Tag Archives: Junction

Half Man Half Biscuit, Junction , Cambridge, 9 June 2016

A welcome return to Cambridge Junction J1 for the much-loved Half Man Half Biscuit. I saw them last year, reviewed here…


…and it was just as good this time around. Perhaps there was more of an emphasis on the rockier songs, but many of my favourites songs were still in place; the locally lovelorn lyric of ‘For What Is Chatteris’, the musings of mortality of ‘When The Evening Sun Goes Down’ and their tour de force of music and words, ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel (Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train)’.

Songs assuring the extended cultural longevity of B-List celebrities were also featured; ‘Bob Wilson – Anchorman’, ‘The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman’, ‘Dickie Davies Eyes’, the nightmarish ‘Gubba Look-a-Likes’ and the sad moments of ‘Tommy Walsh’s Eco House’.

A blasting cover of The Damned song ‘New Rose’ was part of their encore, a super example of how good their band sound actually is, underpinning their unique lyrics…

All together now,

I said “Would you like to go the zoo?”, she said “Yeah, but not with you”
Twenty-seven yards of dental floss, but she still won’t give me a smile…


The Wedding Present, Junction, Cambridge, 29 May 2016

As part of a Bank Holiday weekend mini-tour, the ever-popular Wedding Present arrived in the intimate setting of Junction J2 for a real fan treat, the complete performance of their fifth album ‘Saturnalia’.

Support was from Leeds four-piece Deadwall, with some mellow songs featuring unlikely protest lyrics about the Paris Climate Accord and Shell’s oil activities in the Niger Delta over some moody backings, each time allowing the sound texture to develop with keyboards and subtle drumming. Radiohead are probably an influence, but Deadwall go in their own direction.

The Wedding Present have maintained quality in their output since formation in 1985 and one of the many jewels from the back catalogue is ‘Saturnalia’. This sounds as fresh as it would have on release in 1996 when there was critical acclaim for its experimentation. Playing the album in original sequence involved plenty of guitar changes and some extra keyboard and drumming parts but the energetic band pulled it off in style.

The driving force for the show is of course David Gedge; composer, guitarist, frontman, singer and all-round likeable bloke. The opening ‘Venus’ is to-the-point, ‘Skin Diving’ is a guitar-dominated plea of desperation but my favourite is ‘Montreal’, an incisive tale of rejection.

The second half of the set was a mix of old and new, including a preview of new LP ‘Going, Going….’ due out later this year. The double burst of ‘Kennedy’ and ‘Brassneck’ featuring David’s explosive rhythm guitar and the show ended with ‘Perfect Blue’, showing that after all the emotional hurt of some of the preceding lyrics he is still an incurable romantic….


Father John Misty, Junction, Cambridge, 27 October 2015

Father John Misty arrived at J1 as part of a sell-out UK tour. First onstage was singer Anna B Savage, performing compositions accompanied by her subtle and spacious guitar playing. Opening with cryptically titled ‘IV’ from her debut EP her intense, personal lyrics pulled us into a private world. Background audience noise spoilt the moment a bit but many were appreciative.
Song ‘I’ is a lovely melody over gently picked chords and the more free-form ‘II’ with opening line ‘I will never amount to anything…’ and build-up to an abrupt ending completed the short set strongly.

Father John Misty is the performing name of former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman and after showcasing his new sound on the album ‘Fear Fun’ he has now released the highly acclaimed ‘I Love You, Honeybear’. And what an album it is, a lush mixture of folk, rock and country with an overarching and personal theme of falling in love. So how would this transfer to live performance? Brilliantly.

Playing acoustic and electric guitar FJM was backed by guitar, keyboards and drums. From the first (title) track, we were bowled over by the magnetic stage presence and his great singing voice and connection with the audience. ‘Strange Encounter’ echoed the retro western themes played between the acts and ‘True Affection’ is a neat electronica based surprise. ‘When You’re Smiling…’ is a soaring ballad delivered even more powerfully than the album version and was an early highlight among many.

Some of his astute modern life observations were shared with the audience between songs but of course many of the lyrics contain these too, especially ‘Bored In The USA’, a bit of a show-stopper with just piano accompaniment and described tongue-in-cheek as a meta-ballad about despair. During this he used a borrowed phone from the audience for an elaborate selfie/filming session, this ‘special’ moment then absurdly deflated when the phone-owner pointed out it wasn’t recording anyway!

I’m Writing A Novel’ was a country rock rouser then the compact delight of ‘Chateau Lobby #4…’ had the crowd singing. And plenty more…
It was a great show, one of the best I have seen at The Junction in a long while.


The Ukrainians, Junction, Cambridge, 25 May 2015

The Ukrainians returned to Cambridge on a Monday bank holiday evening in the intimate setting of Junction J2. Singer-songwriter Ellie Jamison opened the show, performing heartfelt songs with her pure natural voice and gently played acoustic guitar, accompanied by subtle percussion. The set was well received, with her warm and engaging personality evident in her asides to the audience, but the numbers in the venue were few at this point so it was difficult to create much of an atmosphere, until the final more up-tempo track.

In 1991 The Ukrainians were founded by ex-Wedding Present guitarist Peter Solowka and violinist and singer Len Liggins. Quickly establishing a reputation for frenetic live shows they have continued to record and tour. Always singing in ukrainian, with a mixture of traditional folk and rock instruments they have appeal across many genres. During their career they have occasionally recorded versions of some cult rock classics such as an early EP of four Smiths songs. Now their latest project is a new album ‘A History Of Rock Music In Ukrainian’ with a tour featuring tracks from it…

Chronologically and thematically random, ‘I Predict A Riot’, ‘Psycho Killer’, ‘Venus In Furs’ and ‘The Model’ all work really well and who can resist ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ with an accordion break or ‘Hound Dog’ accelerating from slow blues to full speed blast. When all six musicians are in full flight the combination of guitar, mandolin, bass, drums, violin, accordion, unidentified pipes and vocals is unstoppable, a bit like The Pogues in their heyday (and still now, see my review from last year…). Western music does not in general get gradually faster over the duration of the song, but it is an infectious and addictive rush when it does.
I missed some of their more ‘traditional’ and much-loved songs (with lyrics about crows, bread and lost donkeys?), but I like the idea that they are trying something a bit different on this tour.

This was the fourth time I have seen the band, it is always a real treat, catch them next time they are here!


Glass Animals, Junction, Cambridge, 27 April 2015

Four-piece Oxford band Glass Animals arrived in Cambridge for their sold-out show at the ideal venue, Junction J2. First on stage was Alicia Catling, a local songwriter/guitarist with a steadily rising profile. Playing a gently strummed and unadorned electric guitar her pure voice floats above, telling dream-like and dark tales.

Glass Animals know how to put on a good show, the opener ‘Black Mamba’ sets the tone, with distinctive sparse introduction and haunting melody line eventually giving way to louder layers of synthesisers and drums. Singer Dave Bayley is a likeable frontman, he is a confident presence and you can tell that he and the rest of the band have total commitment to the music.

The surreal quality of the lyrics and mostly one-word titled songs continue, there is always something going on sonically with constantly changing combinations of keyboards, guitars and deep bass. Sometimes they become a more conventional indie rock band and rock out, but the dominant sound is multi-layered and spacious. Four songs in, the familiar introduction of catchy 6 Music favourite ‘Gooey’ appears, to huge crowd reaction. It is a standout song, the sound of endless summer on the way.

‘Walla Walla’ has a funky and percussive feel that could be an experimental David Byrne track, ‘Toes’ has a laid-back but relentless edge. The atmosphere created is enhanced by a coloured backdrop, four large tree-like structures and a subtle but effective lightshow; all indicating the effort being put into making this gig a bit special. Finishing the set with ‘Wyrd’ they returned for an encore of ‘Love Lockdown'(a Kanye West cover(!?)) then finally ‘Pools’, a strong closing song.

I think they will need a bigger venue the next time they come to Cambridge…


Courtney Barnett, Junction, Cambridge, 7 April 2015

Courtney Barnett returned to Cambridge after a sellout show at The Portland last year, this show was originally scheduled for the cosy J2 venue but was moved due to demand resulting in a full house for the much larger J1. There was a huge atmosphere of anticipation and both support acts did her proud, starting with singer/songwriter Fraser A Gorman, all the way from Melbourne. A powerfully strummed acoustic guitar and occasional harmonica were the accompaniment to well-delivered tales of love and life, with a bit of self-deprecating humour between songs, including reference to any perceived similarities to Mr Dylan…

The venue was virtually full (Cambridge audiences get there early…) when Spring King took to the stage. A four piece from Manchester with a singing drummer, two guitars, bass and all four contributing anthemic vocals. Wow. From the first note it was fast, raw, with a loud post-punk simplicity belying some sharp musicianship, a bit like some speeded up mid-period Clash. The short set was a high-energy onslaught, ‘Can I?’ and ‘Better Man’ being standout tracks. Dancing started in the crowd, it was an irresistible sound.

Having seen Courtney Barnett at the much smaller venue I wondered if the intimacy of the lyrical observations and compactness of the band would translate to the echoing chamber of J1, but I need not have worried. There was even a billowing tent-type ceiling angled over the stage, making it smaller and lower and acting as a screen for projections of strange growing plant patterns and psychedelic colours.
Much deserved praise has been written about her way with words, her rambling narratives and wry observations. This was all in place, such as in the opening song ‘Elevator Operator’. Hearing live versions of nearly all of the new album ‘Sometimes I Sit…’, the music shines through too. Bones Sloane on bass plays preposterous low rolling notes on ‘An Illustration Of Loneliness’ creating an atmospheric song that you don’t want to end. A simple two chord structure on ‘Small Poppies’ is developed musically and as you lose yourself into the intoxication of it, fortunately this one never seems to end.

Courtney and the band can rock out, she can extract some adventurous noise from her guitar and drummer Dave Mudie adds the pyrotechnics when necessary. There are quieter times, ‘Depreston’ is mellow and resigned, ‘Debbie Downer’ is a straight down the line pop song. There was easy relaxed interplay from the band with each other and the audience, then gradually the set picked up pace, building towards a finale of ‘History Eraser’ and ‘Pedestrian At Best’ and a bit of crowd surfing from the guitarist from Spring King and others was good to see.
An encore of short burst of energy ‘Aqua Profunda’ and a cover of ‘I’ll Make You Happy’ by the Easybeats and they were gone.

As Courtney’s lyric says ‘Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you…’
On this form, I don’t think there will be any disappointment.


Wilko Johnson, Junction, Cambridge, 6 March 2015

This was the welcome return of Wilko Johnson to live performance with a sold-out charity benefit concert for Addenbrooke’s Hospital, after their pioneering surgery led to a cure for his cancer.
The musical atmosphere had been well set up by support band Eight Rounds Rapid, with their sharp, smart punk-fuelled R&B, reminding me what a potent instrumental combination guitar (played by Wilko’s son Simon), bass and drums can be, topped with sneering vocals from David Alexander.
Then an emotional ovation as Wilko and his band arrived on stage. Any doubts that his musical edge had been blunted were quickly dispelled. He has an electric stage presence, strutting and staring, at one with his guitar. His style of playing incorporates percussive chops with short lead lines and patterns built in, shown to good effect in ‘Sneaking Suspicion’ and of course the classic ‘Roxette’. The recent collaboration album (with Roger Daltry) was heavily featured including triumphant title track ‘Going Back Home’, with the timely opening line ‘I wanna live the way I like…’. Norman Watt-Roy was coaxing and wrenching jazzy lines from his bass and solid drumming was provided by Dylan Howe.
There was a discernible ripple of concern in the crowd when Wilko left the stage after 40 mins during ‘ Everybody’s Carrying A Gun’ but we need not have worried, he was soon back having allowed time for more bass acrobatics from Norman. A long encore of ‘Bye Bye Johnny’, heartfelt thanks to the hospital staff and he was gone (but he will be back for the Cambridge Folk Festival…)