripey t-shirt which has a lot of white on it. Eventually she stopped, but she was exhorting one of her friends to come stand with her. I could see the boyfriend who was waiting for the return of the lady who had been next to me lean in and say something. He probably said his girlfriend was coming back – which is fair enough. It wasn’t one of those shows where you snooze you lose. The crowd was not heavily packed in and, well, politeness dictates that if someone can get back then you should let them! This girl responded by berating him for standing with his arms folded and not dancing because apparently it is wrong of someone to simply watch and enjoy, if you aren’t dancing it’s not fair on the band. He ignored this. How can you tell someone else how to enjoy a gig? Eventually the girlfriend did return and they both had to move back because, well, they clearly weren’t the “Biggest Fans” and didn’t deserve to stand at the front.

This is the point where Elephant #2 pushed her way up and I got shoved into the nice girl to my left. There had barely been room for one person when Elephant #1 appeared. There was certainly no room for two people each the size of two people. But these two did not care, I mean they were the Biggest Fans in the room, everyone else could go to hell. I was at this point treated to loud screechy talking through the next 3 or so songs which involved, mostly, drunken screams of “He’s so hot! I am going to snog him! I am going to make him kiss me! He’s so hot!” directed at lead singer Peter, poor guy. Then they started trying to get his attention by shouting these things at him. It became “You’re so hot! I want to lick you all over! Come give me a kiss!” And exclamations of “He’s not listening to me?! He didn’t hear it! If he did he’d come kiss me.” Now, I’m pretty sure he did hear them because at one point he glanced over and actually grimaced. I mean, if he’d fled the stage at the sight of these two I wouldn’t have blamed him. He’d probably have preffered snogging the shirtless fat, sweaty guy stood a couple of rows behind me. I really wanted to tell them it wasn’t a Take That gig and could they please shut up with the talking as the rest of us were trying to watch the band, but I didn’t think it was worth the argument.

That is, it wasn’t worth the argument until the band started playing “Young Folk” and these two started bodyslamming me again, dragging more mates into a small space that couldn’t fit them, screaming “Where’s John?” (playing drums where he had been through the whole gig, you dumb fucktards!) and, even better, tapping me on the shoulder and going “Smile! You look like you’re not having fun.” (No, you asshats, I’m not having fun, I’m being bodyslammed by a pair of elephants who are shouting over the music and hurting my ears.) I glared at them in hopes they’d back off and went back to trying to hear the gig.

Then Elephant #1 lit up a cigarette. Now, I hate smoke. I really really do. When it was legal I tolerated it, despite chronic sinus problems and asthma. I no longer have to tolerate it because it’s illegal to smoke indoors. So I politely leaned over and said “Could you put that out please?” She responded with “No.” Excuse me? I pointed out she wasn’t meant to be smoking and she said “I don’t care. You can’t stop me anyway.” In that split second I had to make the decision between staying put just to piss them off and making more judicious use of my elbows to defend myself or humiliating her by sending security after her. I opted for security. Sure enough, he was in there straight away and took her cigarette. She may have lit up again the moment he left, but everyone in the crowd saw it happen and I think I made my point of – you can’t smoke and yes, I can stop you. Result.

The whole thing however left a sour taste in my mouth and although I could have returned back to where I was as The Ledge is very good at saving my spot, I figured I felt ill, I was tired and I didn’t want a fight with a herd of drunken animals.

The point? Why is it that people feel the need to make a spectacle of themselves in the hope of the band spotting them and branding them the “Biggest Fan?” Everyone there is there to enjoy themselves and everybody enjoys music in a different way, so why force your enjoyment on others, particularly when it spoils a gig for everyone around you? Most of the audience was in fact dancing without bodyslamming anyone or screaming like a slutty hyena over the band. So ladies, it’s time for you to learn some manners, to realise that you are not the world, and to develop some respect for both yourselves and for those around you.

Posted by JustHipper on 3rd November 2007 at 1:01 pm | comments (9)
File under gig etiquette,Gig-goer of the Week,manchester gigs,manners,mosh pits,peter bjorn and john,Rant.

Video: Much improved version of Arcade Fire playing Still Ill at the MEN Arena

At the Arcade Fire gig at the MEN Arena on Saturday I took a video of them playing The Smiths’ Still Ill and posted it on YouTube the same night. It got linked to by all manner of blogs, including Stereogum, but the sound and video quality were piss poor to say the least, although this didn’t stop it racking up nearly 3,000 views in just a five days.

I found a decent quality mp3 of the song and, using all sorts of technical jiggery-pokery that I barely understand, I somehow managed to create this much improved version of the video. Enjoy.

Posted by The Ledge on 2nd November 2007 at 12:58 am | comments (4)
File under arcade fire,MEN Arena,the smiths,video,youtube.