Liverpool Sound City – Clubs

I’m running out of days to preview the great acts that are going to be playing Liverpool Sound City this year (the brilliant Kagoule are getting Radio One airplay this week so their stock is rising) – but it’d be wrong to get on my train tomorrow from Leicester having not mentioned THE Leicester based band that are on the bill.

I have to make a terrible confession. Although Clubs have been making considerable noise around these parts, I’ve yet to catch one of their live shows. Friends who have touched upon their considerable power tell me that I’m a fool for doing so.

Subscribing to the google game of awkward searches discussed when I profiled Movie, I’m aware of previous incarnations of Clubs. I understand the sound is different now with an increased pop sensibility replacing the more angular guitars of Panda Youth but even a casual gig goer could have seen that in lead singer, CJ Pandit, here’s a band that would turn heads.

They seem to delight in projecting a mysterious presence. Other acts listed to play this weekend provide complicated press releases detailing what their Grandparents like for breakfast (mostly porridge) whereas Clubs simply say ‘Progressive: Patience Is A Virtue.’ And their Soundcloud account isn’t cluttered with remixes or tracks released 5 years ago that give no indication of what we’re about to see. Instead, we just get this one track, Bleed. ‘Heavy pop’, they describe it as and they’re not wrong. It’s a fine tune with which to beckon in these longer daylight hours. It pop peppered with pollen. Full of muggy, fuzzy warmth, it could provide us with this Summer’s soundtrack… And there’s more to come.

 

 

Clubs play ‘Sound Food And Drink’ at half past 6 on Saturday evening. If this is your first opportunity to see them, take it. 

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Liverpool Sound City – The May Birds

This year has flown. It doesn’t feel like it’s been twelve months since I was last in Liverpool praising the vibrancy and charm of the people and the place. I threatened to move there then though I did have a lot to drink. 

Thursday is the 1st of May. Increasingly, spring will give way to summer and we’ll immerse ourselves fully into festival season. How appropriate that on the first day of the month, in the city of the Liver Bird, we’ll be able to watch The May Birds.

An all girl quartet specialising in lush, tender and beautiful folk, it might be hard for some to get beyond the fact that these are probably posh birds of privilege. I don’t know this for a fact but I’d be most surprised if Alice, Eleanore, Camilla and Charlotte struggled to afford their music lessons when they went to school. 

I’d best stop such generalisations though before I make them angry (birds). And actually, I’d rather take the classy sway of The May Birds over the calculated ‘working class’ swagger of the likes of Jake Bugg. 

It’s hard not to smile at the twee friendship that’s on offer during ‘Leah’s Song’. This is a long distance love song, a tune about getting older and wiser. There’s a calm confidence about the way it builds. Beautiful harmonies sing out over acoustic strums before the sound is layered with antique keys, marching drums, burgeoning banjo and commanding cello. It’s a song that makes you want to hug a passer by or to cuddle your enemies. 

It’s feelgood music and just what your Doctor ordered to transition towards warmer, longer days.

 

 The May Birds are playing at the Moon Museum on Thursday night at 20.15. The Moon Museum is a new Sound City venue but it’s apparently sponsored by Wychwood breweries and doing a fine range of Real Ales. What’s not to like about that? 

Liverpool Sound City – Le Prince Miiaou

To preview the under the radar things that interest me at this years Liverpool Sound City is ultimately a futile exercise. There are 360 acts playing next weekend and not enough time for me to even scratch the surface. I’ve written pieces about ‘Erotic Market‘ and ‘Rah Rah‘ but was also aware that there’s still much in the schedule that I’d not listened to. 

So tonight, I’ve played a random Facebook game. I asked friends who were still awake to give me a letter of the alphabet and a number between one and 20. I didn’t reveal why I wanted this. My friend, James, gave me L7. I’m glad he didn’t give me U2. I looked at the list of acts playing Liverpool Sound City that began with the letter ‘L’ – and then counted down 7. 

Today’s preview act is Le Prince Miiaou. Like Erotic Market, this is an act that hails from France. But, that’s where similarity stops.

 Le Prince Miiaou is Maud-Élisa Mandeau. The alter ego was randomly plucked from a book of book of Persian legends. Last year, she released her fourth album, Where is the Queen?. It was written and recorded in rural Charente, in south-west France. It’s an album that I want to like but one that doesn’t have enough hooks to keep me returning.

I doubt it’s where she wants to be but to my ears, ‘Where Is The Queen?’ touches on that space occupied by an 80’s era Fleetwood Mac. You sense that this is an act desperate to add more guitars but conceding to the trends of the day and mixing in a more synthesized, fuzzy sound. It’s a lightweight P.J. Harvey and a more interesting Haim. There are contrasts at play between loud and quiet, rock and dance, spoken French and sung English, cluttered fuzziness and clean air. And, without doubt, this is a popular space to inhabit at the moment.

If you’re walking past ‘Nation’ on Saturday night and want to take a chance on Le Prince Miiaou then I certainly wouldn’t hold it against you. It could even provide one of those moments. The video below demands attention if you like cats, skewed romance and an off-kilter view of the world.

 

Stop That Train

Another showcase night which means more talk about local Leicester acts. 

Stop That Train are a band that I’ve seen develop over a couple of years. Indeed, when I first saw them they were called ‘Blue Sky Goodbye’. A trio, they indulge in a ska pop thing that this city has done so well over the years. Rumours abound that the excellent ‘By The Rivers’ are going to be headlining a stage at Glastonbury this year. Stop That Train are made in a similar mould.

When I first saw Stop That Train, it was clear that they had the tunes and musical prowess. It wasn’t clear if they had the stage presence. Lead singer, Geno, has a charm but sometimes, in the past, he’s struggled to project this across a crowded room. Instead, we’ve got an awkward intensity that could be broken with a smile and a wink. 

This shuffling concentration was less evident last night. Geno is coming into his own on the stage. The rhythm section,Harry and Josh, support with impressive swagger. It was obvious that this band of friends were having fun last night and such spirit captivates. 

With album ‘Turn Left On Brazil Street’ recently released and a growing base of fans, I suspect that the future is a bright one for Stop That Train. Nobody wants to get off quite yet. This stock keeps rolling. 

 

Liverpool Sound City – Rah Rah

My review from last nights Micah P. Hinson gig for eGigs is half-complete. It was an odd, shambolic, strangely compelling show and I’ve been agonising over content. Sonic Breakfast gives me a temporary reprieve from that.

Another Liverpool Sound City preview today as it draws ever closer. Indeed, in a weeks time, delegates will no doubt be heading to breakfast, nursing their hangovers, convinced that they’ve just seen the next big thing. 

Saskatchewan’s best, Rah Rah are already quite a big thing in their native Canada. Back in 2009, they were awarded ‘Best Alternative New Artist’ and ‘Best New Canadiana Artist’ by I-tunes there. I’ll be completely honest that this genre, ‘Canadiana’, is a new one on me but I guess it’s one we can file Neil Young under. Since 2009, Rah Rah have simply developed this initial promise. Last year’s album, ‘The Poet’s Dead’, confidently strides across a variety of styles whilst never straying far from tuneful, lyrical, country pop ensemble. It’s like a more accessible, less awkward Broken Social Scene. I’ll probably be hated by many for saying that this is no bad thing. 

I understand that Rah Rah’s live show is something else. The six members of the band show off their talents by swapping instruments mid song. They take turns with percussive instruments, climb on their amp stacks and bounce from whatever fixture and fitting will take them. They’ve been known to sprinkle audience members with confetti. It all sounds like an interactive, immersive experience – the sort of show that Arcade Fire will be trying to pull from their bag in a couple of months from a Somerset field. 

 You get two chances to catch Rah Rah over the Sound City weekend. They’re playing Korova on the Friday night (which apparently isn’t the iconic venue from yesteryear but a place that has simply adopted the name) and groundbreaking, no alcohol bar, The Brink on Saturday at midnight. Which one of those two do you think I’m more likely to be at? 

 

Micah P. Hinson – Nottingham

It’s fair to say that I’m looking forward to this evening. Micah P. Hinson is coming to Nottingham and I’m going to be reviewing the show. This’ll be the first time that I’ve seen a Micah gig in eight years. That time has flown. 

There’s no doubt that he’s a complicated character. And music needs more of those. 

Back in 2011, a serious van crash in Spain left Micah needing a period of serious rehabilitation. 

“When the emergency crew got to us, they were looking at us as if we were fucking dead people. They said they’d seen less heavy accidents with more people die. So yeah, after that they took me to a hospital, gave me an x-ray and I had no broken bones, but my left arm wouldn’t work at all, and my right arm worked about 28%, maybe less.” commented Micah in a recent, revealing interview here.

It wasn’t as if Micah was renowned for his impeccable health prior to this accident. Back problems have beset him for years which have resulted in a fair amount of cancelled shows. Bankruptcy, drink and drug dependency (reformed) and a complicated upbringing all compound the sense that this is a man we’re privileged to be seeing live tonight. It’s sometimes hard to believe that Micah is still in his early 30’s given the dramas he’s lived through.

You can bet your bottom dollar that tonight won’t be an exercise in self pity though. The new album, ‘Micah P. Hinson and the nothing’ sounds beautiful and triumphant, melancholic but spirited, adventurous and timeless. Many of the tracks on it have been live favourites for years. 

I wonder if any of them were played eight years ago. That time has indeed flown.

 

 

Liverpool Sound City – Erotic Market

A week today, I’ll be heading to Liverpool for Sound City. I went last year and had an absolute ball. It was my first festival of an epic summer in which I reviewed eighteen for eFestivals. This summer won’t be quite as crazy but it’s still going to be busy.

 There are hundreds of bands that play over the Sound City weekend (Thursday to Saturday). It’s pure bliss for a new music fanatic to have such quantity and quality across 25 venues in one city – though agonising to deal with the clashes. Many of these acts harbour ambitions to be the next big thing – and some will actually break through. Picking which ones is a task that I’m not going to indulge in – my ears aren’t tuned that way – but you could stick a pin in the donkey’s arse (or a map of Liverpool) and quality would bounce back at you from whatever of the city venues you found yourself in.

In the build up to next Thursday, I plan to write about a few of the acts who have caught my eye – this won’t be your Kodaline, Clean Bandit, Hold Steady or Jagwar Ma’s who, whilst exciting live, are more known than most. This’ll be the acts that really might have otherwise passed you by. It won’t be a daily feature – for I’ve also got a Micah P Hinson gig to preview and another Leicester showcase to feature – it’s more of a finger into the bag of sherbet.

Erotic Market are the first act to be playing at Nation on Thursday evening. They take to the stage at 8PM. I’m not a Liverpool local but I understand that Nation is a club, a big warehouse like shed that’s home to the ‘Cream’ nightclubbing brand. It’s a new venue for Liverpool Sound City.

Erotic Market are a French duo formed in May 2012 by Marine Pellegrini and Lucas Garnier. Both musicians for more than 10 years, they perfected their skills in contemporary jazz bands and a first joint venture, N’Relax.

A few weeks ago, I was sent a preview of their forthcoming album, ‘Blahblahrians’.  It’s a chewy meat of a record. You’ve got to masticate away at the gristle to get to the tenderness. I’m not entirely sure that I’m there yet. The obvious comparison to draw is to M.I.A. but to do so potentially limits the scope of this record. On first listen, one song merges into another with little respite – but, on further investigation, the subtleties, intelligence and humour start to come to the fore. With titles like ‘retro retardo’, ‘I want to be some booty’, ‘Clitacasm’ and ‘Weird arabic stuff’, it’s worth perservering with. I’ve got no doubt that these are tunes that take on a whole new angle when played live – which is why Erotic Market are high on my schedule.

 Still need convincing?  I’ll end with a couple of extracts from their press release. Surely something is lost in translation here? Or perhaps it’s not? 

Grasping Erotic Market music is like that strange, penetrating dream of unknown music which is, each time, neither quite the same one nor a different one. It’s like saying again that beauty is always strange and is the magnificent essence of genuineness. It’s the odd, elusive feeling of remembering those tunes without knowing them at all, recognizing the vigorous rock garage music, the bright triturations of electro, the groove of hiphop…’

‘Erotic Market is a go fast. A racing car that designs its own routes, spinning past illogical scenery, between sensual, suggestive eroticism and a clearcut, flashy market. A space where we can feel in turn fully within and without this world. An allegory of contemporary life that often tosses us from the one to the other end.’ 

 I prefer to call it a chewy meat.