RIP Enigmatic Shenanigans. Goodbye y’all.
Seems weird posting here for the first time in an eternity, but if you read this - and indeed, if you supported the blog during its heyday - I just want to say thanks, you rock, but the party is officially over.
Enjoy your lives.
BRS 12: They love Manchester, Manchester loves them back.
Twice per tour.
Since 2008, I have pretty much made it a prerequisite to go and watch Blood Red Shoes play twice on every full-length UK tour they do. There are few better feelings than going out to several venues and watching your favourite band rock more than one crowd.
However, I knew I was going to possibly struggle to maintain this on this latest BRS go-round, their first full-length tour since Spring 2010 (I don’t count the dates they did in the autumn/winter that year because they only did three in the UK). So if last night’s Manchester show was truly going to be the only one I was going to be able to attend, I was going to make sure that I had a DAMN GOOD TIME.
The excitement actually started 24 hours earlier, with another pilgrimage to Preston to go and watch my friends Next Stop Atlanta in action, this time at the Rampage club night at Roper Hall.
Despite a few sound issues, they rocked it as usual, with Georgia (Peters, vocals) in particular confidently moving around the stage like she owned it. They were ably supported on the night by Manchester-based alternative rock band Leopards (despite the “technical issues”, I put that detail in especially for you Jenna!!!!), check out the video for their song Irony, another up-and-coming band worthy of your support.
As musical hors d’œuvre go, it was a great warm up for the main event. As per usual on a BRS show day, I woke up with a level of excitement unrivalled by a kid on Christmas Eve, counting down the hours. You know the feeling if you have something (or indeed someone) you love or at least passionately believe in.
Joined for a pre-gig meet up in nearby pub The Oxford by my friend and BRS partner-in-crime James Ether - and also by Nik Taylor, the guitarist, songwriter and “serious” quarter of Next Stop Atlanta - we chatted football and music against the backdrop of the FA Cup Final, with a patronage that was pro-Liverpool, surprising when you consider the city we were in, but there you go. Stranger things have happened.
Blood Red Shoes have over time worked their way up through the Manchester Academy venues. Early trips to Manchester saw me watch them play the smaller stages at Club Academy and Academy 3, and last night saw them headline the Academy 2 stage for the very first time. And the place was buzzing from the very beginning. Now I’ve been watching these guys play for a very long time, going back to the days when they would play for a handful of people, so it’s heartening to see them play to an ever-increasing fanbase. Just one step away from Academy 1, and when they finally make it, that is going to be one heck of a show.
Not that there was anything wrong with what I saw last night though. An early crowd presence meant that I was initially unable to take my place in the “office” position, but when four young gentlemen unexpectedly left their front row spots, I and a few other people wasted no time at all in claiming the vacated territory.
It was nice to see Academy 2 filling up to a high extent early on, there were certainly more people than I would have expected to see for the support band, but it would appear that they had their fans too. Now Blood Red Shoes are in a position where they personally handpick those who support them on tour, giving a chance to those up-and-coming bands that they really like. Doing the honours this time around were Dublin quartet The Cast Of Cheers, discovered by Laura-Mary (Carter, guitar/vocals) on a YouTube video.
As soon as TCOC were announced as main support, I decided to check them out, and I was immediately impressed by their video for Family. At the time, I described them as being like “early Foals on speed” (which is a compliment by the way), but I was truly sold when I watched this footage of them performing Auricom. They just look as if they have so much fun when on stage, which to me is an important thing. Take your work seriously, yes, but don’t take YOURSELVES too seriously. You’ll just look boring and morbid otherwise.
After engaging in a long quest to track down their debut album Chariot - originally distributed by the band for free on their bandcamp page - I was more than familiar with most of the songs they were going to play, as were another small section of the crowd it would appear. There were frequent shouts for specific songs to be played, and pretty much everything was granted, despite the band’s need to “obey the setlist”.
Personally, I took the attitude of going out to have a good time, as if the band were only playing to me, and I absolutely went for it, jumping up and down, swaying from side-to-side, singing along loudly to the likes of Family and Goose, and having a little “dance” (ALWAYS in quotations) while filming Animals and Auricom. From what I could see and hear, the crowd were quite appreciative of their efforts, but then again, that’s Manchester BRS crowds for you, very warm and welcoming. TCOC specifically said on stage that their remit was to get everyone warmed up for BRS, and I would say that they achieved this.
My comrades seemed to enjoy TCOC’s set too. Nik was very impressed, with James stating that he got into it more than he did on the two previous nights of the tour. (He also attended the London and Birmingham dates, but stated later that the Manchester leg was the best he’d seen everyone concerned play to that point.) It was great to enjoy the moment with friends. Sure, I would have rocked out hard on my own, but having the company was a wonderful thing.
Still, that was only the start. One of the best things about yesterday was that not even the stage changeovers seemed to be that long. Perhaps it’s just me being used to these things now, but the house crew and techs were very professional, and there was no feeling of impatience. The actual stage setup was very BRS. Now if you know anything at all about Laura and Steven (Ansell, drums/vocals), you will know that they are absolutely OBSESSED with all things David Lynch, and the stage was made up in a manner that tied in with Laura’s photography - found in the In Time To Voices album booklet - which in turn practically screams Twin Peaks back at you. All finished off with a colour of “blood red”, an obvious choice you might think, but not a theme they explore that often.
At this point, I made my now customary polite warning to those standing around me that I would be likely to act a little crazy. People smiled back in acknowledgement, but James probably gave that knowing glance, as he was the only one to that point who knew EXACTLY what was likely to happen.
October 7 2010 was the last time I watched Laura and Steve play. Prior to this, I had NEVER gone a whole calendar year without watching them play at least once. It couldn’t be helped this time around though, with them not touring and only playing a handful of festival dates, none of which I was able to attend. In the meantime, they created In Time To Voices, easily the most ambitious record they’ve made to this point.
And even though they’ve stated that there are some songs on ITTV that they will never play live, the increased confidence they gained from those sessions was there for all at Academy 2 to see. They came out to furious and vociferous applause, with Steve milking it as usual, and Laura smiling nervously. Miss Carter might cut a shy figure on stage at times, but there’s absolutely nothing timid about her guitar playing.
Opening song It’s Getting Boring By The Sea had the crowd rocking from the get go, the momentum maintained with Don’t Ask and first ITTV single Cold. I was completely gone from the opening bars of “Boring”, jumping around, banging my head furiously, initiating mass handclaps in the right places, and singing (more accurately, screaming) the words to pretty much all of the songs. Oh, I just loved having my “ha-ha” moment, with me singing along to almost all of the not-as-familiar album tracks (just got to work on Down Here In The Dark, only doing the “oh-oh-oh” accompaniment isn’t enough!!!!). When I did that back in the early days, I used to get people looking at me with strange glances, as if to say: “How in the FUCK does he know the words to that?!?!?!?!” Maybe they were doing it again last night too, but I was way past caring.
Fans of BRS old and new were well served, with songs from all three albums getting an airing. Old setlist mainstays Say Something, Say Anything and You Bring Me Down were seamlessly coupled with new songs such as In Time To Voices and forthcoming single Lost Kids.
Fire Like This certainly wasn’t ignored either. There was the obligatory “hands/lighters-in-the-air” moment with the Laura-led When We Wake, contrasting with the sheer belligerency of Heartsink. Steve called for some jumping action on Light It Up, but let’s be frank, given how loud and proud the chorus to that song is, he was merely stating the obvious.
Steve and Laura repeatedly praised the Manchester crowd during their talky bits in between songs, stating how they frequently enjoy playing around these parts, a feeling fully reciprocated by those in attendance. I have enjoyed watching those two mature on stage over the years, but the increasing crowds have also been heartening. Further proof that working hard, putting in the hard yards on the road and building up the fanbase is the way forward. Don’t believe everything the big labels and the Top 40 tell you.
(The previous three photos you saw were all taken by James and used with permission. Cheers fella.)
Other people were really going for it as well. I didn’t look behind me that often (save to check to see that James was okay, normally he gets bounced around a lot given his small stature, but he pretty much stayed in the same place all evening, a rare event), but I heard later that there was a bit of a moshpit going at one point, as well as the usual crowdsurfers. Always a bit of a weird thing coming to a BRS show and seeing barriers up, especially as the band themselves aren’t really too concerned about stage invasions (as long as you don’t unplug or damage their equipment). But I’d like to think that we in the crowd generated enough of a crazy atmosphere within the constraints.
After doing their usual “fake last song”, they left the stage with the crowd obviously wanting more. Upon their return, the three of them (Steve, Laura and Steve’s bottle of whisky, something that has become a cult phenomenon in its own right) played an encore consisting of the crowd-pleasing (and specially extended) I Wish I Was Someone Better and the epic Colours Fade. They left the stage shortly afterwards, but not without whipping the crowd into a final frenzy with the harsh, quick and brash Je Me Perds. The applause lasted for several moments afterwards, with everyone completely and suitably entertained.
I had a checklist before the events of the night. I expected to: act crazy (check), scream myself hoarse (check), sweat bucketloads (check, even though constantly wiping it from my eyes was mad yet hilarious at the same time), and have injured/aching body parts (check). Definitely achieved all of those, it wouldn’t have felt right otherwise.
(Just look at the sweat on that!!!!! Would have been worse if I wasn’t constantly wiping it away from my eyes.)
So after the gig came the comedy. First of all, I decided to hang back and watch people crowd the stage area in the hope of getting a setlist. It was funny as hell watching people jockeying for position trying to get close enough to get one. Equally funny was watching the tech guy roll one up in his hand, making to throw it out to the vultures, and then seeing the mass fight when he finally did. Another setlist ended up being claimed by two people, with the inevitable push-and-shove resulting in a ripped piece of paper. As for me, I just approached the person who caught the other setlist and politely asked if I could take a picture of it. Oh, to be mature.
(Encore tracks mentioned a few paragraphs back, surely I don’t have to mention them again!!!!!)
Part 2 of the comedy didn’t seem as funny last night, but the story will become funnier over time. With there being no official afterparty this time around, me and James decided to hang around the venue for a bit in hopes of meeting up with Steve and Laura (which wouldn’t have been a problem as they know who we are from previous gigs). So there we stood, near the exit and then the loading/unloading area. No sign of anyone. I even went over to Big Hands - the unofficial landing post for many bands following a gig at the Academy - to see if they’d given everyone the slip, but once again nothing. We then made what proved to be a crucial error in going back to the bar entrance, just SECONDS before they emerged from the door we were stood by. By the time we got back, it was too late, they’d already loaded up their van, ready to go.
If only we’d followed our hunches. Before we went back to the bar entrance, I saw a man emerging from a door with a guitar. I immediately thought that he might be connected with BRS, but I didn’t think to stop. Turned out that he was. And even earlier than that, James had the idea to hang around the student bar for a bit, but thought that they would have left to go somewhere else in town. Later on, he got a text from a friend telling him that BRS and the crew had all STAYED in the damn bar for at least an hour afterwards!!!! Ouch.
Any dejection we might have felt was eased shortly after this though. As we walked away to get some food, who should we meet a few yards away but members of The Cast Of Cheers!!!!!!! They recognised us from being on the front row, and they were very happy to see us getting into the music, with lead vocalist/guitarist Conor telling me (ME!!!!) that he was encouraged by my reaction to their set, and he was personally feeding off my enthusiasm. I can usually sense bullshit, but I believed that he was being sincere. Just goes to show that no matter how hard a band rocks on stage, THEY WILL ROCK EVEN HARDER if they get enough of a response from the crowd. That is pretty much true of every band I’ve seen.
In response, I told them about how I got into their music, especially how I tracked down Chariot, and which tracks I like from it (they had to remove it from bandcamp owing to the record deal they’ve since signed, but they had no issues at all about me finding an album that was originally released for free). I even showed them my Top 20 Contenders list, with Family on it, something they seemed to enjoy!!!!!
After that we were just talking all things music, the tour, future releases, the making of the Family video, the usual stuff. I definitely like the music of The Cast Of Cheers, but the guys behind the band are friendly, down-to-earth, engaging and it was great to spend some time in their company. Their second album comes out on July 23 in the UK, I think I might have to treat myself!!!!!
So, all in all, a great evening, one might say epic. Sure, Laura and Steve had their crazy moments on stage, most notably a verse of the song Keeping It Close that can only be described as being “interesting” (they kept going, but I think they might have chosen to do that one over if they could have done so), and they had to start Down Here In The Dark again because Laura started playing in the wrong key. But such trivial mishaps did absolutely nothing to spoil my night’s enjoyment. My still hoarse voice and strained neck are proof of this.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You know I love my live music, but there is NOBODY else out there who can make me feel the way I do when I watch Steven Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter play. Absolutely nothing wrong with being passionate about the music you love.
Twice per tour. If it comes down to it, I would be happy enough with what I saw last night. However, I cannot deny that the pull to go over to Leeds next Saturday for their Cockpit show has become even stronger, and I might just have to make this happen.
LG’s FIRST PLAY - Marina And The Diamonds - Electra Heart
Okay, here we go. Delayed for a couple of days because of being busy, I now have enough time on my hands to listen to this in full.
Let’s make one thing clear right from the start. I consider myself to be a HUGE fan of Miss Marina Diamandis. If Blood Red Shoes are my favourite band, she is most definitely my favourite solo artist. After being recommended to her by a friend back in early 2009, her music slowly grew on me at first, with the arrival of Mowgli’s Road proving to be the pivotal point of no return. The Family Jewels is an album I love, and I strongly admire the person behind it.
If you look back at Marina’s backstory, you will see a person without fear, a go-getter, a hard worker with ambition. She wasn’t a pretty face handpicked for stardom by some big record label, she’s grafted for everything she’s achieved to this point and is definitely an inspiration to me. Always intelligent and articulate in interviews, and she also has a deep understanding of what she wants to achieve with each album she puts out.
She seems to have taken a lot of people off guard with her latest work though. Ever since Radioactive dropped towards the end of last summer, there has been noticable uproar. What has she done? Why so much production? “We want the old Marina back!!!!!” they cried. A lot of naysayers saw someone who looked to be on the verge of selling out.
However, those who didn’t resort to knee-jerk reactions actually bothered to do their research, and tried to gain an understanding of what Marina was trying to achieve this time around. Second album Electra Heart sees Marina playing the character of ‘Electra Heart’, a cold-hearted, callous femme fatale who doesn’t care who she hurts. (She explains it much better than I can, try looking here and here.)
Yet so many people don’t seem to get it. I’ve seen reviews where people describe EH as being some kind of an alter-ego, with Marina being at pains to point out that this ISN’T the case. Other reviews see the whole work as a step back, clearly putting it in “Difficult Second Album”™ territory. Others have attacked what they claim to be a lack of originality.
Doesn’t bode well, does it? No matter, I’ll let my own ears do the judging as usual. Outside influences are dismissed as always, and now it’s finally time to press Play.
(Let me make it clear that I am listening to the Deluxe edition of the album, and I will offer an instant opinion on all 16 tracks.)
And the head is already nodding hard to the opener, Bubblegum Bitch. And it’s a hard-hitting opener that takes no prisoners. You definitely find out about the intentions of EH from the get-go.
On to current single, #2 Primadonna. I thought it was okay when I first heard it, and I suppose I’m still indifferent about it today, but only from a production standpoint, a little too sugary I suppose. Even though the subject matter is anything but. This Electra Heart character is really vile: “I know I’ve got a big ego/I really don’t know why it’s such a big deal though”. But yet, there’s still some kind of sick appeal to it all. A happy song this is not, the perfect antithesis to the empty material purporting to be pop these days.
The pace is more laid back on track three, Lies. Actually, this one works better if you step away from the concept for a little bit. The lyrics paint the tale of what appears to be a rubbish relationship (“You’re too proud to say that you made a mistake/You’re a coward ‘til the end”), but the chorus sees Marina - okay, sorry Electra - maybe wanting to fix things? (“Don’t wanna know, don’t wanna know/I can’t let you, can’t let you go”). I like it, piano and bass work well, loving the laid-back groove.
And now on to #4, Top 20 Contender Homewrecker!!!!!! Ever since Marina gave it away as a free download a few weeks ago, I have been in love with this track, more so than the offical single Primadonna. And the lyric of “Girls and ther curls and their gourmet vomit/Boys and their toys and their six inch rockets” is just too damn hilarious.
Save for one track (Obsessions), previous album The Family Jewels didn’t discuss love. But the negative aspects of it are fully explored on EH, continuing with the fifth track, Starring Role. Have to stress though that this isn’t done in a whiny fashion, the themes discussed come across as being quite powerful. This track overall has a power ballad feel to it, but it isn’t really. That probably didn’t make sense, just have to listen to it for it to become clear.
Marina’s vocals come to the fore on #6 - The State Of Dreaming. For all of the whiners who don’t like the fact that she’s trying something different with her music, I would say on first listen that this is the first track on the EH LP that could sit comfortably with her previous work. I think it’s okay, not mindblowing on first listen, but I have a feeling that I might like it more over time.
Electra starts to bite again on #7 - Power & Control. I was thinking that the whole song points to their being some kind of emotional tug-of-war, before the confirmation came in the chorus (“Women and men, we are the same/But love will always be a game/We give and take a little more/Eternal game of tug and war”). Musically, I like the beat, not as much head-shaking going on at the moment, but only because I’m trying my best to concentrate and analyse what I’m listening to.
The best thing about Marina’s vocals is that is doesn’t matter whether she’s accompanying herself on piano, or if some top producer’s beats are propelling her along, they always shine through, and her distinctive tone leaves the listener in no doubt that it’s her. You hear this quite clearly on track eight, Living Dead. Greg Kurstin is on the controls here, and the beat he lays down compliments Marina well. But going back into Electra mode, could it be that some of her insecurities come out in this track? Seems like it. One of my favourites so far.
“I wanna be a bottle blonde/I don’t know why but I feel conned…I want blood, guts and chocolate cake/I wanna be a real fake.” Hmmm, VERY interesting way to start #9 - Teen Idle. Not the kind of thing you’d hear Britney or Rihanna or Katy singing, huh? You can tell that Marina (as Electra) has worked hard on this from a lyrical point of view. And it’s nice to be listening to what is every bit a concept album. Another winner for me.
And I love the start to #10 - Valley Of The Dolls. Don’t know how significant this is, but this is the first previously unheard track on the album where I’ve had a little dance in my chair as I type. It’s a song with a “happy beat”, but with lyrics that discuss heartbreak and despair. Something of a Crying Blood moment if you will. I bet there’s a lot of people who hate this track, but I love the obvious contradiction. Three tracks in a row that I really like.
About 40 seconds into #11, and it’s clear to me that Hypocrates is another track that would sit well with early material from a production standpoint. I actually stopped writing for a few seconds to take it in. I interpret the lyrics as being an emotional battle of wills within a relationship. Musically, it’s a grower, but I like the themes that have been explored.
And now on to the final track of the standard edition, #12 - Fear And Loathing. This was actually the very first track from the EH sessions that Marina released to the world. I remember a lot of people at the time preferring this to Radioactive, probably because they couldn’t embrace change, perhaps, but this track has element of beauty to it nontheless. The accompanying video at the time saw something of a metamorphosis, with a visual representation of Marina transforming into the Electra Heart character. This track is the longest and deepest here, and it is going to take me a LOT of listens to truly figure out, but those who know me well know that I enjoy this type of challenge.
Well, it’s “press the red button to see more” time, as I now go on to the bonus tracks that make up the Deluxe edition, and it’s an old favourite. #13 - Radioactive - was the track that wound up so many people last year. HOW DARE MARINA TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT!!!!!! I wasn’t bothered though. I embraced it, and it ended up becoming one of my Top 20 tracks of 2011 after it entered my head and just refused to go away. Not included on the standard edition after Marina decided that it didn’t completely fit the Electra Heart concept, it’s still a fine tune though.
#14 - Sex Yeah - grabs your attention from the beginning. A get-up-and-go beat, aligned to lyrics from Marina which hit close to the bone, a kind of social commentary where she highlights that nobody is shocked at anything they see these days because it’s all been done before.
Lonely Hearts Club, number fifteen, starts off slow, and then just jumps into action, as if it’s running around an athletics track. This track would definitely be the audible representation of an eccentric person with ADHD and multiple idiosyncrasies.
The album comes to a close with Buy The Stars. It sounds as if it just her singing and playing the piano, and no doubt there will be some early Marina fans who will latch on to this with some kind of sick glee, saying “This is the Marina we wanted all along!!!!!!!!” Sod them, let them be stuck in 2009. That said, this is a fine track. I’m not really going deeply into the lyrics on this first listen, just enjoying the general vibe of the whole thing.
All done, and it would appear to me that people have been way too emotive when writing off Marina with their negative reviews. Even though she has been pretty transparent throughout the whole time that she has publically discussed the album, too many people STILL DON’T GET IT. I haven’t heard anything on this album that has put me off. Sure, there are some grower tracks, and others will need several listens in order for them to be completely deciphered, but as mentioned earlier, I like a challenge.
This is an album, but it plays out like a short film. Even though Marina produced a series of short films on her YouTube channel in the run-up to Electra Heart’s release, I could see a scenario where every single track on the standard edition of the album could be turned into a music video and pieced together.
People will continue to denounce her, and long for the Family Jewels era Marina, but those who are open-minded enough and actually understand what she was trying to achieve will be the ones who will enjoy it the most. It’s not an easy listen in places, but why should everything be handed to the listener on a plate? Put in the work, and reap the benefits.
Electra Heart was one of the albums released in 2012 that I was expecting a lot from, and Marina Diamandis has not disappointed me at all. I know she has promo and a tour and festival appearances to come, but even as I enjoy what I have and what is to come, I really cannot wait to see and hear what she comes up with next.
Initial standout tracks: (out of the ones I hadn’t already heard) Bubblegum Bitch, Living Dead, Teen Idle, Valley Of The Dolls (from the standard edition tracks), Sex Yeah (from the deluxe edition tracks).
You know the last part, but I’m going to write it anyway: Category 1.
LEO RECOMMENDS - The Tea Street Band
The best thing about this piece is that I’m going to let a lot of other well-written pieces do the talking for me in places. I first came to the attention of the Liverpool five-piece last November, when they supported Tom Vek at The Masque. I was quite impressed by their ability to make you dance with their tunes - or at least think about it - and I was definitely looking for an opportunity to watch them again at some point.
But don’t take my word for it. The Tea Street Band have been heavily championed by The Anfield Wrap, where the title alone should be enough to tell you that all things Liverpool are covered within their remit. Still, their support of TTSB is in no way biased and/or unjustified, and their interview with the band is a good place to start to learn more about them.
At this stage, I would say that my favourite TTSB song is Push The Feeling On. This was the track that impressed me the most when I first saw them play, it had me as the sole dancer amongst a section of people just standing there trying to look cool. Tracks such as Disco Lights and Look On Your Face are also crowd pleasers.
However, I now want to talk about their first official release. Fiesta - an instrumental track which might suggest summer vibes to some, but really is at home being played at any time of the year - is available now on limited edition 12” vinyl and CD, with a digital release soon to follow. I would say that it’s the kind of track which rewards the listener the more they listen to it, and it’s definitely the kind of track that can make any playlist sound cooler.
It is backed by Summer Dreaming, which in all honesty should get you at least head-nodding from the moment you hear those opening synths, and by the time Timo Tierney’s vocals kick in, you may well be hooked. The Kooky remix of the same track gives some wonderful added value.
But once again, don’t take my word for it. First of all, when you read this review of Fiesta by Hayley Fox as found at the Never Enough Notes e-zine, you will see that support for TTSB in many places is already there. Secondly, if you haven’t clicked ‘Play’ on the video above that I shot of them performing Fiesta at a venue in Manchester, what are you waiting for? And while you’re at it, you might as well watch them performing Push The Feeling On as part of the same set.
And if somehow none of that convinces you, why not read this live review by John Robb (a man who knows a thing or two about music) of a recent awards ceremony in Liverpool in which TTSB were one of the nominees? His opinions on the band definitely HAVE to be read.
This is a band that have plenty going for them, and why not get involved with them at this early stage? Who knows, you could be one of those “cool” people who can correctly claim that you were there when they were on the rise.
LEO RECOMMENDS - Jesca Hoop - Born To
There’s a chance that you might not have heard of Californian singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop. Now is the time to change this.
She first came to my attention last summer when I was looking for a gig to go to on a random Saturday in August. By the time I left Band On The Wall that evening, she had gained a new fan, what with her earnest vocal delivery, deep lyrics which easily veer between personal and fantasy, and her ability to keep a crowd hanging on her every word with her amusing anecdotes in between songs. If you’re looking for something challenging as well as entertaining, look no further.
Championed early in her career by Elbow’s Guy Garvey (who encouraged her to move right here to Manchester no less!!!!!) and by no less than a certain Tom Waits (fans of the legend have noted the influence in her music), her EPs and full-length releases Kismet and Hunting My Dress are definitely worth checking out.
June 25 sees the release of third LP, The House That Jack Built. And as an early treat, Jesca made the first single - Born To - available as a free download from her website. And I can honestly say that it has been played on repeat since I downloaded it, easily joining the ranks of the Contenders.
So go on, give it a play, and if you like it, why not head over to her website, get your own copy and enjoy everything else that’s on offer there? If there’s any justice, 2012 deserves to be the year that Jesca Hoop makes the transition from being a best-kept secret to a name that is on the lips of several people.
I’m in one of those moods where I just want to produce plenty of content for the blog right now, and after finishing my latest big feature, I just have to bring this band to your attention.
I first came across up-and-coming Manchester band G.R.I.M at a show a couple of weeks ago. They describe their style as being ‘experimental’, and there is plenty to come from them. I particularly like their creative use of melody and their unorthodox time signatures.
Watching these guys live at some point is a must, but for now, here’s their latest video, as shot for them by Fallout Productions.
‘2’ Official Music Video of GRIM (by falloutarts)
Top 10 live music venues I’ve been to so far. Part 4: Number 1
Yo, whassup!!!!!!!! Did you REALLY check out all of the other three parts in full and come back here for more? If so, you are deserving of a big THANK YOU, your interest and support means a lot.
So the anthology/scrapbook thing that I’ve made has almost reached its conclusion, but not before I talk about and share personal memories of a venue that I love with all of my heart. I’ve gone all out with this one, there is a LOT of content here, please read/view if you have some time on your hands. Or you can come back whenever you want, it’s not going anywhere!!!!!
And the venue at the top of the list? Well, it could be no other, those who known me long enough to know my gig habits well would agree that I could choose no other…
1. The Leadmill, Sheffield
6-7 Leadmill Road, Sheffield S1 4SE. Words CAN describe just how much the venue found at this address means to me, but I will still struggle to do it justice. Even though it has been quite a while since I was last within its walls, it still holds the record for the most amount of gigs that I’ve been to at any one venue. Unsurprisingly, I used to refer to this venue as being “my second home”, and the train I used to journey on between Sheffield and Worksop as being “my other living room”.
I can still remember the routine religiously now. Leave my old flat in Worksop and walk to the train station. Catch train and ride the route that was to become very familiar. Rejoice upon arrival in Sheffield. Walk the very short distance from the station entrance to Leadmill Road. Enjoy the gig and then walk (or run) back to the station to catch the last train back to Worksop (2244, early I know, but like I said before, Worksop was “interesting”). Lost count of the amount of times I did that.
But enough about me for now. In terms of size, The Leadmill is just perfect. The room with the main stage isn’t massively huge to feel as if you’re in some kind of cavern, yet it isn’t too small either. The kind of size where any band/artist performing shouldn’t be afraid to shine. Head next door to the room with the Steel Stage, dedicated to giving bands on the way up a chance to shine. Whenever that room was full, it had one heck of an atmosphere.
Going to The Leadmill so many times definitely had a positive impact on my “gig education”. I learnt how to handle myself in both quiet and rowdy crowds, how to survive a moshpit (and how to be the agressor if I so desired!!!!), and how to dodge crowd surfers (even though I used to, shall we say, “have fun” with them in the early days) amongst other things. As mentioned earlier, I was here a lot, especially during May 2008. In a month of highlights when I was out for 17 nights out of 31, 12 of those were spent at The Leadmill, including one on each successive night for a whole WEEK!!!!!
Even though I’m now settled and happy living here in Manchester, I still haven’t been to a venue on this side of the Pennines that comes anywhere close to the level of affection I have for The Leadmill. And if I do go anywhere that is able to surpass it and become my number one venue, that place is going to have to be something quite exceptional indeed.
Of course I’m not going to choose just one gig highlight, so enjoy the show and share in some of my memories, once again in chronological order:
New Young Pony Club, May 29 2007
This gig marked my first visit to the future holy grail. I had in fact seen NYPC play two days earlier at that year’s Dot-To-Dot Festival, but I decided to buy a ticket for this gig in any case as I thought that their set was going to clash with another band I wanted to see.
I just remember getting there so early that I had time to venture around Sheffield city centre for the first time, walking as I did in one direction and ending up at Bramall Lane!!!!! But I returned in time to see NYPC deliver a crowd pleasing set, with singer Tahita Bulmer bossing the stage as if she was an Iggy Pop wannabe. Also playing that night were New York band Holy Hail.
It was a while before I started bringing my camera to gigs, so no snaps for this one. I did however find a very short clip from that night of NYPC performing Hiding On The Staircase.
Gallows, June 11 2007
Simply put, if you only go to one Gallows show in your life, you will DEFINITELY remember it. About as crazy and violent as you can imagine, with moshpits breaking out all over the place. When Gallows came on, it was somewhat remarkable that I was able to get to the front, and remain there for the entire set. One thing I vividly remember is their bass player falling over at one point right over me, with his four-stringer stuck to my face for several seconds. Good times.
Once again, no photos of this crazy night, but here’s some footage from the night of In The Belly Of A Shark, and a funny clip of then frontman Frank Carter telling the crowd exactly what he thinks of them.
Kate Nash, July 23 2007
I remember this one for several reasons. It was the first gig I went to following the horrific flooding that happened a few days earlier in the area. With an embankment on the train line destroyed and out of action for what would turn out to be three months, I had to take a replacement bus to Sheffield. Taking no chances, I arrived there early - about an hour-and-a-half before doors - to find a massive queue already, and by the time the doors finally opened, the queue had grown to such an extent that it had doubled back on itself several times, like a human snake spiralling out of control. To that point, I’d never seen anything like it.
But it all made for a good environment inside. At that point, Made Of Bricks was about a month or so away from being released, but you wouldn’t have known it, judging from the amount of diehard fans who, even at that early point, knew all the words to her songs. A fun evening that I really do remember as if it was yesterday.
(Footage of Kate and everyone in the crowd having a good singalong to Foundations can be found here. I particularly love the face she pulls when she slightly messes up the spoken part of the first verse.)
Hadouken!, September 29 2007
What, Hadouken!????? Could I really have been that serious about wanting to watch them? Well, before I’m accused by some of having lost my marbles, they sounded good to my ears at that time, and I have no regrets at all about going along to check them out.
However, with there being so many youngsters there, it felt like being in a crèche at times. I stood as far back as possible for this one, whilst reminding myself that I was THERE FOR THE MUSIC.
And yes, I felt as if Hadouken! delivered. Worth all of the largely NME-generated hype at the time? Probably not, but they still put on a good show. I particularly enjoyed their performances of Get Smashed Gate Crash and Mister Misfortune. And of course the crowd went absolutely WILD for That Boy That Girl.
Good support bands too in Late Of The Pier and The Whip, both of whom I’ve subsequently seen as headliners. No photos for this one, as my phone battery had run out. If you really want to find some footage/snaps of this night, I’m pretty sure you can find what you want if you search hard enough.
The Rifles - October 5 2007
This was one of those nights where I wish that I could have been in two places at the same time. I’d booked my ticket for this one several months in advance, only to find out later that Maxïmo Park were playing down the road at Doncaster Dome on the same night. Quality band, but I was more interested in who was supporting them. Yeah, you guessed it, Blood Red Shoes.
So it was a good job then that what I DID see at the Leadmill that night lived up to expectations. The crowd were warmed up brilliantly by Jersey Budd - another artist out there who more people should be aware of - and people were just going completely mental during The Rifles’ set. At times, it felt more like a football atmosphere, with loud and raucous chants in between songs. Crazy.
Blood Red Shoes - January 31 2008
The night of BRS 4 was definitely one to remember. It all started with meeting two people outside the venue, both of whom have since become good friends. Once inside, the action took place on the smaller Steel Stage. This was around the time when Blood Red Shoes were starting to sell out venues on a regular basis, and the Sheffield crowd on that night did them proud.
Support bands Dark Sparks and Lovvers both did a decent job I felt, even if those around me didn’t seem to be as enthusiastic at that point. Oh well, you’re going to be in those kinds of crowds from time to time, and at least they woke up in time for the headliners.
At one point, Steve came out into the crowd whilst the stage was being set up. We’d only established contact via e-mail a few months earlier, but at that point we knew enough about each other to have a quick conversation, much to the bemusement of one person stood next to me. The look on his face was priceless.
But once he and Laura took to the stage, things became crazy, boisterous, and noisy. And that was just me. Seriously though, everyone got behind them and gave them great support as they played a set largely consisting of songs that would feature on their debut album Box Of Secrets. A particularly memorable moment came at the end with a stage invasion during ADHD.
Later on, with most of the crowd hanging around the main stage area, Laura and Steve came out to sign autographs and take pictures. It was at that point that I - along with my two new friends Andy and Ian - got to meet them properly. I asked Laura about what inspired her unforgettable design for the I Wish I Was Someone Better 7”, she laughed at the memory before telling me. And I’ll never forget the conversation we had with Steve later, when he discussed the album plans, and what he hoped to achieve within the music industry. Very articulate and insightful. I know that at times he winds people up with some of his opinions on music, but I’d rather someone who speaks their mind as opposed to one who sits on the fence. But yes, another fantastic night.
(A short clip of BRS performing their song Take The Weight can be found here. You shouldn’t have to strain your eyes too hard to see me in it!!!!!!!)
Los Campesinos! - February 17 2008
Proving that yes, they really do employ a bunch of idiots from time-to-time at NME, one of their hacks once described Los Campesinos! as what “Arcade Fire would sound like if they forgot everything and had to start again from scratch”. To each their own I suppose, but I felt as if such “reporting” was very irresponsible.
My interest in the music of LC! started with the Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP and probably peaked with the release of Hold On Now, Youngster. But the time in between was definitely fun, and an opportunity to catch them live was a must.
They were supported on the night by a young, experimental band called ultCult - playing only their fourth gig as a band to that point - and also by Birmingham trio Johnny Foreigner, who I saw for the first time. Both did well.
The Leadmill stage is a decent size, but even I wondered how all seven of them (at that time the original lineup of Gareth, Tom, Aleks, Neil, Ellen, Harriet and Ollie) PLUS their equipment would fit happily. But it worked, and in retrospect you have to consider that they would have been used to that by now.
They songs they played that night went down well with the crowd, interspersed with entertaining banter and anecdotes from Gareth, who at one point expressed joking mock horror at the actions of one gentleman who admitted to downloading a leaked copy of their album (“You’re going to hell with the rest of us!!!!!”). But it was all in good fun, and I had a great time, even if my predetermined goal of trying to get my photo taken with all seven of them in the same shot came woefully short.
Lightspeed Champion - May 3 2008
The first of two highlights from the previously mentioned glorious month of May 2008. This was one of those gigs where I had to skillfully manoeuvre through the crowd towards the exit door during the last song, all in order to run to the station upon completion so as not to miss the last train back to Worksop!!!!!! It amazes me to this day how I never missed one in all the times I had to do it.
But what I heard in the run-up to that moment was quite good. Support on the night came from Australian five-piece Operator Please (lead singer/guitarist Amandah Wilkinson cut a confident figure on stage, but wore a face throughout which suggested that she’d fuck you up in a moment’s notice if you looked at her the wrong way), and the impressively titled “Ox. Eagle. Lion. Man.”
Of course the loudest cheers were reserved for Devonté Hynes and the talented musicians that made up his backing band at the time. Drawing on a set dominated by tracks from the album Falling Off The Lavender Bridge, I remember Galaxy Of The Lost and Tell Me What It’s Worth being quite well received, and I was very pleased to hear Everyone I Know Is Listening To Crunk in particular. A great night.
The Ting Tings - May 23 2008
Okay, this was my schedule on this particular day. Early wakeup after a few hours sleep after being at The Leadmill the night before to watch Canadian band The Most Serene Republic. Travel by train to Nottingham. Find my hotel for the weekend (I was in town for that year’s Dot-To-Dot Festival). Check-in and get ready for the gig activity. Return to Nottingham train station to make the journey over to Sheffield. Go to The Leadmill for the gig. Hang around Sheffield city centre for a few hours at the finish. Catch the last train back to Nottingham. Walk two miles back to hotel and collapse in heap on my bed. Just a normal day really.
Crazy logistics, but I pulled it off. And I had a fun time watching The Ting Tings do their thing on that night. I know it might be considered unfashionable by some to like them, but I say to heck with that. I connected with their music and admired their backstory, in particular their determination to rebuild and crack on after they were effectively left for dead by the music industry in their previous incarnation.
In a way, this was the perfect culmination to my week of gigs at this venue that I talked about earlier. With a party atmosphere encouraged and maintained by support band Modernaire (what in the world ever happened to them, if they’re still going they have been quiet for what seems like forever!!!!), Katie and Jules came out and delivered a stonking set consisting of extended versions of songs from We Started Nothing. The loudest cheers and dancing were reserved for Shut Up And Let Me Go, and of course That’s Not My Name. I left that night feeling thoroughly entertained.
Michael Franti & Spearhead - August 19 2008
1996 was the year when I first got into the music of Spearhead, the musical project fronted by Michael Franti. The fusion of hip-hop, soul, rock and reggae proved to be an irresistable combination, and Chocolate Supa Highway and Stay Human are two albums that I recommend without hesitation if you fancy something a little different.
After finding out that they were playing The Leadmill, I couldn’t buy a ticket quickly enough. And what a show. Playing a headline set of over TWO HOURS (damn!!!!!), Franti’s message of peace, love and unity through the power of music repeatedly came to the fore. And there was plenty of dancing too. Unfortunately, I had to leave just before the end so that the train wouldn’t miss me, but this still rates as one of the best headline sets I’ve ever seen.
The Kills - November 8 2008
Getting there and back had something of a regimented feel to it. I distinctly remember travelling to Sheffield with the same people who were on the return train to Worksop, our respective evenings prematurely halted by our collective needs to be on a train at a quarter to pissing ELEVEN. But mustn’t grumble too much, at least I had the opportunity to escape Worksop frequently, given that it wasn’t completely in the middle of nowhere.
I remember there being an air of intensity in The Leadmill that night, expectant is definitely the word I would use to describe to the mood of the crowd. But I don’t think anyone was too disappointed at what transpired. Given their minimalist onstage setup, any potential mishaps by Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart would have been severely magnified. However their onstage chemistry was evident and there for all to see, and a set consisting mainly of then new album Midnight Boom was well received. I did like it though when they dipped into No Wow and played The Good Ones, the song that introduced me to the music of The Kills in the first place. That was one of my final gigs at The Leadmill during my time living in Worksop, and it was memorable for the right reasons.
And on that note, I’m done. If you read all of that and you somehow didn’t get the level of love and emotion I have for The Leadmill - and for all of the the great times I had there - there is no hope.
But I sincerely hope that wasn’t the case. Thank you so much for reading, and for getting an insight into my world. There are many more pieces to read and discover on my blog, with plenty of content waiting to escape my head in order to be published. So please, stick around, and indulge yourself from time-to-time. You’re always welcome.
Top 10 live music venues I’ve been to so far. Part 3: Number 2
Wow, we really must stop meeting like this. Seriously though, thanks for stopping by again and checking out this, the penultimate part of my crazy anthology/scrapbook type thing. I hope you’re enjoying it so far, but now things are going to get really crazy as I talk at length and share plenty of memories about the runner-up place on this list, a venue I hold very close to my heart.
2. Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
For various reasons, the city of Nottingham is special to me. I always enjoy visiting, and when I used to live around 30 miles to the north in an “interesting” town called Worksop, I always used to hate leaving Nottingham to return. The city also played an important part in what I call my “gig education”, as a lot of the venues I went to in the early days of doing what I do are located here.
And when you think of venues in Nottingham, most people tend to think about Rock City. And yes, it’s a fine venue, even if it does seem to attract unruly crowds at times. Others might not be able to see past Nottingham Arena. But for me, even though it’s been a long time since I was last there, my favourite venue in Nottingham will always be Rescue Rooms.
It all starts with the walk over to Masonic Place in the city centre, strolling past the Stealth club, and taking care not to slip on the wooden slope leading up to RR (especially if it had been raining). Evil I know, but I never failed to laugh when I saw people getting confused by the two doors at the front, wondering which door was the correct one to go through, and then once they made their choice, they would more often than not push the door instead of pulling, and walk straight into it!!!!!! Experience definitely counted for something with that one…
But once inside the room with the main stage, it has the feel of being on the ground floor of someone’s (really large) house, with a bar to the left and a staircase to the balcony and smaller Red Room to the right. Well, that’s the way I’ve always seen it. And this venue was definitely the birthplace of “front row, left side”. A little in-joke for those in the know, ask about it if you’re really that bothered.
You can probably tell from the detail I’ve given that I have so much love for this place. It’s been a very long time since I was back in the “Lace City”, but no future visit will see me fail to see the inside of Rescue Rooms once again. So many positive memories.
Gig highlight: So many to choose from.
Sorry, I cannot choose just one here. If you have time, indulge yourself in my photo gallery of variable quality, as I present my personal highlights at this venue in chronological order
Foals, October 4 2007
After being blown away by their Rock City set at Dot-To-Dot Festival earlier in the year, I went back to Nottingham to see them play the tracks that would end up on Antidotes. This gig was also notable for being the first time that I saw Metronomy, back when they were a three-piece with the push button lights.
Blood Red Shoes, March 28 2008
No surprise to see these two here then. BRS 5 coincided with their second UK tour of the year, this one being their official album tour for Box Of Secrets, which at that time was just weeks away from being released. Blurry shots of L-M and Steve, I know (yes, you’re right, I couldn’t keep still), but how about watching this clip of them in action on the night instead? Also playing that night was the band known at the time as Peggy Sue and the Pirates, and it was also my second time watching Birmingham trio Johnny Foreigner.
The Subways, March 29 2008
24 hours later at the same venue saw The Subways do their thing, and it was about as wild and rowdy as you would expect it to be. The highlight of the night had to be watching Billy climb up the steps to the balcony during Rock & Roll Queen, and launch himself into the crowd below as if it was nothing. Also playing on the night were Cage The Elephant.
Ladyhawke/Santogold, May 24-25 2008 (as part of Dot-To-Dot Festival)
I saw Ladyhawke do her thing for the first time at Rescue Rooms. This was a perfect example of a talented artist being made to look bad by shoddy in-house sound production. A shame really, and I hope that people who saw her that day didn’t think that she was shit as a result. A little over 24 hours later, I made sure that I made it back to the venue early enough to get a prime viewing location to watch the artist then known as Santogold (right before some uppity jeweller that nobody cares about made her alter her stage name). A wise decision, as RR was totally packed out prior to the start of her set (thanks in part to the rising hype about her), and there had to be loads of disappointed people turned away at the doors. It was a fun set, very enjoyable, powerful vocals and the dance moves to match.
Black Kids, July 2 2008
Ah yes, 2008, the year I discovered Jacksonville five-piece Black Kids. To be honest, this gig is memorable for the wrong reasons. Bad organisation on the day meant that BK didn’t take the stage until a really late time, leaving me with no choice but to leave early in order not to miss the last bus back to Worksop. Still, what I did see was enjoyable enough, and the happy ending came a few months later when I saw them play an absolutely stonking set just down the road at Trent University Student Union.
Gabriella Cilmi, October 11, 2008
Horrible picture I know, so why not watch my video of her performing Sweet About Me instead? You might find other videos on YouTube that I posted from the night as well. She’s definitely a good performer with a maturity beyond her years, there were times during her set that you completely forgot that she had celebrated only her 17th birthday the day before.
CSS, October 13, 2008
It’s always fun watching these guys, especially Lovefoxxx prancing around the stage and crowd whilst wearing some crazy outfit. Everyone appeared to be having a good time anyway.
Laura Marling, November 4 2008
On this day on the other side of the Atlantic, they were preparing to elect a new President. I prefer to remember this night as being the one where a shy Laura Marling had an entire crowd hanging on her every word, lyric and note. Such an amazing “you had to be there” moment. I have many videos of the night (including one where a certain gentlemen in the crowd got VERY excited during the introduction to Ghosts, look for it), but here’s one of her and her band performing My Manic And I.
Ida Maria, November 22 2008
After catching Norweigan songstress Ida Maria play a short set at Trent Uni earlier in the year, I made certain to watch her play again upon her return to Nottingham. She definitely smashed it. This was also notable for being the first time I watched V V Brown do her thing. A great performer, and it’s almost criminal that she’s not as well known in this country as she should be.
So there you have it. A fond recollection of some my favourite memories at my favourite Nottingham venue comes to a close. My enjoyment of compiling this piece will only be bettered by my enthusiasm to show off the venue that I’ve chosen to top this list. That will be coming soon, but for now, thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed all three parts so far!!!!!!!!!
Top 10 live music venues I’ve been to so far. Part 2: Numbers 6-3
Hello again you lovely people. I really hope you enjoyed the first instalment of this mini-feature. (Read it here if you haven’t done so yet.) Time to crack on with the next bit, but a quick reminder that all starred photos are subject to me using some words in a legal capacity. (Look, I can’t afford a solicitor and the possibility of representing myself and paying my own costs will just kill me, alright?!?!?! So please indulge me.)
6. Mad Ferret, Preston
My visits to Preston to see a certain band have been well documented, but what additionally helps to makes things worthwhile is a visit to the “Ferret”, another venue for up-and-coming bands to cut their teeth in. I just like the venue’s homely feel, and the numerous posters and paintings which adorn the walls.
Gig highlight: Next Stop Atlanta, September 13 2011
All things considered, my favourite NSA gig to this point has to be the fundraiser they put on ahead of their trip down south to record the tracks that made up their mini-album ‘The Things You Do Best’. It was just a magical evening, with them playing the longest set I’ve seen them do to this point.
5. The Cockpit, Leeds
I have much love for this venue. Located conveniently underneath the approach to Leeds train station, you’re just a few minutes away from the live music, and close enough to run for the last train home!!!!!! The venue has three rooms, but my favourite is the main one with a capacity of around 500, a sellout gig definitely has a great atmosphere to be a part of.
Gig highlight: Little Boots + Heartbreak, November 28 2008
There are other gigs I’ve attended here that could stake a claim to being recognised, but I’m choosing this one simply because I wasn’t supposed to be there. I already had another ticket for another gig on that night in Sheffield, but 24 hours earlier I received an e-mail from the promoter stating that it was going to be postponed. One phone call and a few clicks of the mouse later, and I was on my way to Leeds.
And it was an enjoyable night, highlighting everything that is cool about synth-based music. It was fun to watch Little Boots in particular do her thing at a time just before things “blew up” for her.
4. Academy 3, Manchester
Now I could have chosen Manchester Academy as a whole, but each of the four venues under the banner has its own unique feel and generates its own atmosphere. Academy 3 is located within the Student Union, the building you see above, on the third floor. A bit of a climb with the steps, but it’s worth it.
Even though the stage is quite high up in there, it still has an intimate feel mainly owing to the fact that barriers are almost never employed, and the security staff tend to be a little more relaxed.
Gig highlight: Blood Red Shoes, October 16 2008
(A quick word about the top two photos in this section. Obviously they weren’t shot by me, but by a photographer (whose name I sadly cannot remember) who had to do his work in the midst of a crowd that were annoyed by his presence. Those shots were given to me via e-mail as a gift from him the next day after I let him stand in front of me to take some snaps. As I’ve said before, if you’re nice to people, good things can often happen as a result!!!!!!)
I was never going to choose anything but BRS 7 for this particular highlight. Even now, I can remember the craziness of that night as if it was yesterday. This was in fact the second night in a row that I had watched them, Rolo Tomassi and French band 1984 do their thing, and even though the Leeds crowd I was a part of were enthusiastic enough, the Manchester crowd really went for it, particularly when Steve and Laura played I Wish I Was Someone Better. This was an important period for me personally as well, as it was the next day that I started to seriously consider the possibility of moving to Manchester, something that I eventually did three months later.
3. King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
(The last picture is there to highlight the fact that when it comes to curfews on live music in Scotland, the authorities are nowhere near as uptight and as unreasonable as their counterparts in England!!!!!!!)
Of all of the places I could have chosen to go to for my first gigs north of the border, I’m glad I chose King Tut’s, one of the best small venues I have been blessed to see the inside of.
A very important venue on the gig circuit for bands on the way up in Scotland, and many English bands have chosen this venue for their first Scottish show. I went there during the year the venue celebrated its 21st anniversary, and the exhibition they had going on detailing all of the highlights was something to behold. All of the good things that you’ve heard about this place are true, and if you’re a lover of live music, it’s definitely worth going there for a visit at least once in your life.
Gig Highlight: Summer Nights Festival, July 27-28 2011
I went up to Glasgow on a mini-break last summer, with every intention of going to King Tut’s for the two nights of the month-long festival that I was there for. Therefore, I don’t feel as if I can separate the two nights, particularly as I discovered so many bands to get excited about. The bands I’ve highlighted here are (top to bottom) Finding Albert, Blue Sky Archives, Bear Bones, Johnny and the Giros and Kassidy, all of whom are worth checking out.
And this marks the end of part 2 and the halfway point. Keep reading, and you’ll understand why I had to split this whole feature into four parts. All feedback is welcome!!!!!!!!
Top 10 live music venues I’ve been to so far. Part 1: Numbers 10-7
So I was feeling a little scatterbrained a few weeks ago, and in between doing several things at once, I compiled a list on Facebook of what I believe to be the best places I’ve seen live music in over the years. I’ll use this piece here to add a few photos, and to share some personal memories.
When I initially conceived this piece, I thought it would be a nice easy read from start to finish, broken up by the occasional photo. But then I really started to get into it, and the whole thing ended up becoming a virtual scrapbook with prose bordering on essay territory, so huge I’ve had to separate it into a few parts. But I can assure you that it is worth reading (well, at least I think it is), and it gives you a little bit of an insight into my world, highlighting an activity that I love more than most. Actually, check that, it’s more than just an activity. Live music is my passion.
Okay, a bit of legal stuff before I proceed. Some of the photos I’ve used here (mainly the venue shots) are not my own. Before I get accused of stealing anyone else’s intellectual property, I just want to make it clear that I do not intend use of these photos in a negative fashion, and just in case any of the snapshot owners find this blog, I urge you to read this disclaimer. Any photo that has been borrowed will have an asterisk (*) next to it.
So without further ado, enjoy the memories, personal photos of variable quality, and all around goodness as you step into my world.
10. …escobar, Wakefield
This is a small venue that is sadly no longer with us (okay, it’s moved its operations over to Leeds, but it isn’t the same). I only went there the once, but it had a profound effect on me.
There wasn’t really a proper stage there, just a tiny raised step. If you were stood at the front of a crowd, you could literally reach out and grab anyone who was playing right in front of you. It certainly had to be a little nervewracking playing in there, in an environment where all eyes would be fixed towards the stage, with every performer being able to see everyone.
In its heyday, …escobar was seen as an important venue for bands on the rise to perform at and build a fanbase, many of whom went on to bigger and greater things, with the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Wakefield natives The Cribs immediately springing to mind.
Gig highlight: The Long Blondes, March 22 2008
My only show at …escobar saw the Sheffield five-piece play here as part of a short tour to promote their forthcoming second album “Couples”. It was a good night from what I remember. After resisting the usual harassment from short people trying to get me to move, I had a fun time “dancing” along to their songs, a fact positively commented on by bassist Reenie Hollis when I had the chance to talk to her (and keyboardist/guitarist Emma Chaplin) afterwards.
9. Roadmender, Northampton
I’ve only been to 1 Ladys Lane, Northampton for two shows, but I really like the vibe of this place, and the crowds that I was amongst knew how to party. Definitely a good stop-off for bands on the way up.
Gig highlight: Blood Red Shoes, March 11 2009
BRS 8 - yes, that was a fun one. This was one of only three headline shows that Steve and Laura did that year, mainly as a method of road-testing new material, most of which would end up on second album Fire Like This. Also memorable personally for being the one and only time that I invaded the stage at a BRS gig, during the playing of ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better’. Supporting them that night were that crazy Leeds quartet Pulled Apart By Horses, they certainly know how to get a crowd going.
8. Electric Ballroom, Camden, London
One visit was more than enough for this legendary venue to sink its claws into me. I love going to Camden in any case, referring to it as being my ‘London playground’ whenever I’m in the capital. Don’t be fooled by the tiny looking entrance, it is quite humongous once you get inside.
Gig highlight: Blood Red Shoes, October 7 2010
BRS 11, what an amazing night. For a detailed gig review and more photos, please click here.
7. Apollo, Manchester
I will say this now, the Apollo located over in Ardwick is one of the best venues for sound that I have ever been to. If anyone goes there and doesn’t perform to their full potential, they cannot blame it on the house system. Similarly, no artist/band should ever go in there and feel overawed at the size of the place, having a good gig there can significantly boost their careers.
Gig highlight: Bloc Party, January 29 2009
Also memorable for being the first gig I attended after completing my move to Manchester three days earlier. As far as I could see, a great time was being had by all as Kele and co belted out the tunes. One of those rowdy nights with plenty of jumping, thrashing and even moshing at times. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t end up standing in the same position as I was at the start of their set.
So then, boys and girls, that was Part 1. Hope you enjoyed. The second part of this is on its way very soon!!!!!!!!!!