Jonathan Bree & John Moods – The MOTH club – May 22nd 2019

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.

 

Malena Zavala & Wovoka Gentle – The MOTH Club – April 24th 2019

So enamoured am I by Wovoka Gentle, I can hardly pass up the opportunity to see them at the fine MOTH club in Hackney. They’re supporting Malena Zavala and both acts are on the quite stupendous Yucatan records roster. A cheeky E-mail to the label and they’re happy to add me to a guest list. What is not to like? 

I wondered pre-gig if I might have used up the extent of my vocabulary of superlatives on previous posts about Wovoka Gentle (here and here). But I needn’t worry. There’s so much that goes on within their half hour set that you can’t help but observe new variations. The set list might be the same but the experience isn’t. 

The trio take to the stage in shades of pastel-white tonight. Lights at the Moth Club are set to full-beam. It’s got the ambience of a tanning shop in the build up to a British summer (not that I’d really know what that ambience is) yet the brightness simply succeeds in bringing more pleasure. This is joyful, euphoric stuff akin to watching a trimmed down Polyphonic Spree at their peak. ‘1000 opera singers working in Starbucks’ particularly dazzles in the headlights, the harmonies and dynamics within the tune coming to the fore and making it impossible to do much more than broadly smile. Despite it being early evening, we’re taken to a place where we’re basking in hot afternoon sun.

 

From tight acapella to quiet and loud loops and layers, Wovoka Gentle really are the folk-electronica band you must see this year. With their first album up for release imminently, few will be betting against bigger live venues beckoning. Go and see them at The Great Escape or Dot to Dot should you get the chance. I’ll see you there. 

Malena Zavala has a tough act to follow. But this European tour is a few dates in now and Malena’s no slouch in the live stakes either. From Argentina but having grown up in London, Malena’s music has world vision and urban cool, tropical rhythms born out of grimy smog.

Whilst Wovoka Gentle’s support set shimmered in sunlight, Malena and her top-notch band treat us to a much more languid, sun-going-down set. Early on, Malena makes a request for the over-powering lights to be switched to something more moody. It’s needed; many of Malena’s songs hold an inbuilt yearning. That longing to be held close, swathed in a reliable moonlight and to not be broken by the complexity of relationships is never far from the surface.

That’s not to say that this is a ‘slit your wrists’ show. There are enough upbeat moments and generous smiles to avoid such spiralling to the depths. Indeed, when the members of Wovoka Gentle are invited back to the stage, Latin rhythms come to the fore and Malena presides over a dance party. “I was so excited about that that I forgot to play this song first“, confesses Malena before launching into Moon Song. 

There are moments of real beauty at play; emotionally intelligent songs of the utmost quality. I take to shutting my eyes and allowing the crisp guitar solos and the clean tones to wash over me. It’s a stance that yields benefits. 

Malena Zavala makes live music designed to aid escape from the day to day hustle and bustle. Grab the chance and relax. 

 

 

 

 

 

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?