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By Luke Morton
on Thursday, 24th November 2011 at 2:00 pm
There’s a lot to be said for dubstep as a genre, it’s risen from an underground movement in the mid-Noughties to primetime Radio 1 seemingly in the blink of an eye. What started as an offshoot of the London grime scene has taken over UK’s clubs and has made its way stateside, creating a whole new breed of animal. Skrillex aka Sonny Moore aka that guy from From First to Last is the hottest property in the current incarnation of dubstep, which relies one ‘the dirtier the better’ philosophy. Tonight he is kicking off his new headline UK tour at London Koko.
As tonight’s revellers packed inside for the sold out first night of Skrillex’s Mothership tour, Flux Pavilion enters the stage to give Camden a noise-induced bass injection for the best part of an hour. Founding Circus Records with other dubstep cohort Doctor P, Flux Pavilion has been making a name for himself in electronic music for the past few years. His DJ set is full of hard-hitting drops and intense drum beats from some of the biggest producers in the genre, as well as welcome additions from Foreign Beggars and a crowd-pleasing remix of the Tetris theme. Despite being generally crowd-pleasing, though, Flux Pavilion just doesn’t have that charisma and attitude that you’d expect from a DJ playing to almost 1500 people. The odd hand movement and “Are you OK, London?” exclamation manage to rile the crowd enough to keep dancing (and moshing – oddly), but in terms of showmanship FP needs a little more work. Especially when being followed by Skrillex.
A black curtain has been at the front of the stage all evening, which no-one seemed to mind as DJs only need decks…right? Behind the curtains, though, is a fully functional audio/visual stage set up for Skrillex to watch over his people atop a pyramid in front of a huge screen displaying various Skrillex logos and retro 8-bit imagery. Opening on ‘My Name Is Skrillex’, Camden comes to life as KOKO screams along to the electronic voice coming from the laptop.
As much as dubstep music has evolved in terms of sound, so has its fanbase. No longer is it dreadheads, stoners and internet geeks, it’s hit the mainstream full force and the clientèle are now more inclined to get drunk and jump into each other. This isn’t Skrillex’s fault, he’s merely the poster boy for the unaffectionately named ‘brostep’. His own version is built around deep bass drops and glitchy synth rhythms that can cause a brain haemorrhage, which is far removed from the likes of Skream and DJ Hatcha yet still holds its own and has a deserved place amongst the dubstep pioneers and new innovators.
His set is filled firm favourites in the mainstream dubstep world, including his own remixes of Nero‘s ‘Promises’, La Roux‘s ‘In For The Kill’ and Benny Benassi‘s ‘Cinema’. Relying upon crushing drops and squelches and splats throughout, the crowd are loving every deafening minute of it. The rib-shaking bass of ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ and ear popping kicks push the night onward as Sonny delivers an hour and a half assault on the senses with his anti-epilepsy light show. The upshot of which leaves you mesmerised by the long-haired, skinny jean-wearing antics of one of the fastest rising stars in electronic music. The downside leaves your brain numb and your clothes covered in lager. Well worth it for the dance factor, but is this the face of dubstep to come, or just a fad? Judging my tonight’s reception, it’s here for a while yet.
The last time Los Campesinos! did such an extensive tour of the United Kingdom to the point of playing Leeds, they were in this very room. ‘The big room’ at the Cockpit last time hosted a band diagnosed with swine flu but determined to play out their tour in full. It’s that kind of resilience that’s led LC! to sell out Shepherds Bush Empire and gain a dedicated following worldwide and even if they’ve not grown out of the venue, they’ve grown a lot as a group.
Promoting their fourth full record ‘Hello Sadness’ with a few members not present at the last showing, Los Camp! build straight into opening track ‘By Your Hand’. It’s greeted with the kind of enthusiasm that you can only find at an LC! show, it’s a quick succession of ‘indie hits’ mixed in with seven new tracks. It’s bold from the band, but when you’ve got such tracks as ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’ in the middle of your set and album track ‘Miserabilia’ gets a raucous reaction from those present, throwing in two thirds of your yet-to-be properly released record isn’t as much of an off-putting idea as you might think. Earlier in the year, it was clear that the band needed to be playing new material as some tracks from ‘WAB WAD’ and ‘Hold On Now, Youngster!’ were starting to sound routine. Now they’re revitalised amongst fresh highlights such as ‘Songs About Your Girlfriend’ and title track ‘Hello Sadness’.
The lyrics are as intelligent as front-man Gareth Campesinos! has ever been and whilst HS may not be the catchiest indie-pop record, it’s endearing as a series of songs that come alive when sung by hundreds in a room literally dripping with sweat.
Not over participating in conversation, yet at the same time in no way ignoring the adoration from the congregation, Gareth Campesinos! and company seem genuinely happy to have such positive responses from what’s an ambitiously mellow album and last track ‘Baby I’ve Got The Death Rattle’ becomes an instant hit with the Yorkshire crowd as it builds. Lyrics “you are an angel and that’s why you pray and I am an ass and that’s why I pray” are almost as powerful as ‘Romance is Boring”s now iconic “you could never kiss a Tory boy without wanting to cut off your tongue again” from ‘The Sea Is…’ (which also features).
The encore is ‘We Are Beautiful’ album track ‘Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1’, a strange choice and yet still fan favourite (“do you suck your mother’s dick with that mouth”, an edited lyric for the occasion) is followed by normal set closer ‘Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks’ and all becomes pandemonium. It’s been an energetic show anyway, but it seems that the crowd-surfers and maniac jumpers have been holding back until this point. And just like that, it’s over. Los Campesinos! have once again proven that they can be a whirlwind live act and restamped themselves as an act to be taken seriously with a serious dosage of both angst and fun. Goodbye courage…
Just when you thought the festival season was over, that it was safe to hang up any notion of seeing in one sitting a full working day’s worth of bands until next year, along comes Constellations to sweep away the November blues. (The 12th of November, to be exact.) In the style popularised by ATP’s Butlins jaunts, this is a single-venue indoors one-dayer, using the fantastic facilities at Leeds University as a base for a five-room shindig. At this stage in the year one might be wary of repetition; and whilst there are some acts here that are familiar faces from the summer festival circuit, the promoters have certainly managed to keep Constellations’ lineup fresh and intriguing.
Which is exactly how one could describe Liverpool’s Outfit. A widescreen, spacey, synth-led five-piece, having only formed in January this year, their sound is maturing nicely: surely their anonymity is destined to be short-lived. Recent release ‘Two Islands’ and its impatient vocal intertwining with keening guitar neatly sums up their sound: angstwave if you will. More please.
Féted boy-girl duo Big Deal bring their somnambulant ditties to the alcohol-free Riley Smith room; their octave harmony style being very much the sound of 2011. Hardly likely to make the listener keel over with excitement, or break an ankle pogoing, nevertheless there is a subtle beauty on offer. It’s just that, as we will discover later, boy-girl duos are capable of so much more these days.
Exitmusic are gothy and elegant, lyrical metaphors of steaming marshland echoing their dusky sound. Lead singer Aleksa Palladino, taking time out from being directed by Martin Scorsese, ebbs and moans like she’s emitting some delicate musical secret. Their arch pretension does suffer slightly from the 10 minutes of awkward soundchecking, and indeed by taking place on a mid afternoon in Leeds. In the middle of a rusty, abandoned Russian airfield, or somewhere woody, twilight and damp, this would be perfect.
Dutch Uncles look perfectly at home on this generously-proportioned stage, their mathy style beefed up to generate a rather wonderful combination of conventional rock and jagged, dissonant, jazz-tinged ephemera. A rather unexpected highlight is singer Duncan Wallis’ unconventional dancing style – his weird, wired leg movements bring an unexpected lightness to what could conceivably be a rather cerebral performance.
Onto one of the highlights of the day: Summer Camp. Elizabeth Sankey makes the most of her opportunity to play diva with her mini-dress and shocking red lipstick; there’s an subtle yet disturbing element of menace about her performance – don’t get too close, chaps! Her musical partner, Jeremy Walmsley, in loud Hawaiian shirt and giant myopic specs, decorates the backing tracks with synth and electric guitar, whilst a live drummer adds impact to the rhythm section. They rip through recent release ‘Welcome To Condale’ (review here), gem after gem of ’80s-tinged pop falling out of the speakers, the warm and confident interplay between Sankey and Walmsley a joy to behold. A loop of classic brat-pack films plays behind; Molly Ringwald would surely approve.
Givers, ironically, are given a short half-hour set, and boy, do they make the most of it. A superb combination of traditional Americana, neo-bombast in the style of Arcade Fire, and a sprinkling of African-influenced funkiness, this is a jolly and likeable set from a similarly-blessed band. One gets the impression that they could play for twice as long and keep the listener enthralled. It’s no surprise that a band from Louisiana should have absorbed the broad church of influences which characterises New Orleans, but to package it within short, catchy, warm-hearted pop songs like ‘Up Up Up’ is a superb achievement. Long may they continue to give.
Stephen Malkmus has been around the block a few times, and seems to be mellowing in his old age. Gone are the angular obscurantism of previous project Pavement, in comes a more relaxed approach, characterised by tongue-in-cheek heavy-rotation single Senator. This is still quintessential American garage rock, but the sharp edges have been shaved off; live, the songs are allowed to meander and develop by themselves, rather than being obsessively honed. There’s palpable disappointment when, seemingly too early, Malkmus announces the last song – what soon becomes apparent is that this song is a long, meandering jam, which lasts well over ten minutes. There’s the niggling doubt that Malkmus is slightly treading water with this project that the long, jammy ending to the set does nothing to dispel.
Vessels specialise in that slow, meandering wall-of-droning-guitars sound that has stood Mogwai in such good stead over the years. Doubtless there are plenty of differences between what and why each band does, but the suspicion is that it would take many hours of listening to elicit them. When the sets are this short, and we’re all standing up indoors rather than lounging on a sunny patch of grass, something a little more immediate is called for. Luckily, Yuck are up next, with their noisy indie pop; somewhat heavier than on record, they still maintain their melodic sparkle, and are starting to look like proper contenders.
Wild Beasts, however, live in an entirely different league of expectation. With the stage full of expensive, delectable guitars and a brace of gourmet keyboards, the performance oozes class from the very start. The duality of the vocal styles of Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming astonishes even more than on record; Thorpe’s edgy, vibratoed falsetto a uniquely expressive instrument, unsettlingly incongruous coming out of a bearded man’s throat, Fleming’s velvet baritone adding depth and complimenting the flamboyance of the arrangements. The band have a great depth to their catalogue, and whilst material from Smother dominates, older tracks from Two Dancers sound just as vital. This is a thrilling band, utterly original, and reassuringly complex in all they do. The dials are set to just the correct amount of archness, weight, cerebrality, funk, and indeed camp, an expertly-judged blend of virtue akin to a fine Scotch whisky. It is reassurance to all those that fear the X-Factorisation of music has taken hold, that the denominator is inescapably locked at common: to see a capacity audience in a large room transfixed by such intelligently-written and expertly-executed pop music is a wondrous thing.
And to finally wrap things up, the Big Pink, whose music is about as subtle as their name. Essentially an early-90s tribute act, there’s a bit a shoegaze, a bit of acid house and a bit of baggy in their sound. Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell have all the right credentials, and with single Dominos on Radio 1’s A-list, the future looks bright, except for one thing: their live show tonight is dull. Furze thrashes a Stratocaster and practices his thousand-yard stare, the rest of the music is sample and synth based, too layered to make out any individual contributions or melodies. I spend most of the gig watching the enthralling female drummer, who appears not to be the regular Akiko Matsura, but is great all the same. Something of a disappointment right at the end then, but there’s been so much good stuff through the day that a slightly damp squib of an ending can be wholeheartedly forgiven. A great opportunity to stock up on new bands right at the end of the season… and plenty of inspiration for stocking fillers!
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 21st November 2011 at 2:00 pm
My first gig in Kentish Town, at a Club Fandango night at the Bull and Gate, allowed me to make a comparison between a small DC venue like DC9 to this similar one in North London. I can say for certain that the sound system at the Bull and Gate is incredible and blows our venues out of the water, even the ones that are twice its size (sorry, Washington) and aesthetically, the lighting options are a lot better as well. But enough with the pedantic, jaundiced eye: you’re here to read about the I Dream in Colour gig you couldn’t get into, because it was sold out, right? I have come to your aid, even if I was running on 3 hours of sleep and I nearly walked into a wall down a corridor towards the Northern line (why didn’t anyone warn me that changing from the Central to Northern line required heading down a corridor that has a slanted floor? Not good for someone still woozy from motion sickness medication, but I digress…)
The openers’ band names are a good study on how to (or not to) come up with a proper name for a band. Heroics were up first; their name conjures up good deeds of Biblical proportions like David taking down Goliath. Or maybe something closer to home, like the art of sport and competition with respect to next summer’s Olympics. In the right light, the lead singer ** looks like Jack Steadman of Bombay Bicycle Club, and this band plays likable indie rock. I’m guessing the folks milling about in the bar directly outside the performance room would have really liked them, if they gave this band half a chance. What was heard was pretty good for a band I’d never heard of; with their energy, they sound like they could be a commercial hit, if promoted properly. They have an EP out on the 8th of December, so keep an eye on these guys.
Portsmouth’s Anchor and the Wolf, on the other hand, has a name that makes you wonder if they consulted a clairvoyant when pressed for a name. Are we supposed to believe that the backing band is the anchor, and the singer out front is the wolf? Or vice versa? And what is a predatory wild animal doing with something that belongs deep in the ocean, anyway? Zoe Mead sings like she’s trying to be Adele, which seems strange given the context: she plays acoustic guitar and xylophone and wears denim shorts Adele would never be caught in. But there’s also an element of Alessi Laurent-Marke (Alessi’s Ark), if she’d gone more rock. The xylophone of course is prominently placed front and centre, but sadly it’s more of a gimmick than anything else, not adding anything of value to their performance. “Only love can set you free”? Can we say ‘cliché’?
Of course everyone has come out to the Bull and Gate for tonight’s headliners. This is the closest to a hometown gig for these boys from Essex, and there are plenty of loud and proud family and friends in the audience. What is interesting (or disappointing, depending on your musical taste) is the band’s progression to a more commercial sound. ‘Get Along’ (video at the bottom of the main part of this post), one of the band’s earliest songs, has a bit of country twang with indie rock. But newer track (and freebie as a former MP3 of the Day here) ‘Long Cold Lonely Winter’ has the band, at least according to a punter that wished to remain anonymous, “sounding more like Coldplay”. What drew me first to the band was the power chords and heavy guitars (say hello to guitarist Michael Thackeray’s pedal board, which is probably as wide as I am tall) and while I like piano in rock music surely and am not against it, if I Dream in Colour is going this direction, they’re heading into what is already a very crowded market, going against behemoths Keane and Chris Martin and co. (My guess is that if Tom Chaplin makes good on his wish to work with Kanye on the next Keane album and continue the way of last year’s ‘Night Train’ (EP review here), IDIC will fill in their vacated spot easily.) But I will say that Richard Judge’s songwriting, indicated by hearing bits and bobs of demos he’s worked on with just his voice and the keys, will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
We’re here tonight for the single launch party for ‘Strangest Place’, another piano-led track. Still, it is clear that their fans, widely ranging in age from uni kids to people in their 40s and 50s and refreshingly, an even mix of males and females (usually a rarity at male-heavy rock gigs and female-heavy pop gigs), like the way this band is headed and already know every word to every song. For a band who hasn’t even put out a proper album yet, this is very promising, watching everyone clap their hands with frontman Judge’s encouragement. At the end, women vie for half-drunk water bottles, which generally only happen to pinup bands, right? The vibe was so electric that if this band wants mainstream success, it should come. Soon.
After the cut: more photos and set list.
Continue reading Live Review: I Dream in Colour with Heroics and Anchor and the Wolf at Kentish Town Bull and Gate – 18th November 2011
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 18th November 2011 at 2:00 pm
Oxford band Spring Offensive was recently filmed in Munich by Hauskonzerte.com, performing their song ‘Carrier’ in a capella style. Watch and enjoy it below.
The Q Awards take over HMV Forum for October, bringing a huge array of Q talent to London for shows of a strange size. For the likes of Ed Sheeran, the 2,000-capacity venue is about right, but bring arena acts like Kaiser Chiefs or Snow Patrol here and it becomes a borderline intimate evening for fans to enjoy their favourite acts from a more eyesight friendly perspective.
Supporting this evening is a Northern Irish group on the cusp of great things. With two EPs to their name, Rams’ Pocket Radio’s touring schedule shows them to be one of the most hardworking groups around today. The brainchild of Peter McCauley, the group are loyal to recordings and if anything, go above and beyond the point of call of a support group with the energy they bring. This is a big show for them and they step up to the mark with an almost Guillemots’ style dedication to their music. To be honest, they sound like the Killers meets Feeder, in a good way, and with a bit more of an epic orchestral feel. Keep a watch out for them.
Tonight, Snow Patrol are headlining, showcasing music from both old albums and their forthcoming ‘Fallen Empires’, the band bring with them a great light show and enthusiastic vibe that even lasts through the more famous melancholy Snow Patrol tracks such as ‘Run’ and ‘Chasing Cars’, both used mid setlist. It’s bold moves like that that demonstrate how versatile and strong a band Gary Lightbody and company really are.
above photo by and used by kind permission from katla01
Opening with the epic ‘Open Your Eyes’ which builds and breaks to create an instantly powerful atmosphere which keeps up all the way through to new songs ‘Called Out in the Dark’, ‘Weight of Love’ and ‘Garden Rules’ during which Lightbody is joined on vocals by Rams Pocket Radio bassist and vocalist Shauna Tohill who’s nervous yet beautiful vocals add something to an otherwise fairly boring track. That’s the issue with so much of Snow Patrol’s new material. Whilst the likes of main set closer Fallen Empires is clearly a new step for the band, when you put it alongside encore tracks ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Just Say Yes’, it struggles for purpose. All in all however, Snow Patrol can have still got it over a 90 minute period, but this latest effort might not be everything they have been in the past.