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.

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How can you get out of London?

Friday afternoon, golly gee……

London town is as hot as Hades compared to the peoples republic of Eccles at 8am that morning. I’m just off the 13:15 Pendolino from Manchester Piccadilly and it’s a slow, and warm, walk from Euston to the Travelodge on Kings Cross Road. I’d forgotten how busy London is, so many people on the pavements, it has been a few years since I have been this far south, you have to be agile negotiating all these bodies. So i’m pleased to get onto the quieter hotel strewn side ways of Argyle and Swinton Streets, there’s always a Salford connection wherever you go (*), and a short-cut to the cool, albeit small, hotel room. The traffic is bad, horns honking, bikes, both motor and pedal, zipping in and out and around. Booking in takes forever, the hotel is full of northern voices, it’s almost like being at home. A quick shower, a fresh T Shirt and then on the mobile to Bob “South” to find out where the Northampton contingent is at. They are at the Craft Beer House but are leaving shortly for the Jerusalem Tavern. Good, it’s hot and I need a beer.

It’s a 20 minute walk to the aforementioned establishment which takes me past the looming Mount Pleasant Mail Centre, several bistros and the slightly fading decadence of the streets of Kings Cross and Clerkenwell. It hits me i’ve walked by at least five rough sleepers in my perambulations from Euston. Lets hope Sadiq Khan’s election as Mayor of London can begin to tackle this.  I’ve noticed more and more rough sleepers in central Manchester lately as well. Mister Cameron says he’s dealing with the Housing Crisis…..but you can’t believe everything, or indeed anything he says, can you?

The Jerusalem Tavern is delightful, I am advised it is in the Good Beer Guide, and Google says it’s “a 1990s pub in a 1720 building with a facsimile 18th-century interior”, can one get by with an exquisite interior I wonder to myself (**). Bob and Jeff are suitably ensconced and a delicious pint of St Peter Ale is acquired for me.  We catch up on several matters, indulge in another round of ale, and then head up to The Crown Tavern for something to eat. A nice plate of Fish and Chips (required Friday food for a Catholic chap) and another pint in the pub which appears to have a fake lawn on the door to the gents. It’s getting near 7ish and the pubs are getting busy.  People aren’t inside the pubs though, they have spilled out onto the streets. A further stop off at The Gunmakers, which only has one ale on, but it’s a good one, and where Bob tells me there is a hairdressers upstairs, and it’s trendy. We chat about village drug dealing scallies,  Josef K and Harmonia amongst other things.

And so over to the Betsey Trotwood on Farringdon Road to see Dave Graney and the mistLY for the last gig in a five week European Tour. Dave, Clare Moore, Stu Thomas and Malcolm Ross(***) are tucking into a pre-gig meal in the cosy pub. We get one last beer in, have a brief chat with Clare, and then make our way down to the basement venue. I had thought the Eagle (****) was small, but this place is far more compact. It’s full, and very warm. There are a few rock and roll types in tonight. Bob points out that Louis Vause, who played piano on the “I Was The Hunter And I Was The Prey” album, is in the room.

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9:15pm and they are on.

Starting with the autobiographical “We Don’t Belong to Anybody” it’s just Dave, Clare and Stu kicking things off, Malcolm stands at the right watching on. It’s tight. it’s crisp, the sound is amazing, it’s fun, I can’t stop smiling. Dave is the consummate showman, he has a great band, and over the next two hours, with a fifteen minute break, we are treated to a marvellous journey through the “30 Year” back catalogue .

The two Moodists tunes that had been delivered in Salford three weeks ago are there. I was hoping “Chevrolet Rise” might make an appearance but the louche funk-punk of “Frankies Negative” and the acerbic post-punk of “Chad’s Car” make up for that omission. Bob and Jeff had regaled me earlier in the afternoon of that Fall gig where The Moodists were the support and where Dave had an immediate impact on the pair of them (8th December 1983 and two miles to the north west at the Electric Circus for the Fallatalists amongst you).

Coral Snakes tunes also get a good airing including “I’ve Got Myself A Beautiful Nightmare” , “Your Just Too Hip Baby” and the extended version of “Night of the Wolverine” (version number 4 I think with the slowed down memorable coda), plus the usual closer, the breathtaking “Rock and Roll Is Where I Hide”. Dave Graney Show, Lurid Yellow Mist and MistLY tunes all get exposure with “Death By A Thousand Sucks”, “Flash In The Pantz” and a stunning “We Need A Champion” which is introduced with some choice words about Australian politicians. The most recent “solo” album Fearful Wiggings is represented by the apposite “How Can You Get Out Of London” and some interesting comments about Grant McLennan are delivered (it was the tenth anniversary of his death on the date) before laying into Robert Forster , with  tongue firmly in the cheek , via “Everything Was Legendary With Robert”. Two of the latest set of singles “I’m a Good Hater” and “The Deadest Place I Ever Died In” are delivered with the latter being transformed into a very funky little beast in a live setting. I’m sure there were other songs played but my memory is failing me. No doubt Bob will have jotted down the full set list and I can append them to this later on.

Clare is inspirational throughout the gig, she has to be one the best drummers i’ve seen,.moving from tasteful jazzy licks, via funk, into driven rock rhythms. Stu is a stunning bass player, moving through a range of styles with ease. Malcolm adds some exceptional colour to the tunes, whether it be some tasteful wah-wah, spidery lead lines, our jagged post-punk chords. Dave is slick, hip and cool, you wouldn’t want it any other way. The vocal harmonies are spot on. The band is hypnotic. The inter-song banter is irreverent, funny and draws the crowd into Graney world. Dave makes an off-colour remark and Clare gives him the hard stare. It’s just perfect.

The encore is a respectful homage to the recently deceased Prince with Stu taking the lead vocals on a bravura cover of “Sign O’ The Times”. Unexpected and quite special.

And so it’s over. I’d had to move several small mountains to get there, but it was worth it. I don’t go to London that often but sometimes you have to make the effort. I’d enjoyed the Salford gig a lot but my mind was on running the thing and other background stuff so it perhaps didn’t have the impact of this gig. London was something special.

It had been a long day, a quick goodbye to Dave, then Bob and Jeff and then back to the hotel to get ready for an early journey back in the morning. A memorable trip, I wanted to be there, and I wanted to travel.

Hopefully they’ll be back again, soon.

Get a whiff of that antipodean breeze……..

EXPLANATORY NOTES

(*) Swinton is one of the districts of Salford

(**) From the lyrics of the Coral Snakes tune “Dandies Are Never Unbuttoned”

(***) Former Josef K, Aztec Camera and Orange Juice guitarist depping for Stuart Perera on this tour. Malcolm was a member of the Moodists and the Coral Snakes

(****) The venue in Salford where the band played in April – see review here

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Fascinating Things : Issue 57

I was engaged in one of those “list your ten favourite albums without thinking about it too much” things on Facebook the other day and I asked a like minded group of souls to do the same thing, as you do. The surprising , and perhaps concerning, result from this swapping of ideas was, in the most part, there were not many current/contemporary releases in the lists submitted by my chums. I was also a culprit in this regard, which got my thinking about my current listening patterns, and maybe the digital revolution had somehow, altered the way I absorb and remember music. Maybe it’s an age thing? Anyhow that’s another discussion….

The other notable thing was the lack of music from Australia in all of the lists except my own, I  had two albums – Night of the Wolverine by Dave Graney  ‘n’ The Coral Snakes, and Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express by The Go-Betweens. I considered the lack of Aussie material to be a matter of some concern given the quality of  both historic and current music emerging from the other side of the planet that I am aware of. So I set myself the task of exploring some recent music with a view to sharing some of the albums I consider deserve a wider audience.

I’d guess for the unenlightened Aussie “rock” music begins and ends with AC-DC,  with the occasional thought for the likes of  Men at Work. Midnight Oil and INXS. The more enlightened might have cause to mention The Birthday Party, and consequentially Nick Cave, together with The Go-Betweens, and The Triffids. Beyond that initial list of “well known” bands there is a vast array of exceptional talent in Australia both current and historic. Last years break through of Courtney Barnett, merely scratched the surface of what is, if you do enough work researching what is out there, a very impressive scene. Like the UK the scenes are disparate and different between the big cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Bands like The Holy Soul and singers like Jess Ribiero have been featured on my podcasts but I am lightly dipping my toe into a huge musical stew, there is a lot more out there.

It is no coincidence of course that I have been somewhat engaged with matters Antipodean over the last few months, what with Mr Graney and his band of merry troubadours paying a visit to Salford/Manchester. As is my custom when these things present themselves a detailed  examination of the wider  Melbourne music scene followed. Which lead to many hours pouring over arcane links between musicians and bands and many pennies spent acquiring material for consumption.

As discussed with the Graney band pre-sound check at the Eagle as couple of weeks back there are direct parallels between Manchester and Melbourne in that they are both music cities. The population of Melbourne is substantially larger than the Greater Manchester conurbation but there are comparative spreads of townships and settlements with their own disparate scenes across the geographies of both city regions, and both have dock land developments. There was mention when Dave was chatting to Marc Riley on Radio 6 the night before that the view was Sydney echoed London, in that it was more corporate, in music terms, whereas Melbourne was more like (Greater) Manchester.  There is a real sense of that “underground” “diy” “screw the system” approach in both of the latter cities. It appears from a distance, as unfortunately I have never visited, that Melbourne has a greater variety of choice of venues and that the pub/club scene there is more geared towards breaking new and established musicians, compared to the increasingly worrying trend here of venues closing or “tribute” bands dominating. Maybe it’s the economy, or maybe we need a cultural kick up the backside, but Melbourne seems to be a model of music provision we need to aspire to up here in the North?

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Harry Howard and the NDE

So where does this take us?

As I am always in search of new and interesting music, I thought I would explore some of the better releases that I have come across, and starting with Dave Graney, one can map a series of links across to some fascinating music indeed. Although they’ve had albums out for a while, I’ll begin  with the band that Dave and Clare Moore play bass and drums in, that being Harry Howard and the NDE. Harry was notably in Crime and the City Solution with his brother the late Rowland S. Howard, and These Immortal Souls. Harry writes a mean tune and his two releases to date are highly recommended for lovers of post-punk styled garage rock. There are some certified bona fide ear worms on both albums and notably, on the 2012 released “Near Death Experience”, the epic closer ‘History is Linear’.

2013’s “Pretty” is jam packed full of great tunes, and builds on the first release to create a memorable listening experience. The music is delivered with a great swagger and deserved confidence. It makes me smile when I listen to it and it has that inspirational rock and roll feel. The unique sound of Edwina Preston’s Acetone Organ gives the music that extra edge which sets it apart from others in this genre.  I wait with some anticipation for future recordings from Harry and Co.

Stu Thomas has occupied the bass seat in Dave Graney’s bands since the early 2000’s, as well as that he is a busy man with his own projects, notably The Stu Thomas Paradox which he describes as “voodoo surf”.  Stu has formed and fronted many musical units, as well as  The Stu Thomas Paradox there are  Stu & The Celestials, The Brass Bed, Crumpet and Organism, all of which will need investigating at some point of course. Pending that, the 2010 album “Escape from Algebra”, which features Graney alumni Billy Miller (and I must get around to listening to his stuff) and amply demonstrates Thomas’s excellent song-writing prowess. There’s a joyful playfulness running through all of the music on this release.

Aside from the about Stu has, more recently, released a couple of Lee Hazelwood tribute albums which I  haven’t got around to as yet, pending that I would point out his 2007 solo debut which is a more introspective affair than the Paradox work. It’s an acoustic focused set of songs with a series of duets from notable female vocalists –  Charlotte Thomas, Clare Moore , Anna Burley (Killjoys), Barb Waters, Amanda Rochford (Gusset Rustlers), Emilie Martin (Luxedo).  There are also some notable guest musicians featured Mike Noga (The Drones), Delaney Davidson (Dead Brothers), Chris Hughes (These Immortal Souls, Hugo Race), and Lemmi Schwarz (Neon Dorn).  Another fine album which I strongly recommend, and a pile of other bands to look into due to the associations. The Gusset Rustlers are intriguing to say the least!

Following the continuity trail, Stu has also played bass with Kim Salmon, in the band The Surrealists. Salmon has been described as  as one of the first Australians to “embrace wholeheartedly the emergent punk phenomenon of the mid-to-late 1970s” with The Scientists. He described a later band Beasts of Bourbon as “masters of uncompromising gutbucket blues and hard-edged rock’n’roll”. He has a massive back catalogue which will need some time to absorb, including the need for a retrospective on the excellent Scientists. Pending that notably, the 2010 album “Grand Unifying Theory” from the Surrealists, brings together Salmon’s love of Sun Ra, Miles Davis and Can, in a melange of music described as “polyrhythmic beats, its atonal keys, its heavy funk/punk grooves “. To keep the conceptual continuity of this piece alive,  Kim’s vocals were tracked by Dave Graney at the Ponderosa (his home recording studio), and Clare Moore provides backing vocals. Stu Thomas plays bass, and Phil Collings, from the Paradox band, is the drummer. This is the least commercial of this selection of albums, and the most challenging, as Salmon merges free funk, jazz and scabrous rock improv workouts into a curates egg  of a collection of material, with the stunning “Predate” standing out. It is sadly short at 23 minutes but packs enough into that time to keep the mind alive and the attention grabbed. On the basis of this album I shall be diving head first into Mr Salmon’s back catalogue with some vigour.

Material from the above will featured in Aural Delights Podcasts 178 and 179, and of course going forward as more emerges.

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Dave Graney and the mistLY : Live in Salford

 

 

The Best Dressed Chicken In Town

Dave Graney has been written about, at some length, on this blog over the years, so regular readers will know of my admiration for his work. Indeed, I do see it as a bit of a crusade on my part to get his extensive back catalogue known about, and shared with other like minded music loving souls out there. In light of my ramblings, and regular features on podcasts and radio broadcasts, there has been contact between he and I over recent years. So, when he advised me he was coming over to the UK to play at All Tomorrows Parties and asked could there be the chance of a gig in the Manchester area I was, of course, keen to do something. The chance to actually see Dave play live in this part of the world is rare,  so a few messages were interchanged and the wonderful Una Baines made it happen.

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Another by-product of the trip was the chance of a session on Radio 6 with Marc Riley and through the sterling work of Ian “Moet” Moss this was also put in place. Dave had played two nights in Scotland the preceding week and arrived in Manchester, and at Salford Quays more accurately,with the ever present Clare Moore and Stu Thomas, and, special guest, Malcolm Ross, to play three songs in session with Marc. A nice aperitif for what was to follow on the Thursday night in Salford.

The Eagle Inn nestles just of the Inner Relief Route between Manchester and Salford, in an industrial area. The pubs’ proximity to the Blueprint Recording Studios makes it a haven for post recording session musicians wanting to whet their whistle with a beer before heading home. It is a relatively recent edition to the selection of well run music venues (alongside Gullivers and The Castle) and it is one of the best small venues on the fringes of the city centre area. It seemed to be the perfect place for an intimate gig with Dave Graney and the mistLY.  The unique concert room ,which is essentially is a hollowed out Victorian terraced house, adding to the experience.

With regular band member Stu Perrera back in Australia old sparring partner Malcolm Ross (Josef K,  Orange Juice, Aztec Camera)  was brought into the band to create the essential second guitar sound which makes the mistLY band so vital.  Malcolm’s history with The Moodists and the early line-up of the Coral Snakes allowed for a set-list which covered most of Dave’s career.

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But i’m getting ahead of myself. The evening kicked off with a solo set from Franco Bandini. On acoustic guitar and piano Franco worked through his recent EP release on German Shepherd Records, a cover, and a couple of newer songs. Franco’s intense delivery and passionate tunes were received well by the crowd. He is working on parallel material at the moment and news of his forthcoming ventures will be shared in due course.

Having seen Poppycock the Saturday before at Dulcimer in Chorlton I knew what to expect. Once again they did not disappoint. The eight strong line-up worked its way through recent material, the latest single,  tracks from The Fates album, and an excellent cover  of Lou Reeds “There Is No Time”(from the New York album). The collective gets increasingly stronger with, notably, excellent vocal performances, and memorable tunes. The beauty of the band is their mix of stripped back VU style rock with a traditional music edge running alongside.  If you are in the Greater Manchester area and you have  not seen them live yet I suggest you ought to go out of your way to catch them.

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On stage promptly at 10pm the incredibly dapper Dave Graney lead us through an hour and fifteen minutes of his best material. His assured and witty delivery, and a rhythm section with a clear telepathic understanding was wonderful to witness live, the added bonus was the unique opportunity to see Malcolm Ross working with the band. With two Moodists songs “Chad’s Car” and “Frankies Negative”, a number of Coral Snakes tunes, including a personal favourite “I Got Myself A Beautiful Nightmare” and a spine tingling “Night of the Wolverine”, plus a good selection of Dave’s “solo” material including a sultry “Body Snatcher Blues”, “Death By A Thousand Sucks”, the excellent “Everything Was Legendary With Robert” from the “Fearful Wiggings” album, and recent single “I’m A Good Hater”, Graney fans were treated to a special evening. Closing song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Where I Hide” and encore “You’re Just Too Hip, Baby”, a special request for Una, brought out the best in the band with two classic Graney compositions closing a very special evening.

Those fortunate enough to be attending ATP in Prestatyn are in for a treat. After that Dave and the band  are off to France for a run of gigs, then Amsterdam, and then back to the UK a couple of nights at the Betsey Trotwood in London, before heading home to Melbourne. If you get the chance to catch any of these gigs I suggest you make the effort.

Thanks to Dave, Clare, Stu, Malcolm, Una, Sam and Moet for making this happen.