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Video of the Moment #1634: Paula and Karol

 
By on Sunday, 21st September 2014 at 10:00 am
 

As their name suggests, the Polish act Paula and Karol began life as a folk / pop duo, though when I first saw them play at SXSW 2012 and then a couple months later at their own headline show at East London’s 93 Feet East, they already had a band with them, helping to make their happy, peppy, positive sound that much larger.

Now the family has grown in size again, and they’ve just released their third album ‘Heartwash’ in Germany and Poland last week. Listen to and watch the video for the title track and also second single from the LP below.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SduHTY2i_gQ[/youtube]

 

Top Gigs of 2012: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Friday, 21st December 2012 at 11:00 am
 

Another year, and another top 5 gigs by bands that should not be missed live. How odd that three of them came one after another, but that’s the cool thing about Washington DC. Except for December through the beginning of February (the dead of winter) and June through August (festival season), there is always a reasonably good selection of bands coming through here. But that hasn’t always been the case.

I am often asked on my travels why I became a music blogger, and the simple answer has always been this: when I started covering shows in March 2009, I was getting increasingly upset about how many bands (American or international) would skip Washington entirely, either in favour of going to Philadelphia instead or would only consider New York, or maybe Boston, as the only cities worthy on the East Coast for a tour stop. I have had the opportunity to meet so many bands in the last 3+ years that Washington DC has now become considered on the list of cities bands sincerely wish to play in – or on the list that bands say they will definitely pass through on their next headline tours of North America. To know that I have been involved in making this paradigm shift a reality means so much. It means that I have done something for the city I’ve called home all these years and more importantly, have exposed thousands of music fans from varying walks of life who either work, go to school, or pass through our fine city to incredible music.

All five bands whose gigs landed them in my top 5 gigs of 2012 are worth every red cent you can put forward to go see them, either in their own gig or at a festival in 2013. Here’s the list…

5. Ash‘s 20th anniversary tour at DC9 (Thursday 15th November 2012) – what a surreal experience, finally seeing Ash live, in one of the smallest places to see bands in Washington. Even more surreal was after, when I actually got to talk to all of them and Tim Wheeler said I was a more appropriate panelist for Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable than he was. (This made me smile.) The set itself was brilliantly hard rocky, much more so than I ever would have imagined.

4. TGTF’s stage at Liverpool Sound City 2012, starring the Temper Trap, Clock Opera and Dear Prudence Liverpool Academy of Arts (Friday 18th May 2012) – maybe this is cheating, choosing our own stage at Liverpool. But this night couldn’t have been any better, starring our friends since I took over as Editor of this Web site, the Temper Trap, our new friends from SXSW, Clock Opera, and a band from Brighton destined to bigger things, Dear Prudence. All we can say is THANK YOU to all the bands for making it such a memorable night and THANK YOU Sound City for letting us host this amazing stage.

3. Husky at Red Palace (Friday 17th November 2012) – it’s a sad day in Washington, as Red Palace, similar in intimate size to DC9, will be closing its doors at the end of 2012. But before then, I managed to catch the Melbourne band we befriended at this year’s Great Escape. Just check out this video from the show of the band performing an a capella version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Lover Lover Lover’ and you’ll understand why they’re so good live.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqF6k9afzeM[/youtube]

2. the Joy Formidable at St. Stephen’s Church (Saturday 10th November 2012) – the Welsh band have consistently placed in my top 5 gigs of the last 2 years; last year they were at #4 and in 2010, they were at #2. What made the difference and put them higher up this year? Seriously, how often do you see such a power house band in a space as small as a church’s rec room? (Well, it was a little bigger than that…but still.) Absolutely fabulous. And their new album ‘Wolf’s Law’ will be huge next year; just check out this live version of first single ‘Cholla’.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjwp3jV2PvM[/youtube]

1. Two Door Cinema Club at 9:30 Club (Tuesday 2nd October 2012) – I was having serious reservations about Two Door’s live show, or rather some of their less than nice fans, after seeing them in Baltimore in June and getting shoved – hard – out of our positions down the front. I almost swore I’d never see them again. But I’m glad I changed my mind.

What was the first date on the autumn 2012 North American tour to sell out? Washington DC, of course. There is still some confusion on whether or not Barack Obama is a fan, but one thing is clear: of all the bands that I’ve known and loved, I did right by Two Door Cinema Club – and helped them become the superstars that they’ve dreamt of being since they started as kids in grammar school. I used to be able to see them after shows and hang out with them, but even as those days are over, they’ve never forgotten me. They are true gents.

Honourable mentions:

St. Etienne at U Street Music Hall (Thursday 25th October 2012) – there’s something to be said for Sarah Cracknall, who may be over 40 but still rocks it out every night as if she was in her 20s.

Divine Fits at 9:30 Club (Thursday 18th October 2012) – it always feels incredibly validating when you see a ‘new’ band who hasn’t been touring much…and they turn out to be absolutely fantastic.

Keane with Mystery Jets at Strathmore Hall (Thursday 14th June 2012) – it’s effin’ Keane, for god’s sakes. And with Mystery Jets, who never tour in America! Win-win, really.

Paula and Karol at 93 Feet East in London (Tuesday 15th May 2012) – what do you do between music festivals? Go to a gig, of course. And at this one, I felt welcomed by the entire Polish population of London. What atmosphere.

First Aid Kit at Black Cat (Friday 30th March 2012) – this show was so spirited, the elder Soderberg lost her top right before the encore. Hardcore.

After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2012 so you can have some idea how difficult my job was to choose favourites for the top 5 list. The runner-up gigs are also marked.
Continue reading Top Gigs of 2012: Editor’s Picks

 

Video of the Moment #956: Paula and Karol

 
By on Thursday, 6th September 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

Our favourite Polish folksters Paula and Karol have a new promo for second single from album ‘Whole Again’, called ‘The Way We Were’. Not to be confused at all with the Barbra Streisand film or song, both the video and song serve as a nice reminder that the summer isn’t over just yet. Enjoy it below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2_v1cx0bxI[/youtube]

 

Live Review: Paula and Karol at London 93 Feet East – 15th May 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 29th May 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

There’s a great optimism to Paula and Karol‘s material. These days, we have enough problems in the world, with world economies tanking, more people going homeless and hungry…the list goes on. I remember Ed Macfarlane of Friendly Fires one time saying he wanted his band to provide escapist music to people, to take them out of the daily grind. In that respect, Paula and Karol excel, for their sunny pop/folk melodies will make you forget your cares and leave you with a huge smile on your face. I don’t think you own a heart if ‘Whole Again’, which I heard in its lower tones through the walls of a Pizza Express in Brighton, doesn’t make you insides melt. It’s not cloyingly sweet either, which I think is a big problem with pop/folk hybrids.

No, this duo – and their great support band of friends – is doing everything right. Some people may question, why aren’t they singing in Polish? I have to say, a major stumbling block to me understanding Sigur Ros is that I have no idea what Jonsi is singing about. By singing in English, this girl/boy duo has managed to bridge friendships across the world, including when I first discovered them at the Burning Ear showcase at this year’s SXSW.

I don’t speak a word of Polish, so I felt a little out of place on a Tuesday night this month at 93 Feet East. First though, I needed to find the front door; I got terribly lost from Old Street tube (never think someone’s who has been to London five times knows her way around a neighbourhood she’s ever been) and then when I finally found the 93 Feet East sign and was on the property, I became confused as to where the actual entrance of the venue was.

Luckily, a Polish girl happened to arrive at the same time as me led the way. Once inside, I found the design of 93 Feet East’s stage to be a bit warehouse-ish, but the headline band of the night, Warsaw’s ‘superheroes’ Paula and Karol, made it their own and warmed the hearts of what I’m guessing was the better portion of the Polish population of London. Most bands who haven’t ‘made it’ yet can only dream of having an encore in this town. Paula and Karol had two. The first was ‘House into a Home’, prefaced by Paula thanking everyone who has supported them along the way, and indeed, even their London friends who had put up the band in three separate locations to allow them to play 2 shows in the capital.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n_IVKwSWBs[/youtube]

This was just one of several dates of a special English mini-tour the band embarked on surrounding their appearances at ‘Don’t Panic, We’re from Poland’ showcases at both the Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City. But the big surprise was yet to come. Years ago it seems now, I saw Lykke Li break out A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Can I Kick It’ at Washington’s Black Cat. But this version by Paula and Karol, full of beatboxing and handclap glory, can be watched below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC39UsVgYxo[/youtube]

Was it worth getting lost in the middle of East London to see this band? You bet!

 

Great Escape 2012: Day 2 Evening Roundup – 11th May 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 29th May 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

I was back at LIFE, ready to roll to have an audience with another band we’ve written about, Hannah Clark and FOE. Maybe it was the great sunny weather, but by the time I made it back upstairs to the loft performance space of LIFE, the room was rammed. There’s this weird red glowing light in the place as well, so I felt like I was in one of the panic scenes in the film The Hunt for Red October. Since there was no way I’d get to the front for photos, I took advantage of my small size and anchored myself to the staircase, hoping for the best just to hear, since I couldn’t see.

I really like the way ‘A Handsome Stranger Called Death’ sounds on Lammo’s 6music programme, so it was disappointing to hear the loud buzzing sound of feedback coming out through the speakers, pretty much obliterating any chance of hearing the vocals clearly. I felt like leaving and then I felt a presence behind me. Something you learn in Brighton during the Great Escape: you will probably run into everyone you know from London, Manchester, etc. in the music business. I turned around to leave and head back down the stairs, and who do I see but Andy Clutterbuck, the singer of Films of Colour?

Something else I learned in Brighton: expect to be sidetracked if the weather’s nice. There’s really nothing like hanging out on the seaside with your friends, soaking up the last rays of daylight, watching the sun set. You see, in Washington, the latest the sun sets is about half past 7. In England though, it can still be daylight past 9. I had a full night of bands planned and insisted to them I needed food, so I had my first Pizza Express experience (I know, shocking) with them. We’re sitting there, waiting for the food to arrive. The Pizza Express in Brighton looks out directly onto Jubilee Square, and there were bans schedule to play all night. This is where things get a little weird.

James, Films of Colour’s drummer, squints to look in the distance, says, “that looks like the guy that’s in our music video.” Andy dismisses this: “no way, that’s impossible.” James, not to be outdone, insists it is and says he’s going to go out and say hi. It wasn’t until days later when I was at 93 Feet East on Brick Lane in London that I figured everything out. James came back and announced it really was the guy they saw in New York City who had starred in their video. We all agreed this was serendipity. Then I could hear the thudding of a bass guitar and sense the melody. Wait a minute, I said to myself. That sounds like ‘Whole Again’ by Paula and Karol, the Polish band I discovered at SXSW. Independent of me, the two bands had seen each other in New York in the days before SXSW. Six degrees of separation? Nah. Just one degree of separation: TGTF.

I hated to dash, as having a sit-down dinner was a welcome and relaxing way to spend an evening, even at Pizza Express. But I bid adieu to the Films of Colour chaps, as I had a date with the Fly. Not literally, but the magazine was putting on a show at Blind Tiger starring the untypeable alt-J and the band that is probably going to be the toast of this festival season, Django Django. After getting shut out of their Pavilion Theatre show the night before, I requested guestlist for this show and swanned in without queueing. Which was a very good idea, judging from the massive queue outside.

alt-J are not going to need my endorsement, and I have been having a hard time getting down ‘Breezeblocks’. (Sorry, the nasal vocals really get on my nerves.) There’s something about the vibe of this band that makes me unsettled. Before you start getting sore with me and think I took advantage of the system, the Fly showcase was the only place all weekend I requested guestlist for, and it was specifically to see what the fuss about alt-J was all about. Unfortunately, my experience was tainted by the fact that the entirety of Blind Tiger felt like an oven and there were far too many people inside. Where was the Brighton fire department to lodge a complaint on the exceeded occupancy?

Many of these people were very pissed and unaware they were seeing a potentially future famous band. I decided to hang out on the side, instead of trying to cram in down the front for photos, determining this was a far safer vantage point. It was, except I felt like I was getting stood on by loud, annoying people shouting at each other who really didn’t care about listening at all. For goodness sakes, if all you’re here for is drinking, leave and go somewhere else to have your conversations, so you can let some people in the queue in!

So I heard alt-J – sort of – but was handicapped by the shouty discussions around me. What I did hear confirmed my previous opinion of the band. There’s something vaguely Everlast in Joe Newman’s delivery: he’s trying to be hip hop slick, in a disaffected way, which I guess is where the Radiohead comparison comes in? Not really sure. Sorry, not impressed. But if the crazy moshers down the front are any indication, no-one’s going to be listening to my opinion anyway.

Beyond the cancelled shows and showcases and bad luck of losing my camera bag earlier that day, I wasn’t expecting something else. Oh dear, somehow I managed to stand right where Django Django’s guitar tech needed to be. (You don’t want to see my photos. They’re horrible.) Granted, I give him a lot of credit for wedging himself into a small space closer to the stage, in front of the aforementioned obnoxious drunks, but the guy was taller than me, so I couldn’t see much of the soon-to-be-celebrated quartet who met at Edinburgh art college. Singer Vincent Neff had similar issues with the heat as I did, at one point complaining to the audience, “it’s like a pizza oven in here, does my hair look okay?” I laughed. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to perform under those conditions, if I was so uncomfortable just standing there, watching.

Not like anyone cared. I don’t know what the crowd was like at the Pavilion Theatre but oh my, people really went for the Djangos. It was like everyone was under the liquid spell of their special ‘Firewater’. I’d not heard ‘Default’ live yet, after being denied it at another tiger-themed venue at SXSW, Easy Tiger Patio in Austin. Tonight, it was peerless. Blind Tiger may have been a hot, sweaty mess, but no-one cared. It was an all-out dance party.

That was the end of the Fly Magazine’s programming, as well as the venue’s for the night, so after the most of the punters had departed, I came outside for air. Fresh air had never felt so good in my lungs. I felt like I’d been in a war. No more bands for tonight. Even though it wasn’t even midnight, I went back to my hotel to make myself a cup of tea. Yeah, not very rock ‘n’ roll at all, right? But I had a very important gig and interview in the morning.

 

SXSW 2012: Day 2 – Burning Ear showcase at Firehouse Lounge and Second Play Stage at the Omni – 14th March 2012

 
By on Friday, 23rd March 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

A little-known fact for first-timers at SXSW: the bands you like are probably playing unofficial showcases and gigs at small, hole in the wall-type places. (This can be a real problem if you have an allergy to renting a car in an unfamiliar town and hate parallel parking, both of which apply to me.) It’s incredibly inefficient, but the only successful way I’ve found to discover these set times and locations is by paying attention to individual band’s Facebooks or Web sites that will say they’re playing this bar out of walking distance from downtown, a burger joint with shows for all ages or a hotel offering free booze, they’re showing up as someone’s special guest, etc. etc. etc.

Being in my position, I had the benefit (I think?) of being inundated by PR emails with lists of shows and more gig possibilities than could be imagined; from the mostly well organised lists, I spent hours before arriving in Austin coming up with alternate plan B and C lists that had cross-referenced the big book of official showcases (only listing nighttime showcases – not especially helpful) with the unofficial ones by day and night I knew of, just in case the shows I wanted to go to were rammed and I needed another place to go. I can say now with experience that you can plan all you want for your ideal day of acts but sometimes, you should just go with whatever feels right. Or is less of a walk. (Not kidding. After the second day I thought my feet might break off at my ankles and my back would break standing so much.)

What felt right to me for Wednesday afternoon was an unofficial showcase being put on by the Burning Ear blog at an unofficial showcase at Firehouse Lounge, a good-sized place that you might miss if you weren’t looking for its small marquee. I certainly did not expect the nice space there was when I entered. Unlike many of the showcases I attended, this one was not region-specific and had a nice mix of international bands. (Unfortunately, with a small place like this, there is no room for lighting rigs, so my photos didn’t turn out all that good.) Hooded Fang, a band whose humourous song ‘Clap’ is getting a lot of love on 6music, stood out to me as a band I should catch in a daytime showcase. Further examination of the line-up revealed hey, this is pretty damn good! Unfortunately, there was a bit of a scheduling conflict with another band I just had to see at a hotel – SXSW hosts what they called “Second Play Stages” where the bands perform stripped down sets in a hotel lounge – but I did manage to get in 4 bands before I had to leave.

Paula and Karol are an indie folk duo from Warsaw, Poland. Paula plays a baby accordion (seriously, it’s adorable and has hearts on it!) and Karol plays acoustic guitar, and both of them sing. They tour with mates on guitar and drums and have great harmonies. Sounds a bit like Slow Club, doesn’t it? Funnily enough, I saw them, their mates and associated people all lined up in the front row at Communion’s showcase at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary 2 nights later, which made me go all warm and fuzzy inside. What punters probably don’t realise is that for the bands, this is often their big chance to see some of their contemporaries and the fact that these nice folks from Eastern Europe were able to experience Ben Howard and Daughter was a pretty amazing example of cross-culturalism.

I thought Paula and Karol were great – truly great pop and I just goes to show that SXSW can be a good place for new band discovery. Listen to their album ‘Overshare’ in full below and if you like it, buy it! I liked them so much – listen to ‘Calling’ and you will fall in love like I did – so it was with much sadness that I missed their set as part of a Polish showcase the next morning…but I overslept. Stuff like that happens at SXSW. And you’ve just got to pick yourself up and move on to the next band. (They confirmed with me that they will be performing at the Great Escape, so you all going to Brighton in May have no excuse to miss this talented twosome.)

The next band up was Dublin’s Minutes. Regular TGTF readers will recall that Luke first came upon the scrappy Irish trio opening for Flogging Molly at London HMV Forum last year; Luke also reviewed their fab debut album on Model Citizen Records, ‘Marcata’ (review here). By this time, the number of people inside Firehouse Lounge had gone up from 6 to about 20, which I took as a good sign that punters had heard of these guys. Oh my god. Despite the shy accents at the start, boy, did the Irish bring it. Lead singer Mark Austin, as he shredded his guitar as hard as he could, was a force like no other. Yowza. At that very moment I thought, I need to give that Luke Morton a hug for finding these fellas; as you should know, TGTF is a family and a team and I rely on all my writers for their expertise on sniffing out the next big thing. So many bands to sift through, so little time.

There was enough room for me to lean comfortably on a railing early on in their set, and this turned out to be a dreadful mistake: basically, Austin used this railing as a “road” down the side of the club, nearly taking me out on the floor with his guitar in the process. But I didn’t mind, and neither did anyone else. The punters ate it up. As they’ve just been announced for Tennents’ Vital festival in Ireland in August alongside headliner Foo Fighters, you can just already see them rubbing elbows in an Irish meadow with Dave Grohl.

Pretty appropriate that in 27 C+ Austin, an Oxford band called Jonquil, named presumably after the lovely yellow flower, should play next in the early days of a Texan spring. After getting over the weirdness that their player looks like a blonde twin of another bass-playing mate of mine, I settled in to listen to what they had to offer. Alert, I’m about to be critical: I can’t get over Hugo Manuel’s voice. Maybe that’s the intention? The vibe is vaguely New Wave-y Aztec Camera, but with a trumpet. Huh? And the songs aren’t that memorable. Dunno, maybe because they came after two very strong acts, I was left disappointed.

After getting my free cupcake (yes, there is free food at SXSW, provided you know where to look and be…early), it was time for Hooded Fang. The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” is such a cliché, but gosh, given the droll lyrical wit of ‘Clap’ (video below), I’ll be honest, I was surprised by the players. Their guitarist had been hanging out all afternoon, looking like a boffin that was nervously keeping to himself on a sofa in the back. I imagine they are one of those bands that works better in the context of a sweaty, packed out venue; while there were definitely more people in Firehouse by this time (I felt like I was knee deep in hipsters after getting unfriendly elbow jabs in my back), the energy level for the Toronto rockers just wasn’t there. I’m wondering if I’d have felt better and in the zone if Steve Lamacq was present.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=in1AgZBQKZo[/youtube]

So I decided to cut my losses and leave in the middle of their set for a change of scenery. Completely so. The Second Play stages are a collection of gigs that I believe are organized by SXSW themselves, and they’re a series of gigs that are all acoustic and take place in the lobbies of major hotels in downtown Austin. As my schedule had been filling up, I was getting quite concerned that I couldn’t crow bar a gig from 10 for 2012 poll winners London-based band Films of Colour, until I happily came upon the Second Play schedule. Aha! Omni at 6 PM? I can squeeze that in! I snuck in through the back, slightly out of breath from running up a hill (spare me the Kate Bush jokes, please) to the Omni, where a helpful bellhop pointed me in the right direction.

What an unusual place for a rock show. Granted, it was an acoustic set, but still, where else are you sat down for a gig and a waitress comes over to ask nicely if you want something to drink or eat? To be fair, how often are you sat down for a gig anyhow? So I relaxed in my comfy chair and watch Films of Colour spout off beautiful renditions of their new single ‘Running’ (acoustic video here), their cover of David Bowie’s ‘Slow Burn’, and gorgeous newer song ‘Creature of Habit’. I would also like to point out at this juncture that Films of Colour is the second band we’ve tipped (that I’m aware of anyway) whose music has landed as incidental score on Made in Chelsea (the other being I Dream in Colour). So if you’re out there reading this, fine folk of E4, I must say, you have very good taste…

But in the words of Karen Carpenter, “we’ve only just begun”. Wednesday was about to go into full swing.

More photos (and in higher resolution too!) from these showcases can be viewed on my Flickr.

 
 
 

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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.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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