Glasvagas: The Thekla, Bristol

17.10.18: Those who don’t know the Thekla venue in Bristol. It can be an uncompromising place for bands to play. There is no hiding place and over the years I’ve seen several a band and artist who’ve ventured out of their bedrooms, garages, and studios to perform at the Thekla and find their abilities stretched and exposed to the elements of this old ship anchored in the Mud Dock, Bristol. Tonight there is an air of anticipation, willing anticipation from the 400 capacity sellout audience to witness Glasvegas perform their 2008 self-titled and platinum-selling debut album. A decade has vanished, but the album still holds as a classic blending guitar feedback that marries the harmonies of the Ronettes with James Allen’s brittle lyrics of loneliness, love, and loss. There no sinking tonight. The first 30 minutes are as near a perfect rock n roll show one could ever envisage and by the end of the night, it is fair to say they Glasvegas had nailed it with 400 people singing word for word the lyrics of each song causing the band to pause their performance, stand back, listen and embrace the feedback and importance many hold their seminal piece of work.

 

Beautiful Shambles: Idles, Bristol SWX

16.10.18: Ding, ding, round two and back in the ring with Idles after first experiencing their rapturous performance on 8th April this year (here) at the Komedia in Bath. A lot has happened in that 6 months. A second album, which achieved a top-five slot upon release, a world tour,  TV/radio exposure and now a sold out UK tour, which has cemented them as the most essential band to emerge from these shores in recent years. It’s loud and fast here at SWX, Bristol as Idles rip through their set like the Village People on acid. Support is provided by the ever impressive Heavy Lungs. At the Bath gig, the live energy of the band carried them through their set, but here tonight with growing audiences their confidence is high and rightly so. It takes confidence for a band to bring audience members onto their stage, but it takes absolute confidence for band members to then hand over their instruments to audience members. The resulting noise is a complete shambles, a beautiful shambles, which adds to the raw energy of a band who are just on top of their game at the moment. There is a special relationship between band and fan base here. A relationship I’ve not seen since the heady days of punk in the late 1970s, or the stage invasions of early Smith’s concerts. Idles concerts are a celebration of positivity and life with all its faults and beauty. Something, so badly needed in an era where hate has become mainstream and fashionable. Tonight a rock band had their audience eating out of the palm of their hands, nothing new about that, but its rare in today’s over-produced, clean packaged musical output for a band to actually mean something beyond the product on sale. Thank fuck for Idles.

Today I stumbled upon: Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (CGS), formed by writer Rina Durante in 1975, a traditional music ensemble from Salento, Italy. The seven-piece band and dancer perform a contemporary style of Southern Italy’s traditional Pizzica music and dance. The track Lu Guistacofane is taken from their album Canzoniere. You would have to be pretty stiff from the waist down if you failed to move to this beat.

 

Ólafur Arnalds: Bath Forum

26.09.18: Ólafur Arnalds world is one of travel, he informs the audience in between one of the songs he performs tonight. When not touring he takes a break from his career by travelling more. The places he visits often influence the music he makes and on this occasion it was Nyepi the Balinese “Day of Silence.” He informs the audience that he found it amusing today when he found himself having a hot bath, on Hot Bath Street, while in Bath. On another occasion, he talks about his first visit to Bath around 2007 when he was the drummer in the hardcore punk band Fighting Shit.

It takes a leap of faith to imagine the guy in front of us who tonight is playing beautiful, fragile and evocative music once thrashed out punk in a small pub in Bath, but he also informs the audience that his grandmother was the greatest musical influence on the young Ólafur. The metal-loving Ólafur would sit with his grandmother to listen to Chopin’s work whenever they had visited one another. At her deathbed, Arnalds said “She was just lying there, old and sick, but very happy and proud. Listening to a Chopin sonata. Then I kissed her goodbye and left. She passed away a few hours later.” The final song tonight is Lag Fyrir Ömmu (Song for Grandma) and it all makes sense now.

 

Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread: Louisiana, Bristol

24.09.18: I inadvertently stumbled across Michael Nau in his early days when fronting Cotton Jones whose album Paranoid Cocoon (2009) remains a favourite and contains the majestic track I Am the Changer (seriously track it down!). His style is casual, an appearance of not being fazed, but what lays beneath his calm exterior is a musician and songwriter of the highest order. I’m at the Louie tonight and Nau is with his band The Mighty Thread promoting their self-titled new album. Uplifting beautiful stuff. Check out the link below.

They Might Be Giants: SWX Bristol

23.09.18: There have been many attempts over the years to categorise They Might Be Giants, a task akin to balancing on a set of shakey decorating ladders while attempting to nail jelly to a ceiling, so I’m not going to even attempt it here. All I can say is that if you take St. Peppers era Beatles, a bit of Beach Boys, some Liza Minnelli, Deep Purple riffs, Motown backbeats and the brass section from Earth Wind and Fire, place them in a tumble drier several times over a bright summers weekend. You might (just might) be lucky enough on one occasion to get the ingredients right and that is without the arduous challenge of blending in some of the wittiest lyrics being set to music today. Getting this right, of course, is a challenge for the musician. One slip, either way, can project the material into a smug self-righteous mess.

TMBG have found an odd relationship with my music collection. I adore their 1990 album Flood with its quirky set of songs, including the perfect pop tune Birdhouse in your Soul, sitting along the track Your Racist Friend, which coming from an American band seems quite an aptly timed anthem for their 45th President. Their music has popped up on TV shows like Malcolm In the Middle. They’ve written music for the Spongebob Square Pants, as well as winning two Grammy Award and nominated for a Tony Award for Best Original Score.

With 4 million records sales to their name, I’ve dipped into their catalogue along the way and I now find myself at the SWX venue Bristol to finally see Brooklyn’s very own and self-titled ambassadors of love perform live for the first time. TMBG are providing two sets tonight covering material from their back catalogue and forthcoming album. The evening is a storming success, full of humour, amazing musicians who are simply on top of their game and at ease with one another. The dubbing of Aerosmith/Run DMC’s video to Walk This Way is a particular fun treat! Check out dates for their remaining tour dates here as well as accessing band information, free downloads, etc. I heartly recommend you go see them live. If you don’t come out with a rye smile on your face and a spring in your step the next morning then you are in need of professional help.

 

Today I Stumbled Upon: Lensmen

The sound of Lensmen occupies a personal space in my musical adventures. A space between my adolescence youth and early 20s, which is bookended at one end by the demise of Jim Morrison (1971) and at the other end the tragic death of Ian Curtis (1980). The shadows of these creative geniuses are cast large over the Lensmen’s output, so far. This is not by any means a criticism given I have admiration for any band or artist who wears their influences on their sleeves. The challenge of course always remains if they can utilise these influences and navigate the rocks of not simply becoming a pale intimidation or at worse a tribute band. While its early days and some of the tracks on offer are naturally raw you can get a sense of fresh musical ideas fermenting away, often bleak, but similarly fragile. Dark, yes, but with the craft of lyricist Alan Hughes, they have an emerging talent who like the aforementioned bookends were able to inject humour into their dark landscape. If Lensmen are able to navigate the rocks I see an interesting journey lies ahead. Enjoy.

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