Getrz, Walt Disco and Cheap Teeth – The Old Blue Last – February 27th 2019

I’m back at the Old Blue Last for the second time this week.London sizzles in unseasonably warm temperatures and the heat in the Airbnb shows little sign of being any less stifling.I’m here for no other reason than my eye was caught by a band name; Walt Disco is a fine name for a band.

They’ve travelled all the way from Glasgow to be with us tonight. Perhaps that explains why they’re not topping the bill but are sandwiched between two others on this ‘Club Sabbath’ night. It’s a long way home.

Imagine it’s the early 1980’s and you’ve bagged a ticket for Top Of The Pops. Jimmy Savile, replete with gold lame jacket and fat cigar ‘accidentally’ fondles a young girl whilst half paying attention to the band he’s just introduced. A singer preens, pouts and warbles in a shin-length, woollen military jacket that temporarily covers his torso before he throws it to the floor. A keyboard player with bleached blonde hair plays notes from strange looking instruments perched perilously on an ironing board that’s seen better days. Harry Potter, not yet made famous by JK Rowling plays bass. This is the post-punk of Walt Disco. It’s got a pompous peacock strut, a strident theatricality and a pop sensibility. Phil Oakey, Ian McCulloch and Edwyn Collins better watch out. Here we have the new contenders. 

To my mind, the obvious derivations don’t matter. Walt Disco might wear their influences close to their chests but this is 2019 and we don’t want our indie to paint pictures of the Arctic Monkeys by numbers. With Walt Disco, you can feel both terrified and terrific; misfits and oddballs, there’s a lot here to like. 

 

Getrz (pronounced Getters apparently) are pretty normal by comparison. They headline tonight to a crowd that has diminished in size. This is a shame; you can see confidence wilting as the set progresses..From Swindon, you suspect that they’re local heroes in their own neck of the woods. But this is London and the crowd are a tad harsher. We’ve seen the gimmicks, the rock poses, the shirtless torsos and the audience forays before. 

Have any lads out there got trouble with their Mrs?”, asks Getrz’s ginger, squat lead singer before launching into a song, perhaps called ‘Domestics’, that features a shouty chorus of “You’re fucked – and your Mrs. doesn’t like you”. The last bastions of yesterday’s masculinity, you want to like them for their no-nonsense straightness. They’re not far away from finding their own, distinct niche and, when they do, this’ll be a very real possibility. 

 

Openers for the night, Cheap Teeth are competent at what they do. They’ve travelled all the way from Edinburgh to be here. My notes suggest that they’re like a more raucous Franz Ferdinand and that they’ve clearly listened to ‘Peaches’ by the Stranglers. An interesting John Cooper Clarke like spoken word section in one of their tunes helps maintain my flagging interest. 

It’s no doubt hard to be original these days; somewhere, someplace it’s all been done before. And there’s nothing wrong per se with being in debt to your heroes. In different ways, all three acts on tonight’s bill have nailed that worship to a tee. Now, they need to give consideration to who they really want to be. 

The Lottery Winners and Depression, Baby – Sebright Arms – February 26th 2019

I’m glad that I went out tonight. Feeling a tad tired after last night’s restlessness (here), I almost did the unthinkable and curled up early. 

But this room is still sauna-like and frankly unpleasant. I’ve discovered the source of the difficulty though. There’s a thermostat in the corridor of this Airbnb and a guest in another room seems to think it a good idea to turn this up to max at every opportunity. I’m now switching it to something sensible whenever I leave the room. There are no compromises here; this is a ‘negotiation’ I will win by sheer bloody-mindedness.

In truth it wasn’t much cooler down in the basement of the Sebright Arms. Another new London venue, these trips out are delicious. The Sebright is a spacious and busy pub; upstairs the piped music is loud as it dwarves any commentary from the football being shown on the big screen. Nobody seems bothered by Bury vs Portsmouth anyway. 

The basement venue for music is functional, dark and sticky. Tonight, I’ll be watching The Lottery Winners. From oop north, I’ve been aware of the name for a while without paying them much attention. Initial pre-gig impressions are strong; two of them, beardy giants both, shake my hand as I enter the room. They’ve got a slightly blurry, fuzzy backdrop pinned to the wall behind the drum kit announcing the band’s name and some flickering old black and white TV sets dotted around for the same purpose. You suspect that The Lottery Winners mean business.

But first it’s the support for the evening, Depression, Baby. An initial sense that they might be trying a bit too hard to be cool gives way to a general feeling that they’re bloody good and that they’ve got fabulous tunes. It’s swathed in the past with bits of rock ‘n’ roll, doo wop and country coming to the fore. But, there are also cinematic sweeps and velvet flourishes that give this a decadence not unlike Father John Misty or The Last Shadow Puppets. They’ve got a fine vocalist, an interesting turn of phrase lyrically and a neat way of harmonising. New single, No Strangers, still has less than 1,000 Spotify plays and the band are keen to bump this. It’s a travesty that more haven’t listened. Give it time and their listens will surely rocket.

 

It’s also something of a travesty that more don’t know about The Lottery Winners. From the off you know that this is going to be a hoot. Larger than life singer, Tom, choreographs a last-minute band entrance to Push The Button by the Sugababes. He’s an effervescent ball of energy for a 20 stone man; always wise-cracking, corrupting and being mischievous, it’s a bit like watching Johnny Vegas front a band. The joking around and tomfoolery never gets tiresome.

That’s partly because The Lottery Winners have the material to back them up as well. Quite why this quartet from Leigh are still playing free London shows when, by rights, they should have hit the jackpot and be charging for the privilege, is anybody’s guess. The loyal fan base here tonight are already aware of their brilliance but they pick up other converts (including me) en-route. 

The offer is a sort of best of British pop; singalong choruses (‘a publisher’s dream’) harking back to Britpop highs, they freely comment on and criticise the state of life for young people today. Recent single ‘That’s Not Entertainment’, channels their anger about reality TV through a saucy-seaside postcard lens and ending up sounding like the Northern spit of Blur circa The Great Escape. 

Long-standing followers urge for The Lottery Winners to eventually release their album. “We thought we’d cut out the middlemen and put it straight into the charity shops”, quips Tim. “I wrote this one about my Mum, it’s called I don’t love you”, he states before playing a heartfelt lovely number. 

Loud Northern bastards they might be but they’re also the complete ticket. They have the tunes, the stagecraft and the girth. By the time that they get all baggy on us and recall what it’s like to be 21 again, the knowing lyrical nods towards the Inspiral Carpets (This is how it feels) feel almost throwaway. But one suspects that this cleverness is no accident. They encourage a crazy dancing chap to join them on stage, their very own Bez in the making. 

The room is less sauna-like when I eventually arrive home yet the sweat from the venue still lingers. I mightn’t have won the lottery but I’m winning my thermostat battle – and seeing great bands in the process. 

 

Two Day Coma, Sunnbrella and Toothpaste – The Old Blue Last – February 25th 2019

Another Monday and it’s back to London for a week of transient, suitcase living. The AirBNB experience, a fine way to get to know my way around this big city, plonks me in a small flat that has its shortcomings; scruffy around the edges, the main problem is that I’m in a room in which the radiator chucks out a constant, oppressive heat. I open the window to be greeted by the noise of a nearby train-line. I have no option but to leave the window ajar; without doing so the room is a sauna.

Thank goodness for the free London gig scene. There’s no need to be a prisoner so I rush on out and up to The Old Blue Last. It’s been a frantic day of zooming from A to B and I mightn’t be the calmest I’ve ever been on arrival. Still, it doesn’t matter because live music can work its magic.

And I already know of tonight’s headliner, Two Day Coma. They suitably impressed me back at Farmfest in 2017 when I gave them a whole paragraph in my eFestivals review (here).

“We were camped near to Bristolian band, Two Day Coma, and had laughed from the comforts of our tent as we watched them trying to put their tent up in the windy rain (I did offer to help). Whilst this new band might have lacked in camping skills, they definitely didn’t struggle with soul. Up in the acoustic tent on Saturday evening, we relaxed and sat attentively as they produced a set of intense beauty. In lead singer, Tom Harris, they have a vocalist who has the ability to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. Lyrically, they’ve got gentle phrases that slap you once you realise how loaded with sadness (and happiness) they are. They offer a very modern wistfulness and I’d suggest they might be ones to watch as their career develops.”

I cannot stress how entertaining it was watching Two Day Coma’s camping attempts at Farmfest. But, I’m surprised that my recollection of the band’s stage performance was so vivid; in reality a day of drinking scrumpy had left me barely able to string a sentence together when they played.

Tonight, at the Old Blue Last, I had all my faculties. It’s lovely to see these boys from Bristol make such a success of their first ever London headline set in this fine night promoted by ‘Down The Line’. Before Two Day Coma, there’s a couple of fine supports who are making the right sort of noise. Monday delays are what they are and I miss first support, Toothpaste, but will find time to watch them elsewhere. Sunnbrella play a dreamy and shimmering indie set. They’ve got the tunes and the confidence to warrant further attention. The get better as their set passes and their confidence grows. By the end members of the crowd are dancing. It’s been a triumph. 

 

“It’s great to be here in the nation’s great capital”, says Tom from Two Day Coma before launching into an early set highlight. They have a casual swagger, a laidback cool; it’s skiffle-folk done through a pop-soul filter. It must warm their hearts to see the decently-sized audience mouthing along to their poetry. And there’s no doubt that words are a key element in their armoury. Clever wordplay that twists and turns, their semi-rhyming couplets a joy to the ears in these days when lyrics are typically little more than an afterthought. 

Latest single and set closer tonight, Shudder, is a case in point. The symmetry of the interchangeable eye/I forming the lyrical basis for a fine ‘hamster in a treadmill’ moment. All those gathered tonight know that this has the potential to be a hit. And most leave believing that they’ve caught Two Day Coma early in their journey towards a Top Of The Pops set (if only the programme still existed).

I head back to the heat of the flat in a much calmer state than when I left. Monday’s mightn’t be all bad. 

 

LOYAL and Kudu Blue – The Moth Club – Wednesday 20th February 2019

It might only be Wednesday but it feels like a weekend here in Hackney’s Moth Club. The band on stage are ramping up their funky house and my limbs are involuntarily spasming out of control. Yes, I’d love to maintain my cool by standing still with arms folded, maybe just nonchalantly nodding my head in time with the beat. But I’m incapable. This is right up my street. 

LOYAL are the band. Not much is known about them in these quarters aside from the fact that they’re from Brighton. Gigs are sometimes better this way when you have no fixed idea about how a band will sound. 

They start like they’re a deep house Public Service Broadcasting tribute act; but the positive spoken word stuff (Light Up) is barely given time to register before the rest of the band join the lone sampler on stage. Female-fronted singing comes to the fore and for a while it’s like St. Etienne are playing a new track for our delight. 

We’re not far in and after a shuffle of the microphone stands a bearded chap takes to the stage. He’s a smooth soul singer; I might hear that he’s called Shannon but I can’t be sure. Whatever, LOYAL are showing that they’re a collaborative collective. They remind me of somebody.. 

Oh yes, it comes to me in a flash. I genuinely think that over the past twenty years there’s not been many better albums released than those by Bran Van 3000. I adore their collective approach, their crisply produced sound and the way they pass the parcel of vocal responsibility whilst they float between genres. LOYAL are a bit like Bran Van 3000 – this is a massive compliment. 

Before the delights of Loyal, another Brighton-based band, Kudu Blue, warm us up. In the same ilk as LOYAL, this is female-fronted electronic pop, a soulful and jazzy support. There’s moments when I find the singer’s voice a bit too shrill but that’s perhaps because I just want to be soothed tonight. Regardless, there’s enough within this to help you trial your dance moves for the main event.

 

The venue couldn’t be more appropriate. The Moth Club is all glitzy glamour and gold tinsel. A revamped working man’s club you might be forgiven for wondering when the bingo begins. On the far side of the hall, there’s some lovely red-velvet, half-alcove booths that you can perch in should you need a rest. A sign on the wall warns that ‘children must be off the dance floor by 9.30’. I guess it’s ironic.

LOYAL are taking this disco to another level; the words ‘space between us’ repeat as the crowd draw closer together. They’ve got a new tune out tomorrow we’re told and the band’s hopes are realised when the audience seem to like it. Nobody wants LOYAL’s set to end but we have to honour our workplace commitments tomorrow. 

Is it the weekend yet? 

 

 

 

Sasha Siem – Fitzrovia Chapel – Tuesday February 19th 2019

I very much doubt that I’ll have many experiences in my London adventures quite like tonight. 

A few years ago now I wrote a review of a Sasha Siem album (here). It didn’t generate a great deal of chatter which disappointed me at the time because I thought the record was worthy of a listen – and I thought my writing about it hit the nail on the head in a way that I often don’t.

I tried to see Sasha’s set when I was at the Great Escape that year but got lost and waylaid turning up to only catch the final bars of her set.

And so, it was a bit of a surprise when I received an E-mail from Sasha’s PR person at the start of the year telling me about her new single that was to be imminently released. “We thought you might be interested in this because you’ve featured Sasha before”, suggested the mail. If only more acts that I feature did the same thing, I thought.

Hidden away in that press release was the announcement that Sasha would be playing a secret, intimate ‘family and friends’ show somewhere in London in February. Cheekily, I declared an interest.

This morning I got news that I was on the list for tonight’s show. A twenty minute walk from my office, I jumped at the chance to see Sasha Siem at the Fitzrovia chapel. 

At half seven, the small throng gathered outside was ushered into the grade 2 listed church, once part of the Royal Middlesex hospital but now surrounded by modern, glass-fronted development. A small oasis of calm, this chapel is kitted out to look ‘Italian Gothic’. Actually, only dating from 1929, the effect on entry is still one of ancient serenity.

I spy a small merch desk selling crystals, odours, mists and retreats amidst the more traditional fare of seven inch single and T-shirt. I quickly instruct my chakras to get into shape as I take a seat. There can be no more than 40 here. It really is imitate. 

More recital than gig, the peacefulness of the surround is amplified by a chap playing laidback notes of ambience on a keyboard at the front. It’s like the prelude to a wedding as you wait for a bride. Others clearly spend the time reacquainting with friends and contacts they’ve not seen for ‘a jolly long time’. The poshness is astonishing; I could well have gate-crashed a royal wedding. 

After a short introduction, Sasha is ushered to the front. She appears, looking radiant in a turquoise flowing dress and sits behind the keyboard. Graceful, slender and adopting a pose as far removed from a slouch as is possible, she’s a true, classical beauty. Her long dark hair is preened to perfection; rock ‘n’roll this is not. 

Mostly playing songs from her new album that’s due for release in June, Sasha admits to insecurities and vulnerabilities. She’s never been without a band before on stage and these stripped-back, intimate acoustic arrangements of her songs aren’t something that feel familiar. But this is a friendly crowd and we’re all urging her to succeed. When you shut your eyes and allow yourself to drift you can really get caught up in the combination of voice and keys; a spiritual magic is being spread.

In a break from keyboard action, a ukulele-wielding Sasha asks those with bells placed strategically under their seats to gently ring them during a number in which she saunters up and down the chapel aisle. Her cello gets the briefest of outings; one song from the back catalogue.

Back behind the keys, Sasha talks of enlightened moments when she forgave a betrayal. Motherhood has clearly had an impact on her outlook on life as she tells all about two year old, Dylan,

After a one-song encore, the performance ends. An unforgettable experience in stunning surrounds, it’s hard not to leave with your holy head held wholly high. I stroll back to the tube at Oxford Circus and re-enter the real world.

 

Honey Lung, Haze, Desire and Heavy Heart – Shacklewell Arms – Monday February 18th 2019

Another week begins and with that another few days of living out of a suitcase. Goodness knows how sustainable this all is but for now I’m embracing the Airbnb variety and enjoying the nomadic lifestyle. This week I’m in a newly refurbished place above a fine bar in New Cross. Apparently, these rooms were once where the punters of the pub went for a bit of ‘how’s your father’. Now it’s so fresh that I suspect I’m one of the first guests of the new regime; you can still smell the new coat of paint and see the cuttings from the recently laid carpet. It’s gentrification gents and probably no bad thing.

Tonight, rather than stay around this neck of the woods, I hop on the overground and head up to Dalston again – but, unlike two weeks ago when I tested the Victoria (here) I spin off in another direction towards the Shacklewell Arms. It’s a venue I’ve been keen to visit for a while. Many of the bands I grow to love cite it as a pub you must play and I can see why. Stylishly run-down but oozing cool, it’s a space to cherish. On busier nights than this you imagine sticking to the floor. The signs on the door as you enter asking you to leave quietly are a visible reminder that too many great places such as this have fallen foul of spiteful resident power-groups.

I keep one eye on the football but mostly I’m here for the gig. I reserved myself a ticket when this was advertised as having a secret SXSW headliner. But there was no need for such sensible planning. It’s another free London show, lovingly curated by Black Cat White Cat and it’s busy but never rammed. Nobody bothers with my ticket that I diligently downloaded to my phone. 

There are four acts on tonight. I watch them all with varying degrees of interest. 

Heavy Heart are up first. But the duo on stage are at pains to tell us that this is a stripped-down version of their standard quintet. They ask that we forgive them for being mildly under-rehearsed and most in the crowd seem able to. Despite the best intentions of a pretty awful sounding drum machine, the male/female dynamic works and gets better as the set progresses. There’s a psychedelic shoegazey gothicness quality and when it works (in particular on set stand out, Teenage Witch) it proves to be a decent opening to this night of live music. 

 

Desire are up next. I only know this is their name for that is what’s daubed in red, angular font across a white sheet that initially obscures their drummer. The bedsheet drops as the drummer pounds. Cans of Kronenburg are  cracked open and an almighty racket ensues..It’s part mod, part punk. None of them give a flying fuck about being here and that essence of anti-performance carries them through. As much as this might just be another practice, Desire’s drummer still manages to channel the ghost of Keith Moon as he crazily bangs. There’s some Marr-esque guitar riffage from a floppy fringed guitarist whilst the bass player who also takes on singing duties offers up some atonal oi-oi-ness. There’s definitely something here. 

 

 

For me though, the night belongs to Haze. I’m willing to bet a house on the fact that this is not the semi-legendary prog band of that name but rather something new. They start with an urgent combination of rock n’roll played through a Beefheart lens before jazz gives way to a country rhythm – and that’s just in the first two minute long song. A four piece, the exceptional lead guitarist and vocalist emits words like a juggernaut hurtling towards you at speed whilst the bass player captivates centre stage with the craziest of dancing mixed up with the most outlandish posing. Three songs in and said bass player’s shirt comes off, an affliction you’d likely detest within lesser bands. But he’s working and sweating so hard that you don’t mind it here. Tunes are played at breakneck, exhilarating speed. You really must go and see Haze in a venue such as this whilst the chance still presents. 

 

Honey Lung are the secret SXSW headliner. It’s barely a secret now though because they advertised this gig on their social media last week. There are less gimmicks here than what has gone before in the night; it’s the quality of the songwriting that’s allowed to do the talking. It’s indie-rock with occasional west-coast jangle; inoffensive and well-played but somehow not hitting the heights of Haze for me. A safe, solid bet for a SXSW showcase no doubt and I’ll watch them again given the chance.

 

Tuesday night gig options are checked through on the tube back to the hostel. Tonight’s been a great way to blow away the early-week cobwebs but I might plump for something more sedate tomorrow. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peaness, Caro and Kelora – The Social – February 12th 2019

I went to a gig on Tuesday night.. Wrote a review and then forgot to post it.. Whoops!! 

I’ve liked Peaness for a few years now. Ever since a friend, an old school teacher of Jess, sent me a soundcloud link of their debut release, Fortune Favours The Bold, (review here) I’ve been urging Peaness to grow. 

I wrote about Peaness in my top ten of 2015 (here) and could barely conceal my joy after seeing them live for the first time at Leicester’s Handmade festival (eFestivals review here). 

Last night at a free Huw Stephens presents gig at The Social, they once again proved why they’re worthy of full attention. They make a fine sound for a three piece; lovely harmonies and melodies that hark back to your finest summer ever. It might be cold outside but Peaness cheerily warm the very cockles of your heart (and yes, I did use cockle deliberately there).

The trio smile on stage like it’s going out of fashion; there’s no moody faux here or mumbling grumbling. Instead, the between-song banter revolves around Gregg’s vegan rolls, whether or not Huw Stephens is actually in attendance and how they’re heading home to Chester after a late-night radio session (and this gig) because work beckons in the morning. An exhausting schedule but not one that appears to break the spirit. 

I go to the gig with a friend, Gary. On paper, Peaness are probably not his thing with his preference being for a meatier (or folkier) sound. But his head sways and toe-taps from the start. “I’d go and see these again given the opportunity”, he reveals.

It is very hard to not love Peaness. 

 

There are a couple of other bands playing this showcase. Caro are tight, competent and destined for bigger stages. They’re not afraid to mix things up a bit though obvious reference points would be Alt-J and Wild Beasts. “Ooh, this one’s very XTC“, says Gary – and he’s most certainly right. 

 

The first band of the evening, Kelora, didn’t entirely grab our attention. But that was no fault of theirs. Gary and I were still catching up after not seeing each other for almost a year and so arrived in the midst of their set. The insane levels of chatter from one table near to us rendered listening to the act nigh-on impossible – but from what I did hear, this was light, uncomplicated pop, not the finished article in terms of a live show but possibly intriguing on record. 

 

Another great night out in London watching music put on for free. And a reminder that gig-going is always better when you’re sharing the experience with mates.