The Best of 2016 # 2 – Gigs

Having spent quite a lot of the year in and out of medical facilities for one reason or another the number of gigs attended has been somewhat constrained but having said that much improved on 2015 when I spent a good deal of the time in a plaster cast. In the most part the gigs I did attend were all great. There were a couple of bad evenings caused in the first case by an idiotic club owner and in the second case by a less than perfect sound engineering job, it is not my habit to name names, so I won’t, all I would say is that bands deserve more.

Ones I sadly missed due to ill health and diary clashes

  • Robert Forster
  • The Triffids
  • Kim Salmon

Here are the highlights in no particular order, apart from the top four gigs.

  • Manchester Jazz Festival – just a general message to say it was much improved this year with some fascinating bands seen especially in the performance space in Manchester Central Library – the price of the beer in the Festival Village is obscene though!
  • Soft Machine at The Band on the Wall – OK so we sat in the bar for most of the second set drinking and chewing the fat about music but the first set was pretty memorable and I realised a long held ambition to see this band.
  • The Junta at Night and Day – kabuki, mime and beats with El Generallisimo cooking up a techno storm.
  • Aidan Cross & Johann Kloos, Poppycock, Taser Puppets and West Coast Sick Line at Dulcimer, Chorlton. A fun packed night with a storming set from the Westies and a slight hiatus while Mr Maxwell found his guitar.
  • Moff Skellington, Mr Mouse, Loop-aznavour at The Fenton Leeds – a remarkable evening with a sparse audience but excellent performances from all three protagonists only somewhat ruined by the inability to get out of Leeds via the motorway necessitating a circuitous journey home via Harrogate
  • The Eagle, again, for the debut of the much anticipated new band lead by Ian Moss Four Candles , Cambridge rockers, stripped down to acoustic duo  for the night, Bouquet of Dead Crows, all the way from Modena Italy Saint Lawrence Verge, and to close the night the ever excellent Poppycock. A rather special evening.
  • Sam SmithGenevieve L Walsh and The Madding Crowd at The Moston Miners Club – a great set from Sam, memorable poetry from Genevieve,  and an epic set from The Madding Crowd.
  • The Junta, Bouquet of Dead Crows, The Scissors and Kit B at the Eagle as part of Salford Music Festival. Barnstorming sets from all four bands – we need to do this again.
  • Taser Puppets, Poppycock, JD Meatyard and West Coast Sick Line as part of Salford Musical Festival also at The Eagle – one of our most successful nights with a good crowd, fine performances, and a stellar set from Mr Meatyard.
  • Blaney album launch at Pacifica Cantonese. A great album and a memorable album launch with the added bonus of it being five minutes from where I live. It’s been a good year for Ed and he deserves the support he is getting at the moment

and the top four, who all happen to be Australian for some strange reason……

4.

The Necks live at the Band on the Wall – a special performance from an amazing trio of musicians. Unique and breath-taking music bereft of ego and full of invention.

3.

Harry Howard and the NDE with Poppycock at The Eagle – exploding keyboards and horrendous traffic conspired against us but Poppycock were the best I have seen them all year and Harry and co were exceptional given they had a stand in rhythm section with only a couple of days rehearsal.

2.

Dave Graney and Poppycock & Franco Bandini at the Eagle – a long held desire to catch Dave and Clare live was at long last realised. Most of the band were full of germs but still managed to deliver a set packed with classic tunes from across the Graney songbook. The added bonus of seeing Malcolm Ross play the guitar as well.

and my gig of the year….

1.

Dave Graney at the Betsey Trotwood, London – a memorable journey to the capital despite a dodgy knee. A pleasant afternoon drinking with Bob and Jeff in some fine ale houses. A fantastic set from Dave, Clare, Stu and Malcolm covering even more of the Graney songbook topped off by a great tribute to Prince.

DG 2 BT

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A Hard Rain Fell

Looking out of the window on Monday afternoon revealed torrential rain and gusts of wind.  Probably not the best weather to be venturing out into the darkening night. The headline band contact me and advise they are stuck in terrible traffic between Levenshulme and Salford and will be late.  Fortunately the journey from Eccles to Blackfriars is not so disadvantaged. The  67 bus arrives early and I get to the Eagle much sooner than I anticipated. By the time I get to the pub the band, Harry Howard and the NDE have arrived and are loading in. That’s the peculiar nature of the Greater Manchester traffic system – west-east is easy, south -north not so much. What took them two hours took me twenty minutes.

But first, the back story.

Some months back Dave Graney had contacted me, after his visit to Salford earlier in the year, to suggest that we might host Harry Howard and the NDE in a similar way, a gig and a Marc Riley session. We are getting quite good at this promotion thing now,  but we can’t make a habit of it mind you, so please don’t you bands out there think we can wave a magic wand and make these things happen all the time. With the assistance of Vicky Egan, who runs the excellent Roland S. Howard tribute page, Ian and I were able to get it all to come together. We had put on three bands for the Graney evening in the spring, but we decided to slim it down for Harry & co, a good move in hindsight, given the weather, as time was tight once everyone had settled in . We stayed with Poppycock as the support act, always reliable, always excellent.

Given the weather a huge turn out was not anticipated, especially for a Monday night, however fortunately there are enough hearty souls/Harry Howard fans to bring in a good sized audience.

Those who could not make it missed a stunning evening.

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Photograph by Johnathon Hargreaves

Poppycock have a slight pre-gig set back when Una’s keyboard starts emitting smoke, so a substitute is sourced. There’s always a gremlin hanging around in the ether to make life more stressful. Notwithstanding that the bands start only 30 minutes late. Poppycock get better each time I see them. Their well established repertoire mixes garage rock, folk, Dylan, and post punk into a package which brings new fans with every gig. The twin vocal line-up of Rose Niland and Anne-Marie Crowley is exceptional.  I’m familiar with the tunes and I recognise a marked improvement. Heather, Nicki, Stuart, Lucy and Una weave a musical tapestry which marks them out as the best live band in Manchester at the moment. At times the sound they produce is incandescent.

The only minor niggle about the excellent Eagle as a venue is that there is not a plethora of places nearby to get food so the NDE ring out for pizza which arrives just in time for the band to have something to eat before playing.

The NDE are excellent. They play the first half of the new album “Sleepless Girls” for the opening section of the set.  Dave Graney and Clare Moore couldn’t make this tour so These Immortal Souls alumni Craig Williamson and Chris Hughes have been drafted in. The new line-up has only  had a couple of lengthy rehearsals at Seed Studios in south Manchester and the lack of time to practice means there are a few minor mis-steps during the set which are treated with friendly self-deprecation and do not spoil the overall enjoyment. A couple of excellent tracks from the debut album “Sick Sick Sick” and “The Old Man Blues” demonstrate the depth of the NDE song book. The other half of the current album forms the bulk of the rest of the set, a notable exception being a fitting tribute to Vicky Egan with a reading of The Birthday Party’s The Red Clock. Harry’s guitar work is fantastic, Edwina’s having great fun with her new Microkorg and producing an amazing range of keyboard sounds, which has Una Baines making a mental note to purchase one of her own. Craig and Chris are excellent and are more than able substitutes for the absent Dave and Clare.

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Photograph by Johnathan Hargreaves

This is live music at it’s best. Powerful, hypnotic, driven and played with enthusiasm. The four gig highlights of the year for me have been from Australians, two Dave Graney gigs in the spring, The Necks a couple of weeks back, and this gig from Harry Howard and the NDE.

Harry’s melding of garage rock and post-punk merges the best of both into a fresh and modern sound. Add to that great songs and you have a very special live experience.

The band play the Marc Riley session tonight and The Betsey Trotwood in Clerkenwell, London on Thursday before embarking on a full European Tour (details below). I recommend you catch them live, they are fantastic.

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Revised 24/11/16

Fascinating Things : Issue 74

Time is escaping me at a rapid rate due to lots of other workloads,  with no time for considered prose. So this time it’s  just a series of videos and soundclouds  of things that I reckon you should wrap your ears around. They are  out now or due soon. Plus there’s  a list of current favourite listens at the end of the post showing what’s on rotation on the I-Pod at the moment….and a bit of shameless self-publication at the bottom. Enjoy!

MESMER DISCIPLES – REAL LOUD (Leeds,UK)

CHORE – THE HITCHHIKER (Ontario, Canada)

THE FRANKLYS – CASTAWAY (London, UK)

PAPA M – BLOOM (Louisville, USA)

FLIES ON YOU – DARKENING MY DOOR (Leeds, UK)

BOWERY ELECTRIC – FEAR OF FLYING (New York City, USA)

WE ARE BANDICOOT – TEMPER (Kent, UK)

THE STRESS OF LEISURE – GIRL ON A LILO (Brisbane, Australia)

 

CURRENTLY ON THE I-POD

  • Fistula – The Shape Of Doom To Cumm )))
  • Loser Life – …And I Am Going To Live This Way , Things Will Never Change, I Want The World, My Hell, Life Number Two, Burning Fields/Hard To Please (complete back catalogue being released)
  • Chore – The Coastaline Fire
  • Papa M -Highway Songs
  • Donny McCaslin – Beyond Now
  • Chads Tree – Crossing Off The Miles
  • Harry Howard and the NDE – Sleepless Girls
  • The Stress of Leisure – Achievement
  • Kristin Hersh – Wyatt at the Coyote Palace
  • Moss Skellington- The Lump
  • The Get – The Private Men EP
  • Miles Davis – Freedom Jazz Dance
  • The Triffids – Born Sandy Devotional

AND SOME GIGS COMING UP (which is why I have been otherwise engaged)

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Howards Way

Three albums in and Harry Howard and the NDE have hit a creative peak.

The new one, entitled “Sleepless Girls”, is the best yet  from a band that has progressively improved since the debut eponymous release in 2012. With Dave Graney and Clare Moore as the tighter than tight rhythm section, and Edwina Preston’s signature keyboard, plus Harry’s crunching guitar and laconic garage rock snarl, you have the perfect post-punk sound .

Opening with the memorable “The Only One”, which hits you between the eyes like a particularly powerful musical cocktail, the stage is set for an eleven song collection full of hooks, riffs, and rhythms that should get you up and shimmying across the dance-floor with frug like intensity.

The pressure is relentless, the sound soars ,and the riffs roll across the soundscape.  The repetitious “Votes for Women”, for example, is an exercise in pure garage wall of sound. Preston’s clever use of tones is a perfect counterpoint to Howard’s bluesy riffs and expressive vocal style, a sort of yin and yang relationship, with the bitter sweet keyboard sounds marrying with the scabrous guitar attack. Harry’s wordplay has a mystical feel evoking dark corners and illicit memories and experiences.

The majestic “Sleepless Girls” allows a brief respite from the garage rock rollin’ and tumblin’,  however the peace is soon shattered by the glorious “Grim Disposition”, which emerges from a dirty riff, with such swagger that this listener was left breathless,  and the speedy “She Doesn’t Like It”,  which features a dual vocal attack from Edwina and Harry.

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There’s usually a slow one on an NDE album, notably the exceptional “History Is Linear” on the debut album. This album’s offering is the stately “25 Cent Paperback” which ends an excellent release on a memorable high.

Harry Howard toured and wrote with the Birthday Party, Crime & the City Solution and These Immortal Souls,  he has hit a career high with the three NDE albums released to date.

Some bands try to do this type of thing and fail miserably, Harry Howard and the NDE have cracked the garage-punk code and moved it on to be  fresh and modern, and it can be argued they are one the best bands around delivering of this type of sound.

Fascinating Things : Issue 71

Still catching up on about three weeks worth of submissions so some of the below might be slightly out of date…..

Hot off the press is news of the  much anticipated third album from Harry Howard and the NDE, which  is teased with a pay what you want track “The Only One”. The album is called “Sleepless Girls”. Marvellous!

Politburo, from the place on the other side of the Irwell, kindly donated a track to our “Salford Streets” charity album a few years back,  i’ll return the favour by bringing to your attention their album “Barrington Way” which is rather fine indeed.

The somewhat musically schizophrenic Sky Between Leaves journey between Krautrock, Dream Pop, Post-Punk and Space Rock in this four track EP  called “Klein Blues”. They are a trio from Brazil who reside in East London.

The utterly wonderful Opposite Sex , described as post-post-punk,  released their new one in August, just got around to listening to it.  Chaotic but charming lo-fi majesty….

David Pajo last released something as Papa M back in 2004, indeed we have to back as far as 2001 for an original release. That will be remedied on November 11th with a new album.  Here’s the single from it….

I’m very pleased to share the song “Odal” from Wardruna´s upcoming album “Runaljod – Ragnarok” set to be released 21 October through By Norse Music.
This release is the third instalment in a trilogy of albums that began with Runaljod – gap var Ginnunga (2009) and continued with Runaljod – Yggdrasil (2013). The song itself features special appearances from main man Einar Selvik’s own children. Wonderful percussive epic music.