With the rush of nostalgia-fests in the posts of late, here’s one that may tax the massive, at least apropos honesty, the first amendment and, indeed, memory residuals. Happy thus for any blissed out anecdote to be “experiences of a friend”…… I’m intrigued really, by the relation between narcotics, music and popular culture. Let’s face it, drugs have often been portrayed as “cool”, whether all the nodding out junkies of the 60s, the weedy all-pervasiveness of marijuana, the addled freaks of psychedelia, the coke hoover years of Berlin and everywhere else, pills on your tongue, all recurring, repeating and attractive to the innocent. And, however much we know the downside, nobody ever thinks, it seems, it will happen to them. One a wuss, always a wuss, my DOI is that I was and always have been terrified of the idea. Sure, I have drunk my body weight time over in licit liquid, but have always said no to anything much else. Perhaps as never a smoker, I was not in the right company to jazz up my tobacco. I have tried it, perhaps a handful of times, a spliff to fit in at Glastonbury and, a few years later as » Continue Reading.
Funny old world, innit, as I lie, fevered in my sickbed, musing on how times change. When I was a nipper, all the “best” music journalism was spiky and sardonic, if not downright rude, certainly if the writer wished to make a name for themselves. (As in, sod the band, look at me.) That mood has, probably rightly, mellowed, all the tall poppies being either not that tall, or oblivious anyway to opinion. And what opinion, at that, with a music press, such as it is, down to po-faced table top magazines, obsessed with the past, breaking only their stride for the next great white (usually) hope. Dull, if still essential, if only to see exactly what has come out. I naively thought that the myriad blogs out there, amateur Shaar Murrays and Kents apiece, would offer the solution to the humdrum. However I wonder… Having now been dipping my toes into the tepid pond water of writing online reviews, I have learnt there is a fear of anything other than a good review. Bad reviews, however well(?!) written, attract the ire of the new makers and breakers, the PR companies, who often represent vast stables of artistes. Offend the » Continue Reading.
You can have yer americana, but sometimes something a bit more organic is what the Dr ordered. As our minds turn to mud, sleeping bags and cider, what gets your gristle gurning?
O2 Institute, Brum
Hmmmm, well it was ok. Actually, better than that, it was fine. Or at least the band were, it being the audience I was less keen on. Maybe I was just being a grump, but I had forgotten the mismatch between the band and their image. Plus, I am possibly the epitome of a fair weather friend, knowing well only their eponymous debut, which this tour is to celebrate the 20th anniversary of, and last years triumphant Welcome to Coral Island, knowing little of the intervening. But I have always enjoyed their musical alchemies of choral vocals, lots of time signatures and a willingness to pick and mix from musical traditions far and wide: Eastern European folk music being one such. Indeed, so chaotic are the styles on that assured debut that I sort of pidgeonhole them into the territory of Dr Sardonicus era Spirit. I had coneveniently forgot their origins and appearance, at least back then, all scally Brit pop swagger and sway. Perfect timing meant I arrived at about 8.40, having surmised most headliners start at 9. Having pre-watered at the Halton Turner tap house, I was able to forego the » Continue Reading.
O2 Academy, B’ham
It’s been a long time…… Yes, I’m one of those lightweights who ditched the band at about the same sort of time as did Mr Cornwell, despite having earlier held them dear to my heart, from the Roundhouse in ’77, thru’ Battersea Park a year later and on to dimly remembered days at Birmingham’s Odeon in the early 80s. I sort of never saw the point, but did check out Hugh in the early noughties. But, such was the buzz around latest album, Dark Forces, let alone the poignancy of Dave Greenfield’s passing that it would have been rude not to investigate. I have already given considered opinion around the excellence of that album, and it looks like me and the 3 and 3/4 thousand squeezed into the venue weren’t there under false circumstances. Arriving strategically late to try and avoid the inevitable queue to get in, and failing, it was in the next queue, the bar, that the support band played their hit. And, I have to admit, it was quite a blast to hear the ragged charm of Babylon’s Burning being sung, full pelt, by the capacity crowd, to the clear » Continue Reading.
Stravinsky, eh? BA-DOOM OW OW
How a bit of good old light-hearted passive aggressive opinion based inflammatory comment? It’s the season, after all. This is the moment where you get to comment on the emperor’s tailor? The ‘record of the year’ that gives you most gas. Bile and phlegm also welcome, especially if bought in good faith or expectation, bonus points if on recommendations of AW’s finest cognoscenti. See below for example.
What does it sound like?:
Wow! You’ve maybe seen the hype and read the largely glowing reviews, yes? But it’s on that Britbox, yet another wretched add on pay per view channel. My advice would be to cancel one of the others, Sky Sport say, or sign up on a weeks free trial or a 3 months at 99p pcm, as you will otherwise miss out on one of the more harrowing cop procedurals ever, if not the. A good deal more nuanced than standard Welsh fare, with depth in the characters, or most of them, and empathy wrought in the core ensemble. Not in any way feel good: the foreground and hinterland are exquisitely bleak and, often, more than a little disturbing, Dougray Scott is terrific as the exquisitely damaged lead, with a range of other well known faces to add class. Hell, we even get ‘both’ of TVs Rebus’s for good measure, with Ken Stott and John Simm, one playing to type and the other decidedly not. Even Angela Griffin, always a perennial add on in almost anything ever on the telly, assails herself with credit. Ok, it is still Welsh and there are a few stock booze/coke/prozzie » Continue Reading.
Surprised nobody has put up the top 50s from the satirical music sites, Quietplease and Pitchcloth, for us to chuckle over our total unawareness of much the product. However, I begin to feel the same about the Mojo and Uncut listings. (Or rather, am familiar but wouldn’t touch half those mentioned with bargepole’s bargepole.) Or am I just an old and out of touch Daddio? (Probably……)
Someone recently made the point around nearly everything is xxxx feat. yyyy, a mine ol’ Devadip Carlos excavates with relish, ruining many a favoured song along the way. Like this, Winwood ought if to know better. Execrable tripe.
Symphony Hall, B’ham
If I was a religious man I would say I had had a religious experience. I’m not, but I can sort of see the appeal. Sure, it’s the truth that Cave has always carried lashings of old time preacher man about his persona and in his lyrical bent, but never has it been writ this large, the whole ambience being a cross between a revivalist service and a medicine show, with Cave the shaman at the front, one step away from communing with serpents and talking in tongues. Elsewhere it was surely God, or maybe Moses, in the form of Warren Ellis, keeping a dementedly benign grip on the order of service, a wraith of hair and beard, thrashing away on his precariously knees balanced keyboard. At the back of the stage a lone figure, doubling (trebling?) on bass, percussion and assorted IT gizmos and gadgets, with, over to the right, behind Cave’s piano, stood the three implacably swaying figures who would provide deliciously righteous backing and additional vocals. The backdrop a single long black curtain. With sepulchral church organ swirling around the cavernous room, the mood was being set. With no support » Continue Reading.
For some inexplicable, I have been sent duplicate copies of 3 albums, all initially via Bandcamp, namely the excellent Jackie Leven tribute, the excellent Will Pound one extolled by @thecheshirecat recently, and the awful, IMHO, Edward II West Indian children’s songs one. Will send, first come first served, to anyone. No charge beyond, maybe, something you have surplus, by return. DM me.
At his home and peacefully. Magnificent guitarist. Lucky enough to have seen him a couple of times.
Maverick Festival, Easton Farm Park, Suffolk
Well, this was a delight! Straying out of my more familiar folkie fields, I doffed my stetson and shined my boots and became a cowboy! Maverick describes itself as unashamedly americana, and has been broncing its buck since around 2008, I gather, winning awards and attracting niche audiences all along the way. Small, very small, which maxes out at 2.5k, and in the delightful settings of a children’s farm park, so all the stages are in old barns, suitably decked out in vintage Louis L’Amour chic. Playing to a faithful audience, those playing are a mix of those for whom country isn’t a bad word, so a fairly niche selection, and those who support and provide a seemingly vibrant scene in clubs and bars, hidden in plain sight from most of the rest of us. I guess there would normally be more yanks than this year could find, but it showed even yee-has from Yorkshire could pass muster. The niche names this year included Jon Langford, My Darling Clementine, Los Pistoleros and Hank Wangford, as well as the just about to be huge, Dean Owens. Again, courtesy covid, there were » Continue Reading.
We have all heard of Helen and the Neighbourhood Dogs, and I am delighted to confirm they actually exist, opening the Barn stage at the Maverick Festival in the 52nd state, Suffolk’s Easton Farm Park. You can keep yer Abbatards.
What does it sound like?:
Sometimes the leaden plop of Faecebook can be enlivened by other than bad news or unwanted ads, sometimes it can offer a window of joy on even this most down cast of casting down days. Such did I discover this, the latest in a steady issue of releases from the reclusive master of the Cam delta blues, Robert Jonathans, if not necessarily in that order. Don’t be fooled by the pay what you like, self-produced nature of this disc. If bandcamp has a plethora of bedroom gurners and bathroom posers, so too has it a stack of artists, there but for the grace of God, a God who sees fit to offer contracts and kudos sometimes randomly and often unfairly. This is well up to the standard of many a glossy A&R endorsed product, and better than many, household names included. Honestly. Firmly in that peculiarly English territory of Camden and Western, pleasing tunes, sung and played amiably, with an aftertaste of a good night out. Perhaps at somewhere like the Portland Arms, a place we will return to. If you like the music of Brinsley Schwarz and the solo offerings of any of » Continue Reading.
Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, B’ham
Second milestone as Covid becomes the normal: first outdoor festival a fortnight ago and this first indoor gig. Long time coming, mind, with at least two earlier postponements over the last year and a half, so much so that I bought my ticket twice, a year apart, forgetting the earlier purchase. Luckily @stevet took up the offer of a freebie, and, given the new regs, we were in the right place as the door opened to grab prime front row seats.
Not a firm of dour Scottish solicitors, Drever, McCusker and Woomble are what might be called an indie-folk supergroup, reprising their sole album, 2008’s ‘Before the Ruin’. Who they? Kris Drever is the guitarist and singer of Lau, John McCusker the fiddle maestro currently earning his main crust with Mark Knopfler and Roddy Woomble the singer with Idlewild, and the writer of gloriously maudlin and morose fare. This was, to all intents and purposes, their first gig since Cov Zero, with any warm-up jinxed by their nine hour drive down from Edinburgh. Kicking straight off with four songs from Before the Ruin, it was apparent immediately » Continue Reading.
Those of you who saw my taster for this will know the weather was neither clement or kind, proving that the returning of normality of festivals is underwritten not by covid but by the weather. But I have never been to a festival, if you will, quite this meteorologically normal. OK, yes, the wrong main stage had been supplied, rendering it a white elephant for the duration. This had the twin effects of muddling up all the clashfinder working outs, as helpfully supplied by the festival in advance, and the advantage of everyone being shuffled and shifted onto/into smaller tented venues. (Don’t panic, all open sides, loads of fresh air for the elderly doubled vaxxed, LFT negative punters.)
Arriving around midday, greeted by clear skies, this meant for an easy erection, pause for Moose, with the ground soft and pliable. Arena was huge and a bit like Australia, in that all the stages and all the stalls were scraped around the edges, nearly all the way around a large field, fresh ploughed too, given the furrows.
Bands started about 5pm, but logistics and laziness » Continue Reading.
Well, it’s pissed down for 24/24, the farmers fields are a quagmire, the main stage is “broken” and out of use/bounds. Yup, the british festival season is upon us, after a two year fallow period. Along with the rest of the near-zombie army of the pensionable, drawn inexorably to sticky mud, “interesting” toilets and last minute timetabling substitutions, I have pitched my tent, so you don’t have to. More to follow………..
Prompted by Moose’s Jaco Post-orious (o, my sides!) , it set me a wondering. I confess bass solos are seldom my bag, especially if everyone else stops playing or goes for a pee. But there are instances of where bass plays to the front and is delightful. Here are a couple of my favourites. First the bass in the studio of Song For Europe is exquisite, at 3.23, John Gustafson, I believe. (A live version is pretty tidy too, by Sal Maida, on a boot I have.)
Jingsaroonie, knowing Ms Gilmore a popular artist, this has taken me aback somewhat. No overt mention of Mr Stonier, but doesn’t sound good…….
Old chum Fraser has good news about the reclusive singer, beloved of all on this site.
At last you allow some recognition for your writing, too! (Disclaimer: I found this on the Graun, which has put up some readers additions to their best of the year so far list. All submitted by grimy kneed whippersnappers under 60 too, unless the last one, age of the suggester unmentioned, which sounds the most interesting of the lot…….)
Half way mark, and is this the best they can come up with? I have access, let’s say, to many of these, and it is an uninspiring shower. Ok, I have yet to listen to Cave/Ellis and the Kemerovo boys, but feel I have enough by each already. Am I wrong? I have found the year no better or worse than usual, but it is mainly folk that is plotting any interesting new directions. I may suggest a few in due course, but what do people think of the woke inevitables here?
Sometimes, just sometimes, a bit of melancholia is all that will hit the spot. (OK, then, quite often.) I have always felt a good dirge enough to raise any flagging spirits.What is your go to low key misericord? I heard this for the first time a couple of days ago and I am smitten with it, it worming through my higher centres incessantly.