For editor Mary's coverage of SXSW 2013, go here.
For TGTF team coverage of Liverpool Sound City 2013, go here.
For TGTF team coverage of the Great Escape 2013, go here.
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What goes through your mind when you want to see a teeny, tiny Irish band just starting out? You hope they get a support slot with a hugely popular band and tour the crap out of America. Just my luck, that’s exactly what happened with Kodaline from Dublin. Not only did they get to play to a sold out 9:30 Club, recently named “Best Big Room in America” by Rolling Stone), but they got to do it two nights in a row! So indeed I was there for the first night right down the front. [Apparently they are quite fond of the 9:30 cupcakes…as you will hear soon from my interview with Steve Garrigan on TGTF very soon – Ed.]
These Irish lads did an excellent job of grabbing the audience by starting off with ‘Pray’, a pulsing, building song that swept the masses away. But if you have read my reviews before, you know that I am particularly enamoured with the lone uber-enthusiastic fan that is always there *for* the support act. Uhmmm, this time that singular fan was me. Even still, the response mid-set from my companion gig-goer to the belter ‘High Hopes’, was “wow, I had no idea these guys were so good”. Then, taking full advantage of this country’s love affair of anything Irish, Stephen Garrigan chatted a bit to the assembled crowd in his clear lilting Irish voice and pulled out the mandolin for ‘Love Like This’. I could hear girls’ hearts melting all over the room. They closed out the set with ‘All I Want’, a song Garrigan said was about an ex and he hopes she never hears it. I don’t think that’s likely because Kodaline’s star is on the rise, she’s going to hear it and curse her misfortune at having lost him.
The Airborne Toxic Event was exactly that – an EVENT. I have never seen them play before and now feel quite privileged to have been there. An LA band with over a half a dozen years under their belt, they are clearly a polished, professional performing unit. But not over produced, not in the least. With Mikel Jollett all over the place, everything from climbing the balcony, crowd surfing and walking the barrier, they worked the room like no other band I have ever seen. With more than a passing similarity to another of my faves, The Gaslight Anthem, TATE seemed like the big brother who was married now but still rocking.
Maybe it’s the viola? Special shout out to Anna Bulbrook, too. Delicate thing that she is, she trusted those crazy punters enough to drop down into the crowd on her back and they delivered her safely back to the stage after a few minutes. How many times do you get a bass solo? Not often (and would you really want it?) Not only did I want it, I wanted more. Noah Harmon was thrilling to watch both in his performance and mastery of his instrument. Anytime a band bothers to lug a double bass along with them for the bassist to play on a couple of tunes, I am impressed. So Harmon gets kudos from me all around. Steven Chen and Daren Taylor rounded out the band with licks and beats that drove it all home. The encore had Jollett sitting on the barrier (hands reaching out from all directions!) for their cover of the Magnetic Fields’ ‘Book of Love’ and then wrapped up the show by weaving wove ‘Ring of Fire’, Petty’s ‘American Girl’ and ‘Born in the USA’ into ‘Missy’. Great night, masterful band, if I could have, I would have done the second night as well.
After the cut: the set lists.
Continue reading Live Review: The Airborne Toxic Event with Kodaline at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 8th May 2013
It wasn’t really until this past trip to Britain that I started actually feeling quite proud of being from Washington DC. When I was in Glasgow, a friend of Frightened Rabbit‘s who had come over for a recent tour of the States said how lovely the venue and staff at the 9:30 Club were and how he wished he could visit again soon. When I insisted to the Crookes that one day they would play there, they were ever so self-deprecating, referring to the club’s hardcore punk history as the starting point for Fugazi and other local bands of that scene: “we’re not punk enough for the 9:30 Club!” A fan can dream, can’t she?
Time and time again, I heard stories of how well bands and their people had been treated at our flagship club venue and of course, everyone seems to talk about the 9:30 Club cupcakes like they were manna from heaven. When I explained to them that the bakery that makes them is not far from where Cheryl lives, one of the members of Kodaline exclaimed, “does she go there everyday? I would if I could!” Haha. So I think I’ve now been tasked to order and deliver a box of these babies to every friends’ band that comes into town, just in case the band in question isn’t actually playing at the 9:30 (Oh Cheryl…?)
The closest thing we have to the BBC in America is NPR, and is often the case, NPR will record shows at the 9:30 Club live from the sound desk and also run an accompanying live chat on their Web site. We’ve just received word in town that the video of James Blake‘s sold out show at 9:30 is now streaming online on NPR, and you can watch it in its entirety below. Generally speaking, when NPR does record live shows, it’s usually only audio, so you know that if they videotaped this, this was something pretty special. As should be expected, the set is chock full of tunes from his latest album ‘Overgrown’ released last month, but he couldn’t not do some favourites from his debut in 2010. Enjoy.
London-based Daughter came to our American shores with a much bigger following than I expected. Having heard the splash they made on both BBC Radio 1 and 6Music and with Huw Stephens as a huge supporter, I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to miss. But when they sold out our local mid-sized room at the Black Cat, I was astonished. I see so many bands that while popular at home, when they cross the pond really have to struggle to get a draw. Not so with Daughter. The night was filled with more “I love you”s than the Ed Sheeran gig I was at earlier this year. And it was from the girls mostly; girl crushes all over the place!
The night started off with the smooth tunes of Wilsen, a ‘dream folk’ band from New York City. What I loved about this band was the DIY nature of the drummer. Not hidden in the back, the drummer was sat to the left of singer Tamsin Wilson and augmented his full kit with a pill bottle (I don’t know if those were actual vitamin B-complex capsules inside though…), jingly brass elephants, a string of plastic bottle caps, and a length of ball chain dangling from his ride cymbal. This unique collection provided an intricate web to capture the ethereal folk sound. My only complaint was that with a female lead singer they were just a tiny bit too similar to Daughter to make for a well-rounded evening of music.
When it was time for the main event, Elena Tonra was her usual demure beautiful self, seemingly overwhelmed by the attention. Once mid-set, the adulation was so intense that she stopped and dissolved into a fit of embarrassed giggles. But truth be known, she deserved it. Having reviewed her album here and loved her earlier EPs, I knew that it was going to be a stunning uplifting experience. The lyrics can be heart-wrenching and the music is melancholy, but her delivery and stage presence were a thing to be seen.
They opened the set with ‘Shallows’ and the place fell silent. No bar noise, no whispered comments to neighbors, no shuffling about the room. Tonra delivered a note perfect, clear as a bell rendition; the audience was spellbound. There were even girls around me crying. ‘Candles’ had everyone breathlessly chanting, “blow out all the candles, blow out all the candles”. In fact, the night was filled with people singing along in the most reverent, captivated way I have seen. Truly, she had us all transfixed.
They swept through their set ably covering both their recent album and their well-loved EPs, with Igor Haefeli on guitar, Remi Aguilella on drums, and touring member ‘Luke’ on keys and guitar getting plenty of love as well. When ‘Home’ was announced as their final song, such a cheer took over than Tonra exclaimed, “I miss you already” and had to pull away from the mike for a second to recompose herself. I cannot quite tell if this kind of adulation is difficult for her to accept in general, or if we were a particularly adoring crowd that threw her off balance. Either way her adorableness is an apt companion to the gorgeous music that the band produces.
After the cut: the set lists from the night.
Continue reading Live Review: Daughter with Wilsen at Black Cat, Washington DC – 2nd May 2013
At just 23 and sizing up at just a shade over 5 feet tall, you can be forgiven for thinking that onstage a sense of presence may elude Lucy Rose. The Warwickshire-born folk singer may only have one album to draw from, but extensive experience with Bombay Bicycle Club and on her own mean that she performs with the ability of a seasoned veteran of the scene.
She ambles awkwardly onto The Engine Shed’s Platform stage acoustic across her slight form and with an uncomfortable glance to the arrayed mass of 300 fans who stand affixed to the podium she sits atop she speaks: “I had to make this little contraption because I get worried that people can’t see me at the shows.”
So sitting poised she began as the show was to go on, as understated as an act of her billing can be. Letting her beautiful lyrics and sultry tones become the spectacle that the fans had waited for. After the opener her band join her on stage, with a 6-foot tall dreadlocked black man called ‘Simba’ on the bass proving to be a fan favourite without even uttering a word. [He was quite a favourite at SXSW 2013 too; read the review of her appearance on Huw Stephens' UK Trade and Investment showcase here – Ed.]
Lines soar across the sweaty venue, with Rose noticeably entranced in the words, ”tell me if you love someone / she told you how to live your life / looking for something more / Don’t wanna be nobody else/and you let them know that”. Lucy’s charm is her daintiness and her sense of vulnerability, and that’s discounting the fact that she is immensely talented as a songwriter and a live performer. She connects with her audience effortlessly, as she engages in some casual banter with a punter who may have had one too many fizzy drinks and inadvertently fallen in love with the auburn songstress.
As the night progresses a song that has no name and barely any lyrics was debuted to mass applause. Whilst the best reception was reserved for ‘Bikes’ as every chorus of “the colours, they merge, they scream, they shout” is met by an increasingly loud wall of cheers. But for a solo artist who is in the infancy of her career, what impressed me throughout is that she never stopped thanking her fans. She takes nothing for granted and the set she played, which was heavy on her most well-known tunes was testament to the respect she bestows on her loyal supporters who chant every lyric back feverishly, each punter trying to lock eyes with Lucy when her gaze falls near them.
After the gig, she of course comes out to meet fans; she’s not a larger than life rock star, she’s a girl with brilliant songs, who knows what her audience appreciates, and by the evidence on show, they appreciate her a helluva lot back.
Photos by Jess Mason (@jessislost)
*clap, clap, clap*
In 2007, Enter Shikari arrived sporting a sound which defied boundaries, smashed genres together like they barely existed and gave the term ‘DIY’ new meaning. I mean, for one, the recordings sounded phonically shaky and that was their charm. It gave every tween and twenty-something the idea that even without the pro equipment, you can record an album which changes people’s lives.
Their sound has evolved in the 6 years after ‘Take to the Skies’ release and now the band dabble in dubstep, with firm roots in their hardcore background still obvious. They still encapsulate what people loved about their debut though, their boundless energy, frenetic changes of pace and cheeky, chappy charm.
At the Engine Shed on Monday the 22nd, four St Albans lads descended upon the venue with a force. The two support acts Hacktivist and Baby Godzilla had worked their charms on the assembled swaying masses of punters, meaning that as soon as Enter Shikari stepped foot on the Engine Shed’s stage, pandemonium ensued.
‘System… Meltdown’ had everyone bouncing in unison with the sweaty hordes repeating everything faux chav frontman Rou Reynolds can shout. For a band of 6 years though, their set rushes forward at breakneck pace, with Reynolds, Rory Clewlow, Chris Batten and Rob Rolfebarely barely coming up for air between each song as the pace daggered from dubstep wubs to intense breakdowns.
One particular highlight for any seasoned Shikari fan was the airing of debut single ‘Sorry You’re Not a Winner’. This happening is quite a rarity these days, as the band seemingly fell out of love with playing it after constant requests at shows, much like Placebo’s refusal to play ‘Nancy Boy’ ever again. Whether it’s the right thing for a band to do for paying customers is the question it raises, but that’s a debate for another day, I think.
The set continued at the hectic pace it had begun with, with the light show accompanying the band so good it deserves a mention of its own. But that’s the thing with a Shikari live set; you get treated to an absolute cornucopia for the senses, an aural assault of then highest level, combined with the spatterings of electronica and huge bass riffs.
I struggle to find a band that combine sounds with such brilliance as Shikari at times, they can leap from the conventional to the utterly ridiculous and their live performance just accentuates their eccentricity.
From bounding about the stage like a mad man, to standing erect atop the speakers conducting the swelling masses beneath them, their live performance has an edge to it that you just don’t see all to often. Each song is played with ferocity unbeknownst to most bands and the audience relate in toe, with circle pits and mosh pits galore.
By set closer ‘Mothership’, the energy has barely dipped and they pull off one of their most well-known tunes with the ease of a band in the prime of their career. Which to all observers, they must look like. But they’ve been in this prime for 6 years now, as every live show is of this quality. There is no dips, no drags, just quality from the St. Albans quartet.
So take note new bands, as if you yearn for success. These boys are the model to aim for.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 25th April 2013 at 4:32 pm
Be still my heart. Dublin’s Kodaline are currently on the road in North America, supporting Los Angeles alt-rock titans The Airborne Toxic Event. And it looks like they might be setting themselves up for a tough project. Maybe. Just minutes ago on Twitter the band released this video of their time in Minneapolis, in which they find themselves inside a minimart, festooned with deer heads on the walls (it is Minnesota!) and performing a new song written for the occasion, aptly titled, ‘A Song for Minneapolis’. This is their first vlog from the tour so far, and let’s hope they do one in DC in 2 weeks when they are here and Cheryl is present!
They also joke around with a weight-loss product, if you stick around for the end…