Vida Festival London Launch Party – Zulu Zulu and Sam Berridge – Sebright Arms – March 5th 2020

I go to lot of festivals. Indeed, it was the lure of a festival press pass or two that got me into this writing game. I used to think that most people who write about music are pricks; in fact, by and large, I still do. But now I’ve well and truly joined that club with many years of eFestivals contribution in my rucksack. 

People often ask me what my favourite festival is. It’s an impossible question to answer. There are so many special ones dotted across the calendar. And they all scratch different itches.

But I guess one solid measure of quality would be looking at the festivals I still pay for tickets for; the ones that, press pass or not, I have to be at. For the past two years, there’s been one in particular that meets that criteria. 

Valued readers of Sonic Breakfast – I give you Vida.

Two years ago, when living in Spain, I was told about this mighty gem that takes place in early July on the outskirts of Vilanova i la Geltru and south of Sitges in Catalonia. It was the line up that year that first drew me in. It had been far too long since I’d had chance to see They Might Be Giants and Of Montreal play live and elsewhere on the bill there was more than enough to delight. I had no idea at that point just how beautiful the Vida site is (It’s set in the grounds of a gorgeous house) or what value for money the Wild Side VIP ticket represents.

Please don’t tell your English or Irish friends about this“, said more than one other Wild Side ticket holder to me in that first year. I could see their point. Frankly, this all felt too good to be true. Nestled beside the country house, this VIP area was a mini festival in itself. As DJs played fine tunes, we would sit on straw bales and help ourselves to the free alcohol. Yes, free –  all beer, wine and cava is free with a Wild Side ticket. For a price of about 150 euros it works out as astonishing value for money. Last year, I told my good friend from Dublin, Rian, all about the Wild Side. This year I’m totally breaking rank and blogging about Vida.

With a cracking line-up announced for 2020, my ticket’s already purchased. In the build-up to the festival, Vida have put on showcase gigs free for ticket holders in Barcelona. I was over the moon to see that this year they’d added a launch party in London. With a line up headlined by Zulu Zulu (previously featured here on Sonic Breakfast), the Sebright Arms was the only place to be last Thursday evening. 

Sam Berridge was up first. I confess that Flyte were a band that largely passed me by, an act that I ought to revisit. Sam, one of their mainstay members, has now gone solo and he’s worth a watch. Happy to be in ‘London’s fashionable East End’, he plays beautiful and literate folk songs on an acoustic guitar, laden with Byrds-like melody. He temporarily discards his guitar to sit at an electric keyboard where he wraps Gilbert O Sullivan, Paul Simon and Paul McCartney up in one easy-listening package. ‘No Soy Gringo’ is his concession to the event, a song written in Colombia and, like the other morsels of joy in this lovely half hour, an intelligent song of love and regret.

Zulu Zulu are a must-see live band. Think Animal Collective or Caribou and you’re part of the way towards envisaging what you get from this trio from the Balearic Isles. Dressed in crazy animal-themed outfits and wearing colourful masks, Zulu Zulu serve up exquisite melody, African rhythm and tribal harmonies; even for the self-conscious, it’s impossible not to dance. As a Vibraphone gets touched and a crazy jazz trumpet blown, the impressive strobe lighting just adds to the euphoric feel all around. It all comes together in a free-form baggy indie that The Stone Roses could only aspire to. This is super-fine stuff. 

 

The party continues upstairs at the Sebright Arms with a DJ playing tunes to keep us dancing. But I’m off elsewhere. The gig has whetted that appetite for the fab Vida festival. 

 

Sonic Breakfast Top Ten 2019 – Number Ten – The Lottery Winners and Depression Baby at the Sebright Arms

I’ve been in Spain for a couple of days now. Yesterday morning, I briefly watched the television as the spectacle of the Christmas lottery unfolded before my eyes. ‘El Gordo’, the fat one, is a tradition, an event that runs back hundreds of years. And the presentation of it all is weird. Schoolchildren sing with tuneful innocence as numbered balls get dispatched from a giant sphere that sometimes turns. They get gleefully teary should they get to announce one of the big prizes. And whole villages cheer when their numbers get drawn as winners.

It’s appropriate (in some ways) that number ten in the Sonic Breakfast 2019 top ten is The Lottery Winners and Depression Baby’s gig at the Sebright Arms from back in February. I recall that this was one of my first times at the Sebright and both bands excelled on the night by really putting on a show to behold. Here’s my review of it. (Click, click).

I would have been keen to see both bands again during 2019 but, alas, it was not to be. And now I’ll have to wait until 2020 for the pleasure. In the case of The Lottery   Winners, I notice that they’ve got a Spring tour coming up and one of their stops will be The Lexington, the fine venue just around the corner from my property guardianship. They’ve had quite a year of it with festival appearances and a support slot with Tom Jones to contend with. Their debut album gets released next year and it shows early signs of being a cracker.

Depression, Baby have now played London headline sets – and a festival in Norwich. They’re avid supporters of new and interesting music with their Spotify playlist always making for an interesting listen. I wish that I’d seen their show at The Old Blue Last earlier this year. Video footage suggests they stormed it. 

Back with number nine in the countdown tomorrow. 

Blossoms, whenyoung and Inhaler – Sebright Arms – October 28th 2019

Something isn’t right. I’ve been at the Sebright Arms before on a Monday night and it’s never been this busy. People are queuing outside the door of the basement to get in. The 200 capacity club is rammed to the rafters and all for an act that I can find little out about online. Who the fuck are Zuzu’s Petals? An obscure American grunge influenced band from back in the 1990’s with a few Spotify hits each month? The kids must clearly be onto something here. I hang around the sweat-laden basement to see what follows. 

Jack Saunders is apparently the late night Radio 1 indie DJ of choice. Fair play to him – that’s some gig to get and he must hold a fair bit of sway amongst up and coming bands. Tonight is part of his series of  ‘Hopscotch’ gigs. He jumps onto the stage to introduce Zuzu’s Petals.

I’m very sorry“, he tells the assembled throng. “Zuzu’s Petals have been unable to make it.“. Nobody seems that disappointed.

“But as we often do at Hopscotch, we’ve been able to find a last minute replacement. I’m delighted to introduce to you – Blossoms.

The crowd, small and rabid, go ape. They delight in their luck though many clearly had more of an inkling about what was going on than I did. I’ve seen Blossoms before but only on much larger festival stages. I’d enjoyed their melody and songwriting but would never have described them as urgent and immediate. Tonight in such a small venue that’s exactly what they are. They rattle through their tunes. Charlemagne sounds bold and modern; the crowd are pleased by the pick and mix attitude of Blossoms; they mosh like their lives depend upon it. 

 

Truth is that even without Blossoms, this free gig is a thing of real quality. The sub-headliner whenyoung have been ripping up the festival circuit this summer. Coming across as the  missing link between The Cranberries and Blondie, they’ve got a captivating front person in Aoife Power. At times her vocal seems to be stretching a bit too far and that’s either the charm or the downfall of whenyoung. Apparently, they count Bono as a friend and fan.

 

And that might explain why Inhaler are also on tonight’s bill. I’m stuck at the front of the queue, trying to get into the venue whilst ‘industry types’ and their partners push on past. I have time to look up Inhaler on my phone and note that Bono’s son is in the band. I’m not much of a U2 fan but I’m also sure that my son wouldn’t want to be judged by his Dad’s output. So, I listen as best I can; I get the slightest of glimpses of the band and they look the part. For a moment, I convince myself that this is why the room is so very crowded. It’s not ground breaking but it’s indie guitar music done with a style and flourish. They’ll go far. 

 

Fame and celebrity are funny old beasts. I can’t deny that I feel pretty lucky to have chanced upon this evening; it’s another London gig that I’ll never forget. I also wonder whether I should have missed out so that a proper fan of tonight’s acts could have taken my place. 

Still – onwards and upwards.

Grimm Twins, Bird Shoes and Lavde – Sebright Arms – May 20th 2019

The London gigs I’ve been to since January have mostly had decent turn-outs. Even on the stay-in nights early in a week, venues have been throbbing with numbers. Thus, I’m surprised and a little thrown to find myself watching a Monday night support act at the Sebright pretty much as the sole member of the audience.

And it’s not as if Lavde, the band in question, are so bad that they’re deserving of the low turn-out. Refreshingly (and despite being acutely aware of the sparseness), this three piece still put on a show. If they’re going through the motions it sure don’t show. Their thing is classic rock; the beardy bass player wears a Slayer T-shirt openly promoting his influence. With some soaring vocals and elaborate almost proggy solos, things go a bit Muse-like for a while before getting back on track with songs that draw upon AC/DC and Led Zep chord structures. There’s rock postures, awkward (given the numbers present) crowd invasions and down-on-yer-knees histrionics. All told, quite enjoyable. 

 

A few more have turned up for main support Bird Shoes but the Sebright is by no means packed. “Hello Wembley, it’s an honour to be here. Thanks for having us”, says the singer of this indie-punk duo who draw obvious numerical comparisons with the likes of Slaves and Royal Blood. They’ve travelled up from Bournemouth, ‘the crack-addict capital of the country’ and pound through their set as if they’re in a hurry to get back. “Thanks for coming out tonight when you could have been at home watching Antiques Roadshow”, says the singer, temporarily forgetting that it’s a Monday night. ‘Door’ is introduced, a song in which they appear as clowns in the accompanying video before all gives way to a megaphone tirade whilst swigging on a can of Stella. 

 

Grimm Twins are worthy headliners. There’s more than a dash of the Buzzcocks about this punk band from Macclesfield. Like Pete Shelley, they’ve got some killer rhyming couplets (“We are Generation Zed, we take our I-phones to bed.”) and the singer has more than a passing resemblance. But Grimm Twins embellish this with a Gallagher sneer and swagger. It’s nihilistic and nonchalant, recent release ‘I don’t care’ full of the existential crisis of youth. “We’re all working tomorrow so wish us luck on the long trek home”, says the singer before launching into their closing number. 

I hope they’ve had fun. Nights like this are great. Three bands, not all to my taste, have battled gamely amidst a challenging atmosphere. And for that they deserve nothing but praise.

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. 

Otha – Sebright Arms – April 4th 2019

I wrote this review a couple of weeks back but never got around to publishing it. Better late than never I guess… 

 

I’m about to head back to Spain for Easter. I’ll miss London; the enjoyable challenge of the day-job followed by evenings out catching one of the many gigs in this fine and vibrant city. 

Before I have my two weeks of spring sun, there’s a chance to take in one last gig. I head to the Sebright Arms again. Across a number of gigs in recent months, I’ve never felt let down by the venue. A fine range of beer and a sound quality that’s precise, it’s helped introduce me to a range of acts I simply would not have heard of otherwise. 

Tonight, I’ve come to see another Norwegian act. This’ll be my fourth (I think) this year. Otha is described in blurb as a lo-fi downtempo Robyn. It’s a comparison that you can certainly see in the two singles, I’m On Top and One Of The Girls, that she’s so far released. 

But to pigeonhole her in such a way does miss the point a bit. My guess is that for most of the considerable crowd gathered tonight the bulk of the songs that Otha takes us through are new. Deliciously catchy bedroom electronica with breathy vocals, these are tunes that lodge in your head and won’t let go. 

Across many of the numbers, Otha does this thing where she’ll introduce a couple of lines of poetry and then repeat, amending the melody slightly and adding an extra plink here, an additional plonk there. “Put your clothes back on, we drink, we dance”, she utters across one particularly memorable verse. “You don’t give a shit about me so please stop acting like you do”, she speak-sings in another.

With a sharp, straight fringe and long reddish hair, she’s strikingly sweet; the stage set-up is minimal. Sometimes Otha plays notes on her keyboard but mostly she leaves the music to the other musician on stage with her whilst she smiles and dances in a patchwork dress of many bright colours. There are technical hitches – for a period of time, the click-track can’t be heard on stage but our enjoyment down in the crowd is not hindered. 

She seems genuinely delighted to be here and happy that a crowd has shown. “Last night in Liege, the computer crashed on the floor”, she tells us. Frankly, by this point, Otha could tell us anything, so invested are we in her.

Look at me, look at me, I’ll put you in a heavy trance. It doesn’t matter what you look like. Just Dance“, she beams towards the end and the hypnosis is complete. 

Singing and performing like Sarah Cracknell in her prime, I’m glad I’ve made the effort to ‘tarka’ a look at Otha. 

 

Glowie, Karimthapeasant and Millie Turner, Sebright Arms, March 21st 2019

It’s nearly the weekend. But before I head out of London to catch up on sleep there’s still time to take in one more gig. The Sebright Arms is yet to let me down so I head there for a Thursday night of new music promoted by Abbie McCarthy’s Good Karma Club that, on paper at least, looks like it could be a banger.

There are four acts on but the key breaks in the lock of my AirBNB hampering my ability to see the opener and testing my ‘escape room’ resourcefulness. When I get to the Sebright’s basement, Millie Turner is about to take to the stage. I’d seen her name recently announced as a Barn On The Farm festival act – always a reliable predictor of up and coming pop talent.

Millie doesn’t let us down. She’s got years on her side but has already got quite a handle on her stagecraft. Her name is painted on a sheet backdrop across the stage but that’s the only noticeable nod to any DIY ethic. This is polished and smooth; the theatre is thought through. 

 

Flanked on either side by a keyboard player/guitarist and a drum machinist dressed in identical white T-shirts, Millie adds to the symmetry when she emerges centre-stage in angular red mack. She’s got a voice, a decent pair of lungs for this game. It’s hot up there and she throws the mack to the floor as she launches into a spoken word intro to her tune, The Shadow. You expect a duff moment, filler amongst the glorious pop but it doesn’t come. There’s more poetry and you can’t help but notice that Millie’s literate and well spoken. She suggests to all that she’ll send us an individual drawing if we fill out our address on one of the postcards she brandishes. You’d be a fool not to. They could be worth something in years to come.

Karimthapeasant indulges in a very modern rap that I’m not sure I’ll ever entirely understand. That’s not to say that I don’t thoroughly enjoy his enthusiastic set. He bounds on stage with a look not dissimilar to the lion from The Wizard Of Oz yet with so much uplifting energy it’s contagious. He introduces Will, his backing technician on the MPC before freestyling and doing ‘new shit’. The crowd love KTP; he works them well. When he jumps into the crowd for his finale, a mosh pit gets going that your average rock fan from 2019 might only dream of. Exuberant and a total triumph. 

 

Glowie, the headliner for tonight, arrives from Iceland highly rated. My eyesight isn’t what it once was but I can still tell that her charms are seductive. With T shirt tucked into her jeans that are pulled up to her belly button, she flicks her hair around and tells all that she’s good. On balance, this is probably true though I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve seen her with band. Tonight, with backing tape and the slightest suggestion of miming to her vocal tracks, there’s room to improve. I do feel for her though when men old enough to be her Grandad poke their cameras into her close and personal space to get shots of her writhing dance. It feels just a tad seedy and unsavoury.

 

This London scene shows no sign of letting up. Across genre and across town, they’re are emerging pockets of brilliance. Tonight has again proved that.