• 12 November 2011 – Constellations Festival 2011, Leeds University

    Nov 14 2011, 13:27

    12 November 2011 – Constellations Festival 2011, Leeds University

    Leeds is better than Sheffield for music because they organise ridiculous day-long festivals (Constellations Festival) in a single labyrinthian venue (Leeds University Union) and stuff the line-up with an unbelievable number of awesome bands (Stephen Malkmus, Braids, Islet, Eagulls, Vondelpark, The Antlers, Yuck,...you get the picture) meaning you struggle to try and see everyone you want before having to catch the train home as you live in Sheffield and nobody there arranges anything anywhere near as amazing.

    I met up with my bro Andy (who runs this cool blog - www.crackintheroad.com) in Sheffield and we caught the fast train to Leeds. While chatting away about the festival some old dude overheard us talking about "Riley Smith" (the name of one of the venues at the festival) which seemed to set him off on a nostalgia trip about a 1950s dancehall in Tadcaster with the same name. We then started talking about music again and he fell asleep. I guess chatting away about the recently announced Primavera Sound line-up isn't that interesting to retired train conductors.

    Upon arriving in Leeds, and waking up the old guy sitting next to me so I could get off the train, we headed over to the Leeds Uni campus. On the way some drunk dude hanging out next to a pub showing the England game saw Andy and remarked "you dress like i want to" which was weird. We finally found Leeds University Union, got our wristbands and chilled out in the bar waiting for Islet to start. There was a weird film showing in there that involved a long lingering overhead shot of a fat guy taking a piss while lying in a bath-tub. I didn't really understand.

    Five pm rolled around, Andy went off to go see twee-buzzband Summer Camp while I headed towards the aforementioned "Riley Smith" hall for Islet. I cannot emphasise enough how stoked I was to see these guys again. The Cardiff quartet were by far the highlight of Tramlines Festival a few months back and I've been listening to the mindblowing 'This Fortune', the first single from their upcoming debut album, pretty much non-stop over the last week. The Riley Smith hall kinda had a school assembly hall vibe going on although the festival had clearly tried to contemporise the room by hanging a bunch of Ikea lampshades from the lighting rigs on stage. Islet took to the stage 15 minutes or so late and kicked things off with an intense new song that went on for well over 10 minutes. They followed this up with a rendition of 'This Fortune' which sounded just as good live as it had during repeated plays on my mp3 player. It was during this song that the band members started their typical off-stage excursions, wandering through the crowd shouting and shaking tamborines at confused audience members. Their moustached guitarist/bassist jumped off an amp mid song, a drum was knocked over and fell off it's stand from the intense pounding it was receiving while impromptu instrument swapping meant that they spent half a song playing a keyboard before noticing it wasn't plugged in, fixing the problem and adding another awesome layer to another new song. Apart from 'Iris', every song they played was new and sounded fantastic. Based on this energetic performance, their upcoming album 'Illuminated People', is going to be astonishingly good. Islet deserve to be huge; there isn't a band around at the moment that put on a better live performance.

    After being blown away by Islet we headed down into the main room and awaited indie-rock demigod Stephen Malkmus (and the Jicks). He kicked things off with the rocking track 'Senator' and afterwards enaged the crowd with some typically slack stage chatter while pulling out his phone to check his messages on stage. I guess I can cut him some slack on that given that the guy is responsible for some of the greatest indie rock albums ever released.

    After a few more songs (that unfortunately didn't include a cover of 'Song 2' which he apparently blasted out in Manchester a few nights beforehand) I headed off to go see Braids. The Canadian natives were having trouble setting-up and sound checking however upon witnessing the stage floor covered with masses of wires and FX pedals it became immediately clear why. Following on from shouting at the sound guy about monitor levels, the Montreal residents launched straight into their first number - a new song built around a simple delayed 3 bar chord progression. Unfortunately the rushed sound check meant that they lost a lot of the subtlety that punctuates their amazing debut album 'Native Speaker', and i'm not sure that their keyboard player Katie's microphone was even plugged in. Braids were forced off stage by an irate organiser after a brief three song set that never really hit the heights they reached when I saw them headlining their own show in London earlier in the week. It was a shame given how obviously talented and musically tight they were, but bands reliant on complex stage ups and delicate sonic arrangements never really work that well when shoe-horned into a brief festival timeslot. Hopefully the majority of the impressively large crowd they drew realised this rather than dismissing them altogether.

    Braids overrunning meant that I only caught the last two songs from local punk-rockers Eagulls. The room was completely packed for the Leeds five-piece but sadly I arrived too late and missed their best two songs; 'Possessed' and 'Council Flat Blues'. I can't really say all that much about their performance at Constellations, having witnessed only a fraction of it from the rear of an over-crowded room, but I think the size of the crowd that had shown up says a lot about a band who up to now have only released a two track 7" and a split single with Mazes. They killed it when I saw them a few weeks earlier supporting Fucked Up but it was a little disappointing to see them dressed normally this time round, rather than all dressed in drag on stage for Halloween like they were the last time round. Eagulls write simple, catchy but huge sounding rock songs and it's definitely worth giving them a listen.

    We trotted back over to Mine where Vondelpark were setting up. Fortunately their stage set up was much simpler than their predecessors Braids' and they managed to start their performance only a few minutes late. The young London trio treated the crowd to a set of slick, laid back jams epitomised by their stage lighting - a simple desk lamp sat on a table gloomily illuminating their singer as he voiced his indifferent vocals into the mic. Vondelpark's minimal hazy grooves were a highlight of the day with the incredibly cool 'california analogue dream' being a particular high point.

    Just as Vondelpark were forced off stage by the same draconian organiser that curtailed Braids set, Andy and I had to rush off back to the station. On our way out we walked past Yuck blasting out 'Rubber', the final track from their new album. I kinda wished I could have hung around to check them out and The Antlers who were due on stage after them but sadly public transport schedules meant we had to cut our trip to Constellations Festival short. The day was a musical triumph and you could barely move without stumbling across a rad band playing somewhere in the building. I can only hope that some Sheffield promoters are inspired to arrange a similarly amazing day of awesome bands (or is that just greedy given that we already have Tramlines in the city?!).
  • 27 June 2011 - TV on the Radio, Academy 2, Manchester

    Giu 28 2011, 12:03

    27 June 2011 - TV on the Radio, Academy 2, Manchester

    If one thing was made patently clear last night it’s that TV on the Radio certainly are not a band still in mourning. It’s only been two months since bass player Gerard Smith sadly passed away but his bandmates to their credit seem to have taken that huge blow in their stride if their on stage performance is anything to go by. Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe and guitarist Kyp Malone spent the evening joking between songs with the crowd and their fellow members (paraphrasing: Tunde - “did anyone here come from that big muddy field?” Dude in crowd - “WE HATE GLASTONBURY” Tunde - “i’m glad someone said it”) and fending off requests for a cover of Ghostbusters which they have been performing of late.

    TVOTR kicked things off with the slow crescendo of 'Young Liars' to an initially motionless audience. By the time Tunde was yelling “HEY DESPARATE YOUTH! OH BLOODTHIRSTY BABES” at the end of their next song, 'The Wrong Way', the crowd was finding it impossible to avoid nodding heads and tapping feet. This was majorly due to Jaleel Bunton’s funk-laden bass lines who’s effortlessly moved from drums to bass. The Brooklyn band’s songs really take on an extra level of ferocity when performed live. Cool/hip/popular guitarist/producer/friend of Scarlett Johansson Dave Sitek intensely strummed the shit out of his guitar for most of the night giving the live renditions a little more power than their recorded counterparts.

    Towards the end of their varied set comprised of numbers from practically all their albums and EPs (save for early experimental effort ‘Ok Calculator’), Tunde switched on a red flashing-light atop his synth signalling the start of a furious finish to the performance. A sped-up rendition of early hit ‘Staring At The Sun’ segued into an extended version of super catchy ‘9 Types Of Light’ standout ‘Repetition’ before a ridiculous performance of ‘Wolf Like Me’ capped off the main set. By this point the audience was going fucking crazy screaming out the “WE’RE HOWLING FOREVER” refrain so loudly Tunde gave up on singing and simply held the microphone out over the audience. In the encore they played a cover of ‘Waiting Room’ by Fugazi and ended the night with ‘Satellite’ from 2003’s Young Liars EP. The only way the night could have been any better was if they played ‘Blind’ from the same record instead.

    Set List: Young Liars / The Wrong Way / Caffeinated Consciousness / Blues From Down Here / Will Do / New Cannonball Blues / Dreams / Province / Red Dress / Keep Your Heart / Staring At The Sun / Repetition / Wolf Like Me // Encore: Waiting Room (Fugazi cover) / Dancing Choose / Satellite
  • best band in the universe

    Mag 22 2008, 14:03

    Wed 21 May – Broken Social Scene, The Brunettes

    Yeah that was totally awesome. Half of this is just copy/pasted stuff that I wrote on drowned in sound because i'm lazy but whatever.

    First off The Brunettes were really good supporting but nobody seemed to care. They were surprisingly enthusiastic considering how apathetic the crowd was. They sounded a lot better live than on record.

    Broken Social Scene, as ever, totally ruled. They weren't quite as good as the last time I saw them at Koko last year (no suprise Emily Haines appearance this time round) but they were still better than I expected with such a small line up. Most of the stuff they played was from the self titled record with some stuff from You Forgot It In People and Spirit If. They played about 3 new songs from Brendan Canning's new record, Something For All Of Us. All the new songs sounded really really good. Brendan can sound like Peter Gabriel if you close your eyes (his words not mine).

    The third song they played was a new Brendan Canning one with loads of words so they all (apart from Amy) had to have the words written down in front of them, even Brendan! I was kind of scared we were going to end up with a drunk and angry Kevin Drew because he was getting pretty annoyed that the lighting wasn't good enough for him to read the lyrics but it eventually got sorted out and by the end of the gig he was telling everyone to be happy and to love each other :D

    Towards the end of the gig they had pretty much exhausted the original setlist from what I could see so Kevin was taking requests. Someone shouted summer of '69 so they played a short cover of it before realising they didn't know how to play more than the start of the song. It blew away the original version anyway. After rejecting requests for Almost Crimes, and after some convincing, Kevin agreed to play It's All Gonna Break! This was the first time i'd seen them play it live and it was so epic and awesome.

    I talked to Brendan Canning afterwards and told him his new songs were great and he was really pleased :D He said they didn't have time to play Hit The Wall and that they were close to not playing It's All Gonna Break but "it's a set closer, we had to!". He said they would come back soon and play some more new songs off Something For All Of Us so I can't wait for that.

    Downsides: Disgruntled merch girl. "Can I have a small grey t-shirt?" "no." "oh.". They didn't have enough change either but then Brendan Canning saved the day by showing up with a fiver. They sold out of sensibly sized t-shirts so I ended up accidently buying one that fits like a bedsheet. No Stars and Sons but oh well, i've seen them play it twice before.

    Rough Setlist (the order in the middle is all mixed up and wrong):

    Pacific Theme
    7/4 (Shoreline)
    New Brendan Canning Song (The one with lots of words)
    -----\/\/Setlist Order all wrong here\/\/-----
    Frightening Lives
    Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)
    Backed Out On The... (this was awesome)
    New Brendan Canning Song
    Fucked Up Kid
    Major Label Debut (fast)
    Farewell To The Pressure Kids
    Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl
    New Brenden Canning Song
    Kc Accidental
    -----\/Setlist Order right again\/-----
    It's All Gonna Break

    I think that's everything, I might have missed one or two songs. Feel Free to correct me.

    I found the last new Brendan Canning song they played on Youtube:
  • Oh my god Rolo Tomassi were amazing

    Feb 6 2008, 23:30

    Wed 6 Feb – I Was a Cub Scout, Rolo Tomassi, This Town Needs Guns

    Having given Rolo Tomassi a few listens on myspace and on cd after my mate saw them last i'd dismissed them as shouty rubbish. Then I read that once you go and see them live everything clicks and you realise that they actually are amazing. The person who said that was so so right. I can't believe that someone like Eva can make such awesome sounds. It's mindblowing. Technically they're really good too. I can't wait to see them many times again. They get mad props too for giving me a free badge and poster because I had no money to buy a shirt. I'll buy one next time!

    This Town Needs Guns were surprisingly good too. I didn't realise that i'd heard them before on their split Cats and Cats and Cats EP which was quite a surprise. I was a cub scout were really really really good but considering that they've got an album out in 2 weeks that's full of new songs and their extensive back catalogue, it would have been nice to see more than a 40 minute set. I wish they'd still play Teenage Skin and That's Not A Crate It's A Box Of Heaven live because they're great songs. I've only seen Teenage Skin live once and it was astonishing. Ah well :/

    William Bowerman is a really really nice chap though :D