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Live Gig Video: Girl Band perform ‘Baloo’ as part of Rough Trade session

By on Friday, 20th November 2015 at 4:00 pm

Currently buzzed about Dublin punks Girl Band should need no introduction. But just in case you’ve been living in a convent / under a rock / in a cave / take your pick, you should know that their debut album ‘Holding Hands With Jamie’, released at the end of September on Rough Trade Records, has continued to stoke the fires of hype that has surrounded the band since they appeared in Austin for SXSW 2015.

If you have so far been not lucky enough to catch them live or perhaps you are just curious what all the fuss is about, they have released this video from a recent Rough Trade session, a performance of ‘Baloo’ from their debut LP. Capturing the band’s anarchic style and featuring lead singer Dara Kiely’s hopelessly rough all over vocals, this is definitely for the lot of you who call yourselves punk fans. Watch the eye-opening performance film below.

Hungry for more on Girl Band? You can catch our entire archive so far on the Irish group here.

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Live Review: Here We Go Magic with Big Thief at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 15th November 2015

By on Thursday, 19th November 2015 at 2:00 pm

After the tragic events in Paris last weekend, which struck close to home with an attack on the Eagles of Death Metal concert at Le Bataclan on Friday night, even the hardiest of gig-goers might find themselves hesitating to venture out for a show. Such was my situation on Sunday night, when I headed to downtown Phoenix’s Valley Bar to see Brooklyn indie pop band Here We Go Magic. It was unusually cold and rainy in Phoenix that night (a recurring theme with my recent trips to Valley Bar, as you’ll know if you read my review of David Ramirez’s show last week), and I had half a mind to stay safely and snugly tucked away on my sofa at home rather than making the 2-hour drive. However, I felt pulled to make a show of resistance against the fear inspired by the Paris attacks, if only in a small way. Since I already had the ticket in hand, off to Phoenix I went.

I arrived a little after the announced time for doors at the Valley Bar, but it turned out that the bands, Here We Go Magic and support act Big Thief, were running a bit late as well. When Big Thief took the stage about half an hour behind schedule, there were only a handful of people in the venue, mostly hanging back near the bar area. Undeterred, lead singer Adrianne Lenker and company drew the small crowd in with their alt-rock style songs. The hesitant punters slowly crept nearer to the stage during their set, and by the end, the band were receiving enthusiastic applause and genuine shouts of approval.

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I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Big Thief weren’t just another one on the rapidly growing list of female-led garage bands. So often, those bands come off sounding a bit feckless or somehow apologetic for making a loud noise. Not Big Thief. Lenker’s songwriting does have that self-conscious introspection in its lyrics, and the breathy tone quality of her singing voice falls somewhere between Patsy Cline and Chrissy Hynde, but the band’s folk rock style musical arrangements lean more toward the rock end of the spectrum and are anything but frail and delicate.

Their brash sound was displayed to full advantage in the instrumental interludes, when Lenker stepped away from the mic and led her male bandmates through a series of screeching guitar solos. That being said, one of the most memorable moments in Big Thief’s set came when guitarist Buck Meek performed a contrasting a capella version of his solo song ‘Sam Bridges’, which immediately called to mind the folk roots of Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan.

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Meek and Lenker are both a solo artists aside from their work with Big Thief, and when I stepped out to the merch table after the show, Lenker was selling copies of her own solo CD ‘Hours Were the Birds’ as well as Big Thief’s latest offering (recorded as Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek, and titled ‘A-sides’). She mentioned that most of the songs on their current set list were new and will appear on their upcoming album, to be released sometime next year. In fact, Big Thief’s recent single ‘Masterpiece’ was just released at the end of October, as a prelude to their tour with Here We Go Magic.

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Luke Temple and his Here We Go Magic colleagues opened their headline set without preliminary chatter, starting with a pair of new songs from their recent LP ‘Be Small’. As it turned out, ‘Ordinary Feeling’ and ‘Stella’ served as a nice warm up for the more energetic ‘Make Up Your Mind’ and an extended version of ‘Hibernation’. I was immediately surprised by how much more vibrant Here We Go Magic sounded in live performance, as I’d always heard their studio recordings as being very muted and mellow, more atmosphere than tangible presence. But on this night, they played through the new tracks and the older ones alike with the smooth, spellbinding grace of a jazz combo, each band member watching and responding naturally to the others, the main focus always at stage right on frontman Temple.

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The centerpiece of Here We Go Magic’s set was clearly the infectiously quirky lead single from ‘Be Small’, ‘Tokyo London U.S. Korea’, whose catchy title line inspired a bit of singing along among the tiny Valley Bar crowd. That’s not to imply that the audience wasn’t engaged with the performance; on the contrary, the vibe in the room was one of captivated attention and appreciation for the musicianship on display. It’s just that most of Here We Go Magic’s songs aren’t particularly of the singalong variety. Despite that reputation, I’m willing to bet that very few could walk away from ‘Tokyo London U.S. Korea’ without catching the earworm. Find out for yourself below.

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While Here We Go Magic’s setlist was predictably slanted toward the new album, the band did touch on each of their older recordings. Songs from their self-titled debut album and their excellent 2012 record ‘A Different Ship’ made notable appearances in the first half of the set, and a pair of tracks from 2010’s ‘Pigeon’, the mildly hypnotic ‘Land of Feelings’ and the psychedelic coda of ‘Collector’, came nearer to the end. The band wrapped up the set proper with brand new single ‘Falling’, and finally, the small audience’s reward for braving both the weather and weekend’s earlier events came in the form of a brief encore, featuring my own favourite Here We Go Magic tune, ‘How Do I Know’.

Here We Go Magic’s latest album ‘Be Small’ is available now via Secretly Canadian. They will play a single UK show at XOYO in London on the 22nd of February as part of a 2016 European tour, which is also currently scheduled to include several dates in France.

Here We Go Magic setlist


Bands to Watch #362: Lewis & Leigh

By on Thursday, 12th November 2015 at 12:00 pm

Folk-pop duo Lewis & Leigh combine the musical heritage of their two geographically divergent backgrounds to create a sound that is broadly accessible, yet still somehow feels personal and intimate. Vivid lyrical portraits and widely varying musical influences ranging from Americana to Motown, from traditional British folk to edgy London pop, blend effortlessly in the angelic singing voices of Alva Leigh and Al Lewis, who are well-respected songwriters individually, but who have found a sweetly sensitive fusion in their collaboration with one another.

The pair’s illustrative track ‘Rubble’, from their EP ‘Missing Years’, draws comparisons between the American Deep South where Leigh was born, and the Welsh countryside that Lewis calls home. First depicted is the coastal town of Gulfport, MS, which has been levelled by several hurricanes in recorded history, most recently Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (It’s hard to tell which hurricane is referenced in the video below, possibly 1979 Hurricane Frederic or 1985 Hurricane Elena). The song’s second verse refers to the struggles surrounding the Welsh Mining Strike of 1984, with the chorus making the connection between the two seemingly disparate locations, observing how each was reduced to rubble in the aftermath of those disastrous events. The final verse talks about having roots in those places, and being drawn to them, each sympathizing with the other’s toil and trouble. It’s a haunting and thought-provoking song whose musical setting is elegantly sensitive to the musical style and cultural spirit of each region.

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Lewis & Leigh’s debut EP ‘Night Drives’ won attention from BBC Radio 2, with lead single ‘What Is There To Do’ spending four weeks on that station’s playlist back in 2014. The duo subsequently performed live sessions with Dermot O’Leary and BBC Radio Scotland’s Ricky Ross. Their latest single, a soulful jazz pop tune called ‘Heart Don’t Want’, has already received well-deserved attention in America from the likes of Rolling Stone and NPR, as well as a Twitter endorsement from veteran singer/songwriter Ryan Adams.  The song was recorded as part of their latest EP ‘Hidden Truths’ and produced at Urchin Studios by Matt Ingram and Dan Cox, who also helmed Laura Marling‘s latest album ‘Short Movie’.

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Lewis & Leigh’s current EP ‘Hidden Truths’ is available now. The pair are currently touring the new EP throughout the UK. Their final live dates for the season are listed below.

Thursday 12th November 2015 – Sheffield Cafe No. 9
Friday 13th November 2015 – Kirton-in-Lindsey Town Hall
Saturday 14th November 2015 – Leeds High & Lonesome Festival
Friday 11th December 2015 – Cardiff St. John the Evangelist’s Church, Canton


Live Review: David Ramirez with Liza Anne at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 4th November 2015

By on Wednesday, 11th November 2015 at 2:00 pm

Last Wednesday night, I trekked once again to downtown Phoenix for a gig at the intimate and all-but-hidden Valley Bar, which is quite literally nestled in a back alley between a couple of sandwich shops. The rainy weather didn’t stop a steady crowd from trickling into the venue, and before the gig started, I heard several punters chatting about the headliner, Texas alt-country songwriter David Ramirez, having obviously heard him or seen him live before. I, myself, was less familiar, having been turned on to Ramirez’s music after seeing a Tweeted recommendation of his latest single from none other than Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody. I spent the two-hour drive to Phoenix from Tucson listening to Ramirez’s latest album ‘Fables’ via Apple Music, and it was just the thing to whet my appetite for the evening’s headliner at the Valley Bar.

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Lest I get too far ahead of myself, let’s start not with Ramirez, but with his guest on the night, Atlanta native singer/songwriter Liza Anne. Her tunes are the kind of starkly melancholic neo-folk I might have predicted, but with the added twist of prominent vocal harmonies provided by backing vocalists Sam Pinkerton and Molly Parden. Liza Anne’s opening set, which included haunting echoes of melody from her recent LP ‘Two’, had a cool, aloof edge despite its emotional lyrics that would prove to be in sharp contrast to Ramirez’s viscerally organic Americana style.

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Because I was fairly unfamiliar with Ramirez, I decided to stick to the standard policy of shooting photos only during the first three songs of the set, leaving myself free to enjoy the latter part of the show uninterrupted. And though I missed a few classic photo opportunities later on when Ramirez’s band was in full swing, I’m convinced that I made the right decision. Ramirez’s intensity on stage was hypnotic, and his band played with the kind of paradoxically effortless energy that can only happen when you’re playing with your “best friend(s) in the world”, as Ramirez would preface his introduction of each band member.

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To my surprise (and mild dismay), Ramirez started his lengthy headline set with two of the songs I knew best from ‘Fables’, namely ‘New Way of Living’ and ‘Harder to Lie’, the latter of which has been firmly planted in my head ever since the night of the show. He scattered songs from ‘Fables’ throughout the set, interspersing them with several older tracks that caught my attention, especially ‘The Bad Days’ from 2013 EP ‘The Rooster’. Not knowing the songs well enough to sing along, I was nonetheless delighted to be in the front row, alternately tapping my toes and swaying my hips to the band’s infectious rhythmic momentum. Ramirez’s alt-country style has perhaps a bit more country twang than I usually like, but the rough honesty of his singing voice and the integrity of his stylistic devotion to foundational country rock were quite simply captivating.

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The crowd were quiet at the beginning of the set, but slowly warmed up as Ramirez and his band went to work under the hot stage lights. Interaction was stilted at first, but the punters gradually got brave enough to respond to Ramirez’s banter. At one point, a cheeky request was made for a song called ‘Wandering Man’, and while Ramirez didn’t commit to it in the moment, he did play the song at the very end of his set, and it was clearly a longtime live favourite, featuring not only a rousing verse-chorus-verse, but also an extended bridge section where each of the instrumentalists on stage had a chance to show off his chops. Ramirez himself actually took this opportunity to exit the stage and head to the bar for a shot, with which he toasted the crowd before tossing it back and finishing the song with a blinding flourish.

Breathless from the frenzy of the final tune, I headed out to the lobby where the merch table was located. There I picked up a proper physical copy of ‘Fables’ and had the opportunity for quick hellos and handshakes with the band members before I headed out in the rain to drive back east to Tucson, while they headed west for the next stops on their current U.S. tour. Before I drove away, I took a moment to Tweet my own ringing recommendation to a friend in California, who would see Ramirez play a solo show on the following Sunday night.

The previous Gary Lightbody endorsement had been graciously received and reciprocated by Ramirez on Twitter, where he surely found a small legion of Snow Patrol fans (including myself!) among his new listeners, though Ramirez’s musical style is clearly more on the Americana-leaning Tired Pony end of the Lightbody spectrum. Ramirez might gain even more traction from Lightbody’s recommendation after the start of the new year, when he is scheduled to play a single live date on the 28th of January at Hoxton Square in London. A full listing of Ramirez’s upcoming live dates, including more U.S. shows with Liza Anne, can be found on his official Web site.

David Ramirez set list


Live Review: Third Eye Blind at Manchester Academy 2 – 5th November 2015

By on Tuesday, 10th November 2015 at 2:00 pm

When you’re a band that’s been around for 22 years, one thing you learn to do is how to put on a show. There’s an art form to it that’s almost as important as creating the music itself. Without the live show, you gain no traction with the fans, both old and new, and it’s this ability that has helped Third Eye Blind survive for this long.

Their current tour is in support of their latest record ‘Dopamine’, which is also their first in 6 years, but there certainly weren’t any cobwebs to be dusted off so to speak. Being introduced with a pounding drum track as the rest of the band took to the stage, frontman Stephan Jenkins finally appeared to a rapturous, almost-sold out crowd. Opening with comeback single ‘Everything is Easy’, the already frenzied audience, their unified fists in the air, were in the palm of Jenkins’ hand.

Jenkins informed us early on in the set that this was actually their first time playing Manchester and in fact they first got attention by major labels and thusly signed because they supported Oasis, Manchester’s favourite sons. Almost a symbolic homecoming of sorts. The end of ‘Rite of Passage’ featured a little teaser of U2’s ‘With or Without You’.

Controversial ballad ‘Slow Motion’ was a clear fan favourite. The song references a student shooting a teacher and was only eventually released on a greatest hits collection and not their second album ‘Blue’ as planned, but it’s clearly a song that hasn’t been lost to its infamy.

Constantly engaging with the crowd, be it through stage talk or hype gestures, Jenkins still has the lead singer-type charisma that very few acts in the modern age have. Splitting his time between guitar-toting frontman and bounding around the stage as a microphone-wielding icon, there was no divide between the band and fans. This is what can make or break a band; making that connection, giving the crowd a role in the show and Jenkins is truly a master of this, continuously checking in and inciting the crowd to “lose your inhibitions”. The encore was when things reached the peak of organised chaos: the obvious track everyone was waiting for and their massive breakout hit ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ was the epic finale we’d hoped it to be and more. Third Eye Blind haven’t lost a single aspect of what made them a success in ’97, and they sure still know how to put on a show.

After the cut: Third Eye Blind’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Third Eye Blind at Manchester Academy 2 – 5th November 2015


Live Review: Cold Fronts with Heyrocco at Black Cat Backstage, Washington DC – 5th November 2015

By on Monday, 9th November 2015 at 2:00 pm

It’s always great to get validation from the Real World that a band you saw promise in early on has done well. Take, for example, the headliner last Thursday night at Black Cat Backstage, Cold Fronts. I saw them open for Chicagoans Empires a year ago at DC9, where I thought they were more energetic and made more of a lasting impression than their tour mates.

Fast forward 12 months, and the group from Philadelphia have just released their debut album ‘Forever Whatever’ on Sire Records in the States, a few years after Warner Brothers VP Seymour Stein stumbled upon them at SXSW. (Not to mention my suggestion in my DC9 review of them that they should tour with The Cribs actually came true when the Jarman brothers played three sold out shows in New York back in March.) True to their personality as exhibited the first time I saw them in DC and then during their first visit to Brighton this year for the Great Escape 2015, their debut is a free-wheeling, fun record guaranteed to get you out of your cold weather blues.

Heyrocco Washington live

We missed the first support act, Nashville’s Chrome Pony, instead beginning our night of music with South Carolinan band Heyrocco (yes, their name is all one word and against my good editor sense). Frontman Nathan donned a hot dog costume to take the stage: the conversation starter to end all conversation starters turned out to be a gift from a Halloween reveler at a show during the previous Halloween weekend. The cool thing about Heyrocco’s set was that as it went on, I couldn’t have predicted how it would end. ‘Teenage Movie Soundtrack’ is the name of their debut album out now, described on a press release as “a perfect marriage of grungy angst and bubblegum pop”. They were a great fit to open for Cold Fronts, as both bands have a similar “c’mon on guys, let’s have fun at all costs!” kind of attitude, and they’ve got a poppy edge to their otherwise lo-fi guitar rock (I would think you would have to, with a song titled ‘Mom Jeans’).

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Well, at least some of it anyway. They ended with a loud, jammy hard rock number that really required some headbanging and well, it would have been rude not to, am I right? Having my interest sufficiently piqued and now having listened to the whole album on their Bandcamp, the more intriguing of their tunes to me are those that seem to be channelling Bush, Nirvana and ’90s grunge like single ‘Jake Miller’s House Party’. For those of us who lived through grunge and for those of you who might not have, there’s plenty to like about this band.

Now that the crowd were sufficiently warmed up, Cold Fronts hit the stage in fine form. Despite having been on the road for a while by then and having just come from North Carolina during what frontman Craig Almquist joked was a horrible drive up motorway I-95, they were clearly excited about the recent release of their debut album and getting to play songs from it to their Washington fans. Instead of playing the entirety of the debut – even skipping what I considered their best track at DC9 last year, which turned out to be a crowd toe-tapper in Brighton, too, ‘Hit Me’ – Cold Fronts had the confidence to stick in a few new ones in their set including ‘Number One’, with Almquist saying how eager they were to get back into the studio to lay down more tracks.

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Still, there was plenty to love in their set, no matter at what point in their history you’d become a fan of the band. The charismatic Almquist was stoked to perform ‘Heart Attack’, which he explained was the first song they’d ever written, appearing on their first EP ‘Pretty American’, released in 2012, and the folks down the front obviously knew the tune, shouting and raising their fists in approval. The melodic ‘Catch’ from the new LP, with its emphatic “ah ah ah ahs”, was another stunning crowd pleaser. They ended their set with ‘Energy Waster’: fast-paced with its adept guitars, it reinforced the nice balance Cold Fronts strikes between likeable pop and true rock talent. Nice one, guys.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in the UK and America. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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