Tag Archives: live

Martha, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 3 September 2019

DoYouThinkHeSaurus? are a Cambridge quartet with an experimental, creative approach to their music. They produce a loose art-rock sound laced with sonorous jazz-toned guitar effects, along with memorable lyrics built around short almost random phrases. But the overriding feeling is that they are a group of friends making a great sound!
The steadily growing audience warmed to their range of styles, developed over a substantial set with many highlights, from a surf-rock instrumental (‘Party Song’) to the bold bass and driven drums workout of ‘Cross-Words’ (showcasing the talents of their stand-in drummer). Clearly very happy to be the support to the much-loved headliners they made an excellent impact.

Durham-based four-piece Martha are acknowledged indie-pop royalty with a loyal following and three fine albums to their name. From ‘Wrestlemania VIII’ which opened their set, it was immediately clear that the elements were all in place; a tight sound, powerful drumming, the dual guitars, brilliant bass high in the mix and the endless possibilities when you have a band with four vocalists.

It is mostly uptempo; very danceable and uplifting musically and of course peppered with the indie-angst of many of the lyrics. ‘Into This’ was a noisy clatter with brilliant drums and a simply stated message of disappointment ‘….my heart flutters then it sinks…cause you only want to kiss me when you’ve had a drink…’
The much-streamed favourite ‘Ice Cream and Sunscreen’ was of course a high point, especially the contrast between the quiet and loud sections and the poignant lyrical turns ‘…I know you wish for fireworks to light your July sky…I was the dampest box of matches you could ever hope to find…’.
Mostly playing tracks from 2019 long-player ‘Love Keeps Kicking’ they still have a substantial back-catalogue to draw on, including the lyrical paranoia and fantastic vocal finale of ‘Bubble In The Bloodstream’.

This likeable quartet was always going to get an encore from the faithful and converts in the audience and ‘1967, I Miss You I’m Lonely’ was an essential for the evening with a guitar riff to haunt your brain and the lines’….when I invited Frank and you, back to mine for a mange tout….when I meant ménage à trois…’.
Finishing with ‘Come To Durham and Never Leave’, it was a triumphant set on their first visit to Cambridge!

https://www.facebook.com/marthadiy
https://www.facebook.com/doyouthinkhesaurusband/

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Elma, Babylon Gallery, Ely, 4 August 2019

Elma showcased their new line-up in the attractive setting of a riverside art gallery in the small cathedral city of Ely, well worth the short journey from Cambridge.
It had been a much longer trip from Ireland for singer/songwriter Darragh Cullen; he immediately made a connection with the audience as he performed a short collection of originals accompanied by his acoustic guitar and smooth background vocals from Sinead McConville.

‘Rising Tide’ set the tone for evocative, rhythmic-driven songs, given a personal touch with the description of life for twenty-somethings in Dublin’s ‘Bridge Street’. Darragh moved to piano for new song ‘Leave With Love’ then finished his fine set with a bit of audience singing for gospelly new single ‘Alright’.

It was the first Elma show for multi-instrumentalist and singer Rhiannon Penney, making a big impact in the first song ‘On Track’. In a new direction for the band, Rhiannon unleashed her inner Bonnie Raitt for a belting slice of double guitar blues rock. Having the extra instrumental options means more flexibility in their live set; with Rhiannon at the piano for ‘The Game’, a sinister waltz that could easily be a classic sixties TV theme.

When not playing his great-sounding semi-acoustic guitar Mark Ellis is a relaxed and witty frontman and he described the background to some of his newer compositions, including the elegiac ode to change ‘For Yesterday’ relating to the closure of music venues, as well as the romantic London skyline that inspired ‘City Lights’. This is a delicate but show-stopping ballad, beautifully sung by the duo with the subtlest of guitar backing.

Some of the more uptempo tracks from debut LP ‘Dreamland’ were re-imagined including a slower version of ‘Slo-Mo’ (the song that started off the band) and ‘California’ the stomping anthem I last saw performed with a full brass section at the Portland Arms album launch.

The new arrangements show the depth of the songwriting, with the two musicians able to complement each other and embellish the structures of each piece.

‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ was a memorable song to cover for an encore (at the soulful pace of the Gladys Knight hit version) then this excellent show closed with their bittersweet Spector spectacular ‘September’.

Off into the studio soon and fired with enthusiasm the future looks bright for Elma…

https://www.facebook.com/elmaband/
https://www.facebook.com/darragh.cullen.54

(Photo by Paul Cullen)

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

Fonda 500, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 14 June 2019

The 55 are a five piece indie-rock band from Cambridge, with a strong showcase of their own originals, played with the swagger that is always refreshing to see. Lots of positives here; the relaxed confidence of their frontman, spiky guitar and drums, extravagant and impressive bass stylings and a surprising secret weapon – trumpet and flugel horn as an incisive feature rather than just an add-on ‘brass section’. It was a well-structured set, building in momentum and pulling the initially reserved audience along with them. An excellent warm-up band (though they were occupying very different territory compared with what was to come!).

BBC 6Music has featured Mega Emotion on many occasions – the band occupy a genre all of their own due to their music and distinctive presentation. Bedecked in kaftans and laurel wreaths the trio move between keyboards and guitars, with big bold percussion and unpredictable sharing of vocals and harmonies, standing out from the featureless tundra of many bands’ stage shows. The music is still the dominant factor with ‘Uncomfortable’ an early highlight. With always something different to listen to and watch, the set flowed along with style and peaked with the triumphant triumvirate of ‘Laura’, ‘OK Maybe OK’ and best of all, ‘Brains’.

After a gap of ten years since playing in Cambridge it was evident that Hull band Fonda 500 have a dedicated and adoring following. The audience were enjoying every nuance and second of the pounding guitar and bassy synthesiser sound, coupled with industrial strength drumming which then changes in a moment to a sunny piece of lightweight pop or the surreal musings of frontman Simon Stone sitting behind his well-worn Casio keyboard wearing his bear hat.

Tracks vary in length with some under a minute; they have a huge back catalogue to draw on but many performed tonight were from the 2018 album ‘I (Heart) Fonda 500’ including the mighty roar of ‘Helicoptore’ and special dedication to Cambridge ‘Mattermathique’.
Oldies ‘Jenny#8’ and ‘I Love Stereo, Stereo’s Good For Me’ are gems and as Simon waves the keyboard in the air at the end you realise what a brilliant live attraction this band are.

Friends recommended this show to me, they were right; if you have seen Fonda 500 you will know this already, if you haven’t seen them it is time to check them out when they are in your town….

https://www.facebook.com/fonda500/
https://www.facebook.com/MegaEmotion/
https://www.facebook.com/The55Band/

Homegrown Festival, Bury St Edmunds, 8 June 2019

Set in the village of Barrow just outside Bury St Edmunds, surrounded by countryside and with the tower of the Norman church visible through the trees this was a good place to spend a day.

The weather threatened this idyll around lunchtime, but Cambridge trio Goldblume played on through the gales and rain to an audience mainly appreciating their passion and complex math-rock song structures from the marquee at the back of the arena. Never mind, Jethro was as always the consummate frontman, weaving his lyrical spells with unpredictable guitar embellishments as bass and drums gave a substantial backbone. To help overcome the elements the volume was turned up to eleven, enhancing defining highlights ‘Husk’ and ‘Bleach’.

Next on the acoustic stage was guitarist Laura Wyatt singing a mixture of her own compositions and covers (including ‘California Dreamin”, with top quality audience echoes of the lines courtesy of the barbershop group who had performed earlier!). I particularly liked her own ‘The Space Between’ and ‘I L.O.V.E You’ (?) and ‘Thinking Of You’ was a well-judged version of Ed Sheeran’s popular track.

A lively burst of country music from Sam Coe and the Long Shadows was followed by an impressive roster of upcoming talent from the Queens Road School of Rock, then we returned to catch the end of an acoustic performance from bluesy singer and guitarist Ben Sayer.

With their ‘Powerpuff Girls’ cartoon fancy dress and hundreds of bubbles blowing across the arena Cambridge-based trio Pink Lemonade made a big impact from the start with their deep dark ‘Down In The Woods’. Debut single ‘Space Girl’ was the catchiest tune of the day so far, its sparse instrumentation giving clarity to the perfect song structure.
The revival of the Spice Girls was celebrated with a cover of ‘Wannabe’ – like the whole set this was a high-voltage blast with great vocal interplay. New song ‘Rewind’ and ‘Can’t Escape You’ (‘…siesta in a fiesta…?‘) kept the momentum going and recent single ‘Sugar N Spice’ was the punchy finale and fun signature track for this excellent band.

Ffion Rebecca plays many shows in and around the Cambridge area and continues to hone her live performance into something really special. She owns the stage and has the confidence in a festival setting to perform her late-night soulful compositions that demand full attention, ably assisted by an empathetic band with nuanced bass and drums and especially the smooth electric guitar stylings.
The tempo was mellow and she delivered the lyrics with a balance of passion and respect for the key melody with fine control of the jazz embellishments that add so much to these heartfelt words. Personal songs such as ‘Wondering Mind’, (dedicated to her brother) were put into context by her introductions and good interplay with the audience. ‘Bye’ was the most uptempo track from Ffion then ‘Till The Moon Dies’ featuring some subtle drumming with brushes and a gorgeous chorus line melody was the thoughtful close to this emotional set.

We had to leave, although there was much more to follow – grateful thanks to the volunteers who put together this established but still off-the radar (and free…) musical showcase!

https://www.facebook.com/Homegrownmusicfestival/
http://www.facebook.com/FfionRebecca
https://www.facebook.com/PinkLemonadeMusicUK/
https://www.facebook.com/goldblumeband
http://www.facebook.com/laurawyattmusic

Yonaka, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 3 June 2019

This show had been sold out for months, third time at the Portland for Brighton-based quartet Yonaka; this time with their acclaimed debut album just released.
First on was Los Angeles musician tiLLie, a multi-talented singer/songwriter and instrumentalist. Opening song ‘Save Yourself’ was a high-energy stomp with a pace that she sustained through most of her set, eventually overcoming the polite inertia of the Cambridge audience. With a live drummer, backing tracks and her own guitar playing she powered through new ‘Loud Mouth’ EP, lacing her set with occasional pauses for anecdote and reflection on tracks like ‘mood swings’. There was a cover of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, ‘Whole Wide World’ was an anthem for empowerment then ‘Good Song’ and ‘Loud Mouth’ restored the full pop punch to her performance.

The Ninth Wave were more of an enigmatic prospect; their keyboard and guitar driven first song ‘This Broken Design’ was a revelation as the eighties-influenced production coupled with the richness of the voice was suddenly boosted as one guitarist became full-on drummer to propel this song into the stratosphere. With the quartet hailing from Glasgow it would be difficult to not make the connection with brilliant fellow Scots The Twilight Sad on a track like this but they have many more facets to their sound too. With male and female lead vocals combining fluidly on many songs and strident keyboard lines pushing the sound along the vitality and passion were infectious. Excellent set!

I had never seen Yonaka before, but two songs in and it was clear that the faithful had turned out in force – the confident foursome are at that cusp of live perfection when the tour venues are intimate, sold-out and bursting with atmosphere, as a prelude to even bigger things. Singer Theresa Jarvis is an electric stage presence and the band successfully bridge the gap between indie sensibility and tight full-on rock, with an excellent sound mix that showcases the skill of the players.

‘Bad Company’ is the first track on their debut album and tonight sets the agenda for a relentless onslaught of tight, noisy rock bursting with class, style and ideas. Often the quieter passages give way to monster crashes of full-band action, as in ‘Creature’ but there are also more thoughtful moments such as an acoustic version of ‘Guilty (For Your Love)’ and the mental health awareness messages that went with LP title track ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’.
Many in the crowd seemed to know most of the words and sang along to all the nuances, in thrall to the fun commands from Theresa; I don’t think I have ever seen a whole Portland audience crouch to the floor and jump in unison. I missed the track by the band that I first heard ‘Own Worst Enemy’ but there were plenty of other coruscating nuggets of gold throughout this compact, well-structured set.

Go and see them – it will be in a much bigger venue next time….

https://www.facebook.com/weareYONAKA/
https://theninthwave.online/
https://www.whoistillie.com/


(photo by @KimJonHill)

Amethysts, Strawberry Fair, Cambridge, 1 June 2019

The Strawberry Fair – Cambridge’s highly regarded free festival of music and culture is a platform for a huge range of talented acts, many drawn from the local area. Featuring on the Cambridge 105 stage on this still and warm evening, Amethysts are two performers who continue to build a following for their interweaving of ambient, atmospheric electronics with sublime pop sensibilities.

Opening track ‘Stones’ sets up a sparse but smooth rhythm pattern as keyboard loops and embellishments are added by the duo. Creative live guitar parts played by Simon complement the brilliant voice of singer Clarice. ‘How It Is’ has an infectious chorus and some neat vocal harmonies to add to the atmospherics.

Early single ‘My Love’ has now amassed one million streams with its heartfelt lyric and subtle melody. As it was a festival audience the band played a cover; ‘Dreams’ is not my favourite Fleetwood Mac song but there is no doubt that they did justice to the longevity and classic status of this much-loved track with a restrained, echoing instrumentation and powerful vocal.
Recent single ‘Imitate Me’ is more uptempo with some busy percussion loops then the closing ‘Alone’ built up from a distant horizon of sound into a glorious finale with an impassioned emotional message and some bold pulses of electronic punctuation.

As the sun went down the band’s enigmatic and graceful set drifted away over one relaxed corner of the festival site…

(Amethysts will be appearing at The Blue Moon, Cambridge on 27 September 2019)

https://www.weareamethysts.co.uk/a-b-o-u-t