Club Kuru, Ttrruuces and The Rodeo – Hackney Oslo – May 15th 2019

The Great Escape down in Brighton the weekend before last was an absolute blast. I’ve cobbled together my review for eFestivals and it’s now been published here

It didn’t temper my enthusiasm for going out to gigs last week whilst in London though. Bands that travelled far distances to get to The Great Escape extended their holidays by gigging in London. Nice Biscuit, the Aussie theatrical and futuristic psych-pop band, were great at the Sebright on Monday and the Chilean Music party, packed out with ex-pats, was every bit the experience it sounds at Paper Dress Vintage on Tuesday. 

It was nice to get out to Hackney’s Oslo on Wednesday for a good, old-fashioned album launch. Club Kuru were the act. I didn’t know much about them but the press release sounded like it’d be right up my street. 

I’ve been to Oslo once before (here). Somewhat strangely, it’s yet to feature on my 2019 gig travels. I like it though. The beer options are decent and the atmosphere generally friendly. 

I arrived just in time for The Rodeo who travelled all the way from Paris for this show. Initially, I wondered if their take on Britpop might need a bit of work but it’d be uncharitable to describe the whole negatively. A bit Echobelly, a tad Catalonia and a whole lot of The Cardigans is what you get here. And I’ve found another French act in 2019 to find out more about. 

Main support Ttrruuces were my act of the night. I chat to a chap at the bar before they take to the stage who gives me the lowdown. This is the new vehicle of Natalie Findlay (aka Findlay), an act that’s had a fair smattering of success as a solo artist. But now she’s in a band with a Phil Lynott lookalike. It might only be their second show (their first being at The Great Escape apparently) but this psychedelic folk-rock is pretty polished. Surrounded by fiddle and keyboards, beret-wielding Findlay plays the tambourine and dips into kazoo solos. When they move away from the rockier stuff, it’s as if Sandie Shaw is on a comeback trail and has employed The Go Team to help her. The shoe fits and the sensation you get from Ttrruuces is s cool one. 

I wanted to like Club Kuru more than I did. Perhaps I should write this one off as gig fatigue on my part. The songs are clearly well put together; a mix of west coast Americana and stoner funk. The heavy bass drills into my eardrums in the initial numbers and I beat a retreat to stand further back in the hall. I look around and people are chattering, catching up with mates and barely listening to what’s going on. New stuff is announced and it’s a bit like the Flaming Lips without any sense of live show.This should be my thing but I’m getting little out of standing here, it’s just not connecting and so I leave for my train back to Walthamstow. 

I resolve to listen to Club Kuru’s record in my own space. I suspect I’ll get more from that. 

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. 

 

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.  

Wovoka Gentle – Peculiar Form Of Sleep

I’m glad to see that Wovoka Gentle are slowly and gradually expanding their fan-base. One of the many perks of going to lots of summer festivals is that you ‘discover’ live acts that you quickly grow to love. You get home, clean out the mud from your tent and reflect on what you’ve seen.

Here’s an extract from my eFestivals review of Nozstock back in 2017 (full review here)..

Earlier in the day, I’ve accidentally stumbled across a new favourite band here though. Think of a folkier version of Caribou and you’d be in the right space for imagining Wovoka Gentle. A three piece, they all convene around an array of instruments in the centre of the stage. With electronic bleeps merging in with more traditional ‘folk’ instruments and their own sampled and looped voices, they produce a blissed-out psychedelia perfect for a Sunday afternoon. There are criminally few here to watch, perhaps because Wovoka Gentle are a name not widely known but I’d recommend checking them out with haste. I curse myself when wondering about what other delights I might have missed around Nozstock – though you can’t be everywhere.”

Given the new favourite band status, I’ve been disappointingly tardy in writing about them on Sonic Breakfast. A whole year has passed since Nozstock. 

A few weeks ago, a lovely PR agency informed me about a new Wovoka Gentle release. This song, 1,000 Opera Singers Working In Starbucks, was right up Sonic Breakfast’s street. It even had a sparkling video with mad animations. I listened, watched and loved. Diligently I added their name to my makeshift list of bands I really must feature. And didn’t. 

Last Friday news arrived of another new Wovoka Gentle tune, Peculiar Form Of Sleep. I was on my way to Benidorm for Visorfest and, in theory, I’d have time to piece some words together whilst sitting on the tram between Alicante and Benidorm. Instead, I watched as we hugged the coastline, passing pretty coves and stretches of beach less populated than the towns book-ending the tram ride.

Wovoka Gentle played London’s ICA a few nights ago. I wish I’d been there. As I’d witnessed back a-while, this trio of clever conjurers magically play with time signatures, traditional rhythms and folk melody to give the most compelling of shows. One wonders if they’re actually as laidback as they appear or if offstage they’re more highly strung. It feels right to write about Wovoka Gentle whenever the mood takes because that’s the ethic they seem to promote. Like a British version of Animal Collective, it’s fascinating to see how this tribe will develop. 

I might write about them again and it mightn’t take a year. They remain a favourite band. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Young ‘Uns – Be The Man

It’s been four years since I first saw The Young ‘Uns play live at Musicport up in Whitby. I recall that their set was a real highlight of the festival, something I captured in my EFestivals review (here).

 I said:

 “Saturday afternoon and I take a chance in the theatre with The Young ‘Uns from Teeside. The programme simply tells me that these are ‘one of the most sought after folk acts today’ and that they bring ‘abiding enthusiasm for traditional song’. Those familiar with the ‘translate the programme’ game we often play at festivals would suspect slim pickings from this description. This could well translate as ‘Once played Cockles and Mussels to rapturous applause at a folk club in Durham’. But, this set is a lesson in sometimes going with the flow. Sometimes acapella, sometimes with accompaniment from accordion and guitar, this trio of twenty-something men banter so effortlessly on stage that the captive audience are dragged into their jolly world. Songs about political struggles of yesteryear mix in with emotive tales of love to ensure that, by the end of their set, the audience are standing on their seats demanding more. Folking great.”

(Click on page 2 to read about fantastic new work by the Young ‘Uns)

Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – Nottingham Rescue Rooms – Monday 21st November

Time is flying by. A whole week has passed since I saw the incredible Rag ‘N’ Bone Man at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms. I suspected it was going to be a splendid gig and I wasn’t disappointed. 

I first spotted Rory Graham, the brilliant bearded big guy, over three years ago in the Chai Wallah’s tent at Shambala festival. In my eFestivals review (here) I said, “Rag ‘N’ Bone Man is bigged up by the compere and rightfully so. The crowd exchange knowing glances. Here we have a splendid, soulful voice with the ability to shake a room, something that’s rooted firmly in a bluesy past and yet made modern by the presence of a mixing DJ. I note that Rag ‘N’ Bone Man is about to accompany Bastille on their Autumn tour. I hope that that crowd appreciate him half as much as the crowd in here.”

Fast forward to the summer that’s just passed and I caught Rory again, this time at the lovely Barn On The Farm festival. I reviewed that one for eFestivals as well (here) and commented that, “over on the outdoor stage, there were also many highlights. I first saw Rag ‘n’ Bone a few years ago on a small stage at Shambala. Even back then, you could tell Rory Graham was an impressive presence. In recent years, he’s honed his craft and added a band of fine musicians. The bassy blues of his booming voice prove to be a fine choice of Sunday evening headline set on this stage.”

It was nice to now finally get the chance to see a set away from the festival field. 

It’s a packed room. I guess a combination of hard work and releasing a steady stream of quality-laden EP’s have got Rory to this point. There’s a noticeably mixed age range in the crowd. The kids push to the front whilst the older gig-goers, perhaps having caught Rag ‘N’ Bone Man’s electrifying, recent  performance on ‘Later With Jools Holland’ hang around toward the back. Couples grab their spot at the upper tier balcony and peer down on the balding and not so balding heads below.

Rory takes to the stage confidently holding a guitar. With immense power, he launches his rocket of a voice into a soulful sonic boom. Every corner of the Rescue Rooms is filled with the bounce and reverberation of this wondrous gospel melt. Our knees are weakened and we’re almost down on them before the first verse is complete. The band join Rory on stage, fire up their own instruments, and we’re given brief respite from our near submission. 

There’s quite a few new songs played. An album is due for release, perhaps early next year, and this is a chance to road-test some of that material. On first listen, you’d guess that those music industry insiders who’ve marked Rag ‘N’ Bone Man in their BBC Sound of 2017 nominations know what they’re playing with. Mark my words – I have no insight but Rory’s going to be pushing for a top three place.

I’m touched by the humility on offer. “I’ve hardly ever played Nottingham before and I was genuinely worried about how many people might turn up”, he ponders in a break between the songs. Surely, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man knows by now that these are not things to worry about? But, his style is not about arrogant swagger; it’s more about a polished and gentle confidence that sometimes belies the boom of his voice. He’s not afraid to mention his Mum’s critique of his songwriting or the fact that he has a friend going through a dark time. We want our pop stars to be ‘human’ and the laidback Rory connects generously. His band, session musicians no doubt with perfect pedigree, allow Rory to take the limelight. It’s a sign of their accomplished ability that you barely notice the complexities of what they play.

It’s all over far too soon. As we file out, the sense of joy about what we’ve just witnessed is palpable. “We’ll never see him on a stage that small again”, says one. “That massive guy is about to really get massive”, says another. 

And I have to concur, they’re probably right. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Felix Hagan & The Family – Kiss The Misfits

We’re halfway through another busy, working week. I’m pretty lucky that I enjoy my day job even though it can sometimes be pretty intense and busy. Tomorrow, I’m up before 6 to head to London for the second time this week. Tomorrow, I’ll have to wear a suit. I clock up the train miles. 

 But, I mustn’t grumble because doing this day job means I can cover (in part) the costs of my hectic social life. And this week, my social life (where I get to muse about music) has been pretty active. It shows no sign of abating this coming weekend either.

 I took advantage of being down in London for a ‘day job’ meeting to nip across to BBC 6 music’s live ‘Bloc Party’ show at Maida Vale. My brief reflections for eGigs are here

 Last night, I saw Squeeze and John Cooper Clarke at De Montfort Hall in Leicester. My review for the Leicester Mercury is here

This coming weekend, I’m heading off to Skegness to cover Butlins Alternative Weekender for EFestivals. I concede it’s not a shabby life. 

 I love my social life. I can whip off the suit and tie to mix with the people I really want to mix with. I can ‘Kiss The Misfits’. The theatrical, exuberant happiness of Felix Hagan & The Family’s tune, from their EP of the same name that’s coming out at the end of November, leaves the listener in no doubt which camp they’re in. 

 

This is an embrace of staying up all night, of exploring the darker recesses of pubs and nightclubs and of not worrying where the next pay cheque is coming from.