Archive for June, 2008

The Indie Credential Gig Guide: 30th June – 6th July 2008

The Cave Singers
We’ll be taking it a bit easier this coming week after this weekend’s exertions, details of which should be up in review form in the next seven days or so. Still, it’s another pretty good week for gigs in Manchester.

Aussie electro poppers Cut Copy play the Night & Day on Monday night while on Tuesday we’ll be at the same venue to see the excellent Cave Singers, whose Invitation Songs album is one of our favourites of the year so far. Also on Tuesday you’ve got the pick of the Brian Jonestown Massacre at the Academy 2, Leeds psyche rockers The Music at the Academy and Athens, Georgia garage rockers The Whigs at the Roadhouse.

On Wednesday Beck pops up at the Apollo, presumably pushing his forthcoming Modern Guilt long player. We wouldn’t have minded going but tickets were somewhere around the £45 mark, which is just ridiculous. It’s most probably sold out anyway, and the excellent Yeasayer are in support so it will probably be a very good night.

Hoary old new wave rockers the New York Dolls are at the Academy 3 on Thursday. We saw them at the Move Festival a couple of years and weren’t too impressed. Friday sees Why? play the Roadhouse in a gig rearranged from early June after illness put paid to their whole UK tour. Also, Idlewild play the Ruby Lounge where they’ll be supporting themselves with a 30 minute acoustic set before playing a full set of b-sides and rarities. For die-hard fans only, then, and probably well sold out.

Not a great deal going on next weekend, however, although Air Cav launch their new single, the double A-side “Embers/Picking At The Bones”, at Urbis on Saturday night with support from the likes of The Answering Machine and Rochelle. It’s £6 to get in and the bands start at 9pm.

Posted by The Ledge on 29th June 2008 at 4:05 pm | comments (5)
File under gig guide,gigs,manchester gigs,the cave singers.

Video: My Morning Jacket – Highly Suspicious, Live at Manchester Academy 2, 27th June 2008

We just got back from My Morning Jacket’s awesome performance at the Academy 2 tonight. Here’s a video of their performance of Highly Suspicious. A full review will be up in due course.

Posted by The Ledge on 28th June 2008 at 1:16 am | comments (1)
File under my morning jacket,video,youtube.

Gig Review: Leonard Cohen, Opera House, Manchester, 18th June 2008

This was undoubtedly our most anticipated gig of the year, not just because tickets cost a whopping £80 but also because this was our first and probably last chance to see one of the few musicians we would both call a “living legend” before he finally retires for good. From the reception that Leonard Cohen got when he bound onto the stage, it was clear that everyone else in the audience, from grandmothers to grandkids, were looking forward to it just as much, as, it seems, was Cohen himself, who looked genuinely humbled by the applause and cheers.

Our main concern for the evening was the condiditon of Cohen’s voice. On his last album, Dear Heather, it sounded shot, with most songs either spoken word or his vocals drowned out by the backing vocals. With the first line of “Dance Me To The End Of Love” our worries were assuaged, his careworn voice sounding impossibly deep and rich, and satisfyingly high in the mix.

Much of the set came from his ’80s and ’90s output, with I’m Your Man and The Future particularly well represented, the latter’s title track being an early highlight. His nine-strong backing band were all musicians of the highest quality although the arrangements erred on the side of sophisticated lounge jazz. Cohen was understandably proud of his charges and you might be forgiven for thinking that Alzheimers had set in such was the frequency with which he name-checked them. The slightest fart from Dino Soldo’s saxophone would bring on an introduction and the obligatory applause from the audience. Despite the presence of more than one too many sax solos, the band did a fine job, playing with great restraint, solos notwithstanding, and allowing Cohen to remain the centre of attention throughout. Of particular note was Javier Mas’ masterful playing all manner of acoustic stringed instruments of varying shapes and sizes.

Older songs from Cohen’s ’60s and ’70s heyday were rearranged sympathetically to retain much of their original magic. “Bird On A Wire” and “Who By Fire” were tender treats early in the set while “Suzanne” and “Sisters Of Mercy” were very close to their sparse originals with Cohen picking out melodies on his acoustic guitar, albeit with less certainty than he did forty years ago. Less successful was the arrangement for “Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” which was rather heavy-handed for my liking but there was a storming version of “So Long Marianne” to make up for it.

The undisputed highlight of the evening was “Hallelujah” which saw Cohen reclaim the song for himself from the million or so cover versions out there. The superb backing vocals from long-time collaborator Sharon Robertson and the Webb Sisters, Hattie and Charley, lifted the song to stratospheric heights and prompted a prolonged standing ovation from the audience at the song’s conclusion.

Cohen himself was a delight throughout, joking with the crowd that the last time he toured he was 60-years-old, “a kid with a crazy dream”. There were wry smiles at the recital of some of the more poignant lyrics: “I was born with the gift of a golden voice” from “Tower Of Song”, played with just Cohen on synthesizer (complete with one-finger solo) and the three backing singers, brought cheers from the crowd and a self-deprecating shake of the head from the man himself – who’s he trying to kid? The cries that greeted “If you want a doctor, I’ll examine every inch of you” from “I’m Your Man” suggested that there plenty of other septuagenarians in the room who did indeed require a doctor.

Only in the encores did things begin to flag with the band introductions becoming a little tiresome during “Closing Time” and “I Tried To Leave You”. The version of “If It Be Your Will” played and sung by the Webb Sisters should really have been played during the main set, if at all, instead of the encore when the audience was crossing their fingers for the likes of “Joan Of Arc” and “Take This Longing”. Despite this we still wanted the performance to go on and on but the fourth encore, a beautiful rendition of “Famous Blue Raincoat”, was as good a place as any for Cohen to call it a night, signing off with “Sincerely, L. Cohen” before the band piped up with a brief, a capella “Wither Thou Goest?” to end a perfect evening. Gig Of The Year. So far.

Video: Gypsy Wife by Leonard Cohen, from the gig

Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen – Tower Of Song

Posted by The Ledge on 23rd June 2008 at 8:08 pm | comments (64)
File under Gig Reviews,Leonard Cohen,mp3,opera house,Reviews.

The Indie Credential Gig Guide: 23rd-29th June 2008

My Bloody ValentineThere doesn’t seem to be a great deal going on at the start of this week but the weekend is going to be a bit special, I think.

Goldfrapp play the Bridgewater Hall on Monday night, which strikes me as an odd choice of venue for their dancey electronica, but what do I know?

On Tuesday punk prog noiseniks Rolo Tomassi play the Roadhouse, but we’ll be saving what’s left of our hearing for the weekend, which kicks off with the brilliant My Morning Jacket pushing their recent, and divisive, long player, Evil Urges, at the Academy 2 on Friday night. Whatever you think of the album – I love it while JustHipper isn’t too impressed by the first half – MMJ are an incredible live act and this is not to be missed.

On Saturday we’ll be witnessing the return of pioneering shoegazers My Bloody Valentine, who, like Leonard Cohen last week, return after a 15 year haitus to bring their blissful, ear-shattering racket to the Apollo. Also on Saturday, The Fall play the Academy 2 with John Cooper Clarke in support. My Bloody Valentine are at the Apollo again on Sunday but we’ll be at Old Trafford, home of Lancashire County Cricket Club, where Radiohead will doubtless bring the week to a glorious conclusion.

Posted by The Ledge on 22nd June 2008 at 10:46 pm | comments (4)
File under gig guide,manchester gigs.

Video: Leonard Cohen Live at Manchester Opera House, 18th June 2008

We’ve just returned from watching Leonard Cohen put in a breathtaking live set. He can still sing and he’s utterly and completely charming and we were totally mesmerised. We’ll have a full live review up later in the week when we have some time to breathe, but in the meantime, here’s a video of him performing “Everybody Knows” taken from the balcony earlier tonight.

Posted by JustHipper on 18th June 2008 at 11:54 pm | comments (17)
File under Leonard Cohen,video,youtube.

Gig Review: Tapes ‘n Tapes, Manchester Club Academy, 1st June 2008,

Tapes 'n Tapes @ Club Academy, ManchesterTapes ‘n Tapes were one of the most exciting discoveries we made back in 2006. Their debut album was full of ecclectic, driving indie rock that sounded like nothing else coming out of anywhere at the time. They were passionate, they were unusual and live they were a fury unleashed. When I heard their second album I was, to put it mildly, a little disappointed. Produced by the same guy who ruined Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s first work for an actual record label it seems where he took all of Clap’s melodies away and replaced them with an unlistenable mish mash, with Tapes he’d removed all of their ecclecticism, their personality and everything that made the first album unique in a bid to make it sound familiar and radio-friendly. All he ended up doing was stripping them of everything that made them the darlings of the blogosphere 2 years ago, blending them into all the nameless, faceless American indie rock that fills the gaps on college radio between songs by The Shins, The Decemberists and Spoon.

With their past live record to go on, however, we figured that the problem was in the production and live the new songs might reveal their inspiration and sound more like the old Tapes ‘n Tapes, the band that produced such a driving, catchy and totally out-of-the blue musical moment with The Loon. Sadly, we were very wrong.

From the moment they took the stage they oozed blandness and conventionality. Where they had been full of fire and energy two years ago, this time they barely moved much less emoted and song after song ran together like the not-even-exciting-enough-for-mass-consumption rejects from a playlist meeting for an American “modern rock” station, thrown in the recycling bin in favour of another Snow Patrol single.

Not only was the new stuff just as bad live and the band soul-crushingly mediocre, but they managed to take the best moments from the first album and tone them down, remove all their uniqueness and make them blend into a single, relentless assault of blandness. One guy and his mate danced at the front through the nonchalant procedures, until the band, 3/4 of the way in, chose to berate us for not dancing enough. I wanted to scream “Give us a reason to dance!” but held back. I also wanted to scream “Play ‘Insistor’ so we can fuck off home and get some sleep!” but thought that would be a step too far. When ‘Insistor’ finally arrived as the penultimate track it was a band going through the motions playing their hit. After a final song, The Ledge and I, both bored to tears, didn’t bother to find out if they’d come out for a encore. We went home, dejected.

Tapes ‘n Tapes – Insistor

Tapes ‘n Tapes – Demon Apple

Posted by JustHipper on 16th June 2008 at 7:43 pm | comments (5)
File under Gig Reviews,manchester club academy,mp3,Reviews,tapes n tapes.

The Indie Credential Manchester Gig Guide: A new weekly feature

leonard cohenWe could do with a weekly feature on this blog just to ensure some regular updates. So here it is: the Indie Credential Manchester Gig Guide, our pick of what’s on in our fair city over the next seven days.

And what a week to start: On Monday we’re off to see The Twilight Sad at the Night & Day. They played there a couple of months ago and were great, but I wonder if they’ll bring the acoustic vibe of the new Here It Never Snowed EP with them this time round. Support is from Edinburgh’s Broken Records, which I’m very much looking forward to. Also on Monday, the newly reformed Rival Schools play the Academy 3.

On Tuesday it’s the mouthwatering prospect of Beach House and Fleet Foxes at the Roadhouse. With Fleet Foxes everywhere on the web at the moment, this is totally sold out, as is the great Leonard Cohen‘s four night residency at the Opera House which starts on the same night. We’re off to see him on Wednesday and we’ll let you know if it was worth the frankly ridiculous £80 admission fee by the weekend.

On Thursday there’s another attractive looking double bill with Liars supported by Deerhunter at the Club Academy, while on Friday The Longcut play the Deaf Institute, supported by Day For Airstrikes and Mechanical Owl, and Tim And Sam’s Tim And The Sam Band With Tim And Sam play the Kro Bar with support from Ed Cottam, among others.

Broken Records make a quick return to Manchester on Saturday when they play the Ruby Lounge. If they impress on Monday night then we might well make our way down there.

The pick of Sunday‘s action is certainly the Strawberry Shortcake Festival at the Klondyke Bowls Club in Levenshulme featuring some bands we’ve heard of (Sparky Deathcap, Amida) and lots that we haven’t (Plaaydoh, Jam On Bread, Klaus Says Buy The record). With a ton of bands on, each getting 15 minutes each, it should be a blast. It starts at 2pm and tickets cost £7.50.

Posted by The Ledge on 15th June 2008 at 11:43 pm | comments (6)
File under gig guide,manchester gigs.

Gig Review: ATP curated by Explosions In The Sky, Butlins Minehead, 16th-18th May 2008

Ok, let’s get this over with. We’ve kind of lost our blogging mojo for the minute but ATP deserves at least some sort of write up.

This was our third year running at ATP and yet again it was a cracking weekend. Any negative comments you may have read further down the page were really minor quibbles and did not affect our enjoyment of proceedings one jot, mainly because we got to see Battles on the Sunday night after an act of generosity that came completely out of the blue. More of later, if I remember.

Dinosaur Jr, Centre Stage, ATPWe arrived. It was raining. We got the chalet next door to the one we got last year. We headed for Centre Stage to catch the festival’s opening band, The Constantines, and their solid, blue collar indie rock went down very well. The singer gave himself a haircut during the gig. Not sure why. Japanese post-rockers Mono were up next on the same stage were loud and completely unspectacular, but not a bad warm up for Dinosaur Jr, playing the first of their two Centre Stage sets. We thought we had a good spot at the front until they wheeled on J Mascis’ four Marshall stacks that were to form a cocoon around the aging slacker legend. I moved to get a better view while JustHipper made do with catching glimpses of the great man when he approached the mic to sing. It was a great set dominated, not surprisingly, by Mascis’ searing guitar work. There was a good range of material on offer from set highlight “Forget The Swan” through to MTV breakthrough “Feel The Pain”, but there was slight disappointment at the end when the encore suggested on Mascis’ huge setlist (at least 3 pages of A4 with really big lettering – Mascis must be almost blind as well as almost deaf) didn’t materialise.

Phosphorescent, Reds Stage, ATPThen it was off to the Skyline Pavilion where curators Explosions In The Sky made their one and only appearance, their great conceit for the weekend being a complete lack of activity on the other two stages while they were on. Now I, unlike JustHipper, like a bit of post-rock now and then but I’m not massively familiar with the Explosions’ back catalogue and found myself unable to really get into it and giving up after about half an hour. It would have been nice to have something else to go and see but instead it was Burger King and beer and the DJs in the Crazy Horse. Before long we were in the Reds bar watching The Octopus Project from afar as JustHipper complained that she was “all post-rocked out”. So was I, but they sounded a bit more interesting and varied than the curators. I’d heard enough of Phosphorescent to know that I desperately wanted to catch their set and, although I was practically dead on my feet at this stage and my companion made it through just one song before hauling herself off to bed, I stuck it out and was rewarded with a quite brilliant set of atmospheric folksy blues with plenty of excellent vocal looping from Matthew Houck (turns out it’s just one guy). I made a mental note to rush out and buy his latest album. Three weeks later and I still haven’t; but I will.

Okkervil River, Skyline Pavillion, ATPSaturday morning began with the discovery of The Yacht Club’s buffet breakfast: £5.99 and you won’t have to eat again until teatime, though I think it lasted me through to 10pm on both Saturday and Sunday. After a game of pool I stayed in the Sports Bar to keep up my record of having watched every FA Cup final since 1976 while JustHipper enjoyed A Hawk And A Hacksaw on the Pavilion stage. Portsmouth’s victory was followed by what was probably the set of the weekend, for me, by Okkervil River whose ramshackle intensity translated brilliantly to the big stage. They seemed so much tighter and more focused than the couple of times I’ve seen them in club venues and they sounded positively epic, easily filling the huge space and no doubt gaining a number of new followers in the process. The electrifying “Black” and the gorgeous “A Girl In Port” were the undoubted highlights with Will Sheff in terrifically manic form, though the addition to the line-up of The Wrens’ Charles Bissell, albeit temporary, is a masterstroke, his taut, masterly guitar work perhaps the catalyst for their improved performance.

Next we had the first real clash of the weekend with And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead playing the Centre Stage while Iron And Wine played the Skyline Pavilion. Having seen Iron And Wine in Manchester a couple of days before we opted for Trail Of Dead, usually an uncompromising live proposition though they have certainly lost their way with their last two albums. A couple of the oldies sounded great but the rest failed to hold our interest so we returned to the Pavillion to catch the last 20 minutes or so of Iron And Wine which seemed to consist of just one song: the 3 hour version of “The Shepherd’s Dog” that had got many peoples backs up, including ours, at the Manchester gig. Iron And Wine in extended folk jam mode is not much fun at all.

The National, Skyline Pavillion, ATPA Boxer-centric set from The National rounded off proceedings on the Pavilion Stage. It was captivating stuff and it was great to see them playing to such a large and enthusiastic crowd. The normally reserved Matt Berninger even ventured to the barrier for some Bono-style audience-milking. The Boxer songs sound so much better live, retaining the dark atmospherics of the record but when they break loose, like in the closing stages of “Start A War”, they take you places that the album doesn’t quite manage.

I can’t say I remember too much about Western Keys on the Reds Stage later that night, except that I quite enjoyed them. Poised somewhere between indie rock and Americana, they had pedal steel duelling with Charles Bissell’s taut, angular guitar work. I hope that Bissell guy was on double time. It was midnight and we were, again, dead on our feet. Battles would have to wait for tomorrow night.

Jens Lekman, Skyline Pavillion, ATPSunday started with the breath of fresh air that is Jens Lekman. For me at least: JustHipper’s dislike of the Swedish pop maestro is legendary and she sensibly stayed well clear. With the bright sunshine filtering through the canopy of the Pavilion Stage and plenty of festival goers weary from the exploits of the past two days, it was the perfect conditions for Jens and his female-heavy backing band to spread some joy and blow away some of the cobwebs. The joyous “The Opposite Of Hallelujah”, with its excellent segue into “Give Me Just A Little More Time”, and the lengthy, ever-expanding story-song of “A Postcard To Nina” were memorable moments and Jens will have undoubtedly won over a few more fans. Not JustHipper, though, who I met up with to watch Polvo on the Centre Stage. We’d not really heard any Polvo before – they’d just reformed after about 10 years – and though they played perfectly serviceable ’90s indie rock, we decided to make our way back to the Pavilion Stage half way through to watch the last half hour of Beach House, whose laid-back dreamy pop was much more accommodating.

De La Soul, Skyline Pavillion, ATPI stuck around for Silver Jews while JustHipper made her way back to the Centre Stage to get some Atlas Sounds that almost sent her to sleep. The Joos were wonderful with David Berman on fine form, freed from guitar duties and able to prowl the stage at his leisure. Cuts from the new “Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea” nestled comfortably alongside older classics such as “Trains Across The Sea” and “Smith And Jones Forever”. Berman entertained the crowd by reading out conflicting articles from an Irish farming newspaper. Seriously. Next it was back to the Centre Stage to see if seeing Animal Collective live would induce some sort of epiphany and I would suddenly realise what all the fuss is about. Nope, it’s never going to happen. Animal Collective bore me to tears. Back at the Pavilion Stage De La Soul were entertaining a sizeable crowd and were great fun until we started to realise that they were overrunning and that Broken Social Scene’s set would probably be curtailed as a result. In the end they incurred our wrath by being 30 minutes late getting off the stage, although I found out later that they were 30 minutes late coming on, so not entirely their fault. Broken Social Scene, Skyline Pavillion, ATPBroken Social Scene were certainly worth the wait, cranking out superb versions of “7/4 Shoreline” and “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement” early on and then getting an (inevitable) cameo from J Mascis, along with members of Explosions and The National, among others, for a tremendous “Backed Out On The…”. There was a strange hushed singalong for “Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl” with the ever-enthusiastic Amy Millan leading proceedings while the closing “Major Label Debut” was a great way to finish things off. They may have only played for just over an hour but it was a wholely edifying set.

Battles, Centre Stage, ATPIt remained for us to grab a pizza and then join the queue for Battles on the Centre Stage. In a farcical move, people who had got to the Centre Stage early to be sure of getting to see the band, were cleared out of the venue after Lichens’ set finished and had no option but to join the back of a very long queue to get back in. Most of them probably didn’t. In another twist, people who got turned away from Battles’ performance the previous night were given blue wristbands and allowed to the front of this queue. Fair enough, but where were our wristbands? We didn’t try to get in last night but surely we should have had preference above anyone who did see the band’s first set. Then, just as we were bemoaning the whole shambles, a girl appeared out of nowhere and asked if we wanted a couple of blue wristbands that she had spare. Thus, we made our way to the front of the queue and into the venue, taking up a decent spot at the barrier. We would have probably got in anyway but that girl really made our weekend. Anyway, Battles were quite incredible and enjoyed perhaps the most enthusiastic crowd of the weekend, which wasn’t bad for the early hours of a Monday morning. How they do what they do, I don’t know. Their set was a mass of complex loops, samples, vocal trickery, live guitars and incredibly tight and energetic drums. It was a great end to another great ATP weekend, and I’m sure we’ll be back for more next year.

Dinosaur Jr – Forget The Swan

Phosphorescent – Cocaine Lights

Okkervil River – Black

The National – Start A War

Jens Lekman – The Opposite Of Hallelujah

Silver Jews – Suffering Jukebox

Gig Review: Bob Mould @ Manchester Academy 2, 24th May 2008

Bob MouldThis really should have been done about 2 weeks ago, but we seem to hit blogger-burnout around this time every year, no matter how good our intentions. We are trying though.

In any case, we went down to see Bob Mould at what we thought would be a small gig in the Academy 3 and turned out to be a half-full gig in the Academy 2. Nevertheless, it was an enthusiastic crowd that greeted the ex-Hüsker Dü legend when he emerged onto the stage. About 30 seconds prior to his appearance, The Ledge had leaned over and told me that he would do some Hüsker Dü tracks but I shouldn’t expect anything from his days in Sugar. The Ledge is aware that my first experience of Bob Mould was when Sugar released Copper Blue and that I’m far more familiar with that album than with any of his other output. In any case, The Ledge was mistaken because Bob opened with “The Act We Act” off Copper Blue, following it up with no less than four other Sugar songs, including “Hoover Dam” and “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” over the course of the set.

He also played one of the few older solo songs I know, “I See a Little Light” which is on an old cassette compilation someone gave me when I was at university. It’s acoustic on my cassette, but this was a storming rock number. Most of the songs were storming rock numbers. The 2 or 3 ballads actually lagged quite badly although overall the set was what The Ledge called “relentless” as the band tore through song after song with almost no between-song banter.

It was exhausting to watch but enjoyable as Bob Mould did not stop grinning through the set and the older crowd, obviously fans from his Hüsker Dü days, were ecstatic, if not particularly energetic. The set made me wonder if Bob Mould isn’t the American equivalent of David Gedge – innovative but over time unsurprising, at the early forefront of his indie scene but playing to smaller and smaller crowds of balding men while still producing the same catchy, melodic, jangly rock and intriguing lyrics as ever. Plus there’s something I find extremely appealing about his voice. Bob Mould certainly writes some charming love songs and delivers them with all the emotion of a 20 year old with everything to prove.

When the Hüsker Dü material finally appeared, even to my pathetically untrained ears it was obvious, especially as the crowd finally started moving, rather than just waving their arms and mouthing the words. It was quite a moment, being in the presence of a man who’s been such an influence on a lot of bands I love, watching him play the songs that made him so influential. I’m really glad we were there.

Bob Mould – The Silence Between Us

Sugar – Hoover Dam

Posted by JustHipper on 10th June 2008 at 10:19 pm | comments (11)
File under bob mould,Gig Reviews,gigs,husker du,manchester academy 2,mp3,Reviews,sugar.