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Live Review: The Horrors with Casper Bangs and Crocodiles at Black Cat, Washington DC – 19 September 2009

 
By on Friday, 25th September 2009 at 2:00 pm
 

I would like to preface this gig review by saying that I knew almost nothing (and still know little!) about the Horrors, except 1) their album ‘Primary Colours’ was nominated for the 2009 Mercury Prize (with many bands putting their money on them to win), 2) they belong to XL Recordings, who have signed several of my now favourite acts, and 3) ‘Primary Colours’ has more synths than their debut album ‘Strange House’ (and I love them synths). So on the basis of these three factors alone, I thought it’d be a good idea for me to get educated about them and witness firsthand what the fuss about them was all about.

Casper Bangs 1First on stage were local band Casper Bangs. Their first song out of the gate, ‘I Woke Up’, made me think that they were Weezer-lite – not an insult, merely an observation on their enjoyable, mainstream rock ‘n’ roll sound. Singer/guitarist Casper Bangs was wearing a red jumper and a bowtie, furthering the geek rock theory. ‘Queen of Hearts’, a song the band will commit to a 7″ soon, sounded extremely promising. As they got further into their set, they became less Weezer and more harder-edged, culminating in ‘Skylark’, a swirly maelstrom of sound. I wish these guys the best of luck.

Crocodiles 3I dunno, maybe it was the attitude of the second band on the bill, Crocodiles, that made me think they were from London. So imagine my surprise when I did some Googling and found out Crocodiles were a duo (not a four-piece as they were last Saturday night) and were not English but actually from San Diego. Oops. The band is joining the Horrors on their whole North American tour, and based on their performance, I think they make an excellent match. Lead singer Brandon Welchez looks like a young Bob Dylan and slinks around onstage like Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

The band favoured flooding the stage with red lights (really quite unusual) and two California state flags were proudly displayed on their equipment cases. (Okay, I get it now.) They’re punk sounding to me, even though SPIN Magazine has reported that they used to be ‘dysfunctional punk’ and are now ‘prettier noise pop’. I don’t want to think what they sounded like before they made the switch. Songs like ‘I Wanna Kill’ and ‘Summer of Hate’ actually are better than the titles sound. My favourite was ‘Neon Jesus’, which had Ramones-esque oomph.

Okay, the Horrors. I really, really tried to get into them, into their music. I really did. But sometimes music just isn’t for you. Maybe it started with the four instrument-playing members of the band taking the stage, and then one annoying bloke behind me decided to start yelling at the bassist, “rice!” over and over again (I don’t know if he was taking the mickey or what). The bassist responded with a seething snarl, “it’s RHYS!” Uh oh. Rule #1 of gig-going: never upset the talent before they’ve even had a chance to start playing. Everyone knows that’s bad karma, don’t they? Also, I prefer seeing bands that actually look like they’re having a good time performing on stage. During their entire set, each member had a steely, almost confrontational look on their faces that was unsettling. However, the crowd that had assembled to see them appeared to be unfazed, as if they expected them to look (all clad in black) and sound that way. So maybe not having seen them before put me at a disadvantage?

I was standing in front of the aforementioned bassist Rhys Webb, who took to roaming the stage and whipping his bass around all over the place (sometimes dangerously near our faces) while he played. Guitarist Joshua Hayward, on the opposite end of the Black Cat stage, was similarly moving and grooving with his axe. Between the two of them plus frontman Faris Badwan going to and fro his microphone, I started to get motion sickness. I found Badwan’s voice not compelling enough to match the music itself – overall, great guitars, great synths, and great keyboards, like in the swirly ‘Who Can Say’. I thought, maybe it was the sound mix? But if you listen to their recordings, his voice is pretty understated against everything else. So maybe this is the way the Horrors are supposed to sound. And judging by the crowd’s excited reaction during the main set and their encore, they put on a good show and everyone left happy.

After the jump: set lists and photos.

Horrors 3
Continue reading Live Review: The Horrors with Casper Bangs and Crocodiles at Black Cat, Washington DC – 19 September 2009

 

Live Review: The Temper Trap at Bristol Thekla – 22nd September 2009

 
By on Wednesday, 23rd September 2009 at 1:40 am
 

The Temper Trap at Bristol's Thekla (side)The Temper Trap‘s debut album, Conditions, has been a slow burner of my summer. Gorgeous anthems that just stink of summer romances, I knew I had to catch them again after I was introduced to them at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Swindon.

Taking to the stage at Bristol’s Thekla (a gorgeous floating nightclub that used to be a boat) at 9:30 sharp, they ploughed through the entirity of their debut album, full of energy and looking like they were just starting out (and hadn’t been on the road for almost a year). Things started off strongly but rather tepid with “Rest” and “Fader”, before the big hits were rolled out towards the end.

Banter was kept to a minimum from the band apart from the usual “Hello”‘s and “Thank You”‘s. Lead Singer Dougy Mandagi also took the time to introduce Jeff, a 6-foot something afro’d guy who has been at numerous Bristol gigs I’ve been to, for giving them “so much support with all that jumping”.

Closing out the main set with the triple header of “Sweet Disposition”, “Resurrection” and the “Drum Song”, they knew just what their strengths were. The pop-tastic anthemic nature of Sweet Disposition had everyone jumping to rock the boat, screaming at the top of their lungs “A moment, a love, a dream, aloud, so stay there, cause I’ll be coming over”. Sweetness indeed. Resurrection maintained this, whilst Drum Song gave everyone a chance to rock out, strobes galore, jumping all over the shop, hair flying around the place. This is what music should be – fun, memorable, and meaningful. Amazing.

After the jump: Photos and setlist
Continue reading Live Review: The Temper Trap at Bristol Thekla – 22nd September 2009

 

Roses Kings Castles / Autumn 2009 UK Tour

 
By on Monday, 21st September 2009 at 7:22 pm
 

We’ve written a fair bit about Adam Ficek’s alter-ego, Roses Kings Castles over the past year here at TGTF.

The Babyshambles drummer is off on the road again over this Autumn, playing to crowds at a nearby pub to you. Catch him at:

Wednesday 23rd September 2009 – Leeds Wardrobe
Sunday 4th October 2009 – Paris Cafe Disquaire
Thursday 8th October 2009 – Dublin Whelans
Saturday 10th October 2009 – Swindon The Vale – Cricklade
Sunday 11th October 2009 – Southampton Hamptons
Tuesday 13th October 2009 – Edinburgh The Caves
Wednesday 14th October 2009 – Glasgow The Admiral Bar
Thursday 15th October 2009 – Ipswich The Swan
Monday 19th October 2009 – Guildford The Boileroom
Thursday 22nd October 2009 – Hertford Corn Exchange
Tuesday 27th October 2009 – Cardiff – The Globe
Wednesday 18th October 2009 – Nottingham The Maze

 

Live Review: Jack Penate and Miike Snow at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 18 September 2009

 
By on Sunday, 20th September 2009 at 11:30 pm
 

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the two headlining acts that stopped in Washington Friday night – singer/songwriter Jack Penate and the mysterious atmospheric dance/pop band Miike Snow. They aren’t acts that are played on mainstream radio here in America, so I wasn’t sure what kind of turnout there’d be for the evening. I needn’t have worried. Thanks to the internet and a hot tip from the Washington Post weekend guide, the tightly packed crowd enjoyed all-too-short sets from both acts at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel.

g-jpenate7Based on seeing video for Jack Penate‘s ‘Be the One’ on tv here recently, I was under the false impression that when he performed live, he only sang. This impression quickly changed when I saw photos from Reading and Leeds of him toting a guitar. Upon seeing him live, I found out he also played piano. What doesn’t he do? The set he played in Washington was, as expected, heavy with cuts from his latest album ‘Everything is New’, which was fine by me because this was the material that got me interested in him as an artist in the first place.

When he wasn’t shredding it on the guitar or seated at the piano, he was frenetically dancing to the beats of his backing band, to the delight of everyone in the club. ‘Second, Minute, or Hour’, the long song he played not on the new album, was fantastic with crashing guitars pretty much unlike like the new material. I am unashamed to say that “Pull My Heart Away” was the song I was waiting for since hearing about his North American tour and live, it was amazingly gorgeous with a female backing singer who lent an additional layer of complexity to the live versions of these songs compared to the album tracks.

There are a couple tracks from the new album that I wasn’t sure was going to translate well live – well, he totally surprised me. ‘Let’s All Die’ is an example: he prefaced playing the song by talking about the certainty of death of everyone in the room (surely such morbid talk would kill the mood, wouldn’t it?), turned into a near free-for-all when he eagerly put his mike in front of amused kids in the audience who sang the repeated “let’s all die!” chorus right with him. Phenomenal.

Miike Snow1After a somewhat lengthy shifting and arrangement of gear and equipment, it was time for Miike Snow. The live band comprises of three actual Miike Snow members – Swedish producing duo Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (better known in the remix world as Bloodshy & Avant) and American singer/songwriter Andrew Wyatt – plus three touring band members, so you know with all of these people on stage, there was bound to be a load of gear onstage. They took the stage with white theatrical masks, which was a little unsettling to say the least. There was a problem with Wyatt’s mike at the outset but this appeared to quickly be rectified as they opened with the crowd pleaser ‘Burial’.

During this song and all throughout their set, I was impressed with the coordination of so many different instruments; synths of every description, guitars, bass, piano, electronic drumming gizmo things, a xylophone – you name it, they had it. Fans happily sang along with Wyatt to many of the songs, which surprised me because I didn’t think that many people in America would have known who they were, let alone in Washington. I relished grooving to the electronic beats arranged by Karlsson and Winnberg, imagining just how great many of these songs would sound further remixed for the dance floor. My only complaint was that there was no encore: the crowd, manically shouting for the band to return, were certainly up for it. Maybe that’s what they intended – leaving them wanting more.

After the jump: Setlists and photos…

l-miikesnow4

Continue reading Live Review: Jack Penate and Miike Snow at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 18 September 2009

 

Live Review: Appomattox at Red and Black Bar, Washington DC – 16 September 2009

 
By on Thursday, 17th September 2009 at 5:00 pm
 

Just like you can’t keep a good man down, you can’t keep a good band down either. Brooklyn-based Appomattox, fine purveyors of what I would call exciting indie rock, made a fine showing in a short 40-minute set played at the Red and Black Bar in Washington last night.

Appomattox 4This is one animated band. Singer/guitarist Nick Gaynier shreds like a man possessed and somehow (I really don’t know how he does it) delivers the lyrics to the band’s songs with similar gusto. The songs are largely upbeat in rhythm, and it’s James Mello‘s expert drumming and Dave Nurmi‘s sultry bass lines that provides the bedrock for the strength of Appomattox’s songs. Frenetic, fast-paced, and in your face – this is what I love most about this band. You can’t sit still watching them and you shouldn’t, because the songs are fun and memorable.

Gaynier told me before their set, “we write songs about chicks“. But you know what? I’m fine with that premise if they can keep churning out engaging rock songs like these. ‘Too Slow’ and ‘Either Way’, two of my many favourites from their album ‘A O’, were pure bliss live, the latter sporting a wicked, wicked instrumental bridge that showed off Gaynier’s and Nurmi’s talents on the guitar. These and many other great songs can be found on ‘A O’ so I urge you to visit their MySpace page and check out their sound. You won’t be disappointed.

Stay tuned for my interview with the band coming soon!

After the jump: photos. Note: Appomattox is currently touring with San Francisco band Low Red Land; journalistically, I didn’t feel it right to write a review about their set considering I know little about their music. But I did photograph them, so photos of their set are included as well.

Appomattox 5

Continue reading Live Review: Appomattox at Red and Black Bar, Washington DC – 16 September 2009

 

Live Review: Perez Hilton Presents Tour Featuring Ladyhawke and Ida Maria at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 12 September 2009

 
By on Thursday, 17th September 2009 at 12:00 pm
 

b-perezhiltonPerez Hilton is known in America (and maybe all over the world too?) as a gossip monger of the highest degree. That is, he can find the dirt about just about anyone famous and no one can hide from him.

That’s why it was humorous to me to say the least – I think I choked with surprise – when I read on Ladyhawke‘s MySpace blog last month that he had decided to organise a North American tour featuring some of his favourite musical acts, the acts being Frankmusik (from London), Semi Precious Weapons (from New York City), Ida Maria (from Norway), and Ladyhawke (from New Zealand). “What does he know about music anyway?” was the collective response. Well, I can tell you after attending the Perez Hilton Presents tour at its spot here in Washington last Saturday, Mr. Hilton does know a thing or two about putting together a good tour line-up, and even managed emcee duties in D.C. as well.

g-frankmusik5Frankmusik was the first act up. Hilton quipped that this was the first-ever American show for Vincent Frank, which of course made the crowd go wild. He appeared in leather jacket and sunglasses, the coolest of the cool cats. Full of energy, he pogo-ed up and down all night, leading us on a bouncy, electropoppy voyage down Lovers’ Lane. He clearly enjoyed himself, saying how wonderful we were and how he felt so great after his first show in America (awww). And just as clear was the audience’s reception of him, based on the glow sticks and a pair of lacy, hot pink knickers that were chucked onto the stage during his set (::chuckle::) to which Frank replied, “I like!” He prefaced ‘Confusion Girl’ with “this is a slow one. You’ve gotta have a slow one. I dedicate this to a girl called Olivia” before taking to the piano. Singles ‘3 Little Words’ and his set-ender ‘Better Off as 2’ made girls and guys alike swoon in delight.

j-semiprecious2Next up was New York band Semi Precious Weapons, the only American act of the night. Think New York Dolls but coarser and rowdier and David Johansen wearing more eye makeup, and you can get a good mental picture. I can’t really say I cared for their brand of glam rock; glam rock is, by nature, mostly about shock value and I couldn’t really get into them, though they definitely kept the energy of the night going. All the people around me lapped up the flamboyant frontman Justin Tranter‘s every comment and lyric. I give that he is fun to watch, strutting around in very tight leggings and stiletto boots that only a brave woman would dare wear. So are his bandmates, whose guitarists jump around on stage with reckless abandon and a drum who looked like he might take off to the air if he hits his skins with his sticks hard enough. If you like boldness and crassness with your music, they just might be for you.

p-idamaria2Ida Maria came to my attention via the single ‘I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked’, which got a lot of video airplay on MTV here; inexplicably, this past spring MTV offered her the chance to host an hour of videos selected by her, usually an honour bestowed only on the biggest stars, not up-and-coming ones. From everything I’ve read, I knew that she was a tempermental artist – I guess I should be thankful that she actually completed a set, in contrast to the breakdown she had in Boston 2 nights later, leaving in the middle of the set with her band to carry on without her. She began with a song she introduced as “brand new, never heard before” called ‘Kitchen Floor’. The crowd appeared unfamiliar with her songs except for ‘I Like You…’ and ‘Oh My God’ but unlike with the other bands, the crowd was not engaged with her performance at all. This was really too bad, b/c her bandmates, especially guitarist Stefan Törnby, were really giving it their all, so the weakness of this performance could not be attributed to them but instead a generally lacklustre performance put in by their frontwoman.

Last but certainly not least was my absolute favourite of the night, the beautiful, talented creature that is Ladyhawke. I’d seen her perform at the Dot to Dot Festival in Nottingham on 24 May and was blown away. I am still in some disbelief and shock that less than 4 months later she was on a stage in my own hometown. But let me turn my attention back to her performance. After Ida Maria’s less than stellar performance, Ladyhawke knocked this one out of the park. Although soft-spoken and shy in between songs, she was able to command the entire audience at the 9:30 with her vocals and guitar-playing and my gosh, it was breathtaking. The obvious highlights were the singles ‘Paris is Burning’, ‘Dusk ‘Til Dawn’, and the set closer ‘My Delirium’. After Ladyhawke had left the stage, a very vocal crowd shouted long and loudly for a encore that never materialised. It’s a shame though – an encore to her adoring Washington fans would have really capped off a really great night for her in the Nation’s Capital.

After the jump: setlists and photos.

y-ladyhawke6
Continue reading Live Review: Perez Hilton Presents Tour Featuring Ladyhawke and Ida Maria at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 12 September 2009

 
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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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