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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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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Fascinating Things : Issue 64

Straight into it this time around, there is just so much going on……………

Psychedelic dirt rock unit, Sonic Wolves,  which comprises current and past members of Ufomammut, The Hounds Of Hasselvander, Pentagram, and Rogue State,  release their debut full-length, “The End Comes”, on Taxi Driver Records in late July 2016. The eight-track offering follows the band’s first single, “He Said,” released as a limed edition seven-inch in conjunction with Record Store Day 2016.  Formed in Alessandria, Italy in 2012 by bassist Kayt Vigil (Rogue State, ex-The Hounds Of Hasselvander, ex-Pentagram) and drummer Vita (Ufomammut, Rogue State) initially under the name of “Tsutar”. In December 2014, the band recorded their first demo at Ampire Studio in Pistoia, Italy. At that time was Vigil on bass/vocals, Vita on drums and Stefano Tocci (Deaf Eyes, ex-Incoming Cerebral Overdrive) on guitars. By Spring of the following year, the eight-track “WolfWitch” was released and just a few months later, Paolo Melotto (ex-Psyconauts) joined  on lead guitar and vocals, followed by Diniz (Temple Of Dust, Mexican Chili Funeral Party) on rhythm guitar.

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The sound of the band is a mix of heavy, gritty rock, with elements of metal and psychedelic influences. Here’s a taster of ‘He Said’ which was recorded and mixed by Stefano Tocci at Ampire Studio, Pistoia (Italy), and it’s a “radio edit” version. The extended track will be included in the upcoming full length. I’ll be featuring a track on the Sonic Attack  #168 on July 25th.

Boston-based thrashing hardcore punk band, Panzerbastard, release four new tracks on July 15th via their “MotörHeathen seven-inch”. Released by  PATAC Records, the new one follows a barrage of EP and split releases since their 2006 formation.

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“Here you go, motherfuckers,” says bassist/vocalist KPanzer of the seven-inch, “….the latest sonic assault on decency by the kings of motör-core. Forged in a dark, smelly, room in the deepest, darkest bowels of Boston, your intrepid, dirtbag heroes internalized three years of misfortune, betrayal, underachievement, and general disgust with the human race to puke forth the four slabs of sonic offal now known as MotörHeathen. We are the bastard sons of Motörhead, Discharge, Venom, and Cro-Mags, on a mission to ruin your life.” There you go….and very good it is too.  A couple of tracks will be on Sonic Attack #167 on July 18th. I’ve nothing to embed from the new one so here’s the most recent release prior to this new one.

Conceived as a three-piece jamming out simple stoner blues rock heavily rooted in metal, The Company Corvette deliver wall of sound hard rock.  They have recently completed their third full-length recording, “Never Enough”, which is released on August 5th  It’s heavy riff-laden, psychedelically inclined, occasionally laid back, mostly loud, stoner rock with above average use of fuzz and wah. The band likes to think of their two earlier releases as “glorified demos”  with the new album being a huge step forward for the trio in virtually every department. I agree.

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There will be a couple of tracks from this release on Sonic Attack #180 on August 8th – pending that here’s a taster.

Sanford Parker is the well regarded producer and electronicist behind some of metal’s most exploratory outfits, breaking new territory in his work as a fixture of Buried At Sea, Minsk, Corrections House and Mirrors For Psychic Warfare, and featuring on and producing numerous records from respected names . His trademark atmospherics shift between the nuanced to the crushingly direct, including elements of industrial, cold-wave and power electronics to give bleak, brutalist clout to his work. Now, Parker is striking out on his own with “Lash Back”, a full length record of mechanical, dystopic, beat-driven menace. Due out on the My Proud Mountain label on July 22nd, Lash Back is a marked departure from his metal legacy, retaining some of the hallmarks of his impressive work to date but moving towards bands Perc, Youth Code and Pharmakon. It’s a most enjoyable listen with a lot of sonic variety. Sadly I have nothing I can share at this stage so you will have to wait until Sonic Attack #168 on July 25th.

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Two years in the making, The Night Watch release their second album, “Boundaries”, a single thirty-six-minute piece on July 15th. The Canadian progressive instrumental quartet features guitarist Nathanael Larochette and violinist Evan Runge of Musk Ox. Sonically it’s a close relation to early God Speed and Silver Mount Zion but with a busier string sound which comes out of Vivaldi via Klezmer. You can pre-order here and I will podcast a portion of the piece on Aural Delights #190.

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And to conclude in a shameless act of self-promotion for our record label here’s a list of July gigs for the turns we look after…..

  • 1st July –  Taser Puppets with Joiner [Germany] Gareth Icke  at Dublin Castle Camden , London
  • 2nd July – The Scissors play  Bar Hill Festival, Bar Hill, Cambridgeshire
  • 9th July – The Electric Cheese, West Coast Sick Line and Pearl Divers play Dulcimer, Chorlton
  • 14th July – Poppycock and Rose & The Diamond Hand play The Thirsty Scholar. Manchester
  • 15th July – The Junta plays Night and Day Cafe. Oldham Street, Manchester
  • 15th July – West Coast Sick Line and Poppycock play Aatma, Manchester with Bobbie Peru
  • 17th July – Bouquet of Dead Crows play an acoustic set at Corner House, Cambridge
  • 28th July – Kit B play The House Party at Kendal Calling
  • 30th July – The Scissors play Portland Arms, Cambridge with The Machismo’s and Moonstrips

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Reflected Glory

The Scissors

(Is The) Haunted Mirror

German Shepherd Records

11th March 2016

The Scissors (UK), so as to distinguish them from other bands with the same name, are based in Cambridge (UK), again so as to distinguish said place from other towns of the same name, release their second full length studio album, on March 11th, via German Shepherd Records, in digital and limited edition CD formats.

Describing themselves as “Swirling keyboard-fuelled psych-pop with horror-show freak-beat guitars and new wave post-punk bass-lines” the band previously caught my attention with their début release “Daylight Cinema” first released in 2010. Since then they have also released the “Afternoons” EP in 2011, a live album “Be Seeing You” in 2012, and a remastered version of the first album in 2013. All of those releases are available via their website.

Stewart Harris plays bass and sings; Toby Lefever plays guitar; Simon Powell plays keyboards, theremin, and other home-made electronica; and Huw Wallace plays drums.

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The band was formed when Toby and Stewart met at art school (Anglia Ruskin) way back, and put the band together in 2006, initially as a three piece. Simon joined on keys in 2007, and Huw is the newbie on drums, having only been with the band six years. Stewart writes the lyrics, bringing some songs fully formed for the band to arrange; other songs emerge from band jams.

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The eleven track set grabs the attention from the get go with a thumping bass and drum combination, surging Hammond and searing guitars and excellent call and response vocals. “Come With Me” is a great opener, followed by the exceedingly catchy “No go the lowdown” which echoes classic british pop-rock with a tinge of urban blues and a smattering of soul in the vocals, and a killer hook.  This band is all about textures and layers and the visceral guitar tones of “Don’t Hate Just Because I’m Yours” introduce another memorable melody, which promises to be a real crowd pleaser with it’s more-ish chorus. The band keep the songs short and to the point, perfect little nuggets of modern music. After the up tempo start matters slow down for the more restrained “All The Things” which is notable for Simon Powell’s sonic explorations and busy drums from Wallace.  The punky motorik “I’m Not The Real Me” perhaps sums up the unique qualities of the band, conjuring a maelstrom of different sounds into a melange of psychedelic pop. The album title track is a tight little tune with a ska feel, great organ sounds, and tasty pop elements and a tidy guitar solo. “Phones Calls from the Dead” has another killer guitar hook, pumping bass and great changes echoing Zappa at his most playful.  Gritty picked guitar opens the blues drenched “Why Don’t You Cry” which comes across like the mutant offspring of “House of the Rising Sun”, nice soloing from Lefever, combined with some great feedback control make this the stand out track for the guitarist. “Sjhake” – I should have asked them what the added “J” was for, but I forgot, is a tasty portion of blue-eyed soul-rock.”Come With Me” reprises in a jam-like free improv way before morphing back into the main song. The album closes with ambient sounds and the measured “Attack Of The Phantom Teardrops” which takes a deep emotional breath after a such a busy and impressive selection.

A highly recommended second album release from a great band.

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I took the opportunity to do one of my virtual interviews and asked the band my usual set of questions…..

Are any members of the band in other current bands, or have played in other
bands previously?

Toby and Stewart were in short-lived Cambridge ‘classic rock’ style group The Knights of Spring; Simon is a veteran of the Cambridge scene having been in Slinky, Blind Velma and Darts Club, mainly playing organ. Huw has played with Pretentious, Moi? and Introspectators. Stewart currently also plays with indie-rockers The Seven Twenty, and with folk-popsters Jacqui and Geoff.

A six year gap between “Daylight Cinema” and this new one – why so long?

In the gap between the full-length albums we made an EP/mini album (‘Afternoons’, still available via Bandcamp), a live album recorded during a mini-tour of Eastern England, and some compilation-only tracks; but we were also busy doing lots of gigs and small festival dates. We love playing live!

Main musical influences for each of the band members, and the band
collectively?

Toby’s influences are mainly pop/rock music circa 1966/1967, everything from sunshine pop through to obscure garage-psych gems; and the psychier end of British mod and R’n’B groups from that period.

Simon says of his influences, ‘Clint Boon first got me into the organ, bands like Broadcast got me into messing about with electronic noises, and Roger Ruskin Spear got me into using unconventional homemade instruments on stage.’

Huw’s influences are ‘Everything!’

Stewart also loves mid to late 60s garage punk, and everything that links that to early 80s new-wave/post punk. Also anything with a sense of the theatrical.

Collectively, there’s probably an absurdist sense of humour that helps connect all those influences together. And the ‘outsider’ ethic of heroes like Joe Meek and Jesse Hector, that’s part of our collective mentality too.

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The Hammond organ is a key part of the band’s sound – an instrument not current perhaps – and it certainly adds both a familiar and at the same time “new” sound to the overall mix. Is there a particular reason for using that specific instrument?

Simon says, ‘The Hammond organ is so expressive – you can do anything from choppy ska rhythms (which we have in some of our earlier songs), right up to massive walls of swirly growly noise. I’m not a purist – I like to put it through flangers and filters any other effects I can get my hands on, so it doesn’t always end up sounding like an organ. I control the Hammond and the other synth noises with my feet, and a lot of the electronic noises are played by waving my hands around a homemade theremin.’

As a follow up to the above – the overt use of electronica on “All These Things” for example is interesting?  Have you a view on melding varying genres together like that?

We love melding and welding wherever possible. Coming at something from the wrong angle or a different viewpoint often gets you more interesting results. Like Toby’s talent for finding exactly the right ‘wrong’ note to play.

You are able to merge contemporary rock sounds with a punk edge….? 

Hopefully, yes. Old or new, but played with exuberance. We put all sorts through the mangler.

What are “horror show freak beat” guitars?

Toby says ‘I want to sound like Mark Loomis from the Chocolate Watch Band or Jeff Beck when he was in the Yardbirds. So “horror show freak beat guitars” is me trying to sound like those two.’

Where was the album recorded and by who?

It was recorded at The Scissors’ secret Batcave, all by ourselves. It’s the Joe Meek influence at work again!

Current listening for each band member?

Toby: The World of Twist

Huw: Van der Graaf Generator, P-Funk All Stars, The Verve and Fleetwood Mac

Simon: Zydeco music (which is even more fun to dance to than The Scissors!), The
Trembling Blue Stars, The Organ, The Demon Barbers

Stewart: 70s Italian horror movie soundtracks, Slaves, Deerhunter, Roots Manuva,
Bauhaus.

The band launch the album at the Boathouse in Cambridge on 12th March.

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