STOP PRESS.. DASTARDLY’S REVIEWS ARE NOW ON THE WONDERFUL PENNY
head of A&R,
dastardly likes to
get out and
see the odd gig or
Finsbury, Manor House
like gigs where there’s just one solitary punter dancing down the front.
These lone frontier pioneers effectively sign the gig to the rest of us,
doing our shuffly nodding thing a few feet further
back. Tonight’s one seems to be doing a cross between a repetitive fitness
work out and a Scottish sword dance.
The Stone Roses
January 1988. I'm 23 and have just left my full-time job to seek fame and
fortune in the music business. I know, I know.. I've
also just re-met someone from school who it turns out has started doing music
at university. Given our shared predicament we decide one evening that we
should go to a gig. Any gig. I leave the exact details to him and soon we are
heading up to Camden in his dark blue Toyota Corolla.
walk down a cobbled ally past empty market stalls and into Dingwalls. The worn wooden floor and red painted wooden
columns give the venue the air of a circus and at the far end hanging from
the pipes above the stage like a bored monkey is the singer of the band we’ve
come to see. He stares blankly out into the small crowd of ten or fifteen
people. I imagine he might be looking directly into my soul. To our left a
girl dances by herself lost in the music, head to one side, skirt twirling
round and momentarily I’m transported to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on
a sunny afternoon in 1967 or somewhere else soaked up on the vibe.. man.
sense my friend is not impressed. He doesn’t care for the paint splattered
guitars and Byrdsian psychedelia
– he’d rather be listening to The Smiths or anyone else dressed in black. I
however am entranced. Unlike the paint stuck hard onto the guitars the band
have absorbed the sounds and flavours from the first flowering of rock in the
mid to late sixties and spat it back at us with the knowing look of
everything that’s happened in between.
friend can wait no longer so after about 4 or 5 songs we head out. As we
leave I go up to the small ticket office window and ask the lady what the
band was called. She fumbles for a flyer or something and then says ‘The
year later I’m watching BBC2’s SnubTV show and
catch a glimpse of a band onstage at The Hacienda. The crouched gate and
rolling head of the singer looks familiar and I realise it’s the band from Dingwalls. Immediately I’m trying to find out where
they’re playing and how to get a ticket and soon me and another friend more
disposed to the Madchester sound are following them
round the country feasting on the electricity and excitement in those songs
and watching them light fires in people’s hearts.
tall, stocky and wearing a plaid shirt. The sunglasses hanging round his neck
are vaguely 90’s surfer style. He’s got his back to the stage and his hobby
appears to be downing a beer from a cardboard cup then before it’s finished
hurling it over his shoulder into the crowd stood here waiting for The Stone
Roses to appear in Finsbury Park. Nearby another punter buckles and succumbs
to an afternoon of drinking in the sun.
failed to meet up with my friend so maybe being alone in this huge crowd is
heightening my awareness but there’s no denying the tension as well as beer
flying around in the air and I begin to wonder if I’m in the middle of a
medieval battlefield as scuffles break out randomly amidst the lurching
I’m distracted from the scenes around me by four blokes from Manchester
channelling rock’s finest moments in the distance. Perhaps the best thing
about the Stone Roses is they’ve never been afraid to take influence from
wherever. Nothing is off limits as John Squire plays tribute to both Jimmys - Page and Hendrix, Reni funks it with the
lightness of funky drummer Clyde Stubblefield and Mani holds down the beating
heart of the band with the dedication of a full back. Out front Ian Brown is
tuned perfectly into the crowd if not all the songs and is every inch the
understated Soul Man of his generation.
are a lumpinthroat tastic
version of ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ and ‘Fool’s Gold’ which has Squire tying
the fretboard up in knots - appreciated more after
the gig on youtube complete with someone in the
crowd yelling ‘Yessssss!’ as if the guitarist has
just found the back of the net. Finally ‘Resurrection’ gets the whole park
jumping and your correspondent almost punched out by the person in front I’ve
just been thrown into.. oops.
would have been good to hear more from The Second Coming but for now it’s
enough to know that they’re back.
and by the way, during the gig a man with a bright red face worked his way
back through the crowd to confront the tall beer thrower. Unfortunately he
was a bit too short and his punches couldn’t reach round the beer thrower’s
friend who’d stood in front protecting him. Still he tried his best and I
like to think maybe he waited and got him later on - at the second attempt.
Sebright Arms, Hackney
you think you ‘know’ something already until someone says that thing in such
a way that makes you see it as if for the first time..
Laetitia is chatting in
between songs and recalls hearing about France losing it’s
‘AAA’ credit rating last year. “We av lost an aya” she says in her amazing accent. It’s funny and we
all laugh but the point she’s making is about democracy disappearing. She
reminds us that democracy is based on a society being governed by it’s own elected
representatives, yet more and more the powers that truly affect the way we
live are not our own politicians but faceless un-elected bodies with wide
international influence - such as the credit agencies she refers to.
familiar with Laetitia’s former band Stereolab will know that she’s always had a knack for
weaving political observations amongst the hypnotic grooves. It’s a neat
trick cos it never feels like preaching and she’s
obviously still got it.
from delivering lightbulb political moments Laetitia proves that she doesn’t necessarily need a band
to captivate her audience. I remember talking to Stereolab’s
drummer after a gig in the early 90s and him saying
that if required he’ll simply play the same repetitive drum pattern for a
whole song. No cymbal crashes or fills. Just the beat. It’s this discipline
that Laetitia works into her stripped down guitar
playing and, whereas a few months ago at the Rough Trade in-store it felt at
times like she was holding the instrument for the first time, tonight the
minimalism is spellbinding.
she plays a thin cord snakes out from the basement stage and skulks down
around the shoes of the audience. Ankles are circled, then
legs, arms, heads until at the end of the set we are all tied together like
exhibits in Duchamp’s stringed room.
Hall, Sheperds Bush
Piano. Double bass and a drummer with one arm in a sling.
is the stripped down ensemble Mark Eitzel presents
us with tonight in the lush ballroom surroundings of Bush Hall. So perfect is
the backing that you wonder if the drummer’s injury was inflicted by Eitzel himself in a bid to refine the sound still
further. Whatever the cause ‘Stumpy’ (not his real name) is a solid tent peg
at the back as the simple piano chords frame the songs and let Eitzel’s voice billow out and mingle with the chandeliers
above us. And what a voice - somewhere in a separate reality Cheryl Cole’s
face has frozen and Simon Cowell is weeping openly.
I can’t see the Louis one.. it’s
possible he’s dissolved. Likewise it helps that the sound in the room is
great - you notice this when the double bassman
adds the odd simple held note backing vocal and it sounds like a string
section coming in.
Eitzel treats us to a
greatest hits set. Past classics ‘What holds the world together’, ‘Mission
rock resort’ and ‘Patriot’s heart’ are all mesmerising and ‘I love you but
you’re dead’ proves he’s still writing them. If I had an app on my phone.. hold on if I even possessed a
phone that could have ‘an app’.. that accurately
measures the entertainment value of a gig it would register something like
‘Elvis in Vegas’.
are plenty of funny stories as usual.. sometimes
maybe too many as the band get twitchy and then later on Eitzel
does pick up a guitar and we get a pindrop version
of ‘Blue and grey shirt’ plus a rowdy ‘Bad liquor’ to set us on our way home.
year Eitzel had a heart attack. This year he looks
thin, healthy and is doing some of the best gigs he’s ever done.
Stars of the Lid
John at Hackney, Lower Clapton Rd
stood there motionless, enveloped in an icy swirling squall of glacial
and that was just the queue to get in ! I
mean booking tickets online is incredibly digitally convenient no question
but then the poor bloke with the clipboard and seven hundred names at the
entrance.. ‘Sorry, how do you spell that ?’
the freezing foreplay makes it all the more impressive when we do finally get
inside. The first thing you notice is there’s no raised stage area - all you
can see at the front above the heads are some arched mic
stands and and the high back wall bathed in a
sinister red light. The church surroundings lend an almost medieval
atmosphere and for once no one is holding up their phones. Maybe they’re too
scared.. and with good
reason as in front of them is a lone figure standing in front of his laptop
and mixing desk. His name is Roly Porter and the
sound manipulation communion he is offering is scarier than most ‘horror’ films
there are sampled classical instruments in there somewhere but any notion of
‘music’ has long since left the wood and metal. Instead Porter delves deep
into the DNA of the sound and drags out raw acoustic data - frequencies swoop
and coil before plunging headlong down vortices you can almost see hovering
in front of you. The sound of an out of town shopping centre being fed into a
giant mechanical grinding device echoes round the stone walls. Brief moments
of silence jostle with cacophony and all the while the white crackle of
digital distortion simmers in the background.
the kind of thing you might expect to hear emanating from one of John
Martin’s apolocalyptic paintings and it leaves the
congregation spellbound, the whoops and hollers at the end of the set
suggesting that this is the sound of someone very much arriving.
It’s difficult to
think of anything following that but luckily Adam Wiltzie
and Brian McBride from Austin, Texas’s ‘Stars of the Lid’ have done the thinking
for us. We crouch down at the front by the small string section as Wiltzie revs up his guitar then turns to the amp and
processes the vibrating metal into rich blankets of tidal sound that soothe
and hypnotise.. until, that is, an Old Testament sized
bass frequency gets whipped up into the squall and I’m frantically pushing
the ear plugs already in my ears as deep as they’ll go.
the two guitarists straddling the string section centre stage it sometimes
feels more like a recital than a gig and Wiltzie
plays the role of conductor with understated charm, armed with a bottle of
something to fend off the cold and stories of previous trips to London
including a reprimand for the Upstairs at the Garage venue who once refused
to let them use their projections at a gig - a shame as collaborator Luke Savitsky’s towering visuals work well amongst the ancient
architecture and add further layers to the music. Likewise the lighting which
at one point reveals Wiltzie as a guitar wielding nosferatu silhouetted in a deep blue hue against the ten
commandments written out in gold on the altar behind.
night steeped in gothic horror. And barely a goth
Plaid. It sounds
like one of the drugs Chris Morris was asking a bemused London dealer for
back in the 90s. “Got any yellow bentines.. any clarky
cat.. got any plaid mate ?”
Plaid’s two flight controllers Andy Turner and Ed Handley are perched on a
raised platform at the far end of the cavernous village underground
studiously manipulating a state of the art sound system that turns the air
into solid bass force. Behind them a red LED time code ripples on the
brickwork while giant visuals tower over the back wall.
Plaid have two types of
songs. One sounds like an army of insects marching through some award-winning
David Attenborough nature porn on their way to the Temple of Golden
Mesmerising Chords. The other sounds like it does when they get there.
more surprising is that fact that some punters are still actually able to
command body parts and dance while under the influence of this hypnotic spectactle.
Lewis Floyd Henry
Nigel of Bermondsey
Big Chill, Eastnor Castle
7th & 8th 2010
rainbow has come out behind the crowd in front of the main stage. People turn
round to capture the arching prismatic fanfare on cameras and phones. In
front of the sound desk a balding 40 something in the crowd is flailing
wildly to the Jolly Boys rendition of Iggy’s ‘The
Passenger’.. he looks like
the happiest man on earth. It’s a festival moment and still the brightest
colour that anyone can see is the Jolly Boys’ singers’ pink silk tie.
hour or two later Patrick Wolf is dancing in front of us in a black and white
spotted jump suit. I remember him turning up to do a few songs at the Crow
Club in Shoreditch a few years back in shorts and a pair of wellies so clearly this is a man who can wear just about
anything. Interestingly, the most memorable performance I saw him give was at
the ICA in 2003 and I’ve absolutely no idea what he was wearing then.. hmm
Manuva meanwhile is in jodphurs.
He lollops along the stage with a breezy charm and a smile, dedicating
‘highest grade’ to all the students. With a decade defining album like ‘Run
come save me’ under your belt you might be expecting to be headlining a bill
like this but Rodney and his orchestra of musicians and singers seem just
happy to be here and he doesn’t even flinch when the bloke at the side of the
stage won’t let him have the encore we’re all shouting for.
No idea what Liars were wearing but
somewhere singer Angus Andrew’s arms are still flailing in time with the lazer shards bursting out of the back of the stage.. and if New York’s Crystal
Stilts haven’t got a gig tonight then there’s a good chance Jim Morrison’s
ghost might well be here checking out the ceremony unfolding before us. A few
fields away MIA’s headline slot / extended iplayer
ad, you decide, comes to an end as the assorted target demographic, sorry,
‘the kids’ invade the stage.. while out here on the
perimeter we’re static, mesmerised, ‘immaculate !’ shouts jim
as some musicians prove there’s life yet in some good old shamanistic pyschedelia.
kicks off with tales of south east London villains and undertakers courtesy
of Nigel of Bermondsey on the backstage stage. Nigel’s ‘London Dreamtime’
album is a lush almost mid-70s supertramp or wingsian (wingsian ?) mini
masterpiece and songs like ‘Across the way’ and ‘One eye grey’ help to ease
the sleepy late risers into the day.
between fields you might well encounter a man looking a bit like Jimi Hendrix playing electric guitar and drums at the
same time. His name is Lewis Floyd Henry and his New Orleans bluesman busker
act is far more entertaining than many of the acts on the ‘proper’ stages.
Next year no doubt he’ll be on one of them.
by way of a very tasty lamb kebab stall we’re at the weekend’s final
destination as Katy Carr charms the assorted festival stragglers lying on the
straw in the Global Local stage with a heady mix of Kate Bush, PJ Harvey and
even Edith Piaf. The 1940s loom large over much of Katy’s material in
particular ‘Kommander’s Car’, her dramatic recount
of a daring escape from Auschwitz by a 21 year-old Polish scout.. in the Camp kommandant’s own car no less. It’s a joyous sound and at
one point several small children in the audience begin to dance
instinctively. It is, as they say, a festival moment.
Roundhouse, Chalk Farm
round the audience at The Roundhouse tonight there’s plenty of couples out to
see Hoboken, New Jersey’s finest. Not that there’s anything surprising in
that – other than the fact that Yo La Tengo’s reputation as ‘the quintessential critic’s band’
might mean you’d expect to see more ageing / baldy possessors of the
Y-chromosome in the house. Maybe it’s because essentially Yo
La Tengo play lover’s rock, whether it’s hypnotic
jazz-infused Hendrixian guitar manglings
or barely whispered lullabies this is music born out of L O V E.
time partners guitarist Ira Kaplan and drummer
Georgia Hubley are probably the reason for all this
but bass player James McNew is quick to point out
that he’s no goosberry and his rendition of the Beatlesesque ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ is an early set
highlight. Likewise the appearance for a couple of new songs of a (not quite
loud enough) string section suggests that this is a band who are, twenty five
years on still trying new things in the bedroom !
it’s the mistakes that really hold the magic. During the first chorus of ‘Tears
are in your eyes’ Ira is, like us, lost in the moment and starts to sing the
chorus again by accident then slowly retreats from the mic,
his eyes ceiling bound as he realises. Later on it’s Georgia’s turn as she forgets the words during
a sublime encore version of George Harrison’s ‘Behind that locked door’.
Searching her brain she pauses for a second - as she does the audience start
to cheer, holding the moment while she remembers the lyrics and then climbs
back into the song.
feels like a family affair tonight. After all, it is sunday.. the perfect day to go and hang
out with some relatives.
Teenage Jesus and The Jerks
An Experiment on a Bird in the Air
Studios, Elephant & Castle
I admit it. I saw a poster for Teenage Jesus and The Jerks on the old
Woolworths in Bermondsey and thought they were a new band. Or newish. Ahem.
My friend Mike ‘sweaty eyeballs’ set me right though and gave me a Time Out
cutting that got me up to speed on the history of this late ‘70s New York
outfit and their iconic lead-singer Lydia Lunch.
we get to Corsica Studios in time for the support act..
3 girls are standing in a row on the front of the stage. I think that I’m
about to be sacrificed as part of an ancient Mayan festival and before the
high priest rips out my heart and eats it in front of me I see these three
ladies out the corner of my eye beating out an ominous deathly mantra. Back
in Elephant & Castle ‘An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump’ (sounds
like a grammar mistake but no..) have swapped
instruments yet again and are about to unleash another rumbling ode. I like
them. So does mike - particularly the guitarist, no, drummer er, hold on bass player. You get the idea.
it’s Lydia, or the gothmother
as she calls herself, with various members of Gallon Drunk as her backing
band and coming on like Mae West with some hired gunslingers. She sings songs
about ex-lovers stranded in their underwear while she berates them for not
coming up with the rent and makes Courtney look like Britney. The Time Out
article had said something about her proudly declaring she’d never bothered
to learn a single guitar chord. Fair enough. She can however make pretty
scary noises with a bottleneck and has obviously spent time honing the art of
percussive punk rock. This becomes clear when she stops
one of her robert pollard-sized bursts of vitriol
in the middle (i.e after about 20 seconds) and asks
the drummer to do it again. They re-start, lock in tight and you realise that
there’s method behind the mayhem.
the show she heads back up the stairs at the end of the long saloon. At the top
she looks back over her shoulder momentarily and informs the crowd with some
carefully selected words that there won’t be any encore. We don’t doubt
3 tracks into London three-piece Wet Dog’s set and the headliner’s keyboard,
perched precariously high just behind bass player Billy’s pulsating right leg
is doing one of those dances you see when suspension bridges get a nasty
draught and start breaking up in mid air.. thankfully drummer Sarah has spotted it and the impending
disaster is averted. It does however emphasise the furious automata at work
in the engine room of this band - if you walked round the back of the stage
you’d probably see a huge key unwinding slowly. Out front singer Becca navigates the electric shocks from the mic and shouts out classics like ‘Train Track’ and ‘Jane
Bowles’ but it’s new song ‘Wymmin’s
Final’ that explains why Mark Ronson has been
championing them back home in New York.
of which, here’s NYC’s own Crystal Stilts. I remember seeing Oliver Stone’s
Doors film back in the 90s and being aware for the first time that there’d
been some kind of tension or jealousy between the west coast and east coast
during the late sixties - not a Biggie Tupac style murderfest but maybe a condescending glance or two
through the dope haze. Anyway, Crystal Stilts have good news for us tonight.. Jim Morrison and Lou Reed have made up in a motel
somewhere deep in the midwest. Woo hoo !
Terms of the peace treaty as follows - guitar to echo and shimmer at all
times; bass must be played with plectrum and locked in Joy Division style
with metronomic upright lady drummer; front man Brad to give impression of
having been born with microphone stand in his hand. That and the look of a
man who might read some Keats before he goes to bed.
new romantic is back !