Category Archives: Live Reviews

The Vinyl Club (28/10/12) – Dolomite Minor, The Redundants, The Red Sky Experiment, Underplay

There’s nothing quite like going to a gig on your own. Standing at the back, scribbling illegible notes into a tiny notebook while people in their groups of friends give you weird looks. This is the situation I was in at tonight’s gig at The Railway, Winchester, prompted to go see four bands I’ve never heard, Dolomite Minor, The Reduntants, The Red Sky Experiment and Underplay.

I was stopped from going into the gig by what I can only describe as a fucking massive crowd queuing outside the entrance for the gig at 7.30. This was one hell of a well organised show. On entry (being one of the few there who was actually old enough) I managed to buy a beer, forget I’d bought a beer, buy another beer and look like a muppet. Luckily to cheer me up there was The Psychic DJ. That’s not his real name, apparently it’s Jamie Simkin, but just as I thought, ‘man, I’d really like to hear some TNGHT in this mix’, he drops their ‘Higher Ground’ in the midst of a set of great dance music, and it goes down as well as a track that sick should – pretty damn well. He closed his set by playing the song I assume is known as ‘Slip Slop Bop’, I’d heard rumours, but it really is something else, something else entirely. To follow was Simeon Leeder, whose set was far more heavily Drum’n’Bass influenced, and as a man standing all alone at the back I couldn’t quite join in the rapid rave developing by the front of the stage.

Charlie from Underplay – James Polley Photography

When the DJs subsided it was time for band no.1 a threepiece, the cautiously named Underplay. The singer/bassist, Dave, looked like a shy young Paul Weller, but most of the attention was on the dapper guitarist ‘Charlie’ whose name was on the lips of most of the crowd, most of the time. This was not underserved as his guitar playing was clearly awesome. As they started, though, I couldn’t help but wish someone had locked them in a practise room for five hours the day before. The songs they had were impressively good, I could here a brit rock influence from The Jam to The Arctic Monkeys, but the first couple songs absolutely needed to be tighter. For a new band I would’ve also liked to see a bit more aggression and conviction, bands need to believe in what they’re playing and show it off like it’s the best thing ever, because people want to believe that it is. For all these doubts, the standard young band complaints, they then proceeded to make me look stupid for the second time that night, by busting out a cover of The Kinks’ ‘All Day and All of the Night’ which fucking rocked. It had everything I was looking for in the opening songs, the confidence, the aggression and the passion. To top it off, the obviously a legend guitarist ‘Charlie’ made the audience cream their pants when, in the midst of a solo, he lifted his guitar up and played the strings with his tongue. They didn’t let up, and closed their set with a song that had a cracking bass riff, ‘The Stalker Song’, and a classic reprise led by a frantic ‘1, 2, 3, 4’. It was good stuff, and if they tighten up the first half, and get every song as energetic at the Kinks cover, they could be a great prospect to see on the local circuit.

Hugh from The Red Sky Experiment – photo by Julian Ellis-Brown

With little time to spare inbetween bands, the group that really organised the whole night, The Red Sky Experiment took to the stage. It’s very rare that I go to a local gig and am in awe of a band, but fuck me, could they play. As a drummer I can only worship at the feet of the stickman behind the set, the first song was an insane jazz-rock track that was begging to turn into 7/8 but always held back in no small part thanks to this drummer’s phenomenal tightness. Launching into Bombay Bicycle Club’s ‘Always Like This’ the band actually managed to out funk one of the funkier indie rock bands around, their energy and chemistry were something else. They had two vocalists sharing duties, with dual guitars and a bass, and they used this sound so well, holding back when they needed to and cutting loose only when it was ready to explode, especially in an incendiary cover of Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’ which was every bit as dirty and groovy as the original. Doubtless if you’re reading this, you can’t wait to hear them for yourself, in which case I have some bad news. This was their last gig ever, the end of the experiment, and trust me, no one is more annoyed than I am about this. Deciding to capitalise on this sadness, they closed their last ever set with a cover of Coldplay’s ‘The Scientist’ which was even complete with various lighters going into the air for a very emotional end. It was an epic end to a band I really wish weren’t calling it a day, but nevertheless I’m sure all the members will go on to be successful in future projects. Especially that drummer…

Matt from The Redundants – photo by Julian Ellis-Brown

Next up was the band I’d technically come to see, but didn’t really know, The Reduntants, who were launching their new sound, a beefed up one with extra organ power. Deciding to start their set in total darkness was a clever atmospheric move, and as singer Matt’s vocals filtered across the Jeff Buckley influence was clear to hear. But just in case anyone thought they were gonna get moody noodly songs the band launch into a raucous rock attack, fusing Red Hot Chili Peppers riffs and psychadelic rock swirls. Having never heard their previous sound I can’t say how much has changed but I can say that they fully utilised all the sounds at their dispersal, whether it was sharp funky stabs, or Pixies-esque quiet bits before a wall of attack. Elements of Arctic Monkeys and Jamie T kept them from being any sort of retro throwback, but the defining feeling their set gave can pretty much be summed up by the word Groovy. The crowd that clustered around the stage rocked out at every moment available and the rhythms of every track were impossible to resist. The set was let down, however, by a somewhat funky reworking of Radiohead’s indomitable ‘High and Dry’, mainly because I think that song’s been done to death by various pop reworkings from people who would find Kid A unlistenable, but also because it felt like an innapropriate song for this band to play. They had played with swagger and cool, and the cover took them on an unnecessary turn into the melodromatic. But after declaring they would have a new EP out by Christmas, they managed to make up for it, ending on a song which absolutely plundered The Doors, especially ‘Soul Kitchen’ but managed to have a monster groove to finish with. It was a great performance and we’ll have to see in December if they can capture the grooviness and the energy that made it work for their upcoming release. Watch this space.

Max from Dolomite Minor – James Polley Photography

Finally, with the threat of my lift home lumbering on the horizon, the final band, the headliners, Dolomite Minor, offered up their self-proclaimed ‘Raw, Dirty Blues’. Personally, I reckon they had a little bit more about them than that, with occasional straying into punk, rock and grunge, but they did always return back to a dirty blues sound. Being that most fashionable of bands, the two-piece they continue in a great line of bands with formidable hard-rocking chemistry from The Black Keys and Blood Red Shoes to The White Stripes and Japandroids. Guitarist/Vocalist Joe was clearly adept at guitar, his one instrument gave out a phenomenal sound that declared bassists everywhere useless, while drummer Max was the powerhouse anchor, and a Dave Grohl-esque beast at the most climactic moments. They also manage to fuse together the long-haired grunge look with a chic afro between them, which is no small feat. The set was solid with each song having its own distinctive character and tone. At one point an almost Franz Ferdinand riff hinted at a potential commercial single, coated in a characteristic rock’n’roll boogie that suggested they could take lessons from similarly old-school styled band The Jim Jones Revue. I was unfortunately forced to leave due to my inability to drive, but as luck would have it two days later at an unbelievable Palma Violets gig at The Joiners I encountered Dolomite Minor as the support band, and got to hear what the close of their set can sound like – Raw, Dirty Blues.

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Heronshaw EP Launch – Review

Portsmouth band reach new heights (groan)

So on the 31st August I headed down to by far the most impressive venue for a gig I have ever seen: The Spinnaker Tower. The reason I was there was to see Portsmouth band Heronshaw release their debut EP, The Truth, It Hurts. The sharply dressed crowd ascended a full 100 metres upwards, we were treated to a pretty stunning view of the whole of Portsmouth by night, and one very fitting for a band raised there, and playing what could be their last gig on home turf before the core of the band relocates to London and university.

But before they could take to the very impressive stage, positioned directly in front of the terrifying glass floor, it was time for the opening acts. First up was Cherrelle Jefferson, playing a set of pop covers that culminated in a rousing rendition of ‘Call Me Maybe’ as the crowd tried to pretend that it didn’t know all the words. Supported by a jazzy keyboard and electro-acoustic guitar, Cherrelle closed her set with a version of her debut single ‘Girlfriend’, which became an entirely different beast to the recorded version, below.

Next was Fifi Smart. She opened with ‘Hazy’, moving into a new as-yet untitled song before playing a completely acapella version of (the Jeff Buckley version of) Lilac Wine that earnt rapturous applause from the growing audience. Fifi had picked tonight to release her debut solo single ‘Only He‘, unquestionably her most mature song to date, and so for the performance of it she brought on guest Anna Roberts to play Cello and provide backing vocals. It was a great move and helped make the live sound closer to the layers found on the record. She then closed with a cheesy as hell cover of Elton John’s ‘Crocodile Rock’, as an apology for not playing anything happy, and actually managed to get a bit of a sing-a-long going, against all good reason.

So the time came for Heronshaw to take to the stage, as people braved the glass floor to get closer to the action and Mr Brightside pumped out of the PA. Wasting no time they launched straight into the opening song off their brand new EP, and my my personal favourite of their tracks, ‘Moving On, Moving Up’. It’s a raucous belter and the band more than do it justice when they play it. Just before they went on stage I managed to grab a couple words with lead singer Tom, and his comments about just wanting to go out on a big bang after the extraordinary effort the band and those helping have put in with the EP and setting up the show are clearly evident in the energy the band have on the stage. There’s a youthful energy thats very strongly reminiscent of early Gomez when they produced the album that won the Mercury Music Award, especially in the chorus of “so get out of my face” that is just cheeky enough to pull off.

They then follow that up with a very bluesy duo of their own song ‘Bluesy Swordsfish’ and a cover of Blur’s ‘Song 2’ that shows off some very cool piano skills. From then on the set shifts from the raucous bluesy/americana sound to a more grounded pop/rock vibe indebted to the Coldplay / Mumford school of modern music. The band is a five piece of two guitarists, a drummer, a bassist and a front man on vocals, keys or guitar. It should also be mentioned that their vocal harmonies are something to be envious of, as they are phenomenally tight and they manage to be kept up perfectly when they really rock out.

As the set enters its second half the band shows off the other two songs that feature on the EP, ‘Arms Length’, and ‘Open Sea’. Inbetween them is ‘India’ which can be seen above and showcases a more folky side to the band and features some tasty harmonica work. ‘Open Sea’ is the last original the band play and is built up hugely with all the band members driving away as the song gets bigger and bigger and the harmonies are roared. They close with two equally epic covers, ending on a version of ‘Hey Ya’ that is completely successful at getting the entire tower singing along.

Heronshaw - The Truth, It Hurts

Click the picture to go and download it

As the band starta to stagger off, no one quite believes it, and when the chant of encore gets going the band quickly reclaimed their places for a romp through Mumford and Sons’ ‘Little Lion Man’ which they played suitably epicly to close what was an immense night out.

As I and my gig companion Ralph sprint across Gunwharf Quays to catch the last train back to Winchester by exactly 50 seconds, we have just enough time to reflect upon the gig and we agree it was mightily impressive. Heronshaw gave a fitting end to their time in Portsmouth, 100 metres above the town in which they began. It’s a perfect way to start what Tom described as “the next chapter in our bandship”.

You can buy the EP ‘The Truth, It Hurts’ by clicking the artwork above, or go to the pages for Heronshaw on facebook, twitter or youtube. For a choice range of pictures from the night, check out this album by photographer Jack MacNally.

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Road to Blissfields, Winchester – Review (Taming the Savage, The Joys of Sleeping, Winterhours, Ben Goddard, Arp Attack)

So yesterday (7th April) I headed down to The Railway to review the Road to Blissfields Winchester competition, where four bands duked it out to try and gain a spot at the local festival. I was competing in the competition for young writers to review it and hopefully win a press ticket to the actual festival. You can’t say much in 250 words so I’m using this review to say what I really want to say about the night, and hopefully to offer a real criticism of the acts in a way that might be useful to them and also useful for people who might enjoy their sounds. Pre-rant over, now I can get into it.

After a little delay with getting in, and some very, very loud shouting from one of the organisers, the night was kicked off by Taming the Savage. Fronted by Josh Savage, they played a driven set, fusing hard rock and indie styles into something fairly individual. Guitarist Harry layered Strokes-esque guitar lines over the top of the solid rhythm section of bass, guitar and drums. The band did look a bit nervous, which was understandable considering they were tasked with getting the night going, but it would’ve been nicer to see them really let go and rock out a bit more. The crowd reaction was pretty positive with lots of nodding heads around the stage. The highlight came when they debuted a new song, full of stop/starts but pulled it off perfectly, showing off how tight they were, despite having a stand-in bassist. They closed the set with a rendition of the only song I had heard before the night, Take Off Your Shackles, a more balladic tune, which I will leave here as a taster off the band.

The next act to take to the stage was The Joys of Sleeping, aka Sam Hatchwell. Stepping in at the last minute with just a loop pedal and what looked like an amazing guitar was pretty brave thing to do. Sam’s music is very atmospheric and very delicately crafted, and he told us he normally has a few other people on stage with him when he plays. This would’ve helped a lot, as it was hard for him to get the whole style across with just what he had on stage. When he did call upon a guest bassist and guest guitarist to perform a song apparently only written 25 minutes before the gig the set really got going, and respect must be given to the guitarist who delivered an awesome solo and also did some great vocals too, and most importantly showed the potential for what the music of this band could sound like when it all comes together. I’ll leave the only track the internet seems to have by this band, Dude York Pt.1, right here.

I should state clearly, that I had never heard of any of these bands before I knew the line-up of the gig, and the first time I heard their music was in the morning beforehand, while doing a bit of research. That said, I really, really liked Winterhours, the third band of the night. Their sound is heavily americana influenced and roaring guitars built up to soaring choruses as the band really rocked out. They were phenomenally tight and the love they had for music came across really strongly in their performance, despite having a stand-in drummer (who was excellent). A great performance of their new single Sleepy House was the highlight of a set unfairly cut short, singer Alex J Dunne’s voice sounded fantastic when reaching for the higher notes in the chorus. The recording sounds like someone slapped Bon Iver in the face and told him to man up and rock out, and it is no surprise that they have been getting plays on 6music. I would strongly recommend downloading the single from iTunes, as I really enjoyed this band, and will definitely be keeping tabs on them.

The last act in the battle was Ben Goddard and the Heartbeats. I don’t want to be mean, it’s not very nice to be critical of a local band, and it’s not very productive, so I’m just going to come out and say it. I didn’t like this band. The music was just too poppy for me. I heard the word ‘love’ said more times in 20 minutes than in my entire life, and the fan club at the front trying to get everyone dancing along felt far too cynical, however well intentioned it may have been. Nevertheless they went down the best out of all of the acts in the night and their performance was ridiculously professional and polished, with each song being performed spectacularly tightly. You can judge them on your own with their latest single, This is Love, here.

As the night grew darker, the judges conferred and we were treated to a performance by Arp Attack a band already at the festival, and as their set proved, deservedly so. Currently in the studio, they delivered a gutsy set of almost all new material which sounded fantastic. Sampled beats and an array of synth sounds, layered over live drums and treated guitar, while frontwoman Frankie danced away, doing everything from singing to synths to grabbing some sticks and joining drummer Kev. Their sound was a fierce brace of electro-pop and jerky rhythms, sounding something like an all electronic Slow Club would be. They’re about to embark upon a little tour of the UK once out of the studio, and I strongly recommend going to see them, especially as chatting to them revealed that they were all really nice people.

Finally, with references to Highlander, the winner was announced… Ben Goddard and the Heartbeats will now be joining Arp Attack, The Noisettes, Lucy Rose and many more at this summer’s Blissfields Festival. Go check it out.

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