Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Advice for all Owls...

Please find HERE some useful advice for future gig terrorists. Those chatty bleeders who ruin everyones fun and make you just want to...

Monday, 27 February 2012

SBTRKT, HMV Ritz, Manchester

"Ears ringing? Sweaty clothes? Feeling grimy? And loving it? If that’s the case then there is a good chance you went to see SBTRKT @hmvritz on Thursday night. If you, like me have had the SBTRKT album on heavy rotation on all devices you’ll know I was looking forward to seeing how this excellent album was translated into the live experience.

Before I get down to telling you how awesome it all was, I’ll get to that, there are a few things to get out the way. Firstly, I’m 30 and I’m guessing by being there I may have raised the average age of the entire room…by about 10 years. Secondly, due to the age thing there are no doubts a few things that I will write that will make me sound like an ear-trumpet carrying pensioner, perhaps from a war. When I think this may be a possibility, I will put these statements or words in quotations marks giving you the chance to say them with that annoying up-speak, question-contained-in-the-word way that should make us all feel better about ourselves. Thirdly, I don’t often go to see “electronic” music, so it was all new and shiny at the same time as being frightening and unfamiliar.

Me and my good friend Helen got down there about half eight thinking the “band” would be on about nine. WRONG WRONG WRONG. This is like, a club night and ting which meant SBTRKT were coming on at half ten till twelve…midnight. As I wasn’t drinking because I was driving (second big mistake) I thought, no bother, we can be sophisticated city-dwellers and go and get a coffee, talk about books and films etc. etc. and more etc. This is where it all went a bit wrong, I’ll just say. Fuck you HMV Ritz and your no pass-out/re-admission policy. Even though I explained to the teenagers who seemed to be running the place that I wanted to go out and come back their aforementioned shit policy means once you’re in, you’re in, no exceptions. This is great it means you can enjoy the grim decor, unrelenting noise and heat, the sticky carpet and the piss-takingly overpriced bar. £4.20 for generic lager, £2.20 for bottle water. Added to the insult there were maybe two bar staff at each bar meaning you then had to waste a huge portion of your life waiting, cheek to sweating jowl with Manchester finest in student chic.

In all seriousness, it’s one thing to rip me off for gigs with your admin fee but then to trap me in a the venue and just keep on ripping just leaves me feeling a bit sour. But maybe that's just me.We found a good spot on the staircase and people watched for two hours, all I have to say is: What are people WEARING these days? Either everyone is wearing the same shiny leggings/beige jeans/ V-neck t-shirts or, the same planks were on a loop! Not only that; but not since I was about 16 have I had so many people stare at me like I looked out of place. It’s alright guys; I just chose to not look like a bit of a tit, that’s how I roll. If my black jeans and white t-shirt are breaking some sort of unwritten fashion code then I apologise, I just thought timeless cool was the way to go. It’s funny that when you’ve got to a point in your life where you’re happy with how you look, are perfectly fine hanging out and eating fruit pastilles waiting for the wubbs to start that you are presented with a constant parade of vacuous and image obsessed twats to reinforce just how content you are.

Music wise, support act Disclosure played a tight set and got the crowd nicely warmed-up. I thought their tuned were complex and interesting, got the foot tapping and the heart racing. If they have a down side it was that just as the tracks built up and got going, there was a break where the momentum just dropped. I’m sure it’s something that will sort itself out over time and I’ll definitely be seeking them out and following what they do closely. Nice one lads.

A curtain dropped down obscuring the stage and then it began. Without exaggerated the whole room just pumped up, instantly, with anticipation. The beat started and we could see movement behind the curtain. It just started to build and build and from that point on it was simply awesome. At some point during the first track the curtain dropped to show a masked assassin on the drum kit and another mysterious figure pushing buttons and occasionally whanging a cowbell on the other side. It was this dynamic of the drummer playing live and being brilliant and his mate singing and playing some other instruments that took this to the next level. It was a great live show, it was more involved than the album and it had all the energy of a full-on gig experience. I was worried how this “electronic” music would translate but I needn’t have bothered. It was a full sound, and visually compelling as you watched the guys build the sound. Great drummer too. To jump on and off the kit and keep it all ploughing forward takes a lot of skill and this guy had it in spades. The singer was brilliant too, bringing those familiar vocals from the album to life without it being a carbon copy. He phrased lyrics differently as the live versions required and used the voice as an additional instrument. In a nutshell this is what makes a live show a cut above and the reason why some bands need to be seen live: They take that track you have heard over and over, that you know inside out and present it to you live and fresh, even better than the real thing.

The dance floor was packed, sweaty bodies pulsing with the sound, with “Heatwave” and “Right thing to do” getting lots of hands in the air. SBTRKT took the time to thank the crowd and really seemed to be enjoying it as much as were. It was all over too quick, before we knew it they were disappearing off only to come back on and do two more track. They finished with my favourite “Pharaoh’s” which sent the whole room wild and just made a perfect end to an awesome gig. It’s great to see a band/act at the top of their game, skilled and familiar enough with the material to play with the songs and really push it further live. SBTRKT are in that place where it felt like a true privilege to be there, to see experience it. Can’t wait to see what they do next, and as longs as it’s not at The Ritz, I’ll be there to see it. White t-shirt and black jeans, simple but elegant.

Raoul Concord


Friday, 24 February 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week - Revisited

This song was a recent VO single of the week, but with the new album hitting record stores this week, I thought it was worth sending out a little reminder about how good it is.

The Leisure Society, The Grand Theatre, Clitheroe

Following the somewhat scathing review of The Leisure Society's Norwich gig, I thought it only fair that the blog offered an alternative view...

Clitheroe? Where's that then? Tucked away in deepest darkest Lancashire, probably close to nowhere you know. The Grand Theatre turned out to be a lovely little venue, simultaneously old yet modern, mainly standing and well laid out (short arses like me managed to get a decent view, regardless of where we were standing.)

Variously described as folk pop, baroque or chamber pop, the Leisure Society do a nice line in melodic, multi instrumental, catchy (yet surprisingly complex) tunes. I first heard them played in Fopp, Manchester and when I got home downloaded everything of theirs I could find. I had no idea what they looked like, whether they were old or young or whether I'd like anything beyond the few songs I'd heard whilst browsing. I wasn't disappointed though and risked driving my family mad by playing them endlessly for the next few months. And here's the thing; my six year old loves them and so do my parents. Their wide appeal is entirely deserved; they do what they do so well that it's almost intuitively right, writing and performing catchy, melodic songs with just a hint of melancholy.

The fact I like them so much meant they had a lot to live up to, live. The Clitheroe audience reflected the band's broad appeal and was also enjoyably eccentric. As it turns out, I thought the band were better live than listened to at home. Their live performance gives their beautifully crafted songs an extra kick up the rear. A polite kick, but a kick nonetheless. They're not exactly exuberant on stage but they do engage with the audience and were sufficiently good humoured and affable when they did.

Seeing a band I love always makes me regret being about as musical as your average hens' egg; it makes me want to have a go myself. For the sake of all your ears I won't, but that's what good music should do, it should move you in some way, get you thinking, dancing, singing along or learning to play. Well that's how it was for me at the Leisure Society bash. I had a great time.

I know detractors have called Leisure Society twee or "a bit radio 2." On the contrary, I think we all need a little more joy in our lives. To me, they are the sound of joy. A fantastic night and an awful lot of fun. 


Thursday, 23 February 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Chairlift - Amanaemonesia

If John Hughes was still around to make movies, this song could be used to soundtrack the scene where we get to meet our new wave hero from the wrong side of the tracks.

FYI - I have tried to master the dance that features in this video, but find my onesie to be a little restrictive.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Leisure Society, Norwich Arts Centre

The thing is, it's really my own fault.  He who smelt it, dealt it, as I'm sure someone off of the Inbetweeners once said.  So I only have myself to blame.  I chose this gig.  And, what hurts more than anything, is that I quite like(d) The Leisure Society.  Acting on a tip, I bought their album of last year and enjoyed its gently folky rattle and hum and radio (2, without a shadow of a doubt, 2) friendly melodic bursts.  I was into this whole folk-pop thing at the time, Stornoway were a fixture in the kitchen, and I was almost beginning to think that dangling a toe in musical middle age was not necessarily a bad thing.  I mean, I love a bit of noise as much as the next man, but sometimes, it's all just a bit, well, noisy.

I went to see Stornoway too, and loved them, coming away hugely impressed with a band who were thoroughly enjoying their spell in the limelight and who gave their audience a genuine show, treating the songs with respect and displaying a humility and humour that carried the audience along with them throughout.

So I was allowed to have high hopes, right?  Despite the fact that they were a bit meh at last year's Green Man (it didn't matter, it was Saturday afternoon, I'd had a drink) The Leisure Society still had the songs to pull this off, didn't they?  And if I still had doubts (I saw two of them supporting Laura Marling last year, and it was all a bit, y'know, average), then the fact that they were in a band with Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine in a previous life had to work in their favour, right?  Is that not too cool?  Didn't I hear that one of them wrote the soundtrack to "Dead Man's Shoes", or something?  Have you seen "Dead Man's Shoes"!!? Is it not, like, the best British film of the past twenty years?  They had to be good! Come on, The Leisure Society!

Oh but it was shit.  Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.  On toast.  Maybe I expected too much (as a fellow Owl remarked with a shrug afterwards, "they played the songs as they sound on the record"),but this phoned-in performance, light on anything even remotely approaching passion, energy, fun, was enough to make me want to scream. And as I looked around, desperate for something to distract me from the bland, twee, ever-so-slightly-smug nonsense unfolding in front of me, I was hit with a stark realisation.  If this is what musical middle age looks like, then it is time to run away.  Run, and keep on running, because, a quarter of a century or so ago, as I dropped the needle on "This Charming Man" for the 5,000th time, I realised that pop music was the single most exciting art form there is, and if there is no longer any more to it than the fucking Leisure Society, then I am letting my 13 year old self down.
So no more. From now on, it is all about the search for the new, the visceral, the raw.  For a gang who make music because they have to, and not because the mortgage payments are due.  And if I fail in that search, then at least I fail safe in the knowledge that I tried.  And to my fellow Owls:  put something bland on the table in the months ahead, and they're gonna get it.  We're not playing games anymore.


Saturday, 18 February 2012

Norwich City 1- Leicester City 2

Damn I miss Andy’s Records bargain bin. Even Woolie’s ‘reduced to clear’ provided me with a few beauties. Everyone loves a risk purchase under 2 quid right? Sadly no more, but the Break Charity Shop at the end of my road does a pretty good job to fulfil this need… Look what I picked up over the past half term week (ish). Maybe a heap of plastic shit or maybe inroads into lost musical gems? Well, with the wife away, minus a (disappointing) trip out this afternoon to Carrow Road, this extended weekend has been all about giving these bad boys a chuffing good listen… (Please excuse the Partridge football puns).

The only thing I knew about KINGMAKER (oh yeah, fucking KINGMAKER!) was that they are in that Kula Shaker/Menswear/Sleeper/JJ72 class of shame... *Gulp*. However I still like JJ72, and this, their first album turns out to be a pretty fine shoegaze effort putting me in the mind of early Boo Radley’s and Ride.  Bingo! Not sure I’d venture much further than the debut, but definitely a fine piece of plastic for a quid and I know of at least one other Owl who would dig it too. A solid start…

…When I picked up the brilliantly named HOLLY AND THE ITALIANS LP and looked at the sleeve I could only think about when Alan Partridge described the painting above the mantelpiece of his mental stalkers house;

 ’’I don’t know why I bought this vinyl. It’s got a very haunting quality… woman and machine. I mean, I often look at this in the morning and think, “Ooh, I’d like to kiss her!”... 

I don’t want to kiss Holly, but I wouldn’t mind going to her disco, because as it turns out the album is full of short, sharp new-wave pop nuggets. I guess a bit like Blondie and that Siouxsie one, but that would be a lazy comparison. Anyhow it all seems good fun to me and again, in the words of AP; ‘’Lovely stuff!’’ And “game on!”

…This one is sort of cheating as I actually got the TEARDROPS EXPLODE album a while ago from BREAK but never had a chance to really listen to it properly. Been listening to bits and bobs of them and Cope over the years but not a full TE album but as expected, it sounds great. I will try get hold of some more stuff as this will no doubt be on the turntable for a while I think...

Which leads us to VITAMIN Z. Christ. Here goes… On seeing this LP I curiously mobile phone ‘Wiki’d’ them to discover they were; ‘pioneers of synth-pop/new wave’. Sounds great? For a quid? COME ON! But sadly they aren’t. And it’s crap. Best thing I can offer is that apparently the singer is now the Arctic Monkeys manager… Ouch…

…FURYO are apparently (Wikipedia again) the remnants of Luton punk band ‘UK Decay’. (Never heard of them. No one has. Not even them). The cover looks like a Spanish themed Joy-Division album might do (which is why I bought it), but sounds like some pervert goths pissing about on a classical guitar for a bit until the half decent new wave guitars kick in… Better than Vitamin Z, but still not as good as a kick in the balls. All of a sudden this isn’t going so well…

…But in off the cross bar come SCARS with the genuinely brilliant AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Forty minutes of perfect post-punk indie.  All your usual 80s comparisons are here- (The Fall, Gang of Four, even a bit Smiths like?), but its his distinctive angry Scottish accent also reminds me of why I loved the first Glasvegas album so much...This one pound purchase is EXACTLY why I love buying records and why the process of solely accessing music via the internet is shit … The artwork and booklet are cracking too. And they are called SCARS… And a bit of research shows that this is quite a sought after item too… FUCK YOU VITAMIN Z! and its all level!

...Picked up BLANCMANGE’s first album at BREAK a few weeks ago… Turns out it sounds like if Ian Curtis was in Cabaret Voltaire. Imagine that? I have many times. And weirdly enough I have since noticed that they have reformed and are playing in Norwich in April… Listen up Owls, surely a future gig because this is great… And the sleeve is smashing too. On the ball city!

And finally the Fall. Been after this one for ages and couldn’t believe my short-sighted eyes when it was sat staring at me for £1.50… No shit, this is the best Fall album I’ve ever heard. (But I must confess I ‘ve only heard about 30% of them). Anyhow its sensational and funny and loud and fast and angry and complete(?) and should be a staple of any Owls diet. Can’t believe anyone would take this to a charity shop… Did someone die? Was it MES’s himself…

So the moral of this (now pissed up) story is buy more records, go to Charity Shops (or ideally RECORD SHOPS) instead of i-tunes, listen to the first Kingmaker/Blancmange records and go find out about SCARS. And Norwich are out of the FA Cup… BOO!

Sammy @sickbookies

Spector, The Cockpit, Leeds

Whether they go on to forge a career that awards retrospectives or crash and burn before the year is out, there is no getting away from the fact that the hype surrounding Spector is going to polarise opinions. With the band popping up on a number of ‘ones to watch’ lists at the start of the year and an enthusiastic appearance on Later with Jools, the air in the sold out Cockpit hangs heavy with anticipation. It is clear from the off, however, that not everyone in attendance tonight has the band’s best interests at heart. Having asked a member of the crowd to unscrew the lid on his water bottle: ‘My wrists are too weak’ lead singer, Frederick Macpherson is met with a barrage of obvious heckles including my favourite: ‘You need to do some more wanking then, you WANKER!’ With this kind of response, you would have expected Macpherson to get on with singing some songs and leave the band/crowd banter to the professionals (hello, Jarvis). If only. After each song, Macpherson awkwardly engages the crowd by wittering randomly about the movie Twilight, Twitter competitions and asking the crowd to name a good bar for the band to have a post-gig drink (Tiger Tiger, apparently). If he fancies himself as a frontman cum raconteur, then he needs to work on his delivery. If he was padding out the band’s allotted stage time, then he needs to work on some new songs. The other problem with Spector, is that despite sporting some fancy duds, the rest of the band have the look of a shell-shocked wedding party who are still coming to terms with what they witnessed during a debauched stag night in Magaluf. There were times tonight when members of the band stood blinking out into the crowd with a look of bewilderment on their face, as if to say ‘What the fuck am I doing here?’  Despite having two or three great pop songs in their repertoire (Chevy Thunder and set closer Never Fade Away are the night’s highlights) I wonder if the band themselves actually believe the hype. On this performance I would suggest not.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Tennis - 'Origins'

Our French correspondent, Cedric Bernard, turned us on to the Denver duo, Tennis, at the end of last year. The video to their infectious new single features a sneak preview of the new James Bond movie*.

*May not actually be true.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Sharon Van Etten - Serpents  

Having high profile admirers such as The Walkmen, Wye Oak, The Antlers and The National is bound to make us sit up and take notice here at VO Towers, and this first single from the new album Tramp ticks all our boxes. There's a lot of big noises being made about the new album, and with a UK tour in the pipeline, this could be the year that Van Etten takes a great leap forward.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Horrors, Norwich Waterfront

Reflecting, pre-gig, on the first year in the life of the Norwich Owl, individual members have different ideas of which gig constitutes the highlight to date.  With such a diverse range of tastes within the group, it is hardly surprising that opinions differ, but for me, one thing is clear: we have drunk with the band, twirled round the circle pit and attended a show in a bloody coffee shop.  But what we have not done, is attend a genuine Event.
Until now.  Anticipation of this gig has been ramped up to ridiculous levels partly as a result of it being postponed twice (The Horrors were first due to appear in mid-October), but also because, if there is a band who define the sound of 2012 more than Badwan and co, then I have yet to hear them.  As such, this is not only the best show the Owl have attended, it is the best gig this city has seen for years.  And yes, Rod Stewart, George Michael, Mastodon, The Kabeedies, I haven't forgotten you.  But tonight, you boys take a hell of a beating.
Like your correspondent, the Waterfront is absolutely buzzing, the slight disappointment at the absence of original support and current music press darlings Toy blown away within the opening few bars of set-opener "Changing The Rain".  The sound is absolutely massive, with the well-documented 40 years worth of influences tossed into a krautrock-heavy stew.  Dipping liberally into breakthrough album "Primary Colours" and last year's epic "Skying" (Huddersfield Owl members may have heard of it, but they certainly weren't listening to it), songs build, build and build some more, with Faris' soaring vocals pulling everything together into one exhilarating whole.
Highlights are far too many to mention, but a mid-set "Sea Within A Sea" (still their finest moment) and a mind-blowing "Moving Further Away" to close proceedings, leave the sweat-drenched masses clear on one thing: The Horrors are the most exciting thing to happen to this thing we call pop in many a year, and if the wider world doesn't sit up and take notice soon, then we may as well pack up and call it a day.  This was a revelation.


Saturday, 4 February 2012

What were you doing on Thursday 26th November 1998?

If you like, you can come and do what I did...

Over the past few years my artwork has explored our obsession with the past- but not a past celebrated akin to an 80-year-old man finding a browned, war photograph behind a cupboard - but a universal recent past discovered through boredom, banality and lack of motivation. Use whichever model you like, but in consideration of my personal interest field, and hence the inclusion of this on a 'gig collective' blog- take pop music.

With a few clicks, a half typed word - M , A , N S - WOOOOSH!  - a complete list of every Mansun gig, song, anecdote, photograph, scanned ticket, lyric and press cutting (no time to read these in the digital world though). No doubt a link to download every crappy song as a faceless mp3, no mystery, no mystique, no patience, no discussion in the pub... DRAG, DROP, MEMORY CREATED. (And I quite like Mansun...) 
Maybe this is a good thing (it has been noted that I am a miserable bastard) but I have my suspicions. I would like to believe my year old daughter will one day remember buying her first record, but I doubt it. I guess I'm all for a level of sentiment and memory- just how much needs to be remembered and do we need a level of quality control? Who decides? (Now I sound like Hitler. A Britpop F├╝hrer)

Our impenetrable daily digital lives, our creepy obsession with befriending every fucker we have ever met and our apparent inability to not have immediate access to everything, has left us in phoney nostalgic meltdown. No need for memories or collections and ownership with Youtube. When did this desire to document EVERY ASPECT of EVERYTHING. FOREVER begin? Thursday 26th November 1998?

For my Final MA project I intend to recreate the first gig I ever attended which was Pulp at Doncaster Dome on Thursday 26th November 1998.   For 14 years I had thought very little about this event- I think it was 'good'. I'm SURE they played 'Common People'. I think I had a few stollen roll-ups in a Bluetone's cassette case. Anyhow, never mind- thanks to the internet my first gig- and no doubt yours too- can be meticulously dissected until you can relive it again and again... imagine celebrating such sentiment? Anyhow, check out the video above and view the book that I have made about that drizzly (perhaps?), evening in South Yorkshire...

So I will return to this blog in a few months time with word of this exciting prospect ('DISCO 2012' perhaps?) but until then you can get one of these books. Super slick print, 36 page, hardback book documenting the above event and our collective modern obsession with turning every memory into a lasting monument...  Limited stock available at a super cheap price of £30 + postage (Paypal/Bank transfer) and I guess I could do a VELVET OWL MEMBER discount...


Friday, 3 February 2012

John Bramwell, The Junction pub, Oldham

I started my 2012 gig-going adventures in the same way I finished 2011 by seeing John Bramwell play a solo acoustic set.

I must confess from the off that I am a HUGE fan of John Harold Arnold Bramwell and the band I Am Kloot, so my review will contain just a pinch of bias.

The gig took place at The Junction Inn, Oldham which has hosted John Bramwell a couple of times before and is a great venue for getting up close & personal with the acts. We were treated to two support acts, firstly Garron Frith ( http://www.garronfrith.co.uk/ ) a singer song writer who played one song purely on the harmonica. The second band were 'Sandboy' ( http://www.facebook.com/wearesandboy?sk=app_2405167945 ) who played with two acoustic guitars & an extra member on harmonica . Both were solid support acts , but I have to say I favoured Garron Frith of the two.

The main event was delayed slightly by someone collapsing at the bar, but once things were resolved, John Bramwell set off in a somewhat reflective and chatty mood; playing an array of his extensive back catalogue and a couple of new songs from the forthcoming I Am Kloot album. One of the new songs was just 4 days old and is still untitled, but had a similar chord sequence during the chorus to the Kloot classic 'Twist'. The beauty of John's solo gigs are that you get to hear his musings and recollections between songs and this time they included his worry about what is happening to Noel Edmonds' face, along with updates on how the new Kloot album was coming along.

It was a another great Kloot experience for me and it has filled a gap until the next full I Am Kloot tour which should be starting in early summer time.


Thursday, 2 February 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

First Aid Kit - Emmylou

We're a sucker for a bit of pedal steel here at Velvet Owl towers, and this first single from the Soderberg sisters' new album The Lion's Roar doesn't disappoint. We appreciate February is only two days old, but we reckon this album could well be included in our best of 2012 list come the year end.