Sex Pistols | Elvis Costello | |Laurie Anderson | Electrafixion | Sparks | Done Lying Down/Girls Against Boys
| fotofeis | Livingstone/60ft Dolls | Matador | T in the Park 95 | Electrafixion/Lightning Seeds | Dreadzone |
Sex Pistols, SECC, 16/7
Sometimes the audience at a gig can be more interesting or telling than the band itself, and this was so in the case of the Pistols, as everything that can be written about them, has been (has been, geddit?). Desmond Morris would have had a field day - the car park was full to bursting with N-reg Mondeos... now if this had been 1977 the occupants would have been getting dropped off by their parents, but now 'the kids' wear ripped jeans by night and suits by day to finance their retro habit.
Flagging ticket sales prompted the promoters to enlist Stiff Little Fingers as support which boosted the crowd as SLF already appear every St. Pat's Day to massive audiences. Of course this meant that these ageing punks were treated like returning heroes by their extended family, in contrast to the headliners. You can easily spot a prime-era SLF song as these are the ones which don't sound like Big Country, but you have to feel sympathy for them as their various careers as BBC Radio disc jockey, tabloid journalist and the one out of the Jam who wasn't Paul Weller, haven't been kind to them, hence their return to the chicken in a basket circuit. They're supporting the Drifters next week.
The Pistols of course have sold out - there, I've said it - in every way except the crucial one, but no-one cares about that. 'Even feel you've been cheated?' Well, you can get a tour T-shirt at £30, nicely stitched up they are too, though there were no Vicious burgers at the snack bar, and fortunately for Glen Matlock, no salad sandwiches either. Anyway, the band played some old songs, Johnny tore his clothes, Steve Jones played solos while simultaneously baring his arse and giving the crowd the 'v', Paul Cook took time off from his Edwyn Collins phase, and Glen made up for the past 20 years in the wilderness. The audience hung around long enough to hear Anarchy, then moved in droves to get out of the car park. Home in time for the news and a nice cup of tea. Was it always like this?
Elvis Costello, Barrowland 21/7/96
From the wide-open spaces of the SECC to the sweaty crush of the Barrowland. Where did all these people come from? Did they all get inspired by the Pistols gig 5 nights previously? Or are they all part of the 'Dad-Rock' phenomenon, enticing respectable accountants back to the gig circuit through Paul Weller, Oasis and a day out with the kids at T in the Park? Couldn't even get parked again, bloody Mondeos everywhere. And don't try telling me that the regulars in the Sarry Heid have taken up drink driving.
Well, whoever they were, they got here at the right time. Elvis is on better form than he has been in maybe 5 years, giving it everything in a mammoth 2 1/2 hours and 3 encores. Obviously with many of the audience wanting to hear all the hits, he complies, but cunningly, giving 'Olivers Army' a solo treatment, Steve Nieve embellishes a couple of tracks with an accordion, and Shipbuilding even gets an unusual reworking.
The crowd lapped it all up anyway, clapping and singing along, and holding lighters aloft (ok, I made that bit up).
What puzzles me is that with all this disposable income in this cash-rich crowd, why isn't Elvis up there at the top of the charts above those undeserving pretenders to his throne as king of UK rock? His time will surely come again.
Matador Showcase, The Venue, 25/9/95
The three bands on the bill got the chance to take centre stage ahead of their more illustrious labelmates -
Helium, perhaps the best known of the three, open. They seem painfully shy and nervous; certainly they nearly lose the audience as they struggle to get going with their array of complex tunes from the 'Dirt of Luck' lp. They just manage to win them back for a good closing reception.
On record Railroad Jerk are too straight ahead rock'n'roll for my taste. However, they certainly produce the best live performance tonight - also some of their tunes have surprising substance, and the tight musicianship is evident on songs like the Beat Patrol favourite 'Bang the drum'.
Bailter Space sound quite different on record - their songs are at times almost shoegazey. But not tonight, as they are determined to assault our eardrums with swathes of feedback and ill-tuned guitars. Behind the wall of noise lurk a few decent tunes such as 'Splat', and while they and Helium have talents which don't come across too well live, the free sampler cd distrinuted at the door will prove invaluable to the casual listener.
Done Lying Down/Girls Against Boys
Who are you going to be tonight?
The question asked of a couple of bands with an identity crisis. First up are Done Lying Down, variously described as 'the future of UK rock' (not that that is much of a recommendation these days). The first comparison holds water in that approximately every second song is a hard rockin' mutha of a tune with a catchy hook and powerchording guitar. But it's not just a case of 'slow bit fast bit' like formula grunge. Even in the more commercial tracks there's a choppiness to the rhythm with unexpected chord changes, while the other half of the songs are really obtuse, almost willful in their desire to avoid the obvious chorus or solo. They also have a great penchant for false endings, which keeps the audience on their toes if nothing else. Occasionally they come over all Nirvana, but they seem capable of much more. They do have a decision to make - either take the door marked 'Cult Immortality' or open the golden envelope marked '$'. The choice is theirs.
Girls Against Boys have no such choice to make. Neither, does it seem, that they have any doubt in who they are going to 'do' tonight. From the opening chords of their first number, it seems obvious that they have been to Mark E. Smith school for the past 3 years and graduated with distinction. It's not just the barked/mumbled vocals that give this feeling - in fact, he doesn't quite manage a Manchester accent, instead adopting an Iggy Pop-style drawl, but the general feel of the songs has the Fall stamped all over it, to the extent that I can pick out which songs the chord changes are from ('that's Middlemass, no, hang on, now it's Rowche Rumble'. Usually you can name it in five). Not that I would wish to accuse them of plagarism or anything.
Around half way through the set, things seem to change. The Fall-isms gradually start to disappear, and the band adopt something more of their own style. Really, though, the thing about GvsB isn't their strength of songs, but their live performance. They give an energetic display, the drummer in particular powering things along. It's really the sort of show you'd enjoy live, but you wouldn't sit down at home and listen to their records, as quite simply they don't have any tunes, at least, not on this showing. I'm sure they're good blokes, a sadly undervalued quality in the rock business, as the singer thanks us more than once for turning up in such numbers on a Monday night. But niceness doesn't make for success, no, units make prizes. GvsB won't shift many, but Done Lying Down have the chance to take the money.
The audience in King Tuts were at that critical point between frenzied
anticipation and bored stupefaction, when Electrafixion took the stage.
After 2 false starts, signified by the entire room foling with dry ice,
the band actually made it on to the boards. Once they were out of the blocks
however they were flying, as the new materialtears along at a pretty relentless
pace. While the Bunnymen swung between creating soundscapes and moods, and
actually ripping into fully-fledged rock hooks, the new band (well, Mac
and Will plus 2 new faces) choose the latter course, with not much regard
for the nicities or music, or indeed their audience's hearing. Of course
this isn't a bad thing, and when the majority of the mateerial here comes
out on record we may find that the sounds are mole commercialised, or tined
I suppose Ms. Anderson is a bit like the proverbial box of chocolates i.e. you want to murder Tom Hanks when you hear her voice. No hang on, you're never quite sure wehat she'll come up with next. First exposure to her, like just about anyone else, was Big Science/Oh Superman, but then she went from pop star (well, almost) to performance artiste proper with United States and other loooong stuff. So what we got tonight was a set split into 2 equal halves of one hour each. As you'd expect with 'performance art', the stage set is a big part of it. 3 sliding screens which have images back-projected onto them, plus a couple of inflatable balls, not unlike Rover from The Prisoner, suspended overhead. These are the most impressive, as depending on what image is projected onto them, they become pool balls, glass spheres, mirror balls, whatever. The sliding screens (nurse!) for the first part show a fairly mind-numbing array of images, such as loops of flames, or feathers dancing in the wind. To be honest, the subject material of this opening minutes isn't very inspired, as Ms. Anderson muses over the nature of time with the help of her showbiz chums such as Steven Hawking. Things pick up however, as we move into anecdotal territory. Among the things covered are her time as a history teacher (when she would make up periods of history if she forgot them, with the unsurprising result that her pupils would fail their exams), plus how to spot an American tourist, and why terrorists are the only legitimage form of performance art (because they can always surprise you, of course).
Spent the break trying to blag a promo copy of her 'Puppet Motel' interactive CD. They weren't having any of it, even when I promised an indie-list review.
The surprise for us was that the second half wasn't occupied by a greatest
hits segue; just more of the same, buy this isn't a complaint as such. More
anecdotes, a lot of stuff about technology and the Internet, more about
her times in Tibet and Mexico this time, which were quite entertaining,
as was her tale of how her grandmother's faith was tested at death's door
over that age-old problem: does one wear a hat when going to meet their
maker? On a similar tack she managed to throw the Scottish audience by talking
of her near-death experience on a mountain in Asia somewhere. I'm not sure
if we were supposed to whoop at the end of this or not, but either way,
the audience kept quiet. Still, that's Laurie Anderson, always keeping you
Rorshach, Edinburgh Subway (24th May)
Another female-fronted band? Ho hum, maybe, but things aren't always as simple as they appear. On first appearances Rorshach may appear to have similarities to Sleeper, Echobelly, Lush and all those other bands who may or may not have used the gender of their vocalist as a promotional device. And when Guilia says 'grazie' between songs the stereotype possibly becomes stronger. But really this is where these comparisons have to end. What we have here is a band with a collection of strong songs, some very tight musicianship and despite the muffled sound of the Subway tonight a rather impressive set. As with any band comparisons can be drawn, but fortunately not the obvious ones. The vocals maybe sound a little like Bjork or Siouxsie Sioux, but the music doesn't sound like the Sugarcubes or the Banshees. The bass, when it's not having some interesting effects applied to it, can be quite funky, but funky a la Magazine rather than Prince. So that's ok. The guitar is fine but doesn't get carried away, while the playing is held together by the drumming. But the important thing is that though they have influences, they don't sound like any one band, and their songs don't sound like anyone elses. And today that's quite a rare thing. And the vocals, while obviously sung by a female, don't jump out at you as being female, rather, they fit into the overall sound. So close your eyes, and listen without prejudice.
On arriving in the Usher Hall I found it was less than half-empty, - not a great surprise, as when I called to check the starting time, I was asked 'what time can you make it?'
First up are Finitribe, who worked with the brothers Mael on some remixes last year. They are dwarfed by a large Neolithic structure resembling a climbing frame with flashing lights on. A dry ice machine is also present, filling the hall with white smoke and bringing on asthmatic attacks in the front row. The light show flashes and flickers, but fortunately no-one takes a seizure when the strobes start. They give what you would call an energetic performance - not in terms of playing, as they're basically miming to backing tapes, but the dancing... well, what can I say. One of the guys goes for a jog round the audience, into the foyer, buys an ice-cream and is still back in time for the end of the instrumental section. The largely 30-something audience sit rather bemused at all this - Finitribe's hi-tech brand of dance probably isn't suited to the majestic confines of the Usher Hall (it's probably better suited to Shea Stadium come to that). In all the band seem to have moved towards the techno side of things, which was a shame, and my disappointment was compounded when they reached their last number without playing 'that song with the bells on it'. The boys leave to polite applause, except from their hardcore following who are down at the front braving the security staff (a couple of old guys in velvet jackets who probably haven't seen this kind of audience at the Scottish Opera nights they're used to).
By the time the curtains roll back the hall is more half full and there's an electric atmosphere - the stage is bathed in pink light and Grecian columns are in evidence, plus a fountain which makes the stage resemble the Glasgow Plaza circa 1979.
The show starts with starts with the first of a series of weird little cameos by Ron, then Russel bounds on stage to be greeted like a long lost brother by the audience. The boys are joined by a female percussionist in full evening dress, who also seems to lend some gothic-style backing vocals on occasion.
There's a little tension in the air since during the interval some drunken people in the audience were reminiscing about the last time Sparks played in Scotland -1974 seems to be the estimate - my companion asked if they were happy-drunk or fighting-drunk, I replied 'they're looking forward to hearing the oldies...'
Fortunately (for everyone) they were not to be disappointed. They kick off with a hi-tech segue of 'Never turn your back on mother earth'/'Number one song in heaven' (the great thing about Sparks for journalists is that their song titles make getting paid by the word a real benefit). Straight into a stomping version of 'Something for the girl with everything'. They produce a few new tracks like 'Let's Go Surfing' and 'When I kiss you (I hear Charlie Parker playing)' but the treatment they've given you can't tell what's new and what's old - it all sounds so fresh (and not just discofied). They do 'Angst in my pants' and it sounds like it was only written yesterday. And Russel's vocals are soaring as ever, best evidenced on their bizarre version of 'Doh Ray Me' which is a showcase for his tonsils. Probably better than Billy McKenzie, which is a distinct compliment, while the Sparks sound pisses all over the enormously successful Pet Shop Boys. He must be about 40 by now but still looks as if he shops in the same monkey-gland emporium as Cliff Richard and is able to leap around stage like he's just started out in the business. They play for well over an hour before pausing for breath, with the big finish belonging to 'This Town ain't big enough for both of us'.
The first encore again is another Sparks dash against convention when Christi the percussionist does vocals on a new Ron Mael tune, 'What would Katherine Hepburn have said', then they're into 'Amateur Hour' which was the evening's highlight. The second encore coupled 'Now I own the BBC' and 'When do I get to sing My Way' .
After the crowd have given them yet another ovation they finally leave, Russel in particular looking almost shocked and genuinely emotional with the reception.
Ron, as ever, looks inscrutable.
King Tut's tonight is similar in demeanour to Hell just before the local authority inspectors arrive to enforce the fire regulations. The choice is yours - either listen from the bar, or fight your way into the sweaty throng and attempt to peek at the stage through a crack in the crowd. Though the usually present basketball-player-in-a-large-hat isn't taking his usual position just in front of me, it's still a restricted view, though my demands for a reduction in ticket price aren't met.
The Lightning Seeds are basically a vehicle for singer Ian Broudie, ex-member of Big In Japan amongst others and producer extraordinare. The band you'll probably know best through their single _Pure and Simple_, and while I wouldn't say that they were lacking in ideas at all, there's definitely a hint of this track in much of their work. They rattle through a few new numbers which have that familiar quality that good songwriting gives, and then 'cover' Care's _Flaming Sword_. Intrigued, I check this out later in the Observers' Book of Indie Facts and bugger me if it doesn't say _I. Broudie, G, V_. Should have guessed. It sounds like _Pure_ too. They also do _that_ tune, _Life of Reilly_, best known for bringing in the royalties as Match of the Day theme music. A good audience response brings them back for an encore, and just as well as it happens, as Broudie launches into a riff sounding remarkably like something from the new Terry Hall album. At this point, Terry appears, not to sue as you might expect, but to provide vocals on Sense, which the two co-wrote. The Lightning Seeds disappear after this, to be replaced by what must be either the equivalent of the Dream Team, or some sort of rehabilitation scheme for ex-rock stars. Les Pattinson, ex-of the Bunnymen, and the Smiths' Craig Gannon take up guitar duties, while the 'Seeds drummer remains onstage. A seamless changeover. Hall runs mainly through the excellent new lp _Home_, much to the chargin of much of the audience, who regale him relentlessly with calls for _Gangsters_, _Ghost Town_ and the like. He doesn't rise to this, the only concession to his back catalogue being _Our Lips are Sealed_ , plus _Thinking of You_, a song which bought our Tel _a fucking big house, everything you could want in it_. The new songs, while quite lightweight on the new lp, are much harder here live, and as such make more sense. The band disappear briefly before coming back for encores. The calls for _Too Much Too Young_ continue, but are met with a stony stare and an acoustic version of Herb Alpert's _This Guy's in Love With You_. Then the Lightning Seeds come onstage once again, and rock out. What's it to be? _Nite Club_? _Lunatics_? No, we revisit BizarreCoverVersionLand, with a rattle through Television's _See No Evil_. And with that, and a few plantive cries from the remaining mods in the audience, the band depart. Another value-for-money night out, with a couple of our great songwriters getting a little of the adulation they deserve.
T in the Park 1995
OK, it's over a month ago, and it deals with some of the less savoury 'Britpop' bands, but here it is anyway, a review of the T in the Park festival.
Well, to be precise, day one of the festival. The 2nd day looked so unattractive (the Beautiful South were perhaps the most exciting prospect, giving you an idea of the standard) that I decided to pass on this. Though I should mention that if you'd timed things well, you'd have seem Joe Strummer jamming with Dreadzone, Nick Cave duetting with Kylie, and Rat Scabies standing in for the collapsed Shamen drummer. Worth £25? You tell me.
I'll give you a description of the environment first to get you into the swing. One of the hottest days in Scotland for years (yes, the ice on the lochs was starting to melt), and probably 30000 people gathered in a walled-off public park near Glasgow for what is the biggest festival in the country. Compared to English festivals like Reading, Glastonbury etc it's a bit smaller, and to make it pay it's necessary for the organisers to book more mainstream bands, to pay the bills (Scotland's population is 10% of England's, you see). However, apart from the main stage, the 3 other stages included, the Groove Tent, and the Caledonian Stage, which was intended to showcase Scottish (and Irish, apparently) talent, plus the King Tut's/NME tent which basically catered for indie bands.
It was here I headed for first, to catch Cast, who despite their lowly billing, had just had a top 20 single in _Find Time_. They play a jangly Merseyside-style bunch of songs of varying quality, pretty much like the La's. Which is where the singer came from.
Moving swiftly along, I headed for the Caledonian stage, where the Delgados take the stage. They're a kinda spiky, kinda perky pop band, whose _LaserWalking_ is a favourite of Peel and other right-thinking people.
I catch Corduroy rather briefly, as their Jamiroquai/Stevie Wonder-esque brand of funky soul fails to impress my ears, though their crimpelene flares are a sight to behold.
On, then, to the main stage where Terrorvision, the Bon Jovi it's ok to like, take the stage. They are an ideal stadium band, so it's a shame we're in a field in Lanarkshire. They really are like a working-class grim-oop-north glam metal band, except some of their songs aren't at all bad. However, I soon discover this is limited to their singles, as the part of the set that's not greatest hits is stodgy and fattening.
Back to the tent then, where Ash take the stage. Pretty big everywhere, with a new hit single (Girl From Mars), these pubescent Buzzcock-a-likes and friends of David Gedge sound just like that description suggests. Not half bad if you like that kind of thing, which I certainly do. I quite regretted having to leave, but Spare Snare, Dundee's finest, are on the Caledonian stage. Despite self-confessedly 'fucking-up' on FOUR occasions, and playing for rather less time than billed, they just about steal the day for me. Though I didn't realise quite how low-fi/shambling/insert your insult-cum-compliment here they really were. They get much tighter when they swap instruments later in the set, which must be a bad sign.
Over at the main stage, a Smiths tribute band have kicked off. Oh no, dearie me, it's actually Gene! In fact, they don't sound quite as much like Moz live for some reason (probably unscrupulous record producers, I muse silently). In fact, they are not unlike Microdisney, which is ok in my book. Despite the accusations of plagiarism etc, their tunes such as Olympian and Be My Light are damn fine tunes. Morrissey would have been proud to have written them. (Whaddya mean, he did?)
Back to the Caledonian stage, where Schtum are onstage already. Imagine if you will Fugazi and Big Black jamming inside an aircraft hangar. Right, forget that image. No, in fact these bands have certainly been used as reference points for this Irish band, but I suspect that's only because their sound is pretty original, and these bands are as close as you can get. I look forward to hearing more of their stuff and picking out some tunes among the sonics.
At this point there was something of a break as far as I can remember) so I wandered off to the Massive Attack Groove Tent. I'd been doing this in passing all day, just popping in as I wandered towards the toilets etc, but never saw anything resembling Massive Attack, Horace Andy, or any of their other special guests. All I would see would be a lot of extremely chemically challenged people chilling out, and a DJ playing some sounds at the front. To be honest, for the same money you could have set fire to a £20 note, danced through the smoke, snorted some ground-up dog worming tablets, and stayed in your house listening to the Tricky album with the curtains drawn.
Though I was impressed with the way the light came through the holes in the roof of the tent and cut through the ganja smoke in a Pink Floyd laser show kind of way.
Back to the music then, and Shriek were on the Caledonian Stage. I wasn't sure, not knowing their stuff, if the vocals were intended to be buried in the mix like that. I'm sure that with the good tunes there were lyrics of interest, but perhaps we'll never know. A more belligerent Throwing Muses, a less aggressive Silverfish, or a Belly with a spark of life in their music, these are all descriptions which would have Shriek up in arms if they read this.
There was a lot of mainstream stuff on the main stage which I've long forgotten. Black Grape might have been at least interesting, but they clashed with Spare Snare, so no contest. Paul Weller would have been best forgotten, but probably 10 years ago. He'd stepped down from headliner, presumably to let his audience get home early to their cocoa and babysitters. I must be fair and say that the audience response for Weller was massive, but as far as indie-list readers are concerned, he's no more indie than Neil Diamond or Randy Newman. He can still write a good song, but whatever happened to the leader of the Jam? Answers to his record company, not me.
The King Tut's tent had been filling up all day, and Echobelly were next up. Again, part of the great Britpop hype, they were more disappointing than I could have imagined. Likened to a female-fronted Smiths in the past, they showed that they have not even a fraction of the songwriting ability to be awarded this dubious honour. Even 'Female-fronted Gene' would be insulting to Martin Rossiter and his foppish fiends.
After July the nights start to fair draw in, so Therapy? took the stage bathed in the golden glow of a Scottish sunset. Bet you wish you'd been there' eh? They run through what's a half hour of greatest hits - 'Nowhere', 'Loose', 'Potato Junkie' et al. Oddly enough, it's when they launch into their patchy lp 'Infernal Love' I realise that there's something of an exodus towards the tent again. It's time for SuperGrass, and also time to see how to fit the band with the #1 album and #2 single into a canvas sauna along with everyone in the West of Scotland who bought their records. I get an idea of the scale of this around 50 yards from the tent, where my progress is checked by a seething mass of bodies. There are still people moving forward to enter the tent, but it soon becomes clear that space for them is only being freed up by the legions of bruised and weeping people who cannot brave the crush. In the interests of the indie list I enter the tent, where conveniently they are performing some of _their_ greatest hits - 'Time', Caught by the Fuzz', 'Alright'. They are really very good live, but I decide that self-preservation is the order of the day and fight my way back to catch the end of the Therapy? set, which climaxes (oh dear) in a cello-led version of Grant Hart's 'Diane'.
After that, there's the choice of techno-bore with the Prodigy, or the new wave revival with Elastica. The thought of going back in the tent keeps on bring back 2 words to me - 'Ibrox Disaster' - and I decide that I'm suffering from rock'n'roll fatigue. I wander off into the sunset.
Wedding Present - cathouse 17/2
With 'Britpop' now a cliche you start to look for alternatives everywhere. Yet any music from these isles is either Brit or Pop. Take tonight's contenders. De^tri^mental 's pop side surprised me. I'd been led to expect a more rabid Islamic barrage of bhangra and hip hop like their erstwhile colleagues Fun^Da^Mental, but their rap over a backbeat with rock guitar, and material like the closing 'Informer', show that they have pop potential, like it or not.
It might seem cruel but true to say any band look like an identikit Britpop band, but in Cable's case... However, their opening number with extended guitar 'rock out' tells another story. As it is they play the superb single 'Seventy' next, thus peaking half an hour too soon. The rest of the set grinds on in an orgy of guitar and feedback with none of the classic catchiness of the single. Disappointing.
The Wedding Present are old hands at this game. David Gedge takes the stage to a reception worthy of Damon Albarn - except that the Cathouse has an over-18 (and thus over-11) policy. Though a good percentage of the audience are female, they are there as much as fans of the music as fans of David's boyish charms.
After 15(*?*) years they've developed a larger back-catalogue of love-lorn classic pop songs to outweigh that of their spiritual cousins, the Buzzcocks. From C86 to the Guinness Book of Records they have come full circle to an indie label again. Tonight they demonstrate their talents fully with a superb set running through from as far back as 'Favourite Dress" , all the way through "Corduroy" and to their current "Mini" lp which has sparkling tunes and a great feel replete with new(ish) bassist Jane supplying harmonies
The Wedding Present then - the top pop that Britain has to offer.
The Kaisers - Edinburgh Venue 13/2
Let's get this straight right away. I hated the Beatles. OK they had a lot of tunes for sure, some good, adapted throughout the ever-changing 60's pretty adeptly, but they also produced a lot of chaff, a lot of soppy nonsense and drug-addled crap, and putting their songs head-to-head with the likes of the Stones and the Who they get blown away - in fact they'd have a job competing with Herman's Hermits.
So what chance to a early-Beatles-style band have of impressing me? Well, surprisingly, a bit. The Kaisers have that Beatles Star Club/Backbeat era down to a tee, with original Vox amps, leather waistcoats and those mikes that look like art-deco cheesegraters. But there the similarities between them and the tribute bands that you're visualising end. The Kaisers play almost exclusively originals in the style of Merseybeat in general, drawing on all the best parts. What covers they do are from the era - Love Potion #9, Woolly Bully. So you get a dance-packed hour of infectiously catchy pop/beat songs, none of which seem to last more than two minutes,. No pretensions, just honest pop. If they follow the pattern, they can start playing bigger venues, hire an incompetent ugly drummer, devote too much time to mind-expanding substances, and split acrimoniously by the millennium. By then they could be bigger than the Beatles, Oasis and God put together. They're already better.
fotofeis - 13th Note, 14th October
A three (or was it four?) band 'event' featuring artists working on the fringes of what we usually call 'rock' music. First on are a supergroup of sorts - Jowl - who are the bassists of Long Fin Killie, Dawson, and Badgewearer. One plays lead, the second rhythm, and the remaining one does something undefined. Together they make an almighty noise, and as they get under way, that old cliche, "they're still soundchecking", is heard at the door.
Next up are Manchester's Spaceheads, who in previous existences were in James and the Diagram Brothers. Their days of chart hits are a long way away, as you might guess when I say that they are a drums and trumpet combo. This may sound like a sparse arrangement, but a variety of samples and effects create a dense sound, which is augmented by Marion, lately of the Dog Faced Hermans, who sings and recites over the Spaceheads' backing. And, er, plays the spoons.
Headlining are local formed-for-the-occasion group All the old men paid rent bar Rory. Improv name, improv guys, though the description freeform jazz only partly describes what they do - the drummer certainly is of that school, but the duelling sax/clarinet are quite something else, while Badgewearer's guitarist provides the kind of backing you wouldn't get at Ronnie Scott's.
Ah, my senses soak up the sounds and sensations of summer. A crush of people, dancing and tripping while Dreadzone play onstage - you can just about make them out in the distance behind a sea of bodies. All around wasted people stagger around or crash out in a corner. The smell of dope, spilled beer and the toilets wafts through the air. A train passes overhead... ouch, damn this bad acid.
Of course, this ain't no party, this ain't no detestable summer festival, but in fact is a night at Glasgow Arches, just below Central Station. Dreadzone are mixing up a concoction of their trippy hip-hop tinged dub and the locals are lapping it up. It must be said that some of them would happily dance to Sidney Devine if it had a pounding bass beat, but the rest of us are there to see the English festival circuit's answer to the Grateful Dead. They play to their audience to a certain extent - starting off with the more dancey trancey stuff, but when vocalist Earl Sixteen takes the stage we know that his mellow Gregory Issacs-esque tones signify the danceable dub present on their Second Light lp are due. So we get Love Life and Unity, Zion Youth and after some more pounding beat and more samples and video clips (a truly multimedia event) we get the (hey) hit single, Little Britain. Cue to go wild as the most danceable sound in town starts up.
Dreadzone will be arriving soon at a platform, er, venue near you. Don't miss them.
Blind/Livingstone/60 Ft Dolls
Ok, so you've got your 3 chords and you form your band. What next? That depends on the individual - ambition, enthusiasm, resilience, even ability all count.
We saw 3 approaches to this. First, Blind are young, brimming with enthusiasm and their self-effacing good humour helps win over tonight's strangely apathetic crowd. If they stick to writing more songs they could be headlining here in a year.
Livingstone are ambitious. You can tell. Their performance oozes confidence. Over-confidence. I'm not sure what the problem was but the vocals were inaudible, guitars faded on and out, the bass shook, but the band seemed to be none the wiser. When you could pick out the tunes, they're not bad - Good Intentions and the new single 'jljll' stand out and if they get more material together they could make it. And they certainly want to.
The 60 Ft Dolls on the other hand perhaps don't want to be fussed with all this stardom stuff - they seem so laid back at times, and aren't in the mood top please any watching journalists, A&R men or even the purists in the crowd. However the following points could act against them.
·Material: although they have 3 brilliant songs (Happy Shopper, Pig Valentine, Stay) they also have a few fillers in their set.
·Timing: all members stopping playing at the same time will maximise the chance for applause. (Hey, they can manage it when they feel like it.)
·Synchronisation: the guitarist starting the first number before the drummer has sat down, or the bassist kicking off another song while the guitarist is changing strings - these look funnier than they sound.
·Communication: the singer should warn the others he's going to switch to backing vocals mid-song.
·Welshness. They're Welsh. No suggestions on this one I'm afraid.
If they heed all these they might just make it big If they can be bothered. Or they could just sell their songs to Livingstone.