Sunday, 6 September 2015

Alberto Sella, street drummer

Alberto Sella is indeed an amazing street drummer, even if he does say so himself!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Cyborgs @ Telford's Warehouse, Chester

These guys are phenomenal. Cyborg-0 plays guitar; Cyborg-1 drums and keyboard at the same time. They play in welders masks. They play "dirty blues electroshit". Sometimes Cyborg-1 plays Cyborg-O's guitar with his sticks. Sometimes Cyborg-0 taps out a beat on the faceplate of Cyborg-1's mask. And they like to get freaky...

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Majorettes and Colleen Green @ Windmill Brixton

Majorettes retrospectively became my reason for being there. Low-fi, deadpan, a little bit silly, a little bit shouty ... perfect, basically. I feared they might be from elsewhere; it appears they're from here - hurrah! I hope to see them again soon.

While watching the band before Majorettes, the abysmally named Wicketkeeper, a girl standing in front of me removed a sweater to reveal an Adidas vest and an inner-bicep tattoo. I vowed to buy this vision a drink, and later on she even ordered one right beside me at the bar, but I allowed the moment to escape me. Which in retrospect was probably lucky, because that girl turned out to be Colleen Green. Which little story I hope illustrates that - unlike, it seems, everybody else in the Windmill - I was not familiar with her in advance.

Such were the roars that followed every song! I was somewhat taken aback. It wasn't that Green wasn't good, I just hadn't expected it. I felt like a dad at a Lana Del Rey concert. Had I not been so clearly the least clued-up person there, I would probably be raving about Colleen right now... But she obviously doesn't need any bungling praise from me, and since I felt like the nonplussed ride home to a bunch of overexcited, sweaty teens, I'll leave it to others to extoll the virtues of the be-shaded one and her fat-sounding guitar.

Bushmills is £3 in the Windmill, as was the ticket. God I love the Windmill...

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Ollo, Matthew Edwards & The Unfortunates and ROC @ Windmill Brixton

Tonight was a Metal Postcard triple-header.

Ollo suffered Ableton Gremlins and were only able to give us two tracks as they were meant to be heard. They persevered abmirably throughout the hiccoughs, and then showed us what we'd missed with the intriguing Litterbrain. Next time...

Matthew Edwards & The Unfortunates were the entirely live filling in an electronic sandwich. I'm firmly of the belief that anything can be sandwichized; nevertheless, time would prove METU to be an odd choice of filling - like sticking boeuf bourguignon between two slices of Mighty White. I want to pick cliches out of my pockets like disintegrating tissues: they were assured, stylish, tight, funky... Single Mintour was perhaps the highlight, but No More Songs was a crescending (not a word?), rousing finish, and the whole set oozed panache (I'm pulling at lint now; they were very good).

ROC: I don't really know what on earth that was. The rapid and semi-breathy vocal delivery was interesting, but the sum of the parts was a mishmass wobbling on the edge of a disaster. Something like a sonic tornado whipping through a secondhand store. It was all a bit Danny Dyer's Chocolate Homunculous. Weird. They sound decent in that link, but that only adds to the weirdness.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

One Way Ticket, The Cracked Belles and Beatrix Players @ Windmill Brixton

Beatrix Players are Singer Amy White, Keyboardist Jess Kennedy and Cellist Amanda Alvarez. They play beautiful, heartfelt, moving music of the sort I would normally avoid, and yet when it's being conjured up right in front of you, and you're standing feet away from the cavorting fingers, gliding bow and flitting voice, all cynicism, bitterness and yearning for brutality melt away. They have stuff on soundcloud and tracks to download via their website, if you're the sort of soft sod who likes things that make you feel stuff and think things and that. Sniff.

The Cracked Belles. Holy shit. They're Dani Sachar on vocals, Feadora Morris on guitar, Rick Lehane on Bass, and Aimee Schmidt on drums. And man are they fucking great. Don't take my word for it: listen to 'Good Friday' on their soundcloud via the link above and imagine you're standing there witnessing this happening - not seeing it via some scratchy black and white Youtube video with 12 million views of a performance from 4 decades ago, but right now in front of you. How can anyone sound that good today? Performances like this don't happen now, they happened in half-empty clubs a generation ago, when only half a dozen people appreciated it at the time but 5 years later half a world was grooving out to it and half a century later they still are. Mother Mary, halleleujah. Bassist Rick told me they're based in North London and play in Camden a lot, so if you're up that way, go see em. And if you're not, head there.

One Way Ticket were pretty decent. Everyone else in the place sure loved them, and their drummer was driving their performance like a classic Bugatti in a tropical hurricane as I snuck off home to hunt down The Cracked Belles online. And now I've listened to Good Friday three times. And I'm not done yet...

Friday, 11 April 2014

Kimchinary and Pindrop @ Southbank / Chorus Festival

Hooray for Korean burritos! In and of themselves - the kimchi fried rice, cheddar, gochujang special sauce, pickled coleslaw, spring onion sour cream and pulled pork delights served up in lightly blackened wrap by @Kimchinary are a lovely, fresh, crispy, tangy, piggy wonder - but also because if I hadn't been loitering and scoffing on the Southbank Centre balcony outside the Queen Elizabeth Hall last Saturday afternoon, I wouldn't have been spotted by @Ericapig, who is one fifth of acapella experimentalists Pindrop, who, as luck would have it, were shortly to be performing in the QEH as part of the Southbank's Chorus Festival 2014.

Now, because I have an impoverished soul, even the thought of choral music makes my insides go all squirmy, like a claustrophobe discovering the only way up to their job interview is via a four-man lift with three people already in it. Indeed, I had narrowly avoided a panic attack minutes earlier when exiting the Royal Festival Hall to discover someone choralling all over the Beatles' Yesterday, the song that more than any other makes me want to stream and gibber into the nearest chip wrapper. However, the description of Pindrop as a mere quintet who, better yet, use a loop machine in one of their songs, brought my panic down sufficiently for me to want to poke my head in...

I am certainly a fan of a distinctive voice, whether it be Guru ('Mostly tha voice'), Evidence ('MCs without a voice should write a book'), Muddy Waters, Bjork, Bobby Womack, Axl Rose, Robert Plant or whoever. But most of the music I listen to doesn't so much depend on the use of the voice as an instrument, so it's not something I've ever given much thought to.

Watching Pindrop perform was a revelation. Imagine if the only paintings you've ever seen are your mates' in secondary school, and then you accidentally wander into the National Gallery. Or the person who'd just invented snooker dropping through time and finding themselves tableside at the World Championships.

Although that makes it sound like this is just a group of people who can sing, which is not so. That would be true of any of the people who performed at Chorus 2014, I expect, shrivelly insides or no. But Pindrop do something interesting and exciting as well as just something you and I can't do, and gave me no squirminess or discomfort whatsoever. (In the Grand Hall of half-assed compliments that one is sitting on a velvet pillow, I realise, but you don't know my insides.) They're mesmerising, surprising, and joyous.

To demonstrate just how good they are, this is how they sound when recorded through a bloody phone, for god's sake. Give them a listen, and then see them live.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Supporting bands in the age of streaming

Discs shorn of their shells

I used to have an inordinate fondness for physical formats. I once bought a second copy of The Terminator on DVD because the spine of the copy I was given as a present had a slight wrinkle in it. I think it was related to my age and my lack of disposable income (strangely contrary to what you might expect from this particular example, I'll grant you): back when shiny things were a rarity in my life, I wanted to treasure them.

But I've moved 7 times in the past 8 years, and that Terminator DVD box (both, actually) has been one of many victims of my desire to downsize the things that have ended up owning me, to paraphrase one of the few films whose physical packaging I've retained.

I've only mentioned films so far, but it's been the same story for CDs. I'm now a besotted Spotify convert, and most of my jewel cases have bitten the dust. The only medium I haven't yet mostly digitised is books, and even on that front I'm wavering.

But I know the jury is still out on Spotify and its effects on bands' ability to go on putting out music. I don't want plastic boxes cluttering up my life, and I don't want to be responsible for any more landfill than is absolutely necessary. But I still want to support the bands I love. What should I do?

For bands that tour the answer is simple: go see them live. I live in London, so thankfully it's easy for me to see live music whenever I like. Everyone's a winner: I get to see the band I like, they get paid, and I might even pick up a T-shirt.

But what about bands that don't tour the UK? One of my favourite records of the last year or so was Kinski's Cosy Moments, but as far as I can work out Kinski have never toured the UK, and there's no indication they're about to start now. They're also not selling any merch on their site.

Or take The Austerity Program. They've only visited the UK once, I believe. I discovered them by buying their last EP, Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn, randomly because I liked the look of it, back before I had Spotify. But they are on Spotify, and they have a new EP due out in May. Will I buy it on CD, or just stream it whenever I feel like it? I'm not sure.

But I do know that I won't be buying Cosy Moments, which I've already listened to a dozen times. What would be the point? Am I going to rip it to the mp3 player that I still carry around with me in addition to my phone, when I already have it downloaded to my phone via Spotify? And have the case and disc with all their petrochemicals just sit there gathering dust on my shelf, the case to be ditched next time I move, probably in about 6 months' time, to be pecked at by gulls driven mad by the stench of decay? No.

The answer may lie in that temporal distinction. I'm not sure I won't buy the Austerity Program EP I haven't yet heard, but I am sure I won't buy the Kinski record I already, in a sense, possess. Lots of bands have used crowdfunding to get records made that - apparently - otherwise wouldn't have seen the light of day, and if The Austerity Program had asked me for £8 to help them make their new EP, with the promise I'd receive it in 6 or 12 months' time, I'd've happily transferred them the cash. Obviously that wasn't necessary in their case (since the record has already been recorded and mastered), and there's a trust issue to the delayed gratification, but I think the idea that I'm helping bands to get their stuff out there could be extra push I need to fork over cash for something I can otherwise now acquire more easily, cheaply, cleanly and conveniently.

And if the band promise to use nothing but recycled cardboard for their packaging (and to be fair, Backsliders... came in just a sleeve), even better.