Archive for August, 2008

The Manchester Gig Guide: 1st-7th September 2008

The gig guide is back after a couple of weeks where there wasn’t much going on or, if there was, we were too lazy to report it. Of course, the summer holidays are over now and so the gig listings are filling up nicely for the autumn.

Things don’t really get going until Thursday this week when American Music Club play the Academy 3. They played the same venue a few months back so I’m in two minds about going to this one, even though, according to Drowned In Sound, they’re promising to play a few classic oldies. It’ll be a crowded night at the University as Gomez are at the Academy while Oldham’s much-touted Twisted Wheel play the Academy 2. Over at the Roadhouse on the same night are synth pioneers Silver Apples.

There are some terrible clashes on Friday night with two of Scotland’s finest bands, Frightened Rabbit and Camera Obscura, playing the Night & Day and Club Academy respectively while Gary Numan returns to the Academy for the second time this year, though presumably he won’t be playing his Replicas album in full this time. We would have plumped for Frightened Rabbit, who are supported by fellow Scots We Were Promised Jetpacks, were we not flying off to Prague for a relaxing weekend of sightseeing and Czech beer.

If that’s not enough then local faves Cats In Paris play the Deaf Institute and there’s also the Beck’s Fusions festival at Castlefield Arena with The Presets and Hercules and Love Affair, among others. Tickets are free but you had to register to be entered into a draw which has now closed. There will be a limited number of tickets available on Thursday at the arena from noon on a first come/first served basis.

On Saturday there’s the New Islington Urban Folk Festival on Old Mill Street just off Great Ancoats which runs from 2pm to 8pm and promises to be an interesting and entertaining event with music from the likes of Tim And Sam’s Tim And The Sam Band with Tim And Sam and The Mouse Outfit as well as a knit-a-thon lead by the King’s Arms Knitting Club plus tunes from the Dig For Victory Djs, AKA friends and fellow bloggers James Yer Mam! and Jonthebeef. Meanwhile, on the bill at the Fusions festival at Castlefield are Massive Attack and Santogold.

On Sunday the Dodos return to Manchester to play the Roadhouse and I seriously recommend that you go down to see them as they were excellent at the Night & Day back in May.

Posted by The Ledge on 31st August 2008 at 10:06 pm | comments (2)
File under gig guide,manchester gigs.

CD Reviews: Simon Connor, Ten Kens, Broken Records, Rose Kemp

We’ve had a bunch of CD’s kicking around Indie Cred HQ that we’ve been meaning to review. I’m going to do a quick run through on some of them. The Ledge will follow this up with a couple of more detailed ones, hopefully this week.

Seaside Surprise – Simon Connor

First up we have the four-track Seaside Surprise EP by local Manc singer-songwriter Simon Connor. We saw Simon back in February opening for Light Syndicate and found him very enjoyable and very good with a looping pedal. On this EP, however, he’s recruited help from some local bands including The Beep Seals, Light Syndicate and Cats in Paris as backing musicians. This is singer-songerwiter music so it’s earnest, melancholic and fairly acoustic. It’s also far too intelligent to just tick the usual guy-with-an-acoustic-guitar boxes. Connor is heartfelt and drawn to minor keys, but he also paints interesting, mournful landscapes with his lyrics and he has a good ear for arrangements – knowing when to stick to sparse guitar and when to use noise and sound to re-inforce what he’s singing about. I’m very much against using violins to suggest gravitas, but the violins here work really well to help build a mood of longing and melancholy on both “Open Fire” and “Brittle Branches”. Connor isn’t a one-trick pony though, there’s even a pop moment in the form of “Seaside Surprise” which sounds like it would have been on American college radio around 1997. This is a great introduction which holds a lot of promise. Seaside Surprise is currently on sale in Piccadilly Records on Oldham Street and Manchester and will be available for purchase on iTunes from 8th September.

Simon Connor – Brittle Branches

Gig EP – Broken Records

Last time we saw the Twilight Sad, I bought a copy of Broken Records Gig EP. It gives a teaser of things to come on their debut record and sums up what we took away from their live performance. They operate in that manic, Scottish territory occupied by Sons and Daughters but are more folky and less predictable. Opening track “If the News Makes You Sad, Don’t Watch It” makes me think of The Waterboys at times. They have a bit of the chaotic atmosphere that comes from a Broken Social Scene live performance but they sound distinctly Scottish at the same time, making good use of a violin and an accordian to drag the sound back towards European folk which also aligns quite nicely with the sorts of tunes being written by the Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit, without, perhaps, those bands’ nods to post rock.

Broken Records – If the News Makes You Sad, Don’t Watch It

Ten Kens – Ten Kens (FatCat, 2008)

A band that do draw firmly on their Toronto roots to great effect is Ten Kens on their debut album called Ten Kens. Making great use of reverb and twangy guitar with deliberately obscured vocals, they manage to be somewhere in between the great noisy, rock and roll anthemic chaos and anticipation produced by Broken Social Scene and a more earthy, organic alt-country mood, although they also swap the twangy guitar at times for hardcore-influenced riffs and shouting. This is a band that I suspect are going to be fantastic on a stage as they certainly make a great rousing, emotional cacophany of noise which still manages to be melodic and occasionally soft and thoughtful. The album is out on 15th of September on FatCat and is worth checking out.

Ten Kens – Downcome Home

Unholy Majesty – Rose Kemp (One Little Indian, 2008)

Entirely at the other end of every spectrum is Rose Kemp with Unholy Majesty. This is not the sort of record that usually makes its way onto CD players at Indie Credential HQ, but mainly because we don’t tend to go for gothic female singer-songwriters that write lyrics such as “With the rope from your car / Just for you / Yeah, knotted and bruised / With my hair done all nice / Just for you / Yeah bloated and blue / With the rats at my shoe / Just for you / Yeah, gnawed and chewed”. Having said that, this is actually pretty good at doing what it aims to do. Rose Kemp sounds suitably tortured, vocally somewhere in between the woman out of Evanescence and Siouxie Sioux. At times she even invokes PJ Harvey, at PJ’s more snarly, crazed moments from her early records.  This ticks the goth boxes it intends to tick, going back and forth between melodramatic quiet, emotionally tortured moments and noise, screaming moments full of guitar feedback and angst. Needless to say, the delivery of the above lyric sounds a lot better than the lyric reads in the liner notes. While I can’t say this CD is going to get much regular listening here, there are a lot of people who wear a lot of black and velvet and rarely go out in the sun who are going to absolutely love this. Unholy Majesty by Rose Kemp is out on 1st September on One Little Indian.

Rose Kemp – Bitter and Sweet

Posted by JustHipper on 31st August 2008 at 4:05 pm | comments (12)
File under CD Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008

R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008This was the third time in five years that R.E.M. had played Lancashire County Cricket Ground at Old Trafford and, with the news from Cardiff earlier in the month of the band having to scale down to a venue a tenth of the size of the Millennium Stadium, you could be forgiven for wondering if Manchester would turn up this time, especially as the band’s setlists had become a little tired and predictable on their previous couple of tours. Manchester did turn up in droves, however, even if a large part of the cricket ground was cordoned off making it seem even fuller than it was. Maybe it was the band’s return to form of sorts with the new album Accelerate after the dreary Around The Sun; or maybe the rarity of a warm and dry afternoon in what has been a quite abysmal summer.

The support acts were both bands we showed an initial interest in, buying their debut albums before growing bored well before their follow-ups were released. We always had high hopes for the Guillemots as they were such a good live band before they released any albums and before their live shows became weighed down in tedious self-indulgence. Things didn’t start too well with “Get Over It” sounding turgid and empty thanks to Fyfe Dangerfield’s anaemic guitar sound fighting a losing battle with the wind and only bass and pounding drums backing his vocals. They improved from thereon in, first with a couple of tunes we didn’t recognise that sounded pretty good, presumably they were from the latest album, and then with a succession of tunes we did recognise. “Trains To Brazil” and “Made Up Love Song #43” reminded us how good the Guillemots can be while “We’re Here”, given the setting, really should have been played with the full band and not just Fyfe on his own. It was a ponderous version that was quickly drowned out by the chatter of a bored crowd. They finished, as ever, with a 10 minute “Sao Paulo”, which, though it sounded good, left me thinking that they really haven’t moved on as much as they should have in the last couple of years.

Editors @ Lancashire County Cricket GroundI’m not sure what I ever saw in Editors. Opener, “Bones”, sounded ok but things got very boring very quickly. They are the post-Interpol Coldplay and while the succession of half-remembered singles from their debut album sauntered by I was playing Countdown with their backdrop. “Steroid” and “storied” for 7, Des. At least Tom Smith seems to have left his ridiculous arms-around-the back-of-the-neck emoting poses behind, instead choosing to clutch his microphone like he’s practicing his new golf grip. We left for beer and food well before the end.

R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008We saw R.E.M. at T In The Park last month and they certainly seem to be hugely re-energised on this tour, as evinced almost immediately with the tremendous opening salvo of “Living Well’s The Best Revenge”, “These Days” and “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth”. The fact that the new songs from Accelerate are invariably short-and-to-the-point rockers is a great help as it means that there is very little slack in the set, unlike last time around when their set was bogged down with the ponderous five minute plus dirges of Around The Sun. With the U.S. elections around the corner it was no surprise to hear some of the band’s more political works with “Drive”, “Man-Sized Wreath”  and the ever wonderful “Fall On Me” joining a rare and highly welcome outing for “Ignoreland” in close succession.

When Michael Stipe promised something special to mark Manchester’s Gay Pride celebrations, JustHipper immediately predicted “Pretty Persuasion” and she was spot on. It brought a tingle to the spine and it was as if time had stood still for 23 years, which is probably how long ago it was when I last saw them play it, so faithful it was to its original form. We hollered along with inane grins on our faces, as we did a couple of songs later when “7 Chinese Brothers” was dusted off, heads turning inquisitively in our direction as we yelped with delight on hearing Peter Buck’s opening refrain. Things slowed down a little with an unexpected “I’ve Been High” showing that Reveal wasn’t all bad, followed by a quiet, intimate “Let Me In” with the band gathering in a circle and the much of crowd, sadly, resorting to chatter.

R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008To be honest, the final third of the gig didn’t reach the heights of the opening hour or so as things got a bit more predictable. “Orange Crush” and “Bad Day” are now firmly entrenched in the R.E.M. setlist and, while both are fine songs, I wouldn’t be sorry to see the back of them for the next tour. “Imitation Of Life”, however, was a highlight at T In The Park and was just as good here as it closed out the main set. The encores included the inevitable “Losing My Religion” – cue groups of lads jumping up and down with their arms round each other’s shoulders – and “It’s The End Of The Work As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” and promised another surprise as Stipe introduced a song that “we don’t play very often”. Unfortunately it turned out to be “Mr. Richards”, which may be one of the better songs off Accelerate but it’s no “West Of The Fields”. At least they’ve finally dropped “Everybody Hurts” for this tour, which is especially good as JustHipper promised to buy me a cheap bottle of plonk to celebrate if they didn’t play it, though the ever-present set closer “Man On The Moon” must surely be up for review any year now. In all, though this performance wasn’t quite up there with T In The Park, it was close enough and I’d go as far as to say that this is probably the best R.E.M. tour since they toured Monster in 1995. Long may they run.

R.E.M. – Pretty Persuasion

R.E.M. – 7 Chinese Brothers

R.E.M. – Ignoreland

Posted by The Ledge on 25th August 2008 at 5:50 pm | comments (43)
File under Gig Reviews,LCCC,mp3,R.E.M.,Reviews.

Leeds Festival: Saturday 23rd August 2008

I know I said last year that I would probably never go back to Leeds Festival, but I tend to break these promises – I’ve been back to V as well since I swore I wouldn’t give them any more of my cash. This is not going to be so much a review, as an epic anti-touting rant, however, as I’d like to tell people about the adventure Bricking Chick and I had yesterday (although I do promise to mention the bands), especially having just read an article in The Guardian talking about how many people have been ripped off this summer by “ticket resellers.”

Bricking Chick had an amazing time watching Rage Against the Machine at T in the Park last month. I was with her at the time and I certainly did not expect them to be as mind-bogglingly brilliant as they were. I really can’t bear guitar show-offs playing long solos but we were both truly mesmerised by Tom Morello. So, she told me she wanted to try and get into Leeds for the day to see Rage again. I figured, if nothing else, it would be amusing to go along and see what happened. So we set off from Manchester about 11:30am with a 5 year old and an 8 year old strapped in the back – they can get in for free, they love festivals – they went to V last year for the weekend – and we figured having two kids along would possibly help our chances – only  a mean person would disappoint a child.

The Indie Credential vs. The Leeds Ticket Touts

The road between the M1 and Bramham Park was strangely empty – usually queues stretch miles back at that time of day, but despite this, the first tout we encountered on the road wanted £120/ticket. We laughed when he told us – our reaction annoyed him. We had no intention of paying over face value as there was, quite literally, nothing else on the bill we were interested in seeing (I’d have happily watched Henry Rollins but I knew we’d never get there in time.) The tout told us that the only chance of getting a face value ticket would be turning up at 9pm, if he still had any. We told him that would suit us, and drove off.

The second set of touts we encountered looked about 15 and they wanted £100/ticket. I suspect if anybody had fake tickets it was these kids because they were desperate to appear “connected” with the other touts up and down that road, to give themselves some legitimacy. We told them “no way” and drove off. We thought we might find some people with spares at the site itself, and you never know if the box office will have a few returns on the day – people whose cards have been refused or unusued promotional tickets or whatever. I’ve never managed to get one like that before, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend staking a weekend on the possibility, but I’ve spoken to people who’ve got lucky.

the third set of touts was back up to £120/ticket and did not seem impressed with us not even considering the price. Then we came across a van in a lay-by. There was a gnarled-looking old guy who looked as crooked as they come, and he had a rather drunk mate and two young women selling cameras and umbrellas out of the van. He was actually as nice as could be as he told us he’d just sold out of tickets but he might be able to get his hand on some wristbands – if his mate had managed to steal any from the office on the site he’d be happy to walk us in himself with the wristbands, charge us £25 each on the other side and then take the wristbands back out to reuse. We waited while he tried to get hold of his friend.

As he kept phoning the other mobile, which was engaged, he was very forthright about the fact that he sold the tickets he had at the high price of £120 because it was business. He was unapologetic and if somebody’s stupid enough to drive all the way there and pay that, then fair enough – as long as he’s getting tickets off people on the way in who couldn’t get rid of their spares. I’ve bought off guys outside gigs a few times over the years. Sometimes you pay too much and sometimes you get the tickets under face value. It evens out. It’s not like the big businesses online these days who make thousands by getting in between fans and tickets.

How do touts get all those tickets anyway?

What bothered us was how he actually seemed to get most of his tickets. For starters it seems that they have a cleaner’s uniform so they can get onto the festival site – he was bragging about doing this at T in the Park – go into the festival offices pretending to clean and then steal any tickets and wristbands they find lying around. They got hundreds at T, but had so far only managed to get a few at Leeds and Reading. If people wonder where tickets go this is your answer. Touts steal them straight out of the organisers’ offices – somebody must be aware of this and they need to take more care. They’re letting thieves escalate the touting problem. He also was bragging about getting 8 Weekend tickets off a coach driver in 2007. The coach driver had been finding dropped tickets after depositing busloads of eager fans. He sold all 8 to our new friend for £100 total. So 8 kids didn’t get in last year because a greedy coach driver didn’t hand the tickets into lost and found – he sold them to a tout – who then resold them at £200+ a ticket.

This tout though took a liking to us. Bricking Chick gave him a cigarette, he felt sorry for the kids so he did try and get some wristbands, unfortunately the friend in question was actually at Creamfields so he said he couldn’t help us. He did recommend we try our luck in the car parks where we might find somebody with a spare, and he also said that occasionally they have returns. We might get lucky. So we did try the car parks, and, as you can see, we did get lucky – we managed to acquire a pair of tickets at face value and got inside.

The sad result of secondary ticket agency ticket scams

Sadly, as the aforementioned article in The Guardian says, many people did not get inside, despite having paid for tickets – two or three times above face value. The sad thing is that the stories are so familiar – buy tickets from a company that’s not an authorised seller, tickets are way too expensive, don’t arrive and then you’re told to meet some dodgy guy in a car park. People should do their research. But, frankly, these secondary resellers should be illegal. It should simply be illegal to sell tickets above face value because at least then it could be enforced on the internet. The government should require official sellers like Ticketmaster and Ticketline to take returns – you can return consumer goods for up to 28 days if they’re unused, so why can’t you return event tickets if it’s before the date of the event? They should encourage box offices at venues to take returns – then people could purchase the returned tickets directly. It wouldn’t stop touting outside venues but before the internet those touts were never that bad – and often they do provide a service of sorts. They also weren’t quite so desperate because they had less competition.

In many instances these agencies are preying on people who aren’t seasoned gig-goers and don’t know the difference between legitimate ticket firms like Ticketmaster and See Tickets and these dodgy, fly-by-night resellers. They do look legitimate, they’re easy to find online and they can even fool those who should know better. Just a week ago a co-worker who is a regular gig-goer was shocked at the £70 price of Nick Cave tickets until I told him to try Gigs and Tours cause what he’d found was a reseller. Sadly the government seems uninterested in these scams that take huge amounts of money off innocent victims so yet again the unknowing missed out on a festival they would have loved while myself, the cynic, got inside – simply because I know what I’m doing after years of experience.

The Indie Credential at Leeds Festival 2008 – Rage Against The Machine really do rock!

So, was Leeds 2008 worth the drama? Well, these sorts of days out with Bricking Chick are always worth the drama. Watching two small kids mosh to RATM was well-worth the drama. On the whole though, even though the crowd was miles better than last year and seemed more a traditional Leeds rock crowd, the lineup really let the festival down.

There probably were some new bands I’d have enjoyed but I wasn’t in an exploring  mood, rather preferring instead to sit with a pint in the warmth with my friend and watch the youngsters collect cups and attract stares – it seems that, on the whole, people think it’s pretty cool seeing kids that young on the site – and wish their parents had been willing to drag them to festivals in their formative years. In any case, I thought Florence and the Machine were intriguing – a little bit PJ Harvey, a little bit Evancescence and not at all how I expected. Bricking Chick though they sounded like Kate Nash and was horrified.

Ida Maria was unbelieveably catchy and there was lots of dancing even though we couldn’t see much. I think she beat up her band at the end – I’m going on hearsay for that. I did enjoy the set.

Strangely, I also quite liked Biffy Clyro – although I wish they’d put their shirts on. They had on matching peacock-blue skinny jeans and a lot of energy and their odd brand of emo rock is pretty melodic and not unappealing when accompanied by warm sun and cold beer.

Less appealing were Vampire Weekend – boring, One Night Only – vile and MGMT. At least MGMT have 3 really good songs to erase the rest of the set which is incredibly unexciting. The Wombats were actually a bit better than expected. They sounded like The Futureheads and the songs which aren’t that irritating Bridget Jones one and the hideous novelty “Lets Dance to Joy Division” were actually not appalling – and they were pretty lively on stage. We abandoned their set about 4 songs in though to go get a good spot for the real reason we were there – Rage Against the Machine.

Now, I never really cared much for RATM back in the day. I saw them at Lollapalooza in 1993 in Rhode Island and was so uninterested I couldn’t tell you anything about it – except I know I was there and they were there. I don’t really know any of the songs that well and I don’t own a single RATM album – but they really were stunning at T in the Park. At Leeds however, they were 30 minutes late and a lot more subdued in comparison. Whereas they’d come on stage dressed as Guantanamo prisoners the night before in Reading and had made a very political speech at T, we got no between-song chatter except Zack de la Rocha telling the people down front to move back so nobody got crushed. The crowd were pretty good, singing along most of the way through, even as far back as we were, but the sound was terrible. The wind was blowing the sound down the hill and it was far too quiet for a rock band – for a band like Rage I expect the sound to make my ears bleed.

Now when I say Rage Against the Machine were more subdued than at T in the Park, reader you need to understand that subdued for RATM is still about 100x more energetic than anything else we’ve seen in the last month. They were still bursting with energy and, erm, rage, as they bounced all over the stage, shouting and exhorting the crowd. We jumped about, we taught kids to headbang and, where we knew the words, we sang along (I do at least recognise “Renegades of Funk” and one or two others). With the stunning finish of “Killing in the Name Of” we then departed for the hour-long trek through the typically poorly-laid-out Leeds site and back home.

Bricking Chick is back to Leeds today for The Killers and should be reporting back to us here. The Ledge and I are instead off to see one of our favourte bands of all time, R.E.M. at the Lancashire Cricket Ground and I for one am suitably warmed up for that experience after yesterday and my discovery that I do like crazy long guitar solos and rock-rap music – only 15 years late.

Posted by JustHipper on 24th August 2008 at 11:28 am | comments (8)
File under Festival Reviews,rage against the machine,Rant,Tickets,touting.

Gig Review: Those Dancing Days @ Manchester Roadhouse, 8th August 2008

So, I know this is a bit late. The problem was not so much lack of motivation or even lack of time as it was not quite knowing what to say. Even The Ledge firmly thinks I’m out of my mind about this gig.

The Bangs LiveIn any case, it all started off promisingly enough. We arrived early so we would be certain to catch The Bangs, who we very much enjoyed at Sacred Trinity Church back in February. They pretty much tick every one of our music-loving boxes being a female-fronted indie band whose influences are clearly PJ Harvey, The Breeders, Elastica, Sonic Youth, Helium, etc. They sound like they sprung fully formed from 1991 rather than walking the “indie” standard line of trying to sound like The Libertines or Oasis. They sound fabulous and they look the part too. If they’re not on stage at ATP in a couple of years time performing in front of a drooling cult following of hundreds of pale-faced indie boys in Yo La Tengo T-shirts and gushing music journalists I’ll be very disappointed. They played a blinder, the two female leads swapping bass and guitar back and forth, looking intent and not bothering us with loads of forced, between-song banter. But hey, if you’ve got the songs, you don’t need to ply the crowd with chatter, trying to get them on-side.

The Answering Machine LiveThe crowd had swelled considerably by the time The Answering Machine took the stage. It has been a while since we’ve seen them play – I can’t work it out even looking through our archives – although we do keep seeing them, most notably eating in Barburrito a few months back and queuing for beer at a Death Cab for Cutie gig a few weeks ago. We had not seen them perform since they added a drummer and we were looking forward to it. The drummer has certainly added a lot to their sound and their stage presence. The songs sound fuller and louder even if they haven’t moved on musically very much in the last couple of years. They still sound like a chirpy, British version of The Strokes’ first album. This is not to say that they were not as enjoyable as ever – they were – I just fear that perhaps they’ve missed their window. Too many bands with similar influences have come and gone at this point and it may be a case of evolve or die. I am surprised they haven’t had a hit single by now, but I suspect that if they haven’t they may not. I seriously hope I’m wrong because I think they’re fab.

Those Dancing Days LiveAnd then we came to Those Dancing Days. Now The Ledge had sold me on this gig by telling me they sounded like an old Sarah Records band, playing lo-fi, girlie indie pop. I’d heard about half a song and it sounded pretty good. They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage and the crowd around me seemed to like it, but frankly, I was bored witless. To be fair, I was suffering from that sound problem where if you stand too close to the stage you can’t hear very well, but as a result it sounded like one long perky pop song. And that one long song was not as charmingly lo-fi as I’d expected. I could have done with the pace changing. Now, I can’t fault the band’s energy – they were throwing themselves into things – but I was just ready to leave after about 10 minutes. I’m not even sure that I wouldn’t enjoy them on record, but on stage, with poor sound, there was nothing particularly attention-grabbing, unexpected or exciting about what I was watching. It’s a pity cause The Ledge hasn’t stopped saying how much he enjoyed it (but he is a guy and he was watching a bunch of young, pretty ladies in skirts playing guitars – he likes that sort of thing – if Kim Deal had been on the stage he’d have been in indie-boy heaven) so I feel like I possibly should have liked it more. But I didn’t. Oh well.

Those Dancing Days – Those Dancing Days

Those Dancing Days – Hitten

Posted by JustHipper on 22nd August 2008 at 7:09 pm | comments (11)
File under Gig Reviews,manchester gigs,mp3,roadhouse,the answering machine,the bangs,those dancing days.

Gig Review: A Day At The Races Festival, Moho Live & The Night & Day Café, Manchester, 2nd August 2008

Things didn’t start too well for the inaugural A Day At The Races festival the Saturday before last. After the band that prompted us to buy the tickets in the first place, Frightened Rabbit, pulled out a couple of weeks before in order to play The Big Chill, Elf Power became the band we were really looking forward to seeing. On arriving at Moho Live just after 4pm we found out that they too had pulled out. At least we get to see Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, I thought (the two bands clashed on the schedules), but no, they too had disappeared from the line-up. Schedules were re-arranged and Calvin Johnson’s festival opening set was put back an hour to 5:30pm, giving us an hour’s wait in the bar.

Calvin Johnson @ A Day At The RacesCalvin Johnson, formerly of Beat Happening, played solo acoustic and unamplified to a decent sized crowd of early birds, not taking the stage but playing on the floor of the venue in front of the stage as the crowd formed an intimate semi-circle around him. He was clearly unphased by this set up and regaled us with the occasional amusing anecdote and found time for a few songs, none of which I recognised – I only own one Beat Happening album – but all of which were pretty good and in a folksy singer-songwritery vein, with his rather wonderful deep croon often overpowering his scratchy guitar work.

David Thomas Broughton @ A Day At The RacesThe non-appearance of SKWBN gave us the chance to see David Thomas Broughton for the first time after he had been drafted in as a replacement, presumably at short notice. So, we headed off to the Night & Day only to find that they weren’t letting people in, even though it was 6pm and Broughton was on at 6:30, and there were a few people already inside. About 40 people waited for half an hour to get in, during which time there was a brief, but heavy, downpour. Once inside, the unassuming Broughton treated us to a highly entertaining half hour of oddball folkiness, building up improvised atonal loops and offering pleasingly nasal old school English folk vocals, when he wasn’t banging his head against the microphone or wandering into the crowd and scaring the locals.

It was at this point that JustHipper, who had been feeling pretty ill for the previous few days, decided to throw in the towel and make her way home to a warm sofa and last week’s “Gossip Girl”. This strangely coincided with the point at which I really started to enjoy the evening. Long-time John Peel favourites Bearsuit were great fun in their superhero costumes, their vibrant Welsh indiepop coming in somewhere between Gorkys Zygotic Mynci and Los Campesinos, but certainly much better than the latter who where so disappointing at T In The Park recently that I had absolutely no intention of catching their set at this event.

Jeffrey Lewis @ A Day At The RacesNext, Ólafur Arnalds‘ blend of chamber music and electronica was frankly a little boring so I set off early back at Moho Live to see Jeffrey Lewis, who put in perhaps the outstanding set of the day. It was the first time that I’d seen him but I kind of knew what to expect – repetitive hooks, dense, funny lyrics – and he certainly delivered the goods. New song “I Preferred Herman Dune With Two Brothers In The Band” set the standard – and sounded not unlike something Herman Dune themselves would write – while “Back When I Was 4” and his cover of Crass’ “Big A, Little A” were also great, though not as good as the excellent “Creepiing Brain” which had Lewis flicking through a huge comic book as the song went along, unravelling the story in graphic as well as musical form.

Múm @ A Day At The RacesI arrived back at the now sweltering Night & Day in time to catch Adem put in a stellar cover of Low’s “Laser Beam” and, though I’d never had any intention of catching any of his set, found myself a little disappointed that he’d clashed with Jeffrey Lewis.

Then it was off for a quick kebab before returning to see Icelandic popsters Múm end the day’s proceeding with a wonderfully feelgood set of summery electronica. If I say they fell somewhere between Sigur Rós and Stereolab then JustHipper won’t feel the slightest tinge of regret on missing most of the day, though I have a sneaking feeling that she’d have really liked them. Anyway, though things didn’t look too promising at the outset, A Day At The Races turned out to be a thoroughly good outing.

Video: Bearsuit – Foxy Boxer, from their set at the Night & Day

Posted by The Ledge on 12th August 2008 at 11:01 pm | comments (5)
File under Festival Reviews,Gig Reviews,john peel bands,night & day,Reviews,video,youtube.

Videos: Fleet Foxes, Land Of Talk live in Manchester

Here’s a couple of videos that we forgot to attach to recent gig reviews.

First, here’s the excellent Fleet Foxes playing “White Winter Hymnal” at the Roadhouse on 17th June with added witty banter concerning Home Improvement star Tim Allen.

Also in June at the Club Academy, Canada’s Land Of Talk played an excellent set to a handful of people in support of Tapes n’ Tapes, who were awful on the night. Here’s “Summer Special” from that set.

Posted by The Ledge on 7th August 2008 at 11:53 pm | comments (8)
File under manchester gigs,video,youtube.

The Manchester Gig Guide: 4th-10th August 2008

Like last week there’s not a great deal going on on the gig front in Manchester this week. Experimental LA rockers The Icarus Line play the Roadhouse on Tuesday things don’t really get going until Friday when country rockers Drive By Truckers play the Academy 2 while at the same time in the same building country rock ‘n’ roller the Reverend Horton Heat plays the Club Academy. A bad clash for some people, I don’t doubt.

Gig of the week is undoubtedly at the Roadhouse on Saturday when the marvellous Swedish all-girl indiepop five piece Those Dancing Days play with excellent support from The Bangs (we reviewed them first) and The Answering Machine, who we haven’t seen for ages, since they got a real drummer in fact. It is going to be a great night, mark my words. If that doesn’t float your boat and you fancy a bit of sub-Arctic Monkeys fare then head down to the Night & Day to see The Backhanded Compliments. Some members used to be in a band called Milburn, who, a quick browse on Myspace suggests, also sounded a bit like The Arctic Monkeys, and had a really, really dull name. The Backhanded Compliments sound a bit harder and edgier than Milburn – and are certainly a cut above the likes of the abysmal Courteeners – so they might be worth checking out if you’ve got nothing better to do.

Posted by The Ledge on 3rd August 2008 at 11:48 pm | comments (1)
File under Gig Reviews,manchester gigs.

Gig Review Catchup: Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, The Twilight Sad, Fleet Foxes, The Cave Singers

We’ve been to a lot of gigs this summer. We just haven’t had time to write about them. They’ve been corkers though. I’m going to try and summarize some of it here.

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan at Manchester Academy 2On 12th June we headed over to the Manchester Academy 2 to see Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan performing in support of their marvellous second album, Sunday at Devil Dirt. While trying to find out the name of the opening band I did something I never do – I read three reviews from their London gig a few days earlier. They were not praiseworthy, suggesting that the pair had no chemistry and the gig was like watching statues performing. Needless to say, I was mildly concerned – until about the second song. Although they barely moved, much less looked at each other, both Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan were in fine voice and both appeared to be far more wrapped up in what they were singing than in each other. This could be down to the fact that they’ve hardly performed together and are still getting used to the idea. Or perhaps they’re both shy – a possibility since neither uttered a word on stage. Still, it didn’t matter at all as the songs themselves were intense and sultry and really brought out the bluesy elements of both albums, especially “Back Burner” and “Come On Over (Turn Me On)”.

The Twilight Sad at the Manchester Night & DayAfter a couple of days off for birthdays and anniversaries, we headed over to the Night & Day on Monday 16th June to catch The Twilight Sad suppored by Broken Records. Having played the same venue roughly two months earlier and with little promotion in the interim, the tables were out for a very sparse audience at the Night & Day. More’s the pity because they blew their previous performance out of the water, sounding tighter than ever. Final song “Cold Days from the Birdhouse” was simply stunning. Openers Broken Records impressed enough with their manic Scottish folk coming across like a combination of the Arcade Fire and Sons & Daughters with a bit of twang to it.

Fleet Foxes at Manchester RoadhouseWe were also down at the Roadhouse for Beach House and Fleet Foxes’ joint headline gig. We bought the tickets because we’d enjoyed Beach House’s laid back, fluid and relaxing summery tunes while sat on the fake grass at the covered main stage at ATP. By the time the gig rolled around, however, the buzz was all about Fleet Foxes. Beach House proved to be enjoyable and very personable, however their lightness did not translate all that well in the dark, dingy Roadhouse. Although I hadn’t heard more than a couple of tracks before the show, I thought Fleet Foxes, were superb with their harmonious folk tunes. The melodies are so catchy that it’s hard not to be taken in by them and the band were rather charming, asking how the crowd were doing, gushing at their reception and cracking jokes about comedian Tim Allen. If it weren’t for some of the usual idiots in the crowd trying to get in front of the barrier (and blocking my view) and then blaming me rather loudly for about three songs after security moved them on it would have been a perfect show. The encore in which singer Robin Pecknold delivered a solo, nearly a capella song – I think it was “Oliver James” but as I hadn’t heard the album, I’m not sure now about 6 weeks on – was haunting and note-perfect. As they reminded me at times of both My Morning Jacket and The Shins – two bands we love around here – I went looking for their debut album pretty much straight away afterwards.

On July 1st we opted to skip seeing The National in Leeds as we were going to catch them at T in the Park a couple of weeks later and instead we went down to the Night & Day to see The Cave Singers perform a full set. Their debut album Invitation Songs is one of my favourites of the year and hasn’t been far from the CD player since around February. They had impressed us with their live show opening for Band of Horses so much that I expected a packed out venue. Instead, the tables were out across the front of the stage and were barely full for the band’s arrival. Nonetheless, fresh from Glastonbury, they delivered a captivating, if subdued, performance which included a couple of new tracks. The new songs didn’t sound much different but were enjoyable and the album tracks made me want to sing along – which would have been a bit silly given the setting. As always “Helen” and “Dancing on Our Graves” were spectacular. It will be very disappointing if they don’t acquire a bigger following because their sparse, rhythmic country folk is quite unique and incredibly gratifying.

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – Salvation
The Twilight Sad – Cold Days from the Birdhouse
Fleet Foxes – Oliver James
The Cave Singers – Dancing on Our Graves

Posted by JustHipper on 2nd August 2008 at 1:08 pm | comments (3)
File under female singers,Gig Reviews,Isobel Campbell,manchester academy 2,Mark Lanegan,mp3,the cave singers.