Tag Archives: Blue Moon

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/

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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/

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/