Friday, 30 March 2012

John Bramwell, Trades Club, Hebden Bridge

'Sometimes too much drink is barely enough'  Mark Twain

Picture courtesy of No_such_user

As many of his songs tell of the pleasures (and pitfalls) of drinking, it should come as no surprise that mid-way through tonight's show, John Bramwell calls for an impromptu interval so he and the audience can freshen their glasses.  It may only be a Wednesday evening in the 'artistic' centre of West Yorkshire , but to hell with it, we're going to have a good time....we're going to have a party! With a setlist hastily scribbled onto the back of a flyer, and an offer for the audience to shout out requests, tonight's gig often feels like an open-mike session rather than a rare performance from one of our most underrated singer songwriters. But it is this organic (hey, we're in Hebden Bridge) feel to tonight's proceedings, that make it feel a little more special. Bramwell makes no bones about the fact he won't be playing much new material, but when his old songs are as good as Gods and Monsters and To the Brink we couldn't care less. Of the new songs Bramwell does play tonight, Bullets is the stand-out and sounds like a natural progression from Sky at Night. Bramwell also reveals his playful side, when he introduces several minutes of guitar tuning as a new song and a new direction for I am Kloot.  By the end, there are several audience members a little worse for wear (less 'artistic' and more 'paralytic') which spoils the mood a little, but a rousing rendition of Proof and a cover of Blackbird send us on our way very happy. Our Velvet Owl man in the know, reckons we won't be seeing a full I am Kloot tour until September at the very earliest, so plenty of time to sleep off tonight's over-indulgence.  


Thursday, 29 March 2012

Akira the Don feat. Gruff Rhys - We Won't be Broke Forever Baby

There are three reasons to love this song:

1. The infectious chorus. If you're not humming its gloriously sunny refrain all day, then you need to get yourself checked out.
2. The video. Art school meets Why Don't You.
3. It features Gruff Rhys. Nuff said.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

I meant to write this a few months ago but better late than never I guess.  'Sick Bookies' was devised by a friend and I whilst at art school and was originally going to involve us setting up our own alternative bookmakers dealing in the darker side of gambling, particularly pop music related. We never did it as it turns out there are loads of fuck-off legal things you have to do before taking the publics hard earned money over something along the lines of '5/1 odds for whether Paul McCartney make 64 or not?' (He made it, easy). Also we were too skint to pay up anyhow, but the name Sick Bookies kind of stuck though and I have adopted it as a front for various art/music related encounters ever since... 
Do Music Cover Art
Anyhow my old mate Chris (Craft) Clarke has recently adopted the name for his own home-made, lo-fi Pavement-esque musings. He has made a lovely album of bedroom recordings which he is far too modest to promote himself. Also the first track sounds rather like 'Showgirl' by the Auteurs so what are you waiting for?  Anyhow you can buy the album for a mere £1.50 ... right ...

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Civil Wars, Leeds Metropolitan University

Name a male-female musical duo with great chemistry. Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris? Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers? Justin Timberlake and Madonna? Only kidding with the last one. That’s the thing about chemistry. It’s hard to define what makes it, but it’s painfully easy to spot when it’s missing. The Civil Wars, a pair hailing from Nashville, Tennessee who play country-folk-blues topped by gorgeous harmonies have chemistry in abundance. On the strength of this performance, they could be destined for a place in the pantheon of great duos.
In fact, whereas many musical pairings spend their time hoping to sell more records by trying to convince us that their bond is extra special and dropping hints that they may, just, be seeing each other outside office hours, Joy Williams and John Paul White of the Civil Wars spent much of this gig trying to convince the crowd that they are firmly just good friends. They didn’t convince on this point. But they were utterly convincing musically. This was one of those gigs where the crowd that had turned out on a Sunday night were genuinely thrilled with the music they heard. The band looked utterly thrilled back, and it was hard not to blame them.
The set-up was spartan – a guitar, two voices and an occasional piano. The key to their success is the harmonies. Their singing was joyous - their voices rose and fell sublimely together, and each took turns to deviate from the melody for an instance before returning to hit the big notes that made the hairs on your neck stand on end. They often smiled at each other as they leaned together to sing. The sheer joy of the music they were making and the fun they were having was evident. Many of the songs were simple slow or mid-tempo laments of love and loss and if there was a criticism, it could be that a few of the numbers were a bit similar. The highlight of the show was Barton Hollow, a dirgy, swamp-like blues song which sounded like Creedence Clearwater Revival updated for the 21st century. Led by White’s powerful, rhythmic guitar, it was elemental, intoxicating and a stand-out.
They certainly looked the part. In long black dress, Joy writhed and wiggled her way through the performance. Armed with an acoustic guitar, John Paul looked like an extra from a film about, well, the Civil Wars. The pair seem genuinely surprised by the response they got from the Leeds crowd. At one point, Joy asked the audience – why have we never played in this city before?  The audience responded with yet another enthusiastic cheer. Chemistry? It’s all about the elements and knowing how to put them together. The Civil wars are mastering the process and the reaction was spellbinding.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Velvet Owl single of the Week

John Talabot - Destiny feat. Pional

This song is staggeringly gorgeous. The most graceful moment of 2012 so far.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Paid the Cost to be the Boss

We're big fans of The Boss here at VO Towers, and March has been the month that has kept on giving in regards to all things Bruce. Following the release of his brilliant new album Wrecking Ball, Bruce also delivered this inspirational keynote speech at this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Then if this wasn't enough, we were sent a link to this incredible 80s Italo-Disco mix of Tougher Than the Rest. 

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Lay Your Cards by Policia

The 'Triphop' revival starts here.

Think a menacing Morcheeba or a frustrated Sneaker Pimps and somewhere in the middle you have this slice of unsettling electronica.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Stare and the sick mindset of a gig ticket enthusiast

You may think that I’m a right sad bastard (and you are probably right) but I bloody love a good gig ticket! Hence the new background for this blog and, much to my girlfriend’s annoyance, the d├ęcor of our downstairs toilet which is plastered with the little fucking things. (She still has the upstairs toilet. Boys downstairs, girls upstairs in our house).  All the possibilities and romance of a pop concert summarised by some numbers, dodgy fonts and washy background colours.

So here are the tickets for Aprils Norwich VO event; indie band Stare.  The band, who have (apparently) reformed after 20 years to commemorate their slot at Radio 1's Sound City gig at the same venue in 1992, have one of those interesting nearly-made-it stories that the digital age doesn’t seem to produce anymore. I have known the bass player for several years as a local in my pub, but never knew he was in a band that amongst other coo's supported the Verve. The others on the bill that evening in 1992 were Nick Cave, Carter USM, the Farm and Yarmouth’s very own Catherine Wheel. 
It seems that after a few EPs they recorded their debut album but were dropped by their label and that was that. The album, with its record label ownership now up, will be available to purchase (at last!?) at the gig.   Lets hope the gig leaves us crowded round the merchandise table for a great long lost album?  We might do if it sounds like this track... Sure I will keep my ticket either way.       Sammy

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

The Shins - Simple Song

A new record by The Shins is always a cause for celebration at VO towers, and this first single to be taken from the new album Port of Morrow has left us giddy with excitement.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Pulled Apart By Horses, Norwich Waterfront

"It's funny", mused an Owl upon entering the Waterfront and making our way to the bar, "it's only when arriving at a Metal gig that I realise I'm quite happy not to be a teenager anymore".  I see what he means.  Despite being accused of being a little old recently, I have to say: there are some sights here tonight.  Fortunately, however, despite the comedy name and wacky song titles ("I Punched A Lion In The Throat", anyone?), the ferocity of tonight's headliners on stage ensure that the majority of laughs to be had are provided by the hairstyles on display among Norfolk's teenagers. 

Having built up their reputation on the live scene in recent years,  PABH have emerged in 2012 as the real deal, with ace new album "Tough Love" earning plaudits and - perhaps a little tenuously - comparisons to Queens Of The Stone Age.  While it is perhaps a little too early to lump them in with Josh Homme's sludge rock titans, there are moments tonight (on "Wolf Hand" and "V.E.N.O.M" in particular) when the Leeds quartet suggest that they have spent more than a few nights in (or journeys in a transit van) being inspired by "Songs For The Deaf". 

It is for the most part thrilling stuff, tight melodies and gargantuan riffs bouncing off the Waterfront's low ceiling, from whose beams the band intermittently dangle.  Brilliantly, between song exchanges with the crowd do not stray far from the "we've got massive hangovers, we have" variety, but if on occasion the band can come across as a little cartoonish, it is clear that they are deadly serious about their art.  And if on record the cut glass fed through a blender vocals can become a little wearying (a Cobain-esque shriek can be an exhilarating thing, but Kurt's voice was so much more than just a scream) on stage it makes much more sense, and an encore of Nirvana's "Tourette's" makes for an inspired choice of cover, especially for we acolytes at the back.

In short, if you had PABH written off and filed in the "slightly novelty" drawer, think again.  On tonight's evidence, things could be about to get very interesting indeed.


The NME Awards Ceremony

Funny how time flies. Nearly twenty years ago, the NME awards were seen as an antidote to the corporate schmoozathon that was the Brits. A chance for those languishing in the leagues of indie to be recognised for their endeavours, quaff a few light ales and let their hair down without fear of being featured wide-eyed and legless on the front of the Daily Mail the following morning. Petulantly named The Brats, this was a chance for the NME and their readership to give the middle finger (hence the statuette) to the Man and his roster of bland and uninspiring unit shifters. Fast forward to 2012, and the nominees for this year’s Brit and NME awards are more or less interchangeable. Florence and the Machine, Adele, Foo Fighters, Noel Gallagher, PJ Harvey, Arctic Monkeys, The Vaccines, Lana Del Ray, Laura Marling and Kasabian all received nominations at the two award ceremonies this year. And while it’s reassuring that One Direction, Olly Murs, Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars were ‘overlooked’ by the NME, it is a little disappointing that the petulant child of the annual award ceremony season is seemingly growing up and taking responsibility for its actions.

However, this is not to say that this year’s ceremony did not have its highlights (and occasional fist in the mouth moments). Presented by Jack Whitehall (who we have warmed to since his star turn in last year’s Fresh Meat), the ceremony got off to a shaky start as Kasabian - channelling the spirit of nineties rock/rap outfit, Senser – opened the show with a bit of workaday lad rock.  This, and the band’s ostentatious reaction to winning the Best British Group award and subsequent karaoke tribute to the late Davy Jones left us wondering if we are actually all being taken in as part of an elaborate Spinal Tap style wind-up that will reveal Kasabian to be a social experiment designed to measure how gullible the British public actually are. On the plus side, live performances by The Horrors - with Florence Welch (The Florrors?) -  and Pulp stole the show, with Jarvis still looking as sprightly as he did during his Brit-pop heyday. 

The ceremony closed by awarding the God-Like Genius award to this year’s recipient, Noel Gallagher. The very mention of Noel (and Jarvis) - two behemoths of the Britpop age - also served to remind us, that despite the mid-90s period in British music ultimately turning out to be merely a few great records, it did churn out a number of pop stars who all had plenty to say, and were not afraid to say it.  Let’s be honest, as great as recent records by The Horrors and The Maccabees are, you’re not gonna set the video any time soon to see them being 'grilled' by Jonathan Ross are you?  You may argue it’s all about the music, but Christ on a bike, pop stars are fucking dull these days aren’t they?  Not an interesting, opinionated, controversial statement between them.  You can say what you like about Liam n Noel’s musical output in recent years, but when either of them open their mouths to speak, you just know that what comes out is still gonna make for good copy.  There’s no wonder the Chief’s been on the front cover of NME more than any other musician in the history of the world ever.  He certainly belongs there more than Tom “there’s always been a strong Monkees element to our sound” Meighan and his dreary ilk.

Unlike Blur’s faintly embarrassing turn at the Brits, Gallagher marked his arrival as a Godlike Genius by giving the crowd exactly what they came for: a few choice thank yous to those that matter, and a wonderful, uplifting version of one of the reasons we all fell in love in the first place. As “Don’t Look Back In Anger” brought proceedings to a euphoric close, and indie royalty from Joe Mount to Jarvis linked arms and belted the words upwards as one, the thought occurred that, for once, the term Godlike Genius may not have been too far wide of the mark.  Just thank God he didn’t play “Magic Pie”.

The Gallones Brothers

Monday, 5 March 2012

In The Hudd Music Festival

IN THE HUDD FESTIVAL is a new multi-venue, indoor music festival in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. On Saturday 9th/Sunday 10th June across music venues in the town centre, over 25 indie, rock, punk, folk and acoustic acts will entertain festival goers. The aim is to bring some fantastic up and coming talent from around the UK to Huddersfield, and to provide a platform for the best local acts. You can buy a ticket for Saturday and/or Sunday that allows entrance to any show by any band throughout that day and evening.
In The Hudd has two stages at BAR 1:22 and THE PARISH, with a third stage at LITTLE BUDDHA BAR on Saturday night.
BAR 1:22 is one of the best small music venues in West Yorkshire and is run by an enthusiastic team who care about keeping great music alive in the town. The 275 capacity venue is perfect for any kind of live show and has housed some of the best indie, acoustic, jazz, hip-hop and dance events in the area.
THE PARISH is a cornerstone of Huddersfield's punk, rock and metal scene, and has hosted countless gigs over the last decade. It is a seperate, recently refurbished small venue adjacent to the infamous and large pub, and there is also a enclosed beer garden for drinking in the sun between bands.
Click on the link below for ticket and line-up details. 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Greatest (S)hits

Following the sad and untimely death of child-actor (he was in Coronation St you know) and Monkee, Davy Jones, we thought we would offer up as a tribute, our definitive list of actors who became singers and who provided us with what we can only regard to be the offal in the history of pop music.

1. Bruce Willis - Die Hard

     Smug c*^t!

2.  Telly Savalas - Kojak 

     Who loves ya baby! Everyone's favourite lollipop sucking detective actually had a number one in the UK in 1975. 

3.  Keanu Reeves - The Matrix 

     The album features covers of Elvis' Wooden Heart, The Beatles' Norweigan Wood and the Woody Wood Pecker theme tune. Oh, if you hadn't guessed by the wood references, Dogstar is Keanu Reeves' band . The woody fucker. 

4.  Christopher Lee - Lord Of The Rings

The poor man's Peter Cushing getting all regal on our asses.

5.Peter Gallagher - The O.C.

He was in the O.C. He has eyes like piss-holes in the snow. He is not related to Noel, Liam, Paul or Rory. This is all you need to know.

6. Don Johnson - Miami Vice

Soon to receive a career re-boot having been cast in Tarantino's spaghetti western Django Unchained. Does not excuse him for his turgid singing career. The closest he ever came to being a pop star, was the fact that his pet alligator in Miami Vice was called Elvis.

7. William Shatner - Star Trek

Seriously, you have to hear his version of Pulp's Common People. It is eye-wateringly good.

8. Philip Michael Thomas - Miami Vice

Hey, if we have Crockett, then surely we need to have Tubbs. Right?

9. Burt Reynolds - Stroker Ace

Look at Burt's jauntily positioned hat. And those eyes. He wants us to make him squeal like a pig. Dirty boy.

10. Minnie Driver - Good Will hunting

Oh... FUCK OFF!!!!


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Davy Jones 1945 - 2012

'Last Train to Clarksville has been written. The rest of us are just left with our imperfections' Robert Forster

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Delta Spirit 'California'

In his book Retromania, Simon Reynolds argues that pop music in the 21st century is obsessed with its own immediate past. This Flying Burrito Brothers inspired first single from Delta Spirit's new album History From Below ain't going to do anything to counter that argument, but it has put a spring in our step on this beautiful sunny morning.