Flo & Joan – Leicester Curve – Saturday February 9th

Thinking that I was likely to be in Spain still, I initially had to turn down the annual approach from the Leicester Mercury to review some shows as part of the Leicester Comedy festival. 

But, with the sudden change of plans, I got in touch with them asking if I could be their reserve weekend reviewer. The initial reviewer dropped out of seeing Flo & Joan at Curve and I stepped up to the plate. Here’s my pre-edited words that were probably printed in yesterday’s paper… 

 

Flo and Joan must be pinching themselves. Worthy recipients of the Comedy Festival award for ‘best musical-comedy act’ in 2018, they’re no longer destined to be playing small rooms in pubs. Here they are playing Curve’s main theatre on a weekend night. “We were a bit nervous about the upgrade”, the quirky sisters confess towards the end of their ninety minute set of two halves.

But they needn’t have worried. In many ways, their precise and professional performance style is ideal for Curve’s County-set, venturing out of their Harborough and Hinckley enclaves to chuckle and occasionally whoop at the songs on offer. Flo, bespectacled and healthily geeky, mostly perches behind her keyboard uttering dry quips whilst Joan, seemingly the more confident of the two, is left to do the audience interaction bits whilst playing a mini-castanet at her seat. Both harmonise and pronounce exquisitely. Even when their songs aren’t pant-wettingly funny, there’s enough delight to be found in just listening to their music. 

Fortunately, this is a show where the laughs are plentiful. Newer material is delivered in the longer first half, a fine mix of gentle observational stuff and story-telling yarn. The audience can’t help but marvel as the tongue-twisting tale of ‘Carol, the cracker packer’ is despatched with crisp confidence. Many moan with personal insight as depressing stats about divorce are reeled off in the wedding song. Things really sparkle as the end of the first half looms and, in an effort to prove how cool and contemporary musical comedy can be, the girls get all jazzy on their resplendent array of recorders. 

The shorter second half is filled with back-catalogue classics. The sisters ponder politely how they would kill their sibling before noting the importance of bees for human existence in a funky track that must surely have drawn influence from The Flight Of The Conchords. 

As the show draws to a close, we’re disappointed to discover that we’ve been a tad duped by Nicola and Rosie. Flo and Joan are not their real names but rather the names of grandparents. That disappointment though is short-lived as we’re taken on an English folk-homage, a luscious alliterative tale about Linda that grows like an old lady swallowing a fly into the highlight of the night for many. 

Flo and Joan’s appeal is broad. There’s nothing niche about their precise, talent-laden comedy and you rather suspect that arena gigs could well be next on their trajectory. Those at Curve tonight have witnessed the start of that transition. 

 

 

 

July Jones, VC Pines and Jylda – The Social – Tuesday February 5th

I’ve been to The Social on Little Portland Street before. I don’t remember this until I turn up at the free show tonight and recall how awkward it can be down in this basement room to see anything on the stage. Back then though it was an industry showcase of fingering folk from the bearded John Smith. We were hanging from the rafters. Tonight, for The Fix’s first promotion of 2019 we’re not. 

That’s not to say it’s empty here; it’s more of a pleasant hum as the three up and coming acts do their best to entertain us. Much like last night’s venture (review here), the variety impresses. It’s just a shame that it all wraps up before it’s really had chance to begin.

I don’t catch the very start of Jylda’s set which is a shame because, on balance, she’s probably my favourite of the trio on display tonight. She presses some keys, sets into motion some wonky electronica and then dances quite sexily with flamboyant flailing arms. I can’t take my eyes away from the red, curtain-net veil that’s pinned into her black hair. Jylda tells all that her forthcoming single is called ‘Torrential River’ and then proceeds to perform an industrial dark pop. You wish that she had a full band behind her so that she could simply focus on her movement. “Do you wanna dance?”, she asks and few are able to resist the charms of this performer who has the stagecraft if not the songs quite yet. 

 

 

VC Pines is confident in his voice (as well he should be). This is soulful, singer-songwriter stuff pared down from the ‘normal’ full-on seven piece band. If you want to see that there’s a Lexington show coming up in April but for now it’s just VC and his bassist, Andrew. In places it goes jazz chord and controlled falsetto. I find myself desperately hoping that they cover Billy Paul’s ‘Me and Mrs Jones’ for that’s their space but instead VC takes on the more challenging task of The Pixies ‘Where Is My Mind?’. It sounds nothing like the original save for the angst. There’s clearly talent here but, for me at least, there now needs to be a hook – perhaps the full band show gives that. 

 

 

July Jones makes me smile from the beginning to the end of her short set. Taking to the stage as a girl group trio, it soon becomes clear that the one in the middle is July. Full of fake gold chains and choreographed dance moves, the attitude is apparent from the off. “Fuck you up like a porn star“, I think they sing appealingly whilst the boys in caps on keyboards and decks look on from behind. There’s no doubting that there’s something here that could quite feasibly gather momentum, their last song being July’s next single. “Liar, liar, pants on fire”, goes the chorus as it mines itself into your head. 

 

 

 I’m loving these nights in London. Inevitably, personal preference says that some music will appeal more than other. Yet all that I’ve seen over the past two days has brave purpose and talent. I might take a breather tomorrow. 

 

Rubber Jaw, Nenah and Dualeh Oke – Victoria Dalston – Monday February 4th 2019

I’ve not blogged for some time. And for that I make little apology. Life has taken some fabulous turns and I’ve been lining my ducks up (so to speak).

I’m no longer in Spain. I didn’t quite make a year in the villa. One day I might regret that I cut my sabbatical short by a few months but the opportunity presented by the new day job was one too good to turn down. 

And working in the centre of London is something i’ve always wanted to do. With so many live gig opportunities on the doorstep, I am truly now a man in a sweetshop. I’ll be spending a fair few weekday nights in this fair city and what better to do than to scan the guides for the bizarre, the up and coming and not-yet-famous talent. 

 

It’s a Monday night in February yet still the gig-going options are plentiful. A few catch the eye but none more so than the ‘sous le radar’ night at the Victoria in Dalston. It’s not a venue I’ve been to before but the draw of seeing (for no door charge) Rubber Jaw for the first time, recently signed to Alan McGee’s new vinyl 7 inch label, is an enticing one. He mightn’t have signed a truly great band for a while (some would uncharitably argue since Oasis) but for me his stamp is sufficient.

It’s the rather peculiar beauty of nights such as this one that you’ll need to be open-minded about the variety on offer. It’s new and under the radar but that’s where any similarity between the acts on stage stops. To my mind, it makes for a better night if you’re not afraid to mix up the genres but many of the indie kids might disagree staying in the bar or planning their travel to only arrive once McGee’s protégés take to the stage. 

And that’s a shame. Dualeh Oke opens proceedings with warmth and awkward charm. A rapper with a backing tape, this young lad from East London shows enough within his four tunes tonight to warrant further investigation. He connects by confessing that he writes tunes in the toilets during breaks from work. The jazzy overtones of his songs about Instagram fame almost descend into trip-hop. He takes us further down during his dark fourth number, Dualeh’s comment on how he can’t always best communicate with his Somalian Dad. 

I head to the bar and order another pint of milk. No, dear readers, I haven’t changed that much. Milk is a locally brewed lager in these parts. I like the Victoria. Trendy yet simple and grounded, it’s got a decent choice of beers and a friendly bunch of staff. What’s not to like?

Nenah, the middle act of the night is not without merit either. Confident, urban pop, it’s taken out of the obvious with an occasional sprinkling of what could be described as a sort of middle Eastern dust. She’s probably got enough material to fill this short set by herself but generously gives up some of her slot to a K-rapper called Wu. Wu bounces energetically, hyper-actively and not always convincingly around the stage urging to all to feel his energy before Nenah returns for her last track, Sick. She has a bass player sporting a Lionel Richie T-shirt and you concede that there is something of the 80’s here; with a bit more polish, there’s an early-years Madonna waiting to get out. 

Rubber Jaw are nothing like Dualeh or Nenah but everything like every indie guitar band from the past few years. And it’s no bad thing sounding like Blossoms if that’s the space you’ve set your eyes upon. With familiar tricks and licks they run through their repertoire with cool swagger and nonchalant mumble. They’ve been generously watching the other acts of the night and such decent behaviour doesn’t go unnoticed in these quarters. Nice lads from Essex, you concede that they’ve got the tunes to make further impact in this big bad world. Unsurprisingly, they save their McGee released single, Feeling Funny, to their finale. It’s good but not necessarily their best; I prefer their third tune played, belatedly announced as their next single coming out in March by their lead singer. 

All told I’m pretty excited by tonight. I would have paid a few quid for the privilege of seeing these three acts run through their short sets but that doesn’t seem to be the aim of ‘Sous Le Radar’s’ promoter. With so much on my doorstep, I can’t wait to discover more nights such as this.