Category Archives: Live Reviews

21/2/13 Public Service Broadcasting (+ Pivotal), The Railway, Winchester


Last night I headed to Winchester to have a go at actually being a proper music journalist for once. The main attraction was Public Service Broadcasting, a duo that merge archive films from WW2 and after with music that references Post-Rock, Radiohead and Krautrock. If you’ve ever wanted to boogie to the blitz this was your gig. Unfortunately unless you’d booked in advance you weren’t going to get in, the 6music favourites had managed to sell-out the venue completely and it was packed tight, a good friend even informed me Matt Horne was there. While I got to pretend to be Lester Bangs going backstage and doing interviews with PSB as well as support band Pivotal (watch this space!), I managed to miss most of the opening act Iain Cooper, who seemed a pleasant enough acoustic guitar man from what I heard.

Pivotal

While I snuck to the front of the ever-expanding crowd, second band Pivotal gatherered themselves on stage. I had caught them once before, supporting Slow Club last year at The Joiners. Back then I’d been mightily impressed and particularly taken with the song ‘Spitting Rivets’, so when frontman Lee announced “Hi, we’re Pivotal and this song’s called Spitting Rivets” I was both pleased and impressed by them throwing their apparent best track up first. Their music is a dark post-punk sound where synth-keys, bass, drums and reverb-laden guitar swirl together while singer Lee Pearce’s vocals alternate between a brooding Ian Curtis-esque baritone and and a powerful anguished shout. Often the transition between these two styles can make for the most captivating moments in their music. They’ve just finished recording a bunch of tracks for an EP, and if they’ve managed to capture half of how good they sounded last night then it will be an incredible record. Their songwriting has improved drastically since they impressed me over a year ago, and their level of performance was astounding. They benefitted from an unusual stage layout whereby drummer Chloe Elliot and keyboardist Lucy Pearce were on the sides allowing Lee Pearce and bassist Ben Johnson to play off each other and the crowd. The new songs they’ve written all sounded fantastic with highlights being a song that moved between being in 3 and 4 (scoring huge drumming nerd points) and their closing number which featured some impressive musicianship from each member. I wasn’t the only one impressed though, as the crowd grew ever more responsive to the songs. After Lee aplogised for having broken his E-bow for a track, its end was met with a shout of “You should break more E-bows” from a man near the front. I have no fear saying Pivotal are absolutely my favourite band to come out of Southampton, their sound doesn’t match any of the music other local acts are making and their songs are pretty damn fantastic. Which makes the wait for their EP pretty exciting. Go like their facebook page here, you won’t regret it.

After Pivotal were a band called JayetAL, an electronic post-rock band who made some damn impressive sounds by merging dense electronics with live drums, keys and bass. The only problem being that with so much of their sound coming from pre-recorded loops and samples it was difficult to connect much to what was going on aside from being fairly impressed at the skill on display. Realising it wasn’t quite my thing meant I decided to head to the bar to grab a drink before the main attraction, Public Service Broadcasting could get on stage. Which they did, to huge cheers, once they’d constructed their set with an enormous projecter dead centre, the two members, J Willgoose Esq., wielding synths and guitars alike, and Wrigglesworth on drums and triggers (Roland SPD-SX, tech-heads). The crowd was packed out and I paid the price for not sticking with JayetAL as the small size of The Railway left much of the projected screen blocked by fans in front. Nevertheless I had enough vision to enjoy the gig and what struck me most was how faultlessly Public Service Broadcasting bridged the gap between their recordings/videos and the energy of a live show. Their intensely crafted music builds and rises wonderfully, the climax of ‘New Dimensions In Sound’ (a track they decided not to add to their upcoming album) was phenomenal, testament to the fact that even without the samples that give the band their name, their music can stand alone.

Another highlight was the way in which Public Service Broadcasting engaged with the audience. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who is yet to see them, but we were laughing and cheering in equal measure. The virtual frontman engaged the crowd better than most rock bands I’ve seen. Their music has found a subtly powerful edge in the way it uses these broadcasts, and a particularly fascinating moment happened with the close of ‘If War Should Come’, where the last seconds of the song announced that war had indeed come, and the audience that was whooping and clapping after every other song, fell akwardly silent, hit by the sheer significance of those words. It was a touching, human moment, and gave a great amount of weight to the (previously thought) tongue-in-cheek motto of ‘Teaching the lessons of the past with the music of the future’. Other highlights were a song which had their name as its main sample and a song about fashion that had great music. The arrival of ‘Spitfire’ gained instant cheers, no doubt due to it’s success on 6music, and new single ‘Signal 30’ went down incredibly well, its heavy rock flavour causing a vast proportion of the crowd to begin to bust a move.

With more of PSB’s unique stage banter signalling the close of their set, the audience resolutely demanded more. In good fashion the duo launched into the optimistic ‘Everest’ for their encore. And as the thronging masses filed out I don’t think there was any doubt that Public Service Broadcasting lived up to their challenge of making their live show far more than what is on the record. Their debut album, Inform Educate Entertain, is fast approaching, and at this rate is going to make quite a splash. Do not underestimate Public Service Broadcasting.

Public Service Broadcasting

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20/2/13 – NME Tour, Bournemouth – Review


nme tour

So yesterday a well organised trip down (up?) to Bournemouth took place to go and see our nearest branch of the NME’s tour, the four bands on offer being Peace, Palma Violets, Miles Kane and Django Django. Having already seen the first two at The Joiners, I felt confident they would put on a good show and so it was with a generally optimistic air that I left my house. Of Miles Kane, however, I am more skeptical. None of his songs have ever grabbed me at all, and much of his style and attitude makes me think he’s just a poor man’s Paul Weller. So discovering that he had fallen ill and would not be playing didn’t really affect me too much. Although I was disappointed he wouldn’t have the chance to prove me wrong, I expect he knew I was coming and feared my judgemental scorn so chickened out, a reasonable move for anyone in that situation.

Peace

So after a minor race for the loo we arrived in time to enter the crowd as Peace took to the stage. They made an odd choice in opening with three songs from their soon to be released debut album, rather than any of their known singles or EP tracks. What made it even weirder is that these songs seemed to tone down a lot of the psychadelic/afrobeat influences that made tracks like ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘1998’ so brilliant. I definitely noticed an unexpected Brit Pop influence on these new songs – 90s revival anyone? However, they were far from bad songs, and Peace are a group that remind me of bands of old, a group of akward, slacker, tech-heads staying inside to make music, and then donning a leather jacket and using their music to become cool. They are also a group that I trust to make the right call with their album, even if they eschewed their known, respected hits for it, I do believe the songs replacing them will be just as good. Once they’d gotten these album tracks out of the way, though, the show really started to kick off. A launch into epic fan-favourite ‘1998’ (only playable thanks to Miles Kane’s illness) brought out the moshing, the dancing and the jumping. They then romped through ‘Wraith’, ‘California Daze’, ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘Follow Baby’, a group of quality songs, all of which were played with fierce energy and a responsive crowd. A tactical bit of mosh-jumping posited co-writer Billy, friend Fahad, and me right on the second row in time to gather our breath for Palma Violets to come on next.

chilli-jesson-and-sam-fryer-of-palma-violets-8735

When Palma Violets did come on, they had their own special walk-on music, the only band of the night to do so (it sounded like an old punk single, probably The Clash or The Damned), and this activated the cynic in me. Palma’s are built up, mainly by the NME as the ‘Best British Guitar Band In Years’ and they do put on a hell of a show. But here’s my main problem with them: they only have one cracking song, ‘Best of Friends’, While I do like ‘Tom the Drum’ and ‘Step Up for the Cool Cats’, they aren’t anywhere near as good. As a live band, Palma Violets are phenomenal, and having Harry Violent join our little crew for a few songs was brilliant. A stagedive, singalong, crazy dancing, and charismatic frontmen were all integral to their show, which went off brilliantly, but I can’t help returning to the fact that they do not have enough great songs. The album tracks they played all had some fantastic moments in each of them, but felt more like rough sketches than crafted pop, which leaves me feeling incredibly negative about how their album will be next monday. I also felt the NME has screwed up by not having Palma’s open, giving the band with more, better, and better known songs, Peace, take the second slot. By all means if you want to see an incredible gig, go see Palma Violets, and the smaller the venue, the better, but they just cannot get away with live power alone. I wish the NME and the sodding British Music Industry had chilled out a bit, let them do the same tour they did, but give them longer and much more guidance when it came to making their debut, rather than rush to make money off the same-old Libertines narrative. Now we will have to have to face a barrage of hype-destroying press in the next few months that will ruin the career of a decent band, that could have become an incredible band, with time and guidance.django

Hmmm, that’s a very depressing paragraph. Sorry. I am a fan of Palma Violets, I feel I should make that very clear, they know how to rock out and have fun on stage like no one else at the moment. but on to the last band of the day, and band that I wasn’t sure what to expect of – Django Django. While I admired their jangly guitar bopping, nothing aside from hit ‘Default’ had impressed me much, especially when at the time it was competing against Alt-J, so I’d never got the album. So when the first notes rang out of an overdriven guitar riff I was a bit shocked and a bit impressed that they had made their sound heavier and work so well in the arena venue. Their light show was also interesting, using shutters and lights to effectively make the large stage seem much less imposing and put them at the centre of the show. But after a bit more listening I realised that I was completely wrong about Django Django. Yes, they had imposed well with overdrive and power but once their sound filled out (which it did magnificently I should add) it became clear that they are not a rock band. In fact with the way each song is centred on the drums and percussion (they are the leaders in modern tambourine skills) they are far better described as a dance band. Suddenly the choice to make them headliners made perfect sense, after the raucous rock’n’roll, how about a proper dance band to bop to without having some cunt without his shirt come and elbow you in the face in your favourite bit of the song. Django Django also took a dance act’s approach to song structure with EDM’s central theme of lots of small changes taking you somewhere around a central groove as well as a concerted effort to merge their tracks like a DJ mix. This worked really well, particularly on the now stunning ‘Default’ whose stammered chorus I cannot remove from my head. (I should add my companions were not as pleased with my co-writer teasingly saying ‘it’s like Alt-J got even more dull’). I would love to see Django Django in a club, and I can’t help feeling they have far more in common with a group like SBTRKT than with their touring pals of Peace and Palma Violets, especially if you compare what I saw last night to SBTRKT’s Reading Festival set, the use of percussion and massive sound in particular. The set closed, with no encore, despite our urge to boogie.

So, duly impressed by Django Django I picked up their record on vinyl on the way out and we left. A very good value for money gig, even if (or especially if) Miles Kane never showed, with each act putting on a great show.

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30/11/12 – Akala, Mic Righteous, The Next R.E.V.Olution


Akala

So it’s the last day of November, and the last time that bitter and cynical people like me can shout IT’S NOT FUCKING CHRISTMAS YET TURN THAT SHIT OFF at the owners of small cafés. A good time then, to head down to the best live venue in Southampton, and one struggling to keep itself open, The Joiners hosting a rare hip-hop show of the cream of British underground, Akala supported by Mic Righteous and with local act The Next R.E.V.Olution in tow.

The Next R.E.V.Olution, were the first band on, a duo of MC Young Fro (aka Hugh Williams) and DJ/producer Jamie Simkin. Simkin took to the stage first to get the night started, before quickly being joined by Williams and a female companion (who helped sing the first few tracks’ choruses) and they proceeded to launch into their 2nd single ‘Don’t Turn Around’, a track seemingly dragged from the past where hip-hop was old soul samples with just a layer of beats. Williams impressed immediately with his confidence and stage presence which was staggering considering his age. Instantly engaging with the crowd, and moving around like he ran the place, he never missed a single line, or stumbled over his lyrics. Lyrics which it should be added, were seriously impressive. His grasp of the way rapping works was extremely tight and he delivered punchlines with ease, scoring great reaction with lines calling on Prof Hawking, Tony Blair and referencing past hip-hop legends in Afka Bambaata and Grandmaster Flash. Not that I should suggest this was a one man show, as Simkin’s beats were a constant source of enjoyment, the beat shifting from old-school to more of a trap sound for the second track before hitting a track very reminiscent of a recent favourite of mine, Flying Lotus, in its mellow and Jazz-heavy beat. It was during this track that Williams’ punchlines took to a new level and dropped the potential best line of the night with ‘We got beef like a Lady Gaga dress’. Next R.E.V.Olution then gave a nod to the acts due to follow them by dropping a more socially conscious number about race. By the next track, the punchlines were back, references to Yu-Gi-Oh and 24 delighted the crowd and the line ‘doper than Lance Armstrong’ proved a contender to the Gaga line’s throne. Williams continued to entertain the crowd while Simkin dropped into a more dubstep influenced beat, with an insanely heavy bass line that shook the gut. By this point the duo had settled into their act and lost any nerves, starting to really enjoy the flow of each song. By the time they closed their set with new single R.E.V.Olution is now they’d made it pretty clear that they were a group worth following.

While all that is pretty impressive, it’s worth picking up on a few places the group have to go. Simkin’s production was definitely at a more advanced stage than Williams’ flow which at times became a bit too brittle and staccato, and it was clear that tonights headliner, Akala, was a massive influence whose shadow Williams has yet to break from. There was also an issue that occasionally the sound got a little crowded. Partly this may have been because all the sounds were coming out together from one speaker which clustered it up, but I suspect there might be an issue with congesting the music. Don’t get me wrong, if Simkin is reading this, please send me all your instrumentals, I loved them, but it could have done with a little bit more space for the rapping to take the lead. I’m tempted to say that this happened as the step from electronica to hip-hop instrumentals necessitates savage cuts in what would be fantastic standalone tracks. However, all of these things are what will come from more experience out there playing to crowds and picking up what needs to be done live. Overall the most prominent feeling was being really fucking impressed. These guys were beyond the level of so many known players, and they are still ridiculously young. I also felt that the singles they’ve released weren’t even the best tracks of the night, so they are absolutely worth keeping tabs on. Give them a few more months playing live and developing their sound, and then when they go back into the (bedroom) studio they will be capable of tracks to bother the folks running the radio.

After a brief reflective break I allowed my notebook to return to my pocket and settle down to enjoy the show. A show which was completely stolen by the next act, Mic Righteous. It takes balls to stand on a stage completely alone, but that’s how Mic did it, clad in his jacket, as he began his personal and powerful raps. What was immediately striking was the way that Righteous struck a bond with the crowd, his standing all alone on the stage only served to help bring the audience onto it with him. A curious unity emerged between a willing audience and the words of an honest, emotive and passionate rapper. As the first track ended, the beats finished, but Righteous kept going alone, and we were all enraptured by the sheer confidence and assurance that he had. His lines, reflecting on home life, home towns and belonging were made so powerful by the way in which he performed, here was a socially and politically conscious MC who so clearly believed and felt what he was doing that he had us at his beck and call. Which all culminated beautifully as he dropped out from a positive ending to bring up a beef with Westwood, and went into a full on diss to the beat of ‘Rack City’. It was simply amazing. Equally hilarious and angry, with lines like ‘You were born in the 50s, prick’, Westwood was duly decimated and Mic Righteous stepped down, each audience member knowing that would be the last time he would play a stage that small, in support of anyone.

Finally, it was time for headliner Akala to do the honours, and actually he did need to perform to sway the audience out of their post-Righteous ease, as the support had had such a powerful effect. However Akala is a lyrical God, and as he beckoned the crowd in to push right up against the stage, he delivered line after line of genius. Seeing Akala reminded me of the importance that politically conscious underground rap plays, its distrust of the media and dedication to past legends reminds people why hip-hop exists. Constant literary references to Orwell and Shakespeare bridged gaps of centuries between classes and cultures reminding people to pay attention to the world around them, not to give up on society and think about the way that governments affect their lives. Having recently been at Immortal Technique’s Southampton show, it was refreshing to see a performace with the same passion and idealism, but with a much more welcoming, positive attitude. Akala was joined on stage only by his sometime producer Cassell The Beatmaker who supported with tracks and also with some fantastic drumming, which was a great addition to hip-hop shows where sometimes too much pre-recorded sound can hamper the live atmosphere (I’ll add that was never the case tonight). The highlight of his energetic and crowd-pleasing set was a full performace of his indomitable Fire In The Booth recording which showcases both Akala’s knowledge and conscience but also his incredible flow. It’s worth remembering that no matter how good a rapper is at being socially proactive, the main reason they will get respect is if their flow and lyrics are something special, and it’s his ability to combine the prowess with the consciousness that makes Akala one of the most vital and engaging rappers around.

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