Tag Archives: Blue Moon

Mammoth Penguins, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 3 March 2020

A big turnout for a Tuesday night at the Blue Moon, full of well-wishers for the upcoming appearance at the US ‘SXSW’ festival by Mammoth Penguins.
It was a cracking support bill too, started by Peterborough quartet SUDS. Opening with the catchy recent song ‘You’ll Feel Better’ the sound is immediately established; a warm, ethereal jangle-pop, topped with smooth vocals that float over jazz-infused guitar lines, a bass line that descends and garnishes reassuringly and drum playing that weaves everything together.
The breezy pop of ‘Evergreen’ was a highlight – this was their debut single and included on their EP ‘It Suits Me Well’, a fine collection soon to be added to with recordings of some of the new songs featured in this impressive set.

Last time I saw Goldblume they were playing live in a summer storm and as always generating enough energy to compete with the elements. Opening with ‘Fawning’, tonight they were showcasing the instrumental power and complexity when the ensemble lets loose, with math-rock time changes and the volume and dynamics of the trio constantly varying. A great communicator with an audience, singer/guitarist Jethro brings the lyrics to life with a vocal performance that cuts through the noisy wall of sound, especially on ‘Bleach’, one of their best songs.

Cambridge three-piece Mammoth Penguins have two excellent albums to draw songs from and they opened tonight with the compact and to-the-point ‘Propped Up’ and ‘Cries at the Movies’ from 2015. Emma Kupa’s vocals sound simultaneously disconnected yet right in the middle of the narrator’s viewpoint in the songs, especially on the more recent album tracks such as ‘I Wanna’, an uplifting and clear statement of love (‘….I wanna be waiting when your train arrives…I wanna save your life….’).
The tense longing of ‘Put It All on You’ with the lyric of contradicting pairs of phrases (‘….you filled me with confidence and then you drained it all out…’) is another highlight, especially when the band go into overdrive, as they also do on the power pop of ‘Cold and Lonely Place’.
Mid-set they perform ‘Closure’, one of my favourites and probably their definitive song in all areas, with the resigned melancholy of the vocal, the chorus that sounds suspended and unresolved and the bass and drums that alternately sit back then explode into action.
It was a standout set in an atmospheric venue…good luck at SXSW!

https://www.facebook.com/MammothPenguins
https://www.facebook.com/goldblumeband
https://www.sudsband.com/
https://schedule.sxsw.com/2020/artists/2022509

‘Pop Level’ Showcase, Blue Moon , Cambridge, 27 September 2019

Curated by composer/performer/producer Hydra Lerna and following a similar evening at The Birdcage in Norwich the night before, this was a showcase for upcoming artists with a spirit of independence in their music and electropop sounds underneath distinctive voices.

It was a Cambridge debut for multi-talented Caii, having travelled down from Manchester. New single ‘Fuel’ was a fine summation of her sound; with big bold beats and haunting synthesiser layers integral to a soaring vocal. It is a dark lyric but the performance lifts it into the positive. With live synth drums to add drama, a new composition performed at the piano and a moving cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ this was a strong start to the evening and her likeable personality really shone through.

Currently working on their debut album, Amethysts were last in Cambridge at Strawberry Fair earlier this year, their sonic landscapes floating across the midsummer sunset. The formula works too in the intimate confines of the Blue Moon, as the duo invite you to lose yourself in their unique and haunting tunes. Signature track ‘My Love’ sounded as good as ever and this million-streamed track was one of a succession of high quality single releases that were featured in their set tonight. Echoing guitar weaved between the keyboards as the vocals and harmonies added the magic.

Hydra Lerna
opened with her last single ‘In The Dark’; a statement of musical and lyrical intent with a complex instrumentation never losing sight of the stately rhythm, especially when the full bank of synthesisers arrive in the mix. Her songs are from the heart, with personal themes that sometimes transcend conventional pop territory but always with an ear to a good pulsing groove. She is a talented harp player and it can often take to the stage as a ‘second band member’ but tonight it featured only in samples and unique tones in many of the songs, especially the darkness of ‘Angel V. Psycho’. Early track ‘Clean Like You’ gave her vocal a full range, with 80s analogue synth tones that also appeared in one of my favourites – the sparse but effective ‘Distraction’.

The thoughtful and haunting ‘Reckless’ closed the show, a superb end to an excellent evening which showed the musical talent that is out there waiting to be fully recognised.

https://hydralerna.com/
https://www.weareamethysts.co.uk/
https://www.iamcaii.com/



Caswell, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 22 September 2019

It was the first time in Cambridge for electro-popster Caswell, following on from playing a prestigious support slot at one of Ed Sheeran’s recent homecoming shows.
I missed the first two support bands but was lucky enough to see a fine set by Leicester-based singer Miša. With a relaxed stage presence and a seemingly effortless soulful voice her compositions were enhanced by two empathetic musicians – flowing, sumptuous bass and jazzy, sonorous guitar weaved around the vocal lines. I particularly liked ‘Good Things Are Coming’, based around a reassuring descending chord sequence. Her smooth songs went down well with the chilled-out Blue Moon audience.

I last saw Caswell at her EP launch in Ipswich earlier this year, reviewed at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/tag/caswell/. Tonight she took to the stage with confidence and flair, her three-piece band on top form and an excellent sound mix in this intimate venue. With these elements in place it is her songs and personality that shine through – each track is a polished gem of soul-infused electronica; with a subtle melancholia pervading some of the up-beat tempos. It is music to lose yourself in when the band kick in with thunderstrikes of sound as Caswell’s vocals soar with power but hints of vulnerability.

The superior pop anthem ‘Dance Sober’ is still one of the highlights of her set – Caswell was pleased to receive audience recognition when it started. The band had a real chance to shine on ‘Hurt Me Bad’ with the contrasting sections of light and dark and having heard a cover of ‘Glory Box’ on the Blue Moon stage the previous night here was another, taking the essence of the song and pushing it to the limits.

It was getting late on a Sunday evening so unfortunately no time for the classy last single ‘Surface’ but on the evidence of these shows there will be plenty more opportunities to hear this talented performer…

https://www.facebook.com/caswellofficial/
https://www.facebook.com/misaband/

Sunday Driver, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 21 September 2019

A relaxed and atmospheric event at the Blue Moon, showcasing artists on the Trapped Animal record label…

Jeremy Tuplin opened the show, with his quiet tales of fleeting thoughts and emotions, mythologies and reflections. Having recently been touring with a full band tonight he was accompanied only by a warmly resonating hollow-body electric guitar, emphasising the wordplay and intimacy of the lyrics. An older song juxtaposed Einstein and Bowie but most of the set was drawn from his acclaimed 2019 album ‘Pink Mirror’, including the addictive rhymes of current single ‘Gaia’ and the melodic eloquence of ‘The Beast’.

Former frontman of neo-folk-classical outfit ‘Wooden Arms’ Alexander Carson sat at the piano for a short set of his own compositions. Introspective and unhurried, the haunting and very personal vocals are gently punctuated by impressionistic keyboard flourishes with overlaying textures and tempo changes. The one-word titles of the tracks on current long-player ‘Ellipsism’ are as enigmatic and evocative as the songs themselves.

Kerry Devine is the lead singer and guitarist of Trapped Animal’s premier punksters ‘The Baby Seals’; in her solo guise she performs ethereal folk pieces, weaving her own sensual vocals through guitar patterns that build and linger. She connects with the audience during straightforward explanations of the tracks and her clear commitment to her music. Alex was back at the piano to join Kerry for an effective cover of Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’, always a good song to hear.

The audience were seated around candlelit tables for the performances and that retro cabaret club setting was perfect for the tone of the show, especially the acoustic steampunk fusion of headliners Sunday Driver. The band opened with an extended instrumental featuring harp and sitar, driven by the electric bass and drums. Then singer Chandrika Nath joined the ensemble for signature song ‘Mechanical Angel’, with gorgeous harp accompaniment. With constant sonic explorations and surprises the songs move from pensive ballads to darker worlds populated by ‘Rats’, ‘Black Spider’ (featuring the rich tones of bass clarinet) and the sinister ‘The General’.

It was a great evening, four quality performances in an excellent setting!

http://www.trappedanimal.com/
http://www.sundaydriver.co.uk/
https://www.kerrydevine.org/
https://www.alexandercarsonmusic.co.uk/
http://www.jeremytuplin.com/

The Baby Seals, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 22 June 2019

A loud triple bill at the Blue Moon was opened by The Menstrual Cramps from Bristol. In current music there is a dearth of proper protest songs; many songwriters personalise their issues of workplace frustration or environmental platitudes and ignore any actual politics but this band confront it all head on. Their coruscating lyrics rip through the noisiest of noisepunk, the five-piece producing a blistering wall of sound to frame early highlights ‘Frack Off’ and ‘Tinder Girl’.
The singalong chorus of ‘Cull The Tories’ (…save the badgers!….) gets the audience going but perhaps the best moments are ‘Boycott The Lot’ with its multi messages per second and the ascending riff of ‘Idols’, a searing summary roll call of fallen reputations ‘…don’t idolise your idols, otherwise you compromise…..’. Follow that!

Last seen at the Cambridge Indie all-dayer, Dream Nails from London are preparing their new album for later this year and much of the set featured tracks from it. The four-piece have an infectious confidence in their performance, drawing energy from the now fully arrived sold-out audience to fuel their songs.
The classic punk stop-start anger of ‘Tourist’, the adoration and fun of ‘Jillian’ (….some say you’re not a qualified personal trainer….but I don’t care I’m not a complainer…whatever we do will be worth the pain yeah….’) and the one minute barrage of signature song ‘Deep Heat’ all slot seamlessly into the show. Brilliant!

The idea of this mini tour was having a revolving headliner in each hometown so Cambridge favourites The Baby Seals took to the stage as the final act. Opening with the stealthy bass-driven power of ‘It’s Not About The Money Honey’ (‘…we just want the same…’) the band’s heady lyrical mixture of relationships, sex, body image and modern attitudes is firmly embedded in dense, spiky bass and guitar and drumming that fills every corner of the track.
The trio’s upfront messages are delivered with plenty of instrumental fire tempered by harmonies, but the humour always underpins the serious messages, especially in ‘Period Drama’ and new song ‘ID’ed @ Aldi’, a ritual you have to go through despite making obvious adult purchases.
‘Chaos’ was the big finale track; an epic onslaught of stately sound, bringing this excellent show to an end.

http://thebabyseals.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/yourdreamnails
https://www.facebook.com/TheMenstrualCramps

Malena Zavala, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 25 April 2019

First on at the Blue Moon were Love Trapezium, a likeable trio from Norwich and London. They were playing a blend of keyboard-driven funk, with rhythm guitar, vocals, rapping and a brief saxophone appearance too. They were a bit cramped on stage but presented as a unified and tight playing unit, every keyboard and percussion interjection in just the right place. With featured EP ‘Hyperlink’ and the infectious groove of ‘See U Around’ they were an enjoyable opening act.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Wovoka Gentle (their name taken from two poems by American poet Gary Short) but when they started with three-part harmonies and sounded like a sixties folk-pop chart act as they were joined by guitar I knew I would not be disappointed. With a set that visually featured many changes of staging structure and instrument line-up and complete genre-free unpredictability it was all a bit special.

Many keyboards, guitar, violin and percussive effects drifted in and out but it was the strong vocal combinations that leave the lingering memories for me. I was very impressed; the sonic textures and musical directions were really like nothing else I have ever heard, I look forward to their new album in June.

Malena Zavala is an Argentinian-born Londoner who brings her mix of influences to a stunning set drawn mainly from her debut album ‘Aliso’. As singer/songwriter she is a serene, magnetic personality in the middle of her accomplished band; the musicians able to maintain a restrained presence for many of the songs but able to push forwards when needed. Malena plays occasional keyboard and guitar including some subtle lead lines but her voice is always the key ingredient in the mix.

The easy groove of signature song ‘If It Goes’ had an early appearance, sounding like it was already a familiar hit, followed by the thoughtful dream pop of ‘Moon Song’. Up tempo ‘Cumbia’ brilliantly brought Latin dance rhythms into the middle of her set but it was the slower, musically rich ‘I Never Said It’ and ‘Should I Try’ that were the emotional core of her performance.
Finishing with the slow-building ‘A Vision That’s Changed’ with the ringing guitar accompaniment gradually building to an anthemic flourish finale, it was one of those shows where I felt it was a privilege to be there.

https://www.malenazavala.com/
http://www.wovokagentle.com/
https://www.facebook.com/lovetrapezium/

Bouquet Of Dead Crows, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 24 November 2018

Live at the Blue Moon, this was the launch show for the second long-player from Cambridge rockers Bouquet Of Dead Crows, with the promise of playing the whole album in order for the first and only time….

1. Faultlines An epic track probably destined to be the band’s permanent ideal show opener with the long build-up introduction, Eno-esque synth textures, a stately guitar/bass prelude (reminding me of Pink Floyd’s ‘In The Flesh?’) then finally the bass kicks off a blazing, simple but effective riff and the soaring vocal enters. With much more to come that’s just the first two of the seven minutes of this epic piece, definitely one of my favourites.

2. The Devil’s In The Detail Sounding great live, see full review of original release at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/09/09/bouquet-of-dead-crows-the-devils-in-the-detail-single-released-september-2018/

3. No Tomorrow With the smoke machine activating the venue alarm, things were clearly hotting up; this track starts off deceptively lightly but has a big chorus and a reflective vocal with some guitar fireworks at the end.

4. Slow Motion Ghosts This new album has the feel of a concept piece; the very different sounding tracks seem to slot together into a coherent whole and the title ‘Motus Octo’ (eight movements) gives a clue towards a linking theme. Possibly. This pivotal track is a grand anthem with dense, textured instrumentation and a show-stopping vocal, built around the phrase ‘…time passes by so slowly…’

5. Fragments (Black Hole Eyes) A concise all-out rocker, a jumpy time signature in the main riff and the telling discomfort of the line ‘…I’m suffocating in your black hole eyes…’

6. Cold Inside With a spectacular performance so far, it was time to debut the complexity of this superb prog-rock flavoured eight and a half minutes. There was so much going on here; stealthy and sinister bass-driven verses alternate with an addictive chorus. Finally the track resolves into a guitar (and piano on the recorded version) arpeggio instrumental which would fit well on an early Genesis album. High praise indeed.

7. Incessant Desire Another pre-released taster single, this punching rocker has a spiky signature line which the whole band play to fine effect. At this hectic pace it all gets a bit steamy musically and lyrically ‘…incessant desire…I can see the whites of your eyes…it drives us wild…’

8. Undone This cinematic, heavyweight finale is a bold showcase of the instrumental and vocal might of the band in an unforgivingly intense lyric and unrelenting steady and powerful backing.

After this excellent performance of the album the enthusiastic crowd of course wanted more so the celebratory tick-tocking pop-rock of earlier single ‘Bunched Up Bradley’ rounded the evening off satisfyingly. (See review at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/05/22/bouquet-of-dead-crows-bunched-up-bradley-single-released-may-2018/)

https://www.bodc.live/

With support from War Waves https://www.facebook.com/warwaves/
and Burning Codes https://www.facebook.com/burningcodes2018/

Indiepop All-Dayer, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 10 November 2018

The Blue Moon was the venue for the sold out and highly anticipated Cambridge Indiepop All-dayer, now in its third year. With a tasty line-up of nine bands; songs of relationship angst and elation, protest and politics, set to a DIY soundtrack of jangly guitars and spiky drumming.

Opening the proceedings to an already sizeable audience were Doyouthinkhesaurus?, a four-piece featuring staccato drums and creative bass patterns weaving around fuzzy guitars with fragments of lyrical ideas added to the mix ‘…you’re so underwhelming, how long is a piece of string…‘. ‘Lipstick’ resolves into a singalong chorus while ‘Cross-Words’ is based around one lyric line, noisy interludes and general unpredictability. Excellent sounds at 3pm on a rainy afternoon and all strangely addictive.

Last minute additions to the bill were duo Panic Pocket, a minimal mix of harmony voices, guitar and the only keyboard of the day (a retro mini-Korg) that seemed to produce some mighty, echoing tones. The songs addressed modern life concerns of internet dating, the tedium of the workplace and disappointing relationships; the lyrics were brimming with ideas and references. ‘Don’t Get Me Started’ was a standout track among many others.

Next it was short songs played quickly from exciting Leeds trio Nervous Twitch. With a tight uncluttered sound they are not afraid to draw on great 60s and 70s retro influences, especially on the surf guitar of instrumental ‘Tarantino Hangover’. They pushed the standard three piece instrument line-up in all sorts of directions, featuring fantastic vocals from bassist Erin; energetic but tinged with melancholy on ‘You Don’t Want Me’ and ‘Torment Me’. For me, this band was one of the big highlights of the day.

I fell for the irresistible low-fi jangle of Charmpit when I saw them before at the Leicester All-dayer; and as then their easy stage manner and crowd interaction earns a lot of love for their new summery tracks. You can’t resist a song based around the line ‘I’m in love with the world through the eyes of a squirrel’…

Also previously seen and reviewed on this site, Wolf Girl have a new album out and it made up most of their set. The quartet make an excellent sound with strong, uptempo songs and I particularly like the 60s folkier sound of ‘Dream Partner’.
Named after an amusement park ride, Witching Waves make a big noise (despite no bass player for this show). Opening with the relentless ‘Disintegration’, Emma sings and pounds the driving drum patterns while Mark extracts dense textures and spikes on the guitar.
I have reviewed Mammoth Penguins many times and they never disappoint; songs like ‘Cries At The Movies’, ‘Played’ and especially ‘Strength In My Legs’ sung with feeling by multi-talented Emma Kupa are indiepop perfection and there is a new album due very soon…

Another highlight for me were the excellent Happy Accidents , a power pop trio with an intense, sharp sound that belied some of the wit and comment in the lyrics. Opener ‘Wait It Out’,’Chameleon’ and ‘Different View’ motored along and bristled with energy while ‘Nunhead’ was more of an anthem with the repeated request to ‘….meet me by the cemetery…’.

And finally headliners Colour Me Wednesday, beginning with the majestic ‘Sunriser’, a distillation of many of their distinct facets; world-weary feelings of frustration with a relationship delivered with style by Jen Doveton, fascinating and endlessly varied guitar phrasing from Harriet Doveton and a tour de force drum performance from Jaca Freer. With excellent second guitar and bass the sound is full and rich. Transports of delight driving songs ‘Boyfriend’s Car’ and ‘Edge Of Everything’ sound great too and older track ‘Shut’ is a real crowd-pleaser.

All this and then an indie music disco into the small hours, this Cambridge institution is now a firm fixture on the music calendar….

https://www.facebook.com/doyouthinkhesaurusband/
https://www.facebook.com/panicpocket
https://www.facebook.com/nervoustwitchband
https://www.facebook.com/charmpit/
https://www.facebook.com/wolfgirlband/
https://www.facebook.com/witchingwaves
https://mammothpenguins.bandcamp.com/
http://www.happyaccidents.band/
https://www.colourmewednesday.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeIndiepopAlldayer/

Indietracks Warm-Up, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 24th July 2018

On the hottest day so far of the endless summer this was the annual warm-up gig for the Indietracks festival near Derby at the end of July, with tonight an emphasis on some of the international acts featured.

First on were Let’s Whisper, a spin off band fronted by Dana Kaplan from the Smittens, with songs of insight and introspection based around acoustic guitar with additional support from fellow smittens on electric guitar and bass and Cambridge’s own Emma Kupa on bass. This was all very engaging and set us up nicely for the headliners.

Eureka California have been playing and recording since 2007, now performing as a duo their sound harks back to many sixties styles, played with a real swagger and featuring some thought provoking lyrics. There is a lot going on musically on guitar and drums and who can resist a band playing a track called ‘I Bet You Like Julian Cope’?…

The ever-popular Cambridge punk-pop trio Baby Seals then played a short but memorable set; their lyrics of modern attitudes and prejudices pull no punches but are always sung with a knowing smile and tongue firmly in cheek. Musicianship is spot on and above all the band have genuine fun on stage with the audience taken along for the ride.

The Smittens are a real treat to see on their debut in Cambridge, describing themselves as ‘….a hard-working, globe-trotting independent American twee pop band from Burlington, Vermont…’ . The six-piece opened the show with short but subversive love song ‘These Lips’ and in a set that seemed to fly by too fast they played tracks from their extensive back catalogue (they formed in 2002) and from the new album, officially released later this summer.
While bass and drums maintain a subtle reassuring groove the band are able to blend the four singers’ very varied voices in countless ways as well as giving each vocalist a chance to shine. Minimalist keyboard and melodica are added to the guitars to keep the much-loved DIY/Indie sound and this is used to great effect throughout. I enjoyed all the songs, especially ‘Half My Heart’, ‘Love Is A Word’, new song ‘Season One’, the joyous ‘Upper West Side’ and final track ‘Love Record Breaker’. They came across as lovely people and this was an excellent show!

http://www.smittens.com/
http://thebabyseals.co.uk/
http://eurekacaliforniaband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/letswhisper

Red Red Eyes, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 5 June 2018

An excellent double-bill in the popular Blue Moon venue room, with an emphasis on keyboard-driven sounds.

First on was Cambridge based Luke Cowan; having recorded an evocative EP to illustrate the passing of the seasons he was performing this minimalist suite, having first set the tone with a cover of Bert Jansch’s ‘Veronica’. A quiet and unassuming frontman, Luke was directing his fellow seated instrumentalists from the piano as they added bass, acoustic guitar, drums and a range of percussion including a shaken cluster of shells and a singing wine glass.
Always building around a repeating and resonating piano motif each timeless, dreaming piece flowed and entranced, quite unlike anything I had heard in a live show for ages and very welcome too.

Red Red Eyes are Laura McMahon and Xavier Watkins, key performers in cinematic psychedelic adventurers Violet Woods back in 2014. This new band have recently released the impressive album ‘Horology’ (on which every track has something to do with clocks?).
The songs are based around sustained keyboard chords, varying from church organ to reassuring eighties synthesiser but the hypnotic, echoing and strangely soothing voice of Laura is the dominant sound. This is interwoven with Xavier’s effects box of tricks and sharp-edged electric guitar to cut through the mix as in the dissonant waltz ‘The Watch Ticks On’.

There are plenty of varied tones; the pulsing electro bassline on the up-tempo ‘Empty Land’, the mellotron accompaniment to the short and plaintive ‘Heart In Your Mouth’ and the many instrumental cross-currents in the sweeping epic ‘Wildfires’.

‘Control’ has a distant melody and piano line and is a sublime summary of many of the aspects of the rest of the all too short set. Persisting in the memory it was a thought-provoking, imaginative musical evening much appreciated by an attentive audience…

https://www.facebook.com/redredeyesband/
https://lukecowan.bandcamp.com/