The day has arrived. I was up early this morning to draw the blinds on the villa and to make my way to the airport. Goodness knows when I’ll get back. I might have shed a tear or two on the terrace last night but today I’m going to be defiantly happy. We only live once and let’s make it count, right?
Ali Horn gets me. In his nihilistic yet optimistic single from last year, End Credits, he’s making a ‘hopeless plea for temporary happiness’. He enhances his thinking later in the press release.
“The only thing we know for sure is that we can’t stay here for long.“, Ali says. “We’re a speck of light reflecting off a fractured fragment of smashing glass in slow motion. There for a second and then gone. But let’s have fun while it lasts. You can’t hide for the inevitable.”
Spot on I say. I saw Ali play a live set in London (at the Old Blue Last I seem to recall). It was October 2019 and I was between guardianships, staying in an odd and quirky Airbnb house in Islington surrounded by books as I slept on a rickety sofa. I fully intended to write about Ali’s live set but the ‘delights’ of the accommodation got the better of me.
My notes from the night still exist but they’re pretty indecipherable. I do remember enjoying Ali’s set though I also noted that Ali could do with smiling more. He had a four piece band with him and shades pinned to his chest. A fuzzy Neil Young, Ali commented that this crowd was ‘better than Brighton’. Fez and Jouis were also on the bill that night.
So, I’m happy to be able to feature ‘End Credits’ as I get on this plane to leave Spain. A happy song as the trudge towards the end continues.
Will this guy ever shut up? A super-stalker of a fan has placed himself at the front of Old Blue Last’s stage and is using every opportunity, every break between songs, to tell Jade Jackson, the emerging Californian Americana star, that he loves her. He probably doesn’t realise quite how disruptive his over-the-top obsession is and mostly Jade is able to steer the attention away from him and back towards her. “Oh, you can play every song of mine on guitar can you?“, Jade observes. “Good to know should I get tired.”
I go to a lot of gigs at the Old Blue Last and it’s fair to say that I’ve never seen the average gig-goer so advanced in age. Perhaps that’s a direct consequence of the music on offer; the timeless bar-room spit of cool Country is never going to seem relevant to the grime-fuelled popsters who typically frequent this place. And they’re missing out.
Laky, support for the evening, is probably the youngest in here. She takes to the stage armed just with an acoustic guitar. The beanie she wears gives her folk credibility; her confident chat and well-composed songs the air of a protest singer who’s not quite settled upon a cause. The heckler at the front auditions for the main event by also directing far too much between-song adulation towards Laky. She’s clearly not quite sure how to deal with such unrequited love and so offers up a bit of Country. “Whoops, Americana I mean”, she says, correcting herself quickly.
When Jade Jackson last visited London, she gigged at The Slaughtered Lamb. Jade’s proud that she’s now playing a larger venue and few would bet against that ascendancy continuing when she returns again – for tonight Jade’s composed, languid songwriting really does entice those watching. When it’s good, this is a very special talent indeed.
Jade reveals that she almost chose never to play set highlight, Tonight, live. Initially cautious of baring too much, this autobiographical maelstrom is a hard-hitting exercise in cathartic release. “Tonight I’m confused but that don’t take away my right to refuse”, Jade sings, whilst retelling an all-too-familiar tale of predatory behaviour.
Jade’s band of Devin, Tyler and Julian, seriously talented sessioners, back her to the hilt. They can all play but Julian on guitar particularly stands out. Here’s a man who can make his instrument sing and is given plenty of opportunity to do so with solos a feature of most tunes.
“Give this man a microphone”, says Jade before launching into a cover of Elvis’ ‘Burning Love’. Most of the crowd are in no doubt though – they want more of the act on stage and no encore from the talkative twat.
You’re going to struggle if you head to an indie gig to find originality. The genre is chucking out little new and the young lads that are involved wear their influences very firmly on their sleeves. This is no bad thing; you just have to roll with it, right? Enjoy it for what it is and suspend the extremes of your critical faculty for a while.
This is certainly true of Tuesday night at the Old Blur Last (see what I deliberately did there?). Tonight (Matthew), we have three more than competent acts from across the UK who have all scoured through their parent’s CD collections to collate their chords of influence. They’re all, in different ways, likeable and it all makes for an entertaining though hardly ground-breaking evening.
Jack Perrett is the headliner and arguably the pick of the bunch. Jack and his two mates, from Newport South Wales, are very much from the indie-mod camp, oozing with Jam and early Beatles influence. It’s all ‘lazy days’ and ‘sunshine mornings’ carried along with a generous dose of harmony and melody. Jack shows that he’s got an ear for writing a catchy, radio-friendly singalong and more than demonstrates how appreciative he is to have a crowd to play in front of. Some guy in an Arsenal shirt bounds up onto stage and stays there for four songs taking pictures on his i-phone. He’s the merch guy but it’s not entirely clear why he thinks it appropriate to hog Jack’s limelight. Jack and the others are too polite to tell him to fuck off. The kids of today eh?
The Orders have travelled from the Isle Of Wight for this show. They wear shorts because that’s what everyone does on the island. Another three piece, you can tell that they’ve practiced hard in their bedrooms. The floppy-haired guitarist who also takes lead vocal duties can certainly play his instrument; many of the songs descend into psychedelic wig-outs with extended solos when we perhaps want short and snappy. It’s Britpop with occasional swerves towards grunge. Sometimes you can’t entirely make out what the singer is saying between tunes; he needs to project, show a bit more confidence with the mic yet I’d still see them again.
Pastel are playing when I arrive. From the way they look to the sound they make, these guys from Swansea via Manchester nail their indie credentials to the mast. Think shoegaze and The Stone Roses with an Oasis sneer and you’ll have pinpointed Pastel. But, to their credit, they don’t come across as cocks on stage; there!s a sort of contained confidence, a shuffling laid-backness that’s actually quite charming. Admirable.
I’m glad I made the effort to get on the 205 and head to the Old Blue Last tonight. All three bands have entertained and it’ll be interesting to follow their progress from here.
Trump is in town and everything seems quiet. The protests don’t appear to have spread in the numbers predicted. Instead, there’s an eerie sort of calm. Police outnumber public on the Mall. They twiddle their thumbs and wait for something to happen. If each day of his visit is like this (the talk is that things will ramp up today), the attention seeker will have to create his own news stories; probably not a challenge for one so blessed with the skills of false advertising.
False Advertising are a three piece grunge unit. They play the Old Blue Last on the day that Trump hits town. A glut of amateur photographers at the front of the crowd suggests that there might be a buzz about this trio. Recent 6 music and festival successes would tend to back that up.
A disclaimer – I find grunge difficult to get excited about. Despite a wide and varied love for most musical genres, this is a style that largely leaves me cold. It’s entirely possible that if I’d have stumbled across an early live Nirvana show back in the day, I would have simply given them a wide berth. My critical faculty goes out the window. And so False Advertising have to achieve much to impress.
Three songs in and I contemplate leaving. Each number has sounded the same to my ears. It’s clear that singer, Jen, can belt out a tune and that she’s ably assisted by decent enough musicianship but, for me, this is adequate without being particularly likeable. There’s little thought that’s been given to stage show; it’s spit ‘n’ sawdust music for those who love 1990’s Seattle. “I don’t think I’ve ever been sharp before”, says Jen, pleasantly unaware of the double-meaning as she apologetically tunes her guitar.
Jen swaps places with Chris, the drummer, and there are glimpses of improvement. He sports a fringe down to his mouth and a head that’s shaved at the sides. It’s hardly a bellow of a rock voice he has but, for a moment, the harmonies hit and the tunes entertain; dare I say it, the grunge is less obvious.
The original formation reforms with Jen returning to lead vocal duty. Sweetly, she encourages all to move towards the front so that she can hand out sticky lollipops. The lollies advertise False Advertising’s new single, ‘You won’t feel love’. It’s an undeniable set highlight. The grunge gets punkier, more direct and more melodic; I almost lose myself in enjoyment.
All around, people are obviously getting this more than I am. Some flail about urgently as if their lives depend upon it. Despite some glimpses of greatness, I have to ultimately concede that I’m not feeling the love for this more than competent band.
Much as I adored my Easter break in Spain, I couldn’t help but pine a little for the gig scene I was missing back home. Feeling completely refreshed, it’s quite lovely to end a humid day returning to the day job with a sweaty night at the Old Blue Last.
I drank far too much wine in Spain. It’s this that convinces me that a few weeks of lime and soda will do me right. I wasn’t taking into account my weak will and lily-liveried determination though, especially when faced with a sign that announces free cans of Old Blue Last lager between half eight and half nine. I succumb. It’s a tasty lager and a more-than-welcome freebie on this balmy evening.
Saxon Zine and Cool Brother have joined together to curate a trio of Tuesday night residencies at the Old Blue Last. Not being one of the cool kids, I have little idea what Saxon Zine and Cool Brother are. But I pick up an art-laden, well-produced fanzine from the merch desk The typeset demands reading glasses but Cool Brother certainly appears to have its finger on the pulse. I’m sure that Saxon Zine is the same. And it’s nothing short of lovely to witness a world of independent music/art writing and thinking in print form.
There’s four bands on tonight. It’s the headliner, Peeping Drexels, that had piqued my initial attention. Our paths have almost crossed before and, based on the few tracks I’d heard, it seemed right to do a reccy in advance of The Great Escape in a few weeks.
They don’t disappoint. Younger than I’d imagined, this South London post-punk thing is all the rage right now. With obvious nods to the all-pervading influence of the Fat Whites, Peeping Drexels stumble around the stage as if the free beer has taken too much of a toll. Lead singer, Dylan Coates, can hardly keep his eyes open but that doesn’t stop him from nonchalantly lurching whilst angrily and angularly posing. He’s a bit yobby and a tad gobby; less spit than Joe Talbot and skinnier than Shaun Ryder but positioning himself somewhere between the two all the same. It’s thoroughly engaging stuff.
The band might adopt a shambolic stance but their playing is anything but. Tight as fuck they manoeuvre out of their post-punk comfort zone into Bhangra-based spaghetti western spaces. When they really funk things up, I’m reminded of a ‘Bummed’ era Happy Mondays. Kind of exhilarating.
As much as I enjoy Peeping Drexels, they’re not my night highlight. That accolade goes towards penultimate band, h0nkies. On paper it probably shouldn’t work. This five piece look the part and are hard to take your eyes off. Specialising in a skewed-psych Americana, I’d be completely showing my age if I said that there’s more than a passing resemblance to those legends from the late 1980’s, the Colorblind James Experience. I reminisce about considering a move to Memphis whilst the guys on stage playfully let off steam with their cowpunk skiffle. It might be laden with irony but it brings a smile to my face and for that I’m happy.
Luxury Apartments have great T-shirts. I spy this when I pick up the fanzine at the merch desk. On stage, they’re not appalling but rarely appealing. A traditional punk all-male three piece, they stick to tried and tested paths. Their manner is almost apologetic as the set is nervously delivered. Vocally, there are tinges of the late, great Pete Shelley if it wasn’t all so unintelligible. With a bit more stage nous and a desire to project their art, Luxury Apartments could be selling a lot more T-shirts.
The evening is opened by deep tan. Another three piece and as a whole I like them. Projecting a Kenneth Anger film whilst they play (Inauguration of the pleasure dome for anyone interested), the occult and magick imagery goes well with their moody, light psychedelic throwback. Some tunes might arguably lack depth and progression but when deep tan’s stride is found there’s more than enough by way of tune and chorus to satisfy.
Free beer, free fanzines and a free gig with four interesting acts. Oh London, I’ve missed you.
Sometimes, free gig nights in this fair city feel expertly curated; at other times, they feel like they’ve been thrown together with little thought to any common thread between bands on the bill. For a genre-hopper like me, the latter mish-mash approach is often more appealing. I had a grand time on Wednesday night at the Old Blue Last when three very different acts took to the stage.
The Desert were up first. From Bristol, this four-piece specialise in mellow acoustic pop layered with gentle electronics. Lyrically, they’ve got the broken love story off to a tee with words like distract, bitterness and gone featuring heavily. Their main singer looks fruity with a lime green dress and bob haircut and there’s no denying that she has a pleasant, calm voice. Think Everything But The Girl crossed with Sadė yet produced in the city of trip hop. Some of the more subtle changes in variety are a bit too much for a chattering Wednesday night crowd but mostly the good stuff on show here is appreciated.
Little Thief are a much harder proposition than The Desert. They’re a three piece and probably consider themselves a jagged indie-rock band. I can’t get over how much the singer sounds like Sting though. A track that they put out a couple of weeks back, Bringing It Back, stands out as a slightly heavier version of Roxanne. The bass player (who is not the singer – a fundamental difference from Police) jumps into the crowd and plays his instrument behind his head before a ballad is announced and lighters are waved. It’s fair to say that the crowd are loving Little Thief. I didn’t dislike them myself.
Seazoo have featured on Sonic Breakfast before. Sometimes, back in my Leicester days, I ‘allowed’ friends to contribute and this (here) was one such post. My good friend, Paul, has pretty different music tastes to me but it appears that we converge when it comes to jjangle-pop from North Wales.
Seazoo are a band made for Sonic Breakfast. It’s no accident that their album from last year, Trunks, shows up as one of my most played on Spotify. They’re are all about fine, happy tunes tinged with shuffling awkwardness. When we’re introduced to the ‘shoddy display’ of CDs and T-Shirts at the merch desk it’s all perfectly in sync with the somewhat makeshift and stumbling nature of the band. For me,this music is pure bliss but only those living with the Sarah Records and Belle And Sebastian back-catalogue might fully agree.
Criminally, large swathes of the crowd that watch Little Thief leave and so, despite the long distance travelled, action is initially sparse for Seazoo. It must be a real bummer but like true pros, the show goes on. Those of us remaining get a treat. Spring is in the air and you can almost smell summer within these tunes. Many are enticed back and by the time the show ends, fans and new converts are energetically high-kicking with arms gleefully interlocked.
Strangers smile over the friendly, ramshackle brew. It’s been yet another great night out.
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.
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.