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Live Review: The xx with Jon Hopkins at DC9, Washington DC – 15 November 2009

 
By on Wednesday, 18th November 2009 at 3:00 pm
 

On your side of the Atlantic, it was Steve Lamacq I believe who first tipped the xx as one of the bands to make waves in 2009. On this side, Pitchfork sang the praises of the band’s debut album in late summer, practically ensuring that hype would be following the band around wherever they went. So it follows that the news that the xx’s fourth member Baria Qureshi caused the band to cancel some European dates and subsequently decided to leave the band permanently would make headlines. The band decided recently at a London gig to continue as a three-piece and not replace Qureshi. To accommodate the loss of a bandmember, some changes had to be made to the stage show that I’m sure the band did not anticipate just weeks before. Percussion/electronics guru Jamie Smith works double time now, and some of the synth parts are now played by singer/guitarist Romy Madley-Croft. Despite these minor physical changes, I could not find a single fault with the xx’s headlining, sold-out performance at DC9 Sunday night. Well, except maybe for the lighting.

On many an occasion I’ve wondered to myself what kinds of electronic noise must be emanating from producer Paul Epworth‘s West London studio. And indeed, I had it in my mind that if I could choose from anyone on the planet, I’d want Paul to teach me how to play the synth. However, after seeing Londoner Jon Hopkins perform, I may have changed my mind. This was the first time I’ve had the opportunity of seeing an electronica artiste at work. When you listen to electronic music from an album, you, like me, probably envision someone sat in front of a computer console, hooked up to a multitude of electronic gizmos and thingamabobs, clicking a mouse here and pressing a button here. Hopkins’s performance in contrast was mesmerising. Flurries of buttons pushed, fingers sliding, and dials turning gave way to songs feeling as expansive as the night sky (and at one time, ringing out with thunder) to those as happening as the beats at your neighbourhood club down the street. And all under near darkness.

And now, for the main event – the xx. Guitar playing from Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim (bass) is wondrous to behold live. Because of the spareness of the guitars against the rest of the backing instrumentation, it becomes immediately clear that these two know what they are doing with their instruments, and being in their presence while they are playing feels like a gift. With both of their gentle, gorgeous voices, the overall sound is tight and confident, sultry and full of yearning. ‘Heart Skipped a Beat’ and the Womack and Womack cover of ‘Teardrops’ in particular were standouts to me, but really, the whole set was fantastic, and better than when I saw them open for Friendly Fires in New York in August.

Sim prefaced a cover of Filipino soul singer Kyla‘s ‘Do You Mind?’ with the comment, “we’ve only played it a handful of times, so it’s quite possible we’ll fuck it up“, but the caution was unnecessary because the song sounded great; Smith abandoned his desk for the song so he could beat on two drums stage right of Madley-Croft. Black Book Mag describes the xx’s music as “new indie lovemakin’ music“, a sobriquet that sounds laughable but I have to agree with the assessment. This may not be the kind of music to make you get up and dance, but surely the lush melodies will make you tingle and you will ache from inside out from the r&b-tinged loveliness. Catch them on their March 2010 UK tour if you can. I shall be seeing them again (twice on the same day) the first week of December in Boston. Fingers crossed.

After the cut: set list and my attempts at photos. (I told you it was dark!)
Continue reading Live Review: The xx with Jon Hopkins at DC9, Washington DC – 15 November 2009

 

Live Review: Peter Bjorn and John with El Perro del Mar at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 07 November 2009

 
By on Monday, 9th November 2009 at 4:00 pm
 

If you have not heard ‘Young Folks’ by Peter Bjorn and John, you must be living under a rock. And even if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m sure you’ve heard it even if you didn’t know whom it was by because ‘Young Folks’ was a top 20 hit on the UK singles chart 3 years ago. It begins with a snappy whistling intro that could be irritating I suppose if you’re not into that sort of thing. Me? I love it – the song rates on my top 5 songs that include whistling (which, incidentally, also includes Noah and the Whale‘s ‘Five Years Time’, the band I just happened to be covering the last time these Swedes were in town). Now in November 2009, these three blokes from Sweden are celebrating 10 years of soldiering on successfully in the music business with a festive, 12-date North American tour starting at Washington’s 9:30 Club this past Saturday night. The band is touring in support of their fifth album, ‘Living Thing’, released this past spring. (Little-known fact: ‘Living Thing’ is also the title of an ELO track, ELO being a favourite band of Peter Morén‘s during his childhood.) Along for the ride on this tour is opening act El Perro del Mar, fellow Swede Sarah Assbring’s solo project.

a-epdm1We recently wrote about the indie pop singer El Perro del Mar. With smoky made-up eyes and wearing a white t-shirt, tapestry jacket, and black tights, Assbring swiveled her hips to the bass-heavy rhythms provided by her backing band, which was seemingly at odds with her fragile, tender vocals and her lack of stage patter. Listening to ‘A Better Love’ (a song that starts out mellow enough and then the tempo picked up, Assbring grabbing a tambourine from the floor and shaking it seductively), I was struck by how at times her voice could remind you of Lykke Li. In ‘Party”, Assbring brought sexy back, singing, “is it so hard to see? / I don’t want to be your friend / I just want to be a part of you“. Sultry? Heck yes. I think if she can develop a better rapport with her audiences, she has a good shot at mainstream success. She already has the look and sound.

If you are unsure which member of Peter Bjorn and John is which, here’s a quick rundown: Peter Morén – short brown hair, kind of looks like a Beatle (even sounds a bit like John Lennon?), plays guitar and harmonica and sings; Björn Yttling – bearded and extremely tall, plays bass and synths; John Eriksson – wears a black knit hat, plays drums and percussion. Speaking of the Beatles, what band nowadays bows in unison like the Beatles did back in the Sixties? No one. But PB&J do. Classy chaps. You wouldn’t think looking at these three exceedingly nice Swedes that they make some of the best dance music around, but they do. Check out ‘Nothing to Worry About’, the most successful song off ‘Living Thing’ and a homage of sorts to Jay-Z‘s ‘Hard Knock Life’. The whole crowd had their hands in the air and were gyrating and twisting to the beats for this one.

h-pbj2Further, the trio have also written some great pieces of pop that probably get lost in the shuffle, given the success of ‘Young Folks’ and the more recent ‘Nothing to Worry About’. ‘Living Thing’, the title track from their current album, feels more ‘Tarzan’ film / world music / Peter Gabriel than should be allowed, but it works, and it works really well. Everyone in the club joined in the chorus for ‘Lay It Down’, with its humourous chorus of “hey shut the fuck up boy / you’re starting to piss me off / take your hands off that girl / you’ve already had enough“. The best artists are able to involve their audiences, and these three Swedes had us eating out of their hands. A special treat came in the form of an instrumental called ‘Needles and Pins’ that featured guest band Hat City Intuitive. The Connecticut band were called in to help PB&J play a song from their 2008 completely instrumental album, ‘Seaside Rock’, and we were the first people in America ever to hear any songs from this album played live.

i-pbj3When they returned for the encore, Morén implored us to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them; trying to sing the line “happy birthday dear Peter-Bjorn-and-John” really fast is quite funny, and the people around laughed while they were singing it. He then admitted, “I used to take [guitar] lessons but my teacher did not like me, so I still have problems [playing]”, which elicits laughs from the crowd. If he has any sort of guitar-playing impediment, it clearly was not in evidence for ‘Paris 2004’ or any other song Saturday night. I couldn’t say for certain but it looked like he was whistling all the oh-so-important parts of PB&J songs, so if he was, I have to give him kudos for that as well.

Tip: if you’re seeing a band in Washington and the venue is small, you usually are rewarded if you hang around long enough, because most bands will come out and say hello. In PB&J’s case, Morén took the initiative by heading for the merch table directly after the gig, causing a near stampede of fans wanting to head in the same direction. In the end, all three members of PB&J patiently posed for photos with and signed vinyl, CDs, drum heads, tote bags, and posters for their devoted fans. What did I say about them before? Oh yes. Classy chaps. Class act all the way. As a native Washingtonian I felt honoured and a bit teary-eyed when Morén said earlier in the night, “this is the best place in the world!” and that they enjoy playing our town. I hope their return soon and often.

After the jump: set lists and photos.

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Continue reading Live Review: Peter Bjorn and John with El Perro del Mar at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 07 November 2009

 

Mencap Little Noise Sessions / November 2009

 
By on Sunday, 8th November 2009 at 3:50 pm
 

Following on from the amazing lineups of the past two years, the Mencap Little Noise sessions are back again this November to raise more money for the mental disability charity.

The lineup is almost complete, with a string of pretty amazing performances scheduled. Personally, I’m most excited about Editors day, along with the pop-tastic Alexandra Burke, Mika and Newton Faulkner days – all of the shows have great talent and with the promise of special guests, I say you should hop on down to Union Chapel to check out some great music. Head on over to the Little Noise Sessions website for more answers to your questions.

The artists so far announced include:

Monday 16th November
Editors
The Maccabees
Bombay Bicycle Club
Everything Everything

Tuesday 17th November
Alexandra Burke
Alphabeat
Marina and the Diamonds
VV Brown

Wednesday 18th November
Mika
Paloma Faith
Alex Gardner
Daisy Dares You

Thursday 19th November
Richard Hawley
I Blame Coco

Friday 20th November
Lostprophets
The Blackout
Egyptian Hip Hop

Saturday 21st November
Taio Cruz
Tinchy Stryder
Chipmunk

Sunday 22nd November
Florence and the Machine
Golden Silvers
Erik Hassle
Ellie Goulding

Monday 23rd November
David Gray
The Low Anthem
Lisa Mitchell

Tuesday 24th November
Newton Faulkner
Scouting for Girls
Little Comets
Stornoway

 

Live Review: The Very Best with Javelin at DC9, Washington DC – 02 November 2009

 
By on Thursday, 5th November 2009 at 2:00 pm
 

j-verybest6To my friends, I’m starting to sound like a broken record. When I said I was going to DC9 Monday night to see the Very Best, they all asked, “where did you hear about them?” And as usual the answer was, “BBC Radio, where else?” In the case of the Very Best, their ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ was added to the 6music playlist, making sure that I’d hear it enough times to have it imprinted on my brain. Mind you, I wasn’t dragged to this conclusion. I was happily led away to sunnier equatorial climes.

‘Warm Heart of Africa’ (specifically the song, not the album of the same name) features guest vocals from Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend alongside the Very Best’s singer Esau Mwamwaya, and you can’t make a song any brighter. As a Vampire Weekend fan, I wondered if Koenig would be coming along on this tour (he did, after all, cowrite the song). (Tour dates listed on VW’s MySpace confirmed this was impossible.) So how exactly would the song be recreated live? With the magic of samples and DJaying equipment plus the sweet voice of Mwamwaya…

javelin5forTGTFBut before I get carried away, let me tell you about the opening act, Javelin. The duo is comprised of two cousins from Providence, Rhode Island, that have been working on music together since their families spent their summers together by the New England seaside. If you only knew that about them, you would probably guess incorrectly what they sound like. They make enjoyable, danceable, electro noise pop/hip hop. The singer alternately pogo-ed up and down and would work his wide array of synths, while the “drummer” would beat his drum pad or grab maracas or a cowbell from under the table to add to the noise. Songs like ‘Twyce’; ‘Vibrationz’, and the set ender (and incidentally the first song they ever recorded) ‘Oh Centra’, an ode to a housecat, were just plain fun. Cool stuff.

So then it was time for London trio the Very Best. Well, I thought they were a trio. Somwhere on the way over to America they lost Etienne (DJ) Tron (I guess he stayed home) and then there were two – DJ/compere Johan Carlberg and singer Mwamwaya. Carlberg kicked things into high gear with his electronic gizmos as Mwamwaya grabbed his microphone and then brought everyone’s attention to two somewhat scantily clad dancers that had also been brought along with them from England.

Songs like ‘Wena’ (from the band’s 2008 free, downloadable mixtape that first put them on everyone’s radar late last year) and ‘Julia’ and ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ from their first official album-length offering turned the crowd at DC9 into one giant, lively mass that was moving and grooving to the engaging music. DC9 is rapidly becoming one of my favourite venues in town because of its size (about 200 capacity) and intimacy: Mwamwaya and their dancers were at times just inches away from me. The only disappointment: the only had 8 songs prepared, so that’s all we got. I hope they could tell from the raucous reception the Washington audience gave them that when they’ve got more songs put together for live performance, they are most certainly welcome back in our town.

After the jump: more photos.

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Continue reading Live Review: The Very Best with Javelin at DC9, Washington DC – 02 November 2009

 

The Automatic / November 2009 UK Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd November 2009 at 4:13 pm
 

Still trying to prove that they’re a “real band”, The Automatic have announced a string of tour dates starting next week, playing some of the skankiest venues in the UK.

Lucky them.

Tuesday 10th November 2009 – Tunbridge Wells Forum
Wednesday 11th November 2009 – Southend Chinnerys
Thursday 12th November 2009 – Kingston Upon Thames McCluskys
Friday 13th November 2009 – Rhondda Cwmparc
Saturday 14th November 2009 – Wrexham Central Station
Thursday 19th November 2009 – Swansea Oceana
Friday 20th November 2009 – Preston Lava Ignite
Saturday 21st November 2009 – Ipswich Liquid
Wednesday 25th November 2009 – Sunderland Independent
Thursday 26th November 2009 – Carlisle Brickyard
Friday 27th November 2009 – Stockton-On-Tees Ku Bar
Saturday 28th November 2009 – Coventry Kasbah

 

Field Music / November 2009, January 2010 Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 27th October 2009 at 5:00 pm
 

Sunderland’s Field Music have announced a string of UK gigs for November and a one-off in London in January.

Friday 13th November 2009 – Liverpool, The Bumper
Thursday 19th November 2009 – Manchester, Deaf Institute
Saturday 21st November 2009 – Glasgow, Captain’s Rest
Sunday 22nd November 2009 – Edinburgh, Sneaky Pete’s
Friday 27th November 2009 – Newcastle, The Cluny
Saturday 28th November 2009 – Newcastle, The Cluny
Thursday 7th January 2010 – London, Hoxton Bar & Grill

 
 
 

About Us

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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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