Tag Archives: live

River Town Festival, St Ives, Cambs, 11 Aug 2018

The Seven Wives pub was the venue for the River Town Festival ‘…bringing the best up-and-coming original Indie/Rock bands to the town….’. with a large stage at one side of the car park and plenty of room and facilities for local music lovers.

Singer/guitarist Calum Lintott had just arrived from his home city of Southampton; he played a set of well-crafted originals and the odd cover (‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’) and rose to the challenge of breaking the ice and entertaining the early arrivals. Saltfen are a four-piece from Ely, playing melodic rock with intricate work on the two guitars giving an edge.

After some initial sound mix problems Flint Moore from Downham Market conjured up the feeling of moody endless landscapes and long-forgotten rebellions with their sweeping cinematic sound enhanced by keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar, mighty bass and drums and the commanding vocals of frontman Francis Pennington.

Two bands had to pull out at the last minute; their slots were taken by singer/guitarist Nathan James King with his introspective and very personal songs (‘…Writing about the things I’ve experienced, mostly…’) and the very impressive up-and-coming performer Gabby Rivers from Suffolk who normally plays with a band but this afternoon let just her voice and guitar cast a spell over the audience with a mix of covers and own compositions.

London quartet Duke Of Wolves played a well-drilled set of tight alternative rock, with the pace not letting up all the way through to their ode to serial killer ‘Terry’. Peterborough five-piece Golden Bantic added a welcome lighter, funkier groove to the rock and donned sunglasses to keep the gradually approaching rain at bay.
I am a big fan of St Ives rockers False Hearts, their barrage of noise carrying all before them with songs of the quality of rifftastic ‘Dream On’ and ‘Cynical Love’, one of my favourites from last year. Their keen local following started to fill up the space nearer the stage, even though the weather was starting to deteriorate.

The spotlights were creating extra special effects as the beams cut through the rain when Gaffa Tape Sandy took to the stage. Opening with its familiar distant introduction, when the trio explode into ‘Water Bottle’ you realise what a brilliant live band they are; the three musicians create a sharp, full sound and each song is a perfectly honed gem of powerpop. Fresh from extensive festival performances and live shows there are new recordings due soon with their superb last single ‘Meat Head’ as a precursor. Their super-hooklined ‘Beehive’ was the triumphal set closer.
There was a more mellow sound from Oscar Corney , his expressive voice backed by a full band and going down very well with the rain-soaked crowd.

With bill-toppers Tom Lumley and Airways still to play, very reluctantly we had to leave before the end but with memories of a day where the high quality of music was very evident in the whole running order and the friendliness of the venue and crowd created a very special atmosphere.

https://www.airwaysofficial.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TomLumleyMusic
http://www.gaffatapesandy.co.uk/
https://www.falsehearts.com/
https://www.goldenbantic.com/#home-section
http://dukeofwolves.co.uk/index.html
https://www.facebook.com/GABBYMUSIC14/
https://nathanjamesking.bandcamp.com/
http://www.flintmoore.com/
‪http://saltfen.weebly.com/

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Amber Arcades, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 26th July 2018

On another hot summer night, the Portland was host to two contrasting bands; unfortunately I missed most of local psych-noise four-piece Lemondaze, but I did see enough to realise they were maintaining the high standard since I saw them at the Bury all-dayer earlier this year. Clearly enjoying themselves on stage they were still punching holes in the sub-ether with their effects-drenched exuberant, enjoyable and loud hypnotic grooves.

Amber Arcades is the band fronted by Dutch singer/songwriter/guitarist Annelotte De Graaf, soon to release her second full-length album.
Lead single ‘Simple Song’ opened the show tonight, with heavenly vocals floating in the air over her suitably subtle and skilled backing musicians. The songs draw on many influences, with jazz and country infusing the indie-folk atmosphere.
The mellowness of new track ‘Alpine Town’ moves onto another plane when the vocals soar at the end while ‘Goodnight Europe’ seems to sum up a state of sad confusion with a stately but catchy tune. There are excellent contributions from the band, with restrained keyboard tones and some lovely echoing guitar chiming through many of the tracks.

Too few bands are prepared to cover Nick Drake songs but the band takes on ‘Which Will’ turning the acoustic original into a shimmering jewel of re-invention, perfectly suited to Annelotte’s voice. The main set ends with the pounding drive of ‘It Changes’ then the encore included the poptastic track ‘Come With Me’ built around a trance-like guitar line, followed by its companion up-tempo piece ‘Fading Lines’.

An excellent set, warmly received and I’m sure they will have gone down a storm at the Indietracks festival!

http://www.amberarcades.net/
https://www.facebook.com/lemondazeband/

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

Colour Me Wednesday, Green Door Store, Brighton, 1st July 2018

Colour Me Wednesday return to Brighton on the final date of their launch tour for new album ‘Counting Pennies in the Afterlife’.

First on was Neil Singh, a guitarist singing his own songs, with thoughtful words about serious subjects such as war and oppression. In the best folk tradition the lyrical imagery was underpinned with taut and uncluttered music played by Neil with backing bass and drums; he is due to release an album soon.

Brighton duo ARXX use the drums and guitar format to showcase their new EP ‘Daughters Of Daughters’. They make a great noise, especially when Clara on drums lets loose and Hannah’s vocal cuts through. ‘Moments at a Time’ and ‘Intervention’ are mini riff-operas where the rhythm drives the song to new heights.

Sparkle Motion are led by multi-talented Jaca Freer, mainly a drummer with the headliners but also playing bass with Neil Singh. Billed as ‘..Brighton’s finest new queer covers band..’ the keyboard-driven line-up belted through a lively set including Placebo’s ‘Nancy Boy’, Blondie’s ‘Call Me’ and best of all Prince’s ‘Kiss’ mixed with ideal companion ‘Make Me Feel’ by Janelle Monáe. Interspersed with many protest and awareness-raising messages this exuberant line-up finished with cult 1999 outsider song ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ to a great reception from the crowd.

In this endless early summer it was getting hot in the venue, despite being hidden underneath the stone railway arches. Colour Me Wednesday were suddenly on stage with the introduction to ‘Sunriser’, the opening track on the new album. Harriet Doveton leads on guitar then at the last minute sister Jennifer grabs the mic and launches the tale of relationship uncertainty with ‘..I feel the cold before you feel it…’.
My current favourite, it is an excellent track, so much going on musically and lyrically with a speeded up section and Jaca’s intricate drums reaching new levels of complexity. Straight into ‘Boyfriend’s Car’, a sixties summery feel with harmonies and a key change in this story of post-apocalyptic automobile cruising.

‘Heather’s Left For Dead’ is a pounding wall of guitar but as always Jen’s voice floats effortlessly above. They are joined on stage on bass by Katie (from the band Personal Best) allowing Laura Ankles freedom to add extra guitar and intermesh with Harriet’s creative lines and rhythms.
‘Edge Of Everything’ is a rare celebration/acknowledgement of living near the M25 and final song ‘Entrepreneur’ sums up many modern job experiences (‘…loudest voice in my head…telling me to go back to bed…’) over a roving bass line and some neat chord changes. Then it was curfew, with no time for some of their excellent back catalogue and unfortunately no ‘Tinfoil’ from the new disc.

It is a fantastic new album, and live it is even better…

https://www.colourmewednesday.com/
https://www.facebook.com/sparklemotiontheband/
http://www.arxxband.bandcamp.com
http://www.neilvarunsingh.bandcamp.com

Wave Pictures, Storey’s Field Centre, Cambridge, 23 June 2018

A show in Cambridge’s newest venue; a multi-purpose performance centre for the new community of Eddington on the edge of the city.
Ian Jeffs is a local singer/songwriter and is now performing with an as yet unnamed backing band. He has an amiable personality which the crowd soon warms to, along with a lived-in voice and thoughtful lyrics. The slower numbers featured his own acoustic guitar with some echoing electric stylings a bit like classic ‘One World’ John Martyn. Second song ‘Higher’ appropriately enough drifted up into the distant elevated ceiling of this unusual cuboid venue, which must flood with light when used in the daytime. ‘Warm Blooded’ was rockier while ‘Talking To MH’ built up from some subtle acoustic picking to a haunting hookline. ‘Last Days At The Farm’ is the signature track, its descriptive words brought to life by his powerful vocals.

With no preamble Dave Tattersall started off with oldie country-folkster ‘Sweetheart’ and as the rest of the Wave Pictures joined in we knew that as always the next hour would be a treat. Second song ‘Remains’ was one of the highlights of their rare vinyl-only album ‘A Season In Hull’, the following sugar-themed uptempo jive I hope is on the next LP and when Franic Rozycki does the familiar slide down the neck of his bass it has to be the majestic ‘Pool Hall’. The first quartet of songs sat together perfectly and represented as good a short summation of the band as you could expect to hear.

Having only been released for a day the new ‘Brushes With Happiness’ LP is a concoction still to savour properly but it is very much a mellow, late night delicacy. ‘Volcano’ is steady, sparse and emotive and as the rest of the new collection it has a distant lyrical melancholia. These new songs describe a world of random discarded objects, burnt matches and rain through window panes; viewed with a similar detachment to the narrator in much earlier song ‘Beer In The Breakers’. Best of the newbies is ‘Laces’ (‘…i’m glad you never tried to change me..you never even asked me to stay…’).

It was no surprise when Jonny Helm stepped out from behind the kit for his customary solo vocal, but I didn’t expect a cover of Van Morrison’s ‘And It Stoned Me’, sung without microphone (there seemed to be some issues with mics and monitors that didn’t get fully resolved) and given the subtlest of guitar and bass accompaniment.

‘The Running Man’ closed the main set then the unrelenting nightmare tale of ‘The Woods’ and finally Dave ditched the microphone for newie ‘The Red Suitcase’ drifting away slowly and ‘..waving to the waves……‘.

http://thewavepictures.com/
http://www.ianjeffs.com/
https://www.storeysfieldcentre.org.uk/

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/

Strawberry Fair, Midsummer Common, Cambridge, 2 June 2018

Since its beginning in the 1970s, Strawberry Fair has become a much-anticipated fixture on the Cambridge summer calendar. Full of colour, costume, protest, food and drink it is still primarily a free music festival with upwards of 100 acts on show, only a few of which I was able to stay to see this time round.
Some years the event can be slow to get going but this time the weather brought out a substantial crowd early on, including an appreciative audience for The Scissors opening the Rebel Arts Stage at midday. After a decade at the forefront of the Cambridge scene they can still strike a pose and rip it up with the best of them, aided by a selection of their own fastest and loudest songs, including I thought an extra turning up of the blazing sound system to a volume beyond 11 halfway through the set. Having seen them recently in the confines of the Cornerhouse venue, their rich and hypnotic swirling sound easily steps up to an outdoor show.

Meanwhile in the Portland Ballroom (a large tent with excellent ale bar) Garden Birds were on stage; singer/songwriter/guitarist Sarah Taylor-Morris accompanied by another guitar and with an extra enhancement of five backing singers to add an ethereal choir to her uptempo folk tales.
Next on were indie fun-folksters Jacquie And Geoff, the duo joined by electric upright bass, percussion and the lushness of a clarinet. It was all enjoyable feel-good stuff, even with an occasional ukulele showing its ability to sound uplifting and melancholic at the same time.

Cambridge 105 radio have many ways of promoting local artists, with dedicated specialist DJs and the very popular ‘unsigned chart’. Here they host a stage, showcasing local artists of all genres; we caught the end of a set by Ffion Rebecca, originally from Wales but now living in Cambridge and making waves on the local music scene. Performing her own songs and covers she has a rich and versatile voice and a confident stage presence, accompanied by some jazzy stylings from her companion’s acoustic guitar.

I last saw guitarist Kimberley Rew guesting with cult legend Robyn Hitchcock two weeks ago, now here he was on the Flying Pig stage as the lynchpin of the band Jack, a good-time blues-rock band regularly gigging around the city. Rew is not an extravagant soloist, his short and spicy guitar lines and chops weave effortlessly over rock solid bass and drums and complement the traditional blues vocals. Definitely a band and vibe to savour as the afternoon turned to evening and the crowds continued to arrive…

http://strawberry-fair.org.uk/
http://www.thescissors.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/jacquiandgeoff
https://cambridge105.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/FfionRebecca%20/
http://www.jackblues.tk/