2019 was a full-on year of exploration for me. I loved nipping between the many, varied London venues discovering new delights. I’d struggle, if pushed, to name a favourite venue because there have been many iced buns in the bakery but high in the rankings would be Hackney’s stunning MOTH club. The repurposed British Legion Club is a fab gig venue; I’m yet to have a bad night there.
And of the few MOTH club gigs that I could pick for this epic exercise of a top ten, I’m delighted to announce that number two in the countdown goes to the night spent with Jonathan Bree and support act, John Moods (written about here).
John Moods played Paper Dress Vintage, another favourite Hackney venue, in November but I foolishly managed to miss that. His single that came out in the summer, I Wanted You, was a real cracker. The German popster returned to Berlin and played all manner of gigs across Europe.
I still smile when I consider Jonathan Bree’s direct generosity. A sold-out show, I’d given up hope of seeing Bree and band but the cheeky E-mail paid off. The friendly soul in a mask didn’t need to guest-list me but he did. I love that Jonathan Bree’s career has grown and grown in the last year. Once you see the live show it’s hard not to be smitten.
New tracks are being drip-fed from a future album. They’re sounding solid and in ‘Cover Your Eyes’, you suspect that there’s another set highlight in the making. It’s been a year of relentless touring for Jonathan and band, including a first ever gig for them in the Ukraine. I wish I’d been there. Returning to Camden’s Dingwalls on May 1st, you’ll have to lock me in my room to stop me from being there. And this time I won’t be begging Jonathan for my ticket.
What a difference a year makes. Last May, almost to the day, I was settling into the Spanish villa bemoaning my lack of gig action (here). I wrote about the genius of Jonathan Bree and my disappointment over having to miss his Leicester gig.
A year on and here I am standing in a sweaty MOTH club watching Jonathan and his band play a sold-out London headliner. I can barely conceal my delight at being here. A cheeky FB message to the man himself and I was generously added to the list.
It’s a mind-blowing show – convention-breaking and visually spectacular. It’s been another hot day in London and sweat drips down my forehead in the throng of the crowd. It’s beyond belief how the band can possibly perform.
For one marvellous (some might say foolhardy) thing about the Jonathan Bree live show is the costumes. The five on stage all wear linen-white Lycra leotards that cover them from top to toe. Their facial features protude from behind the tight-fitting masks. They’re mannequins, crash test dummies, anonymous robotic prototypes onto which we can craft our own images.
Two of the band dance, often in symmetry on the left and right of Jonathan. They’re his prim and proper dancers; other-worldly and yet you want to connect. Jonathan stands in between, laidback and gauche with occasional struts in the way that Jarvis Cocker might if he were covered from head to foot. You can just about see Jonathan’s glasses (or is it a headset) from within his balaclava.
The music is similarly odd; Slowed down disco, a chanson-based French pop. Tracks from last year’s wonderful Sleepwalking album are instantly recognised by the crowd of fans; some dance, some kiss whilst others sway. This is exotic comedown music; Kraftwerk with a layer of Magnetic Fields. When the band launch into You’re So Cool, the treat is complete.
Before Jonathan and band plunder all, support act John Moods does his level best. This MOTH club crowd is a tough one for the sweet-natured and nice, gentle tone of John. With a backing tape for company and Casio keyboard loops, John’s 80’s influenced pop is illuminated by the pale suit jacket and piano keyboard tie that he wears. At one stage, his enthusiasm gets the better of him and he jumps into the crowd to have a bop. Those paying attention appreciate the effort but many rudely ignore whilst waiting for the main number.
Jonathan Bree – I’m glad that I’ve now seen his unforgettable live show.
“I think you’ll really miss being able to go to gigs every night of the week should the mood take you.”
That was the prediction of a few people when I told them that I was moving away from the hustle and bustle of Leicester city centre and heading to this remote Spanish villa. It’s true that the nearest small town is a three kilometre drive away and that karaoke and Michael Jackson tribute acts reign supreme but so far I’ve not missed the live gigging scene. To be fair though, I have been in the villa less than a week.
And, despite the lack of gigs, it’s not as if I’ve had a live music drought in the weeks I’ve been waiting for crazy dog woman to vacate the villa. Before heading up to Lisbon and Eurovision, I spent a lovely weekend in Murcia for the ‘Warm Up’ festival. Kasabian and Alt-J were the bands at the top of the poster but it was probably the Spanish alt-indie acts that got the biggest cheers from the partisan crowd. Next week, I’m heading up to Barcelona for Primavera Sound. I’ll be reviewing it for eFestivals and fully intend to dig deep beneath the surface. Tomorrow, there’s a spring festival in Alicante that I might explore after getting my beard trimmed by a trendy barber with blue hair.
Jonathan Bree travels from New Zealand to play his first ever UK dates in August. It’s an odd-looking three date mini-tour beginning at the Rough Trade store in Bristol and ending at the mightily-fine looking Visions one-dayer down in Hackney. Sandwiched in between these dates, Bree plays the Soundhouse in Leicester. As great a venue as the Soundhouse is, I still see this as quite a coup for the place. For Bree is brill and him and his band have an out-there image to boot – full white masked body suits and bowl haircut wigs. I let out a little yelp when I realised this was one show I wouldn’t get to see.
His genius is more than evident in the recently released video for ‘Boombox Serenade’. Like a warped Magnetic Fields (if such a thing is possible), Bree plays with all sorts of iconic images as he rides in on a horse to woo the woman of his dreams (with a Boombox). The music won’t be too everybody’s taste (for some it’ll sound like the batteries on your Boombox are fading fast) but I find the combination of baritone croon and changing tone delightfully woozy. The awkward romanticism is right up Sonic Breakfast’s street.
‘Boombox Serenade’ is the fourth track to be released from Bree’s forthcoming album, ‘Sleepwalking’. Each of the previous three singles showcase this man’s peculiar knack for skewed songwriting. From gallic glamour to more traditional electro-pop and all with the distinct voice, this is something to get excited about as summer settles.