TGTF will be on a break from 1-11 October while editor Mary is at HWCH 2016 in Dublin.
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Veteran Northern Irish rock band Ash are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album ‘1977’ with a live tour, on which they’re playing the album in its entirety, along with a few more recent favourites. On the North American leg of the tour, they’re visiting a mix of small and mid-sized venues, but surely one of the smallest on the list was Rips Bar in Phoenix. Rips is a stand-alone club tucked into a residential area just northwest of downtown Phoenix, away from the hustle and bustle of other Phoenix venues and with an extremely relaxed vibe that seemed to suit Ash perfectly.
Ash’s three band members went largely unnoticed by the bar patrons as they set up on the indoor stage at Rips. Meanwhile, the small crowd in the venue were treated to the opening act on the outdoor patio. Local folk-rock band Avery were just getting started when I found my way outside, and they came as a pleasant surprise ahead of Ash’s unabashed punk rock stylings. Avery’s lineup features singer/songwriter Mariah DeRaet on lead vocals, her smoky timbre uniquely accompanied by cellist Allison Galbreath at the front of the tiny stage on this night. The cello adds a deep sense of yearning to Avery’s lovelorn lyrics, as you can hear in their single ‘Hospital Call’ just below.
Back inside the bar, Ash were nearly ready get back to ‘1977’. Or, more precisely, back to 1996, when the album was actually released. I was buried in my own classical music studies at university in 1996, and thus I missed out on the album the first time around. But anyone with even a passing interest in UK or Northern Irish bands will have heard of Ash, and editor Mary assured me that they were not to be missed live, so naturally my interest was piqued. Unfamiliar with the songs on ‘1977’, I had assumed that the title referred to songwriter Tim Wheeler’s birth year (also, coincidentally, my own). But in the course of doing some pre-gig homework, I discovered that it also paid homage to the release date of the movie ‘Star Wars’. which is referenced in the album’s opening and closing tracks, while other bits of 1970s pop culture are mixed into the middle.
The audience, though still small, had grown a bit while I was outside listening to Avery. I hadn’t expected to see many longtime fans of the Northern Irish indie rockers at this gig, but there were, in fact, a handful of dedicated Ash fans milling about wearing the band’s t-shirts. There was no need to crowd the stage in a venue as small as this one, but we did all creep a bit closer as frontman Wheeler, bassist Mark Hamilton and drummer Rick McMurray tore into ‘1977’ opening track ‘Lose Control’. They hit their stride early on, even with the more pensive tones of ‘Goldfinger’ and moreso in the higher energy of ‘Girl from Mars’, and it must be said here that McMurray certainly got his workout in during this set, pounding relentless rhythms throughout.
The sound quality inside Rips was surprisingly good, given the small size of the venue, and mid-album tracks ‘Kung Fu’ and ‘Oh Yeah’, were especially energetic. Despite the almost complete absence of between-songs chat, or perhaps because of it, the band’s momentum from those tracks carried through to the end of the ‘1977’ set, which Wheeler announced as the final album track ‘Darkside Lightside’.
A true encore might have been overkill in this tiny venue, but luckily Ash had more to offer. Following the ‘1977’ sequence, Wheeler paused again to introduce the band’s debut single ‘Jack Names the Planets’ before the band added a few newer songs to round off the set. One enthusiastic punter squealed out for a song called ‘Default’, and Wheeler seemed puzzled for a moment, until he realised that she meant ‘Dispatch’, from Ash’s most recent album ‘Kablammo!’, which came out last summer. This would have been a more familiar song for me as well, but alas, the band weren’t prepared to play it, opting instead for another new track, ‘Let’s Ride’ before closing with ‘Burn Baby Burn’ from 2001 album ‘Free All Angels’.
They may not have had a large number of fans in attendance in Phoenix last weekend, but Ash most certainly won a new fan in me with their combination of punk energy, deft melodicism, and engaging stage presence. If you’re like me and ‘Kablammo!’ was your first real exposure to Ash, I strongly recommend browsing through their back catalogue for the gems you might have missed.
Ash will continue the North American leg of their ‘1977 – 20th Anniversary Tour’ with larger shows in cities including Chicago, Washington, DC and New York through the start of October. They will bring the tour to the UK in November and December; those live dates are listed just below. A full listing of Ash’s worldwide tour dates can be found on their official Web site. TGTF’s previous coverage of Ash is right back here.
Thursday 10th November 2016 – Dublin Olympia Theatre
Friday 11th November 2016 – Belfast Mandela Hall
Thursday 1st December 2016 – Gloucester Guildhall
Saturday 10th December 2016 – London Roundhouse
Sunday 11th December 2016 – Manchester Ritz
Monday 12th December 2016 – Nottingham Rock City
Wednesday 14th December 2016 – Aberdeen Garage
Thursday 15th December 2016 – Glasgow Garage
As promised in my interview with him from earlier this year, Northern Irish singer/songwriter Foy Vance brought his ‘The Wild Swan’ tour to American shores last week, starting the festivities with a show at the Valley Bar in Phoenix. It was only last summer that I saw Vance in this very same venue, but it’s been an exciting year for him in the interim, including tours with Josh Groban and Elton John. On his current trek through the States, though, Vance is the headline act, and this occasion was the first time I’d seen him perform with the luxury of a full band.
Vance’s support act on this tour is American singer/songwriter Trevor Sensor, who came from Chicago to join the tour in Phoenix. Sensor’s onstage persona, much like his singing voice, came across initially as a bit harsh, but the underlying appeal in his songwriting soon became apparent. He touched on songs from two EP releases ‘Texas Girls and Jesus Christ’ and ‘Starved Nights and Saturday Stars’, most notably his recent single ‘When Tammy Spoke to Martha’. Sensor also included in his set list a piano-based cover of Bruce Cockburn‘s ‘Pacing the Cage’, and he seemed surprised that someone in the audience recognized it, remarking sardonically, “Congratulations on knowing who that is.”
Sensor’s moodiness carried over into Vance’s headline set as well, but it reared its head more in the between-songs banter than the music itself. Vance hit the stage running with ‘Noam Chomsky is a Soft Revolution’, which as he mentioned in our interview from this summer, works best with the complement of a full band behind him. The band was indeed a welcome addition to the live performance of Vance’s new songs from ‘The Wild Swan’, and he ran through a list of them to open the show, including the smile-inducing ‘Upbeat Feelgood’ and the populist anthem ‘Ziggy Looked Me in the Eye’.
It might have been politics that dampened Vance’s mood as he started the North American leg of his tour. Though he said he was glad to be back on American soil, he did make a disparaging comment about presidential candidate Donald Trump, which fell a bit flat among an audience who might have preferred to put their political concerns aside for the evening. That statement being made, however, Vance quickly moved on to songs of a more personal tenor, seating himself at the piano for an ode to his own ‘Bangor Town’ and ‘Be Like You Belong’.
Focusing mainly on his latest material, Vance didn’t spend much time rehashing old favourites. ‘The Wild Swan’ tracks ‘She Burns’ and ‘Casanova’ were well-received by a crowd of mainly new fans, as was recent album single ‘Coco’, though Vance prefaced this last with a sharp tongue-lashing for music critics who might have misinterpreted its meaning. As it turned out, perhaps the strongest connection he made with his audience all evening was in the heady gospel of ‘Closed Hand, Full of Friends’, from previous album ‘Joy of Nothing’.
Altering his usual course, Vance closed the set proper with ‘Guiding Light’, leaving those of us “in the know” wondering what might be next. Not typically given to ostentatious encores, Vance left the stage only very briefly before returning for a short postlude. He ended the show on another personally significant note, with the classically poetic ‘The Wild Swans on the Lake’, changing its third verse lines to sing “a child is on the way” and pausing proudly to announce a due date. If congratulations are indeed in order, our most sincere ones are extended to Foy Vance as he completes his American tour and heads back across the pond for winter shows closer to home.
A full listing of Foy Vance’s upcoming shows can be found on his official Facebook. Vance will finish the year with live dates in Ireland and the UK in November and December, which are listed here. TGTF’s complete previous coverage of Foy Vance is back this way.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 23rd September 2016 at 4:00 pm
Brighton band The Wytches – now a four-piece, with Kristian Bell (vocals, guitar), Daniel Rumsey (bass), Gianni Honey (drums) and Mark Breed (guitar, organ) – are gearing up to release their sophomore album. ‘All Your Happy Life’ will drop next Friday. Previously announced single ‘C-Side’ proved the band were continuing on with their uncompromising lo-fi and punk swagger. Now the song has its own promo video, the band accompanied by a high-tech buddy.
Animatronic artist John Nolan, known for his work in such fanciful films as Harry Potter, Where the Wild Things Are and Warhorse, is a Wytches fan and was eager to work them after falling in love with the band’s 2014 debut ‘Annabel Dream Reader’.
“The Wytches are a top band and I wanted to work with them since hearing the first album. A lot of their previous films were shot low res and feature the band and their friends dressing up and messing about, I wanted to honourthis but introduce some sort of narrative and creature fx. I wanted to play around with the human form and create something that looked normal from one angle but growing into something completely freakish as the camera moves across it. Elongating the neck proved to do this brilliantly and it led me to research into Rokurokubi, a type of Japanese apparition where the human head leaves the body stretching out the neck. The act of the head separating from the body represents the spirit’s soul wandering.
The band we’re completely open minded and gave me their full blessing so we committed to the idea. I’d worked with Conor Craig-Stephens before as he was the lead creature in The Hallow, I knew he would be perfect as our guy. We spent 5 weeks at the studio building a full mechanical animatronic human head with the long neck blending into something that Conor could wear. The face was controlled by two puppeteers using radio control transmitters and the head and neck movements performed by either by Conor or lead puppeteer Rob Tygner. The film uses a number of effects disciplines including animatronics, puppetry, motion control camera work, rod removal and a full cgi neck animation in the final outro, so with a very low budget it was ambitious to say the least.”
You’ll be amazed by the results. Watch the video for ‘C-Side’ below. ‘All Your Happy Life’ will drop on the 30th of September on Heavenly Recordings. For past coverage on the Wytches on TGTF, head here.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 22nd September 2016 at 4:00 pm
Melbourne electronic soul group SAFIA released their debut album ‘Internal’ merely a fortnight ago. Read my review of their long player through this link. Back in June, 3 months prior to the release of ‘Internal’, the band took a trip to blighty, stopping in London for a Sofar Sounds show there. The below video is of the Aussie trio performing their single ‘Counting Sheep’ (about what else, insomnia!) in a stripped back fashion. While the song doesn’t appear on ‘Internal’ – it was released as a single in its own right in early 2015 – this should be solid proof to any naysayers just how beautiful and perfect frontman Ben Woolner’s lead vocals are when isolated. Watch the arresting performance below. For read more of TGTF’s coverage on SAFIA over the last year and a half, follow this link.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 21st September 2016 at 4:00 pm
Sheffield group The Crookes have been spending quite a bit of time on our side of the pond this year to promote their fourth album. ‘Lucky Ones’, released at the end of January on their own label Anywhere Records in the UK and Modern Outsider in North America. You can read Carrie’s thoughts on the long player through this link.
During their time in our country playing their own shows and supporting San Franciscan band Geographer, they took advantage of the relative exotic locales they visited, including SXSW 2016 and a redwood forest, videotaping their tour shenanigans. Guitarist and lyricist Daniel Hopewell played editor on the footage, resulting in this mashup of clips set to album track ‘The Lucky Ones’. Watch it below. For more of TGTF’s back catalogue of coverage on The Crookes, go here.
Less than a month ago, I reviewed American producer and songwriter Butch Walker‘s outstanding new album ‘Stay Gold’, and my lasting impression of the record was that these yearning, high energy anthems would better suited to live performance than the relative constraints of a studio recording. Based on that impression, I trekked westward last weekend to Los Angeles, to catch Walker live at the relatively unknown Teragram Ballroom. Though this was the penultimate show on Walker’s current tour, his enthusiasm and energy were in full force, and the audience in his adopted hometown were equally excited to see him grace this stage.
Walker’s support act on the night, The Wind and the Wave, are a country-rock duo from Austin, Texas, comprising guitarist Dwight Baker and singer/songwriter Patty Lynn. They released their first album ‘From the Wreckage’ back in 2014, and their second LP ‘Happiness is Not a Place’ (produced, perhaps not coincidentally, by Butch Walker) is due out on the 28th of October. Naturally, their opening set was somewhat abbreviated and focused on the new songs, touching only briefly on a pair of older tracks, ‘My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head’ and ‘This House is a Hotel’. But their energy and charisma on stage seemed to grow exponentially as they went along, and they made their own strong impression with both the title track from ‘Happiness is Not a Place’ and more recent single ‘Grand Canyon’.
The music on the PA system between sets, laced with throwback television theme tunes from the 1980s including ‘Magnum, P.I.’ and ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’, seemed designed to set a retrospective mood for the headline show. Indeed, Butch Walker’s new album ‘Stay Gold’ has a decided undercurrent of nostalgia in the aggressive pulse of its songs, and he constructed his entire set list on the night around a theme of reminiscence and reflection.
Walker and his band took the stage and opened their set by tearing through the first four tracks from ‘Stay Gold’ at breakneck pace, starting with the title track and proceeding in order through ‘East Coast Girl’, ‘Wilder in the Heart’ and ‘Ludlow Expectations’. For my money, this opening sequence was the most effective part of the show, partly because these were the songs I was personally most familiar with, but also because Walker and his colleagues proved my own initial hypothesis correct, and in a most emphatic fashion.
The Wind and the Wave’s Patty Lynn made the first cameo appearance of the evening when she returned to the stage to duet with Walker on ‘Descending’, the next track in the ‘Stay Gold’ sequence. Walker took a seat at the piano for this song, giving Lynn center stage, and though their voices blended nicely together, it was the raw emotion in Walker’s delivery that came across as singularly captivating.
From that point forward, Walker dived deeper into his catalogue of older favourites, much to the delight of his diehard fans. The smouldering vocal quality of ‘Descending’ carried over into an intensely sensual performance of standout track ‘Bed on Fire’, from previous album ‘Afraid of Ghosts’. Striking a lighter note, Walker then thrilled the “California girls” in the crowd with his spur-of-the-moment geographical adjustments to the lyrics of ‘Closest Thing to You I’m Gonna Find’, from 2011 album ‘The Spade’.
Walker introduced his next cameo guest simply as “Jake Sinclair of the Black Widows”. The Black Widows, for those not already in the know, were Walker’s band from a few years back, with whom he released two albums, ‘I Liked it Better When You Had No Heart’ (2010) and ‘The Spade’. Sinclair did play in the band and garnered production credits on both albums, but they might not be his greatest claim to fame—he’s worked more recently with Weezer, Panic! at the Disco, and Fall Out Boy. On this night, though, he and Walker fit comfortably back into their old groove, performing the humorously self-deprecating (and surprisingly pop-oriented) ‘Synthesizers’. Sinclair seemed mildly surprised and greatly amused when Walker segued briefly into ‘Come On, Eileen’ by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, asking aloud, “Are you really still doing this schtick?” But Walker’s high spirits were undeterred by his protégé’s momentary insolence, and his audience, familiar with the routine and roaring with laughter, were more than happy to play along.
Walker and his talented entourage of backing musicians touched on two other covers late in their set, a vocally harmonised version of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’ and a fleeting allusion to The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’. But the real showstopper of the night was a final cameo by Walker’s young son James. James is apparently a regular fixture at his dad’s gigs, and though he appeared to be a bit sleepy, he showed no signs of stage fright as he regaled us with a song and a joke of his own. (Q: Which pencil won the art contest? A: It was a draw!)
Walker and his band didn’t break for a formal encore at the end of the show, playing straight through ‘The 3 Kids in Brooklyn’ and ‘Hot Girls in Good Moods’ before leaving the stage. But Walker did indulge himself in a final solo appearance, holding forth on the virtue of times and places past, especially the fading tradition of browsing through brick-and-mortar music stores. He made the rather unusual choice of leaving us on a pensive note with ’Stay Gold’ track ‘Record Store’, but then again, by that point, he’d already established a memorable and lasting impression.
The Wind and the Wave set list:
Butch Walker set list:
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