Tag Archives: Blue Moon

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

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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/

Gavin Chappell-Bates : Album Launch, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 24 March 2018

Opening the show at the constantly improving Blue Moon venue room was local singer/songwriter/guitarist Claudia McKenzie, otherwise known as I,Claudia, with a set of uplifting and varied tracks, based on her own experiences and anecdotes. Best of these was the blues of ‘Rain Down Hell’ though she can soon lighten the mood with the start-stop pace of ‘Staying In Tonight’.

Last seen playing outside at a freezing cold Mill Road Winter Fair, Louise Eatock, better known as Flaming June played a short selection of her extensive back catalogue of powerful folk tunes, tonight joined on stage by violin and cajon to add extra pulsing rhythm and soaring melody to her timeless lyrics. ‘Little Love In A Cruel World’ and ‘Wednesdays & Weekends’ sounded as good as ever, with final track ‘The Deviling Kind’ neatly weaving a sinister lyric around an irresistible instrumental backing.

Gavin Chappell-Bates has spent many months crafting the rare treat these days of a ‘concept album’, and tonight he played it in full. It is an ambitious theme; whereas Stevie Wonder’s ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ attempted to describe the spectrum of all human existence, Gavin details the build up and consequences of the end of the world for an individual who literally becomes ‘The Last One’. It may sound a bit of a grim prospect but the music is generally uplifting and as he explains, the message to take away is that we should appreciate what we have and live in the moment.

The first optimistic songs are full of memories of growing up; the gradual building of musical layers in ‘The Philosopher’, the spirited romp of ‘Lovely Day’, ‘Young Lovers’ with its catchy hookline and a tribute to ‘Mother’. ‘Bad Faith/Good Faith’ sees an edgier tension across the lyric, but with another potent hook. The recorded versions of some of the tracks feature strings and keyboards, but they are not missed tonight; Gavin’s specially assembled band (The Singing Trees) have a life of their own with solid bass, 12-string electric and sparky drumming supporting his own guitars and harmonica.

‘Do What You Like’ is a topical and bitter summary of human disregard for the planet and as a consequence Armageddon arrives in my favourite track on the album ‘The Last One’……after all if the world is going to end it is good to set it to a 70s glam rock shouter, much enjoyed by the audience.
‘Cinematic Memories’ and ‘The Sanctuary Of Stars’ are moving and thoughtful big ballads, then guitar-led rocker ‘This Is It’ brings the album to a close; no triple gatefold concept excesses here, it is all very much to the point.

A quick cover of REM’s ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It’ was followed by final encore of Gavin’s older single ‘We Are The Ones’ and left us feeling fine.

Well played Gavin and the band. A triumph!

http://gavinchappellbates.com/
http://loui552.wixsite.com/flamingjuneuk
https://www.iclaudiamusic.com/

Indiepop All-Dayer, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 18 November 2017

I have been looking forward to this one for ages with 9 bands in the friendly and intimate environment of The Blue Moon, now with its lighting and sound system upgraded. I missed Emma Kupa and Rainbow Reservoir‘s set but as previously reviewed on this site I’m sure they didn’t disappoint. Arriving to see Faith Taylor who I last encountered jangly-guitaring in Chorusgirl, she was showing a complete other side with an acoustic, dreamy folk accompanied only by her own guitar, violin and occasional backing vocals. This gives her chance to show the full range of her beguiling voice, particularly on the gorgeous Astral Weeks vibe of the closing number ‘Soon’.

Baby Arms is the side project of Jen Doveton of Colour Me Wednesday and from the deliciously titled ‘Eviscerator’ (‘..I will pull the truth out of you and your guts will spill…’) these songs moved along very nicely, brought to life by her fine backing band. There is a reassuring uncluttered DIY feel to the set, and she has a great clear pop voice, shown off particularly well in the plaintive ‘Garden City’ and ‘A Sign’.
It was a hard act to follow, but Chrissy Barnacle is in a category of her own; telling unpredictable and involving stories of her native Glasgow over gentle acoustic guitar. In contrast Shande are a noisy bunch, plenty of raw energy in the fuzzy guitar, mixed down vocals and relentless drums, this trio went down very well with the committed (and sold out) audience.

After a break to recharge, anticipation was high for ‘DIY punk Witches’ Dream Nails and just how good were they? Sparkling presentation, politics, protest, interaction, excellent and loud sound quality and short, short songs; the pure punk ethic embodied for half an hour of musical bliss. ‘DIY’ and a song to describe the retrograde motion of planet Mercury and its influence on our lives were in the best bonkers spirit of the B-52s and the track about rising fascism in Europe was over as soon as its point was made after a few seconds. I loved it!

Personal Best have some very strong songs, opener ‘If You Meet Someone In Love – Wish Them Well’ is irresistibly catchy and with a wall of guitar, some neat instrumental nuances and strong vocals they are the complete package. The mighty anthem of tolerance ‘This Is What We Look Like’ is an impressive and thought-provoking achievement.

Stepping up effortlessly to the headline slot was the brilliant Chester trio Peaness seeming quite moved by the welcome and affection of the crowd, with the band genuinely surprised to realise that many in the audience were singing along with the lyrics. The songs are sparse and uncluttered with no indulgent extended instrumental passages; the shared vocals and all those little drum tricks – everything is in its rightful place. The sudden stops and glorious chorus in ‘Summer Song’, the fuzzy rhythm guitar and intertwining bass line in the environmental ‘Ugly Veg’, and the camouflaged political message of my favourite ‘Oh George’; all are moments to treasure. Three new tracks were included tonight then the frantic finale of ‘No-One’ – Peaness were the perfect end to another superbly curated showcase of infectious indie pop…

https://peanessband.bandcamp.com/
https://personalbest.bandcamp.com/
https://dreamnails.bandcamp.com/
https://allthingsschande.bandcamp.com/
https://chrissybarnacle.bandcamp.com/
https://babyarms.bandcamp.com/
https://faithtaylor.bandcamp.com/
http://www.rainbowreservoir.com/
https://emmakupa.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeIndiepopAlldayer/

Model Village, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 2 December 2016

Paul Goodwin (“Cambridge’s premier pedlar of melodic melancholia“) started the show at the Blue Moon, threading carefully constructed words across an amiable acoustic guitar. It was a similar set to when I saw him earlier this year at the Corner House, again it was reassuring but never too comfortable, nicely punctuated by personal anecdote.

It was the first visit to Cambridge by Owl and Mouse, a five sometimes four-piece London band fronted by the vocal talent of Hannah Botting from Brisbane. ‘Keep Your Eyes Open Wide’ is a strong opener, with a stately but simple keyboard line driving the song and underlining the plaintive voice. With an instrumental line-up of many possibilities (including ukulele and violin) they featured tracks from their 2015 album ‘Departures’ and unrecorded material too. It seemed a very short set, leaving a very genial and mellow feeling in the intimate surroundings of this welcoming venue.

Model Village released their ‘Healing Centre’ album just over a year ago, and they play many of the best tracks such as ‘Junction 30’ and ‘Time To Share’, (but I missed ‘Stop The Clocks’, a gorgeous waltzing ballad). With confident musicianship, including lots of neat guitar and bass twists and the matchless vocal prowess of Lily Somerville they are an impressive act. I especially like some of the jazz chords and stylings almost hidden away in some of the songs, successfully blended with the indie-pop jangly sounds, these contrasts reflecting the lyrical content which can be unexpected.

Three excellent performers and all for the princely sum of £4 (and advertised on a poster with a guinea pig on a skateboard??)

https://modelvillage.bandcamp.com/
http://owlandmousemusic.com/
http://www.paulgoodwin.com/

Moonstrips, Blue Moon , Cambridge, 19 November 2016

A free psychedelic rock spectacular to celebrate the release of the new album from Cambridge trio Moonstrips. Supporting band BansheeVa were noisy and relentlessly hypnotic, pulsing bass lines and power drumming with biting guitar and occasional vocals. Very appropriate to see the backdrop bubble projections and always good to hear a lengthy cover of ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, the definitive Pink Floyd consciousness-expanding opus. Heavy and spaced out.

Moonstrips had a sharp and addictive EP out earlier this year and they opened with two of the tracks; ‘How Do You Do?’ an insistent rocky riff with distant vocals dissolving into a noisy workout of echo and effects, a short-form song that crams a lot in. ‘543’ is a slice of pop reminiscent of 60s Who-ness with good hook phrases and a neat descending line driving through the whole piece. Heavier guitar eventually arrives on top for the finale.

I really enjoyed the newer tracks from the album ‘Glimpses’; the band are not afraid to allow time for the songs to develop, establishing mood and style with a variety of guitar effects at the fore. The twelve minute ‘Silver Screens’ closed the show; a psychedelic manifesto of epic proportion.

Mind-expanding stuff, live and loud in an intimate, packed venue, a perfect Saturday evening for Cambridge music fans?

https://moonstrips.bandcamp.com/

Indiepop All-Dayer, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 12 November 2016

Inspired by similar events around the UK, The Blue Moon pub and venue hosted the first all day festival of Indie pop for Cambridge. Unfortunately we missed the afternoon performances, just arriving to catch the end of the set by Suggested Friends, who were playing ‘jangly punkish’ songs about ‘regret and micro-aggressions’. They sounded good to me and ended their set with ‘I Don’t Wanna Be A Horcrux For Your Soul’, Harry Potter goes Indie for the first time (though Jarvis Cocker did play at the Hogwarts Ball..).

¡Ay Carmela! are a three-piece named after their singer (and a song sung in the Spanish Civil War) and make a splendid noise, with thundering drumming setting the pace on ‘Dog Tired’ and no let-up until they had played most of their recent LP ‘Working Weeks’.

I was very pleased to see Chorusgirl on their return to Cambridge, a year on from the release of their brilliant and highly recommended debut album. The sound was tight last time I saw them but now it is honed even more, the bass and drums feeding into the two guitars and of course the relaxed but so crucial vocals of song-writer Silvi Wersing. The songs are like intricately painted detailed pictures, the imagery in the lyrics shimmering above complex arrangements and sonic changes. Two new tracks were previewed, ahead of a new album in production. But while we wait, continue to enjoy the delights of ‘No Moon’, ‘Oh, To Be A Defector’ and the finale ‘This Town Kills’.

Top of the bill were Edinburgh quartet The Spook School, playing in Cambridge for the first time. I wasn’t able to stay for their set but listening to some of their tracks afterwards I’m sure they maintained the quality of the rest of the show. I look forward to All-Dayer 2017…

http://chorusgirl.co.uk/band/
https://thespookschool.com/