Independents Day

When I find that the state of the music industry is causing me grief once again, I can look back to 8th April 2018 when my faith in grassroots music was yet again rekindled by John Donaldson and his band of travelling musicians.

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A short tour involving the aforementioned John (as JD Meatyard), Tamsin A (of Mr Heart, Ill and Liines), Kin, Mankes and my co-conspirator in all matters German Shepherd, Ian “Moet” Moss had already touched Blackburn, Darwen and Sheffield before descending on Manchester. The city is still buzzing from the previous days’ derby match. The train from Eccles to Piccadilly takes me through the Ordsall Chord for the first time. The number of very high tower blocks along the route gives me the strong impression that Manchester aspires to be Manhattan. I do wonder whether sufficient planning has been developed to ensure that the infrastructure can cope with so much humanity in such a small area.

The walk from Piccadilly involves a complex dance around scurrying commuters, the number of people “living” on the street feels like it is inexorably growing, and they are all so much younger. The contradiction/disconnect between the expansive high-value housing market seen from the train and destitution on the city streets is chastening. It seems ridiculous that in a country with an economy as strong as ours that such things have occurred and are not being dealt with. I raise these somewhat political points to set a context for JD Meatyards’ set later in the day which covers them more effectively than I can.

Step back several years to the first Independents Tour at the now-defunct Crescent Pub (another victim of an uncontrolled housing/commercial market) where performances from Hamsters, Tamsin, Cannonball Statman, and JD Meatyard led to the release of three albums worth of excellent live music and set in course a series of artistically perfect relationships. A year later at the Salford Music Festival, JD Meatyard plays to a packed room at The Eagle Inn and wins over a boisterous crowd.  Up to date and this time around we are at The Peer Hat for a late afternoon/early evening of memorable music.

Huge thanks need to go to Paul Forshaw for diligently capturing this for posterity.

Tamsin begins proceedings following a short introduction from Mr Moss in his spoken word persona.  Her music has moved on leaps and bounds since I saw her last. It’s a trend for the afternoon that she and former bandmate in Mr Heart, Kin, use looping devices to a stunning effect. At times she can mirror the fractured fragility of Kristin Hersh at her best, and other moments there is a full-on wall of sound with layered guitars and vocals which can keep pace with any full-on punk band you would care to mention. The songs are stronger, the arrangements more complex, and the delivery the best I have seen from her. When she isn’t fulfilling her Ill or Liines duties she should find time to get this material recorded. Words are not enough to describe it so fortunately, we have this capture.

A short break for another glass of alcohol-free lager and then it’s time for Kin. It’s seven years since I last saw her do an album launch at the Castle before jetting off to Holland for another life, and another band, which has now dissolved. Time and distance have not diluted her amazing talent. She and  Moet kick things off with an improvisation around “The Wilsons”, a song that was supposed be done by Kill Pretty, was rescued by myself and Ian (in our IM-SM period), and also memorably was also given the Loop-Azanvour treatment at the aforementioned Castle last year. It’s one of Ian’s finest lyrics and this spontaneous version is remarkable. What follows is a triumph of technology, musicianship, and vocalese which sees Kin expanding beyond her influences into her own musical territory. Her voice is stronger than ever. Her command of a battery of pedals allows her to create percussion, orchestral guitar layers, and a truly dynamic performance. Again words do not do enough justice for a memorable set of cutting-edge music,  see for yourself.

Third on the bill are the remarkable Mankes. They are from Holland and comprise Selma Peelen, Johan Visschers and Peter Kahmann. For a three-piece, they make a huge noise. Acoustic and electric guitars and keyboards are combined to create huge cinematic statements. Selma’s voice soars incandescently over droning hypnotic rhythms, the tunes are great and memorable. Sometimes it is stripped back to just acoustic guitar and percussion to offer an impressive variety of impressive content. I buy the album from the merch table, and you will be hearing it on future editions of Aural Delights. Pending that bask in the sumptuous and organic sounds of a remarkable band.

And finally the remarkable JD Meatyard, Moet kicks things off with a great reading of “The Elephant’s Graveyard” (one of my favourite pieces that we have done together) and an acerbic “Freemasons” before a rambunctious set from the trio. Tamsin joins on guitar for an excellent collection of John’s best tunes including a breathless “Ubu@Erics”, an acerbic “St Peter at The Gates”,and the call to arms of the marvellous “Jesse James”. John has the ability to mix rich polemic rants, with beautiful heartfelt ballads, he can make you joyful, angry and tearful, he tugs at your heart with his words. He plays new songs from a forthcoming album which promised for later in the year. The Teenage Propshaft makes his inevitable and customary appearance. Matters conclude with a massive reading of “Palestine Song” which is clearly current. Members of Mankes join for a huge wall of sound conclusion. An encore of “Lies, Lies and Government” is unfortunately not captured visually, but an aural version remains for posterity.

Lets do it again some time.

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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

Salford Music Festival 2016

Dear reader it’s that time again, the last week in September, when I wax lyrical about the utterly wonderful Salford Music Festival. . Now in its’ seventh year this grass roots, no nonsense event, is part of the musical life blood of the city in which I live. Often overshadowed, in entertainment terms at least, by our noisy neighbours in Manchester, this Festival plays a big part in redressing that imbalance and puts Salford firmly on the map, where it deserves to be.

The difference between any other festival that you might care to join in on is that it is absolutely free for punters, no wristbands, no overpriced beer or food, and no tents. Ed Blaney’s desire for the events to be free is a key driver for the popularity and success of the three day celebration of music. And the added benefit is there isn’t a tribute band in sight.

The Festival has been stripped back to three days this year, Thursday 29th September to Saturday October 1st, and centres around the Chapel Street/Blackfriars area close to Manchester City Centre, and the peoples republic of Eccles and the delightful village of Monton, just five minutes up the road from where I happen to live. This more compact and focused approach makes this years Festival feel more important and vibrant than ever.

And of course I have a direct interest in that I am looking after two nights at the Eagle Inn – Friday and Saturday.

So what can you expect?  Well all the gigs are listed on the Salford Music Festival website so I encourage you to go there, but here are a few of my highlights from the three days……

THURSDAY

The ultra talented Tamsin Middleton (Mr Heart) has a solo show at The Crescent at 8:30pm followed by ded.pixel and The Kingdom

The excellent Salford Arms has Duke and the Darlings, Wintergreen and Crimsons

Bobby Peru close the night at the always  excellent Wangies in Eccles with support from The Comics and Sioux.

FRIDAY

The beautiful Sacred Trinity Church is the main stage for a headline concert featuring local big new things Cabbage, the excellent Blaney, Sound of Thieves and Jess Kemp

The Eagle Inn has the first of two German Shepherd Nights with The Junta, Bouquet of Dead Crows, The Scissors and Kit B.

Highly regard all female trio Liines play The Crescent.

SATURDAY

The second German Shepherd stage at the Eagle features Taser Puppets, Poppcock, JD Meatyard and West Coast Sick Line.

Highly regarded Death to the Strange play The Crescent.

A packed day at the Salford Arms sees seven acts on between 5pm and closing time.

Milton Keys duo The Rusty G’s play Wangies.

Y Key Operators with guest bassist John “The Junta” Montague play the Blue Bell in Monton.

Here are some examples of what to expect over the weekend. I hope to see you at the Eagle for what promises to be an excellent weekend.

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Album Of The Year?

Yes it’s that time again……and with it being a very busy year I thought i’d better prepare the long-list early on…..so in no particular order the candidates for this years “Best Of…..” not jazz albums… I’ll whittle it down to a top ten in due course, and I may well include some other ones I have missed and some things in the pipeline which look like they make the list.

There are a couple of very strong front-runners at the moment and after that it all gets a bit difficult…………

  • The Seven Twenty – The Seven Twenty
  • Niche – Heading East
  • Heroin In Tahiti – Sun and Violence
  • Dilly Dally – Sore
  • The Holy Soul – Fortean Times
  • Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek
  • The Lancashire Hustlers – What Made Him Run
  • Moff Skellington – Scribnalls
  • Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Just Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Think
  • Robert Forster – Songs To Play
  • Bouquet of Dead Crows – Of The Night
  • Dave Graney – Once I Loved The Oceans Roar
  • Monkeys In Love – Take The Biscuit
  • Corrections House – Know How To Carry A Wip
  • Esmerine – Lost Voices
  • Dead Sea Apes – Spectral Domain
  • Moff Skellington – The Corkscrew Tongue
  • Liberez – All Tense Now Lax
  • Vienna Ditto – Circle
  • JD Meatyard – Taking The Asylum
  • Ken Mode – Success
  • Dead to Dying World – Litany
  • Myrkur – M
  • The Creeping Ivies – Your New Favourite Garage Band
  • Ought – Sun Coming Down
  • Big Brave – Au De La
  • The Happy Fallen – Lost and Found
  • Cryin’ Queerwolf – Diva
  • Alif – Aynama -Rtama
  • Dave Graney ‘n’ The Coral Snakes – Night of the Wolverine  (Expanded)
  • ZX+ Don’t Drink The Water
  • Author & Punisher -Melk En Honing
  • Dave Graney & the mistLY – Play mistLY for me – live recordings vol 1
  • Flies On You – Etcetera
  • Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
  • The Go-Betweens – G stands for Go-Betweens : Volume One 1978-1984 (yes I know it’s a box set but it’s too good to ignore)
  • Moff Skellington – The Corduroy Bridge
  • The Fall – Sub Lingual Tablet
  • Minimi Deutsch – Minimi Deutsch
  • Anna Von Hauswolff – The Miraculous

A State Of Independents

During the latter months of 2015 JD Meatyard put together a short tour of the UK  which brought together several like-minded individuals to play in smallish venues.

One of the venues was The Crescent in Salford and on 31st October what has been described as an exceptional evening of music was delivered. The line-up included JD Meatyard, Cannonball Statman, Hamsters, Tamsin A and Mick Conroy as the MC with poetry interludes.

Fortunately, for those who missed the gig, three of the sets from the evening are being released by German Shepherd Records.

The Hamsters set includes a previously unreleased song, “Basically Johnny Moped”, a couple of tracks from their new EP “Branches”, the recent single “4VT” and a handful of classic tunes from the back catalogue. Lead Singer Moet was dreadfully ill on the night in question and played in his dressing gown but still managed to deliver a full on performance. This is the band at its’ best, rollicking punk rock with a lot of gusto.

Cannonball Statman comes from Brooklyn, New York and delivers a unique blend of speed of light vocalising with an amazing guitar technique which varies between scratchy anti-folk and stunning sonic dexterity. His songs are intense, oblique, and teetering on the edge of madness. The stand-out track “Carlos Is On Fire (and Alicia doesn’t know) is five minutes of complex word play which feels like something Paul Auster would have written in the New York Trilogy. One of the best, and most unique, sets of music I have heard all year. Check out more of Cannonball’s work at cannonballstatman.bandcamp.com.

JD Meatyard has had three excellent albums released on Probe Plus, and is well known from his work with Calvin Party. His set on the evening was a mix of expletive drenched polemic, riotous humour, mutant blues and heart rending ballads. Capturing JD in a live situation is a bonus as he delivers his excellent tunes with intensity and emotion. No one is safe from his seasoned eye and sharp tongue including Politicians, Bankers, and Tory voters from Sheffield. Meatyard fans will love it, those who haven’t heard his work  before will be converted.

All three albums are available for pre-order now from Bandcamp and a wide range of other digital outlets and will be fully released on December 21st.

JDM