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Live Review: Flashguns at London Old Blue Last – 2nd December 2010

 
By on Friday, 10th December 2010 at 4:00 pm
 

Well, it’s been very snowy here in London which means it’s been very cold, which inevitably means that the whole of the UK’s transport system effectively and efficiently grinds to a halt. It happens every year and will probably always happen every year! Nonetheless, I had tickets to the Flashguns single launch at the Old Blue Last and I was going.

Having reviewed their latest single, ‘Come and See the Lights’, I was looking forward to hearing how they performed live. I arrived at the venue and the band had just gone on stage, the room was packed out with what seemed like mainly friends of the band, or maybe fans too, considering the radio support these guys have had in the past. It’s a small stage in here and a somewhat curious venue for a single launch, but we settled in all the same.

I was hoping to hear a really energetic three piece, embellished with the epic vocals and ambiance I had heard on the record, but unfortunately that didn’t really happen. The band had some technical difficulties on the night and it’s a shame as it seemed to be affecting them and they couldn’t get into the gig. Saying that everyone else in the room seemed to be enjoying it, but the sound and performance just wasn’t doing it for me.

The third or fourth song in the set was the single, ‘Come See the Lights’, which was delivered well, but lacked the nuances and production of the record that ultimately turn it into something special. Don’t get me wrong, the band were tight and obviously made the best of a bad situation. There just wasn’t enough dynamic on stage to really hold my attention, even for a set this short; the band only played five or six songs, so hardly had time to leave much of an impression.

Once Flashguns have played some more shows at some bigger venues, I could definitely get behind them as they have some great songs and are great musicians. For now I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but the jury’s still out on this one.

 

Live Review: Stornoway with Franz Nicolay and Major General at Black Cat Backstage, Washington, DC – 5th December 2010

 
By on Tuesday, 7th December 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

When I heard Stornoway were coming to Washington, I was really disappointed they were playing the smaller Backstage. Not that there’s anything wrong with Backstage – the Joy Formidable show there last month was absolutely amazing – but I just thought the Oxford band could draw a much larger crowd. Turns out the intimate 200-person capacity Backstage was preferred by the band over a larger place, as you will read about in an upcoming feature in which I interviewed Stornoway’s singer and principal songwriter Brian Briggs. Back in October I was already going through my gig list to try and tease out which would be my top 5 but I think after Sunday’s performance, I’m definitely going to have to rethink my top picks…

The DC date was the last show Franz Nicolay and Major General (his touring band and also the name of a solo album he released in 2009) would be playing on this tour. I always (and you also possibly) always thought of Franz Nicolay and the Hold Steady together, but he left the Hold Steady this year to have the freedom of doing his own thing. He released an album ‘Luck and Courage’ this year, and many of the songs he played for us were from this new offering. What I had envisioned: folky, emotional tunes like ‘This is Not a Pipe’ that you can hear on his MySpace.

The accordion he used to play on occasion with the Hold Steady is ever present but Nicolay also plays banjo and acoustic guitar, and many of the songs he plays are high energy, much higher than I expected. ‘Jeff Penalty’, the set closer, was a foot-stomping, hand-clapping affair. Nicolay is a master of a stage patter, making us all night with his jokes, like how we were ‘on notice’ and later on when it was obvious the crowd liked them, we were ‘allowed’ to buy his merchandise later. Anyone unsincere with similar words to an audience would have gone down like a lead balloon, but Nicolay, genuinely in it for the art and for the fans, is a great entertainer. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how well matched he and his band were going to be for Stornoway, but they were the perfect warm-up for what lay ahead.

Stornoway’s wonderful debut album ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’ was practically surgically implanted in my ear during the entire month of November. I shivered hearing the band soundcheck ‘The Coldharbour Road’ while I was stood by the Red Room Bar right outside the room where they would play for us. This was the song they began with, and what a fun number it was, the whole stage covered in instruments and people. The band’s merchandising seller, Jared, was wearing a burgundy ‘cloak’ and hitting an antiquated tv set with mallets while Briggs’s brother Adam was banging on a beer keg (???), recreating the industrial clankings you hear on the recording, along with the band themselves and their violinist Rahul Satija.

‘Fuel Up’, now my favourite song of the album and an insightful look at the life you have lived and the pains of growing up, was gorgeous in harmony and lilting melody. ‘Watching Birds’, a song whose title now makes complete sense knowing that Briggs got his doctorate in ornithology and very keen on wildlife, was a up-tempo, exuberant number that energised the crowd. It was great to see the band comfortable and enjoying themselves in front of the Washington crowd. What looked to be the band’s last song, ‘Zorbing’, was obviously the number most of the crowd knew, cheering as soon as Briggs announced it. Luckily for us it was not the last song, with the band returning for two more tunes done acoustically and completely unmiked, ‘End of the Movie’ and ‘We Are the Battery Human’. Bands who can do acoustic numbers and do them well are a rare breed these days, and Stornoway have the goods.

The only thing that could have been perceived as a misstep was an instrumental malfunction: when Briggs switched acoustics and broke the lowest string on his black guitar, ‘Here Comes the Blackout’ had to be abandoned and the set list was slightly rerouted. All through their set, I could not (and even now still cannot) get over how beautiful Briggs’s lead vocals and the band’s combined harmonies are. Briggs told me that he and the band were happy to be playing small intimate gigs on this tour, as back in Britain they don’t get to play small venues anymore thanks to their popularity. But regardless of where you see Stornoway, go – because I can guarantee you a spellbindingly stunning performance.

Continue reading Live Review: Stornoway with Franz Nicolay and Major General at Black Cat Backstage, Washington, DC – 5th December 2010

 

This Week’s Gonzo – series closes with visits from Mark Ronson and the Drums

 
By on Thursday, 2nd December 2010 at 1:00 pm
 

This Friday marks the last episode of this series of MTV Gonzo, but don’t be sad: some special guest appearances are planned for the show. DJ and producer Mark Ronson, who released the album ‘Record Collection’ with his Business Intl. in September and recently worked with Duran Duran on their new album, stops by to talk with Alexa and shows her his drum pads. (No, that’s not innuendo for something else.) Now sporting shocking platinum blonde hair ala Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro, he comments, “I’m worried my hair might fall out from the bleach”. But rock ‘n’ roll is all about taking risks, isn’t it?

The Drums from New York also make an appearance, no doubt to talk about their amazing success this year. Everyone’s favourite American jokers (and rockers) We Are Scientists phone in for what is sure to be a comical video chat. Mat Horne, who guested on last week’s Gonzo, suggests a new band to watch: you’ll have to watch the show to find out who he’s tipping. On the video front, Gonzo queues up Paramore‘s ‘Playing God’ as well as the new promo video of White Lies‘s ‘Bigger Than Us’, and the London post-punk band is in the studio to talk about what went on behind the scenes of its filming.

Watch this series’s final episode of MTV Gonzo tomorrow night, Friday, at 7 pm on MTV Rocks, with a repeat at 9 pm on MTV.

 

Everything Everything to Broadcast London Gig Through Unique iPhone App

 
By on Wednesday, 1st December 2010 at 9:30 am
 

Looks like we are getting an early Christmas present from some of our favourite folks in the music business. Manchester based Everything Everything seems to be on the forefront of every exciting new thing these days. In October, they were the first band to be featured on the pilot episode of Abbey Road Debuts. Their recent promo video for ‘Photoshop Handsome’, which we featured as a Video of the Moment in early November, was described by frontman Jonathan Higgs to Drowned in Sound as using a very unusual and groundbreaking approach: “We took the idea of photoshopping and digital re-imagining of the self to its most extreme conclusion with our new video. We laid out loose guidelines for a huge number of creative digital artists and let them run free with their imaginations, each editing literally only a few seconds of video in total.”

So it really should come as no surprise that the Mancunian quartet is first band on the scene with their very own iPhone/iPad app. The story? Everything Everything is playing an extraordinary and unusual gig at London Union Chapel on Wednesday 15 December 2010, the gig being billed as ‘the Man Alive Ensemble with a 13-piece Orchestra’. The gig has long been sold out, but if you happen to have one of those gadgets of Steve Jobs’s, you’re in luck. You can watch the concert as it happens in real time from your iPhone or iPad. The app, with official branding as ‘Man Alive – Everything Everything: Live at Union Chapel’, is free and available to download today. There are some other features that sound pretty cool:

– a chance to win the last available pair of tickets to the sold out concert through a competition (with runners-up prizes including limited edition vinyl copies of the band’s much-acclaimed debut LP, ‘Man Alive’ (read my review of it here);
– an opportunity to submit questions to the band, who will answer their favourite selection of questions in a video interview posted a week (8th December) before the performance takes place;
– a chat forum, where those attending can converse with fellow fans ahead of the show or during the gig, or generally regarding anything else; and
– links to the band’s official sites and for purchasing recorded music.

As if that weren’t enough, the day after the show (16 December) an edited version of the performance will be available through the app. This will also include a post-gig interview with the band, as well as post-gig reactions from fans at the venue.

If you’re like me and are too skint for an iPhone and wondering where this leaves you… no worries. They have you covered there as well. The concert will also be streaming for free in real time on the Web (URL to be announced soon). Now if only the 15th of December could arrive quicker…

 

British Sea Power / February 2011 UK Tour

 
By on Saturday, 27th November 2010 at 9:00 am
 

British Sea Power have announced a UK tour for February 2011. Get your tickets when they go on sale Tuesday, 30 November at 9 AM. The band will also play on New Year’s Eve at London’s Koko.

Friday 31st December 2010 – London Koko
Friday 7th February 2011 – Cardiff Ifor Bach
Saturday 8th February 2011 – Bristol Thekla
Sunday 9th February 2011 – Birmingham HMV Institute
Tuesday 15th February 2011 – Manchester Ritz
Saturday 19th February 2011 – Liverpool Guild Of Students
Monday 21st February 2011 – Norwich Waterfront
Wednesday 23rd February 2011 – Brighton Komedia
Sunday 27th February 2011 – London HMV Forum

 

WIN / See Josh Weller at London Bush Hall

 
By on Wednesday, 24th November 2010 at 3:00 pm
 

We’ve blagged a pair of tickets for 23-year old pop troubadour Josh Weller‘s show at Bush Hall in London next Thursday (2nd December). The gig also includes DJaying from Weller’s mates Paloma Faith and the Maccabees.

For your chance to win the pair of tickets, simply answer the question below correctly to be entered in the drawing for the tickets. Entries must be submitted before Monday 29th of November at 5 PM GMT, and the winner will be chosen from amongst the correct entries. Good luck!

This contest is now closed and the winner will be contacted shortly.

 
 
 

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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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