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By Mary Chang
on Saturday, 1st June 2013 at 10:00 am
Unbeknowst to them, Los Angeles duo Deap Vally provided the best comic relief the night I covered the Fierce Panda 19th birthday party at London Scala starring the Crookes, the Heartbreaks and Hey Sholay on Tuesday 21 May. Now, I haven’t been to that many Crookes shows, but I’d been warned to expect in London that only girls were stood at the front of their gigs; having heard this, I thought it was very strange to see a lone bloke stood dead centre down the front.
After the Heartbreaks finished and left the stage, he asked me and my friend, “err…Deap Vally are next, right?” I had no idea what he was talking about; I tried to set him straight, saying, “no, the Crookes are on next. It’s a Fierce Panda show”. We found out later when he returned for the headphones he’d left onstage with us that security at the venue didn’t pay attention to the fact he had a ticket for the *next* night’s show headlined by Deap Vally and just let him in to this one instead. Surely he should have realised during Hey Sholay’s set that something was amiss? Take home message: always check and double-check your tickets, folks.
So anyway, in honour of the much needed comic relief between sets by this hapless Deap Valley fan, we’ve got for you the promo video for ‘Baby I Can Hell’ and the same song performed by the duo on Jools Holland in May.
Suede have a new video out for ‘Hit Me’, which takes the term literally and lets it loose in a museum. Oh dear. I hope there aren’t too many drunk kids getting ideas from this… Brett Anderson hasn’t sounded better, though, I have to say. Anthemic Suede is back.
The band is on tour in the UK and Ireland in October; all the dates are listed below.
Saturday 26th October 2013 – Leeds Academy
Sunday 27th October 2013 – Glasgow Barrowlands
Monday 28th October 2013 – Dublin Olympia
Wednesday 26th October 2013 – Manchester Academy
Thursday 31st October 2013 – Birmingham Academy
It’s always strange, trying to make small talk with a taxi driver in an unfamiliar town, when you’ve got a million thoughts running around in your head. But this is the actual conversation I had with mine on the way to this show:
“Where do you come from? I can tell from your accent that you’re not from here.”
“I’m from Washington, DC.”
“That’s a long way to travel. What are you doing in Sheffield? Is it for work?”
“You know this pub you’re taking me to, the Shakespeare? My friends are playing a show there tonight.”
This was my first visit to Sheffield, ever, so I really didn’t have any idea what the Shakespeare was going to look or be like. The taxi pulled up to a regal-looking building on Gibraltar Street with a sandwich board on the sidewalk that proudly read it’d won a Best Pub award a couple years ago; obviously, it’s a place beloved by locals. It had been so warm there that earlier that day, I’d been to the Botanical Gardens (mostly to see the bear pit, naturally – Crookes fan alert) and had been walking around in a t-shirt and jeans, wearing sunglasses and a hat. That all directly contradicted how I’d always imagined Sheffield: neverending grey, rainy days with a dose of depression. (This was echoed by a restaurant manager I met while I was searching for a copy of Sheffield Exposed; he said I’d arrived in town during highly unusual weather.)
With the earlier heat, it was no surprise that all the windows of the top floor – where the show would be held – were open. But what took my breath away happened right after I’d paid the driver and opened the car door to step out. I could hear, clear as a bell, George Waite’s angelic voice floating through the air, “he walks in whispers, draws a stranger’s gaze / why you always sleeping? It’s the middle of the day / and they’re nothing, no, they’re nothing like us / why you always running from the people that you love?” They were soundchecking ‘Dance in Colour’, their next single, one that had completely melted my heart.
I could have died happy on that street then and there.
But no, then I wouldn’t be here writing this review. Once inside, I could see why the Shakespeare was so beloved. Unless they’ve actually been to Britain, it’s hard to explain to other Americans how different pubs in Britain are to what we call ‘bars’; try as they might, there’s a cosiness to the rooms in a pub, with their well-worn chairs, tables and carpet underfoot, and often the feeling that you’ve entered a friend’s home, an overall experience that can’t really be fittingly replicated in the States. For a band like the Crookes, whose humble beginnings began in Steel City a couple of years ago when they met as university students, it seemed entirely appropriate that they would choose to play such an intimate, 90-capacity show in the city they call home. It’s so rare for bands to put on shows like this when they could for certain fill up larger venues, so I feel so lucky to have been present to witness this gig.
From the start, I could just tell it was going to be very different from any other gig I’d ever covered. For one, I got a black ‘C’ with a red heart drawn around it on the top of my right hand to indicate I’d been allowed entry, which I thought was adorable. Once upstairs, I fell in love with the space, which was as low-key and disarming as the multi-purpose room at DC’s St. Stephen’s Church. I soon learned this was the same infamous space where fans had crammed themselves in last summer at Tramlines 2012, turning the place into a fire hazard. No such scenes this night; to be honest, it was nice to go to a show where I had plenty of room to breathe and dance.
Yeah, let’s discuss that subject of dancing. I don’t know if it’s complacency with the relative ease of having seen the Crookes so many times, or knowing that they will play in town in the future, but the largely local Sheffield crowd wasn’t as energetic about the band as I expected. This could also be a result of all the girls around me were drinking and holding their glasses during the gig, which is pretty much foreign to me: in DC, my friends and I will drink before or after the show, but it’s a non-issue during the actual show, because we’re there to dance. Maybe it was Northern reserve? Not sure. I apologise though to anyone who was behind me who was bemused by my style of dancing. Sorry. It just happens… During the show, George actually singled out a girl out in front who was wearing a black dress, thanking her for dancing without pause through the entirety of the show. And that’s how it’s done, folks! While the audience might not have physically shown the signs of enjoying the gig, they expressed their gratitude instead with loud cheers between the songs.
The show began straight out of the gate with one of the new singles, ‘Bear’s Blood’, named after a libation concocted by a mysterious mountain man in Slovenia. If you thought it was completely mental in the Sharpie-happy promo video released in April, in which drummer Russell Bates gives you kissy lips, you just haven’t lived until you’ve seen it live. (I have helpfully recorded it for posterity for your viewing pleasure above.) I had to wonder if they’re putting it on right away first in their live set because it’s one of their most physically demanding songs to play live yet. If this and ‘Dance in Colour’ are good indications, the Crookes’ third album will be harder rock than their first two, with stellar guitar solos feeling right at home with their always infectious choruses.
From ‘Bear’s Blood’ on, there was no time for rest, as then they went straight into ‘Hold Fast’ second single ‘Maybe in the Dark’. This one is always a crowd favourite, with this thumping bass, frenetic tempo and what I consider quite possibly the most amazing chord changes in a pop song’s chorus, ever. (If you could see me in my car listening to this, you would see I am known to do voice teacher-type hand gestures to mark these changes.) Having been able to finally get rid of my personal ‘ghost’ 2 weekends prior in Liverpool, the song took on a new meaning for me, making me feel ever so positive about the future. That’s what good songs do; after repeated listens, they will reveal more of themselves to you.
While the Crookes’ current live set mostly focuses on the faster tracks from 2012’s ‘Hold Fast’, appearances by ‘Chorus of Fools’ and ‘Just Like Dreamers’ from 2011’s ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ were more than welcomed by the crowd. A long-time fan chimed in, overeager to provide lyrics to closer ‘Yes, Yes, We’re Magicians’ (from the 2010 ‘Dreams of Another Day’ EP) when George was taking a moment for dramatic pause. Bless. (Or perhaps more accurately, he was pausing to take a breath, as the poor guy was gasping from the heat in the room and the overexertion from playing.) Needless to say, he laughed, and everyone else joined in. He recognised her as being one of the Crookes’ long-time supporters. “Just how many times have you seen us now?” I smiled from the inside out. It was one of those moments that only happens in a small show such as this, when you feel like you’re in the company of friends.
After the show I learned some things about the next album that I don’t think I’m allowed to share – yet! – but let’s just say I’m very excited to hear what’s up next for the Crookes. I would love to get an album from them by Christmas but as they say, patience is a virtue, and good things come to those who wait.
After the cut: the set list.
Continue reading Live Review: The Crookes at Sheffield Shakespeare – 19th May 2013
Every time the recurrent thought of “oh, I’m not doing the Great Escape next year, it’s too mental” comes into my mind, something amazing happens while I’m in Brighton that restores my faith about the seaside festival. True, it tends to attract more of the ‘entitled’ crowd than Liverpool Sound City does; the first afternoon this year, I was pushed to the side by two uni kids who were whinging about something instead of actually watching the band on stage. But for the sheer random things that seem to only occur in Brighton and you’re in the music business, you can’t beat TGE.
Last year I got lost one morning, only to be hilariously greeted by the sight of Zulu Winter (who I’d met at SXSW 2012 2 months earlier) literally busting out of their van on New Road. Friday night this year, on the recommendation of Ed Blow of Dirty Hit, I ordered moules and frites at the Dorset and who should call my name but Henry Walton, guitarist of the same band, in town playing in his friend’s band for the weekend. It was nice to see an old friend, but really, I was chuffed that he remembered me! If you’re wondering, Zulu Winter is working on their next album, which is great, great news! (Another moment to savour during the weekend was Jon Higgs of Everything Everything saying, “my, you’re a clever girl!” when I showed him my day job business card; his parents are biologists, which intrigued this boffin editor.) But on to Friday night…
In general, I usually don’t have to worry about badge queues at SXSW, because the majority of acts I want to catch in Austin are indie and British and usually aren’t all that well known in America yet. This night, my idea of catching Marika Hackman at the Unitarian Church and swanning in quickly and easily through the badge queue didn’t go exactly to plan. And to be honest, had I not gone up to security at the back door and asked him if there was a separate badge queue, I think everyone queuing would have just stayed in their places, oblivious that there should have been some queue hierarchy. So always ask! After my enquiry, they decided not to have badge and wristband queues; no, they decided to have 3-day versus weekend badge queues. Not terribly fair either; I can see if I were English and had to work on Thursday, there wouldn’t have been a point in me buying a 3-day wristband, is there? Anyway…
I got inside, only to hear the last 2 songs of Hackman’s set. Once inside the church, I realised what the problem with the place was; the room they were using was tiny! I was expecting it to be as big as the main room of St. David’s in Austin, and it’s nowhere near that. Forget the size for the moment, though. Whether it’s divine intervention or not, every concert or set I’ve seen inside a church has always been acoustically brilliant, and Hackman’s set here was no exception. Considering what I’d read previously about her love for Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac, I was surprised to see her stood with her guitar and no other accompaniment. She looked a little scared faced with so many eyes watching her. However, talent won out, as she stood resolutely to deliver one after another of her lovely songs. The applause at the end was thunderous, and she bashfully exited stage left with a huge grin on her face.
From there, I decided to check in to one of my favourite venues from last year, Sticky Mikes’s Frog Bar closer to the water. Why? There was a rock/folk double-header like no other, that’s why: Story Books, who I’d befriended at this year’s SXSW, and To Kill a King, TGTF 10 for 2013 poll alums who I’d not seen live yet. While I was waiting down the front, I met two really sweet girls on either side of me who knew of both bands, and neither were bloggers or in the business – seriously, what are the odds, right? One was from London and the other had come over from Canada. Going real international.
Both bands have a lot of band members so the question was, how was eveyrone going to fit on the stage? The space restriction did affect Story Books’ Kris Harris and his ability to truly rock out the way he likes to when he’s wailing, but considering what space he was given, he did an admirable job with his moves on tunes like ‘Glory and Growth’. I think ‘Too Much Like a Hunter’ EP opening track ‘Simple Kids’ is ranking up there with my favourite anthemic songs of 2013 and will become a classic; it’s got such a memorable chorus and a driving rhythm throughout, just so mesmerising.
If you’re a To Kill a King fan and don’t fancy Bastille (me) or you waited too long to buy your top-up tickets to the Brighton Dome show Saturday starring both to them (my new friends from London and Canada), then the only option left was to see To Kill a King alone at Sticky Mike’s on Friday. I’m really quite glad I chose this show over several others, and I’ll tell you why: even though they’re not entirely folk, TKAK put on one of the most memorable sets of my TGE experience this year, feeling like the cross between a hoedown and a house party. You wouldn’t expect a band that puts out an album called ‘Cannibals With Cutlery’ to be so amiable and non-aggro, but Ralph Pelleymounter and crew quickly got the crowd behind them with their winsome brand of rocking out folk.
The main complaint I have about Sticky Mike’s basement –besides the low, claustrophobic ceiling and stupidly placed beams always in your sightlines – is that there is no way in hell you’re getting a mobile phone signal down there. So if you’re going to meet somewhere there, you better get your communications sorted and plans made before you descend. I was supposed to meet several people there, but couldn’t find any of them. I did however run into the brilliant Louise Minter of AMP Publicity, who recognised me from last year and gave me a free-t-shirt; how nice is that? And with that, I went home. Yeah, I know, going home before midnight on Friday night at the Great Escape is a bit of a copout, isn’t it? Sometimes exhaustion wins out, though. And trust me, resting up for my Saturday was entirely worth it!
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 31st May 2013 at 10:00 am
Traceyanne Campbell and her Camera Obscura‘s last album ‘My Maudlin Career’ was released in 2009. It feels like ages since we’ve had new material from them, but the wait is over. On Monday 3 June, they release ‘Desire Lines’ on 4AD. From the press shot above, it looks like they’ve changed keyboardists, and I’ve not gotten a chance to preview the new album, so I’m wondering what other changes are in store for us on the new release…
In the meantime though, you can download super catchy album track ‘Do It Again’ in exchange for your email address in the widget below, because Camera Obscura are such good people to offer it up for free. It’ll remind you of ‘Honey in the Sun’, just minus the horns.
The fantastic Fenech-Soler are gearing up to release their sophomore album ‘Rituals’ on the 2nd of September, and they’ll be going out on tour in the UK and Ireland in support of it in November. Tickets to this tour are on sale now.
Watch their latest video for single ‘Magnetic’ (out the 1st of July) in this previous Video of the Moment post.
Thursday 7th November 2013 – Liverpool East Village Arts Club
Friday 8th November 2013 – Belfast Limelight 2
Saturday 9th November 2013 – Dublin Academy 2
Monday 11th November 2013 – Aberdeen Tunnels
Tuesday 12th November 2013 – Glasgow Kings Tut’s
Thursday 14th November 2013 – Newcastle Academy 2
Friday 15th November 2013 – Manchester Gorilla
Saturday 16th November 2013 – Birmingham Institute
Sunday 17th November 2013 – Nottingham Rescue Rooms
Tuesday 19th November 2013 – Bristol Thekla
Wednesday 20th November 2013 – Brighton Concorde 2
Thursday 21st November 2013 – London Shepherds Bush Empire