Tag Archives: live

Indiepop Half-dayer, Firebug, Leicester, 9 March 2019

A shorter version of the much-loved Indie day at Leicester city centre venue The Firebug, with a quintet of fine acts in an ideal venue.
First on were Boarder, a power trio establishing themselves locally. With guitar fuzz and echo driving the sound, super-deep bass and merciless drumming they were a gale-force of stimulating noise. Their recorded work is at an early stage but especially the slower ‘End Of The Day’ and their first single ‘Black Hole’ sounded full of potential.

Low-fi duo Panic Pocket performed sharp and ironic personal tales, bringing the audience into their world. The subtle guitar and mini analogue keyboard interweaved with the dual vocals and concise evocative words like ‘…you left me all alone in the dark……I walked home, via Morrison’s car park…’, from ‘Don’t Get Me Started’. They celebrate mundane ephemera, modern disappointments and on the lead track from their forthcoming EP ‘The Boss’, the pointless stresses of the workplace. Excellent.

I first encountered Derby quartet Pet Crow when they released their debut album https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2017/06/14/pet-crow-a-simple-guide-to-small-and-medium-pond-life-lp-released-march-2017/ and finally I get to see them on stage. Their live sound is a perfect balance of aggression and restraint; the luminous, compelling vocals sound like they are from a alternative universe sometimes aligning with ours as the three musicians hammer their instruments at a hyperactive work rate, as well as painting light and shade. I really enjoyed this brilliant set, especially the strangeness of ‘Harold And Maude’.

Wolf Girl played a fine set drawn mostly from their second album, along with oldie ‘Middlesexy’. ‘Moody’ is a strong opener, showing how the band use their twin guitarists and vocal layers to create a full power-pop sound. ‘Dream Partner’ is a retro treat, ‘This One Summer’ is a holiday hit while the bass driven ‘Maths In The Real World’ gives way to a killer chorus. ‘Samson’ is sparse, sharp and hypnotic with a catchy chorus (‘…Samson, don’t you look handsome…’) that all makes a sort of sense.

Headliners Personal Best are soon to release a new album and several tracks from that were featured tonight, along with ‘Love Is On Your Side’ and ‘This Time Next Year’ from debut LP ‘Arnos Vale’ and 2014 song ‘The Tide’. They are a band with a great strength and depth in song writing who lift their live sound into a punching, sparkling platform for tales of relationship angsts and optimism. Finally the stately descending guitar introduction heralded their anthem of diversity and tolerance ‘This Is What We Look Like’, which grows in stature with every listen, and was the best possible ending to the show.

https://boarder.bandcamp.com/
https://panicpocket.bandcamp.com/
https://petcrow.bandcamp.com/
https://wolfgirlband.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/personalbestrocks
https://www.facebook.com/stnpresents/

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Ward Thomas, Junction, Cambridge, 1 March 2019

A sell-out Cambridge crowd arrived early for the appearance at the Junction of two rising stars of UK Alt-Country music. Opening the show were The Wandering Hearts, with the central trio augmented by extra guitar and upright bass. First song ‘Fire And Water’ had the immediacy of many of their tracks, with a tight, rhythmic verse turning into a huge chorus. The combination of two female and one male voice gives their spot-on harmonies the lustre and depth of classic period Fleetwood Mac, shown off especially in the airy, ethereal ‘Burning Bridges’. There is a harder edge to ‘Rattle’ and finale ‘Devil’ is a pacey, pounding crowd-pleaser with a redemptive hookline. An excellent start to the show and the Junction’s sound system has never sounded better?!

Ward Thomas
are riding high on the impact and chart placing of their third album ‘Restless Minds’ and tonight they featured all but one of its tracks. Twin sisters Cathy and Lizzy play acoustic guitars and blend their voices in harmony to mesmerising effect, as well as trading solo lines and responses. Combined with a band that can switch from subtle acoustic backing to a big part-electronic contemporary sound Ward Thomas have structured an immaculate show.

Some of the songs on the new LP are reflections of modern mores and impacts on the individual; the nurturing of social media self-appearance on opener ‘Lie Like Me’ and a longing for the removal of these new conventions on ‘No Filter’ and ‘Same Love’. These ideas make for bold pop songs, delivered with power, but for me the emotional core of the show is the resigned melancholy of the ballads spread through the set. From the betrayal symbolised by ‘Guilty Flowers’ to the beautiful melody and despair of ‘Hopeless’ (a song I saw them perform during their ’15 cities in 3 days’ in-stores promotional tour!), they sing from the heart.

‘Little Girl Sorrow’ is a waltz with an undercurrent of optimism and best of all is the gospel chords and big chorus of ‘One More Goodbye’. They introduced this as one of their favourite songs; I’m not surprised, it is one of mine too, it is brilliant.
It is not all wrenching at the heart and mind; ‘It’s Not Just Me’ is an up tempo acceptance of the world set to a warm and positive instrumental backing and ‘I Believe In You’ is a celebratory and glorious three minutes. Lots more highlights too including their debut LP being represented by a medley of faster songs which shows how their sound has developed over their three albums.

An encore of the pensive, thoughtful ‘This Too Will Pass’ was followed by a grand finale, with The Wandering Hearts back on stage to add to the vocals on a scorching performance of signature anthem ‘Carry You Home’…..still resonating with me now as is the rest of this memorable show.

https://www.wardthomasmusic.com/
https://www.thewanderinghearts.com/music/

Wave Pictures, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 24 January 2019

A triumphant return to a sold out Portland Arms for the Wave Pictures.
The opening act Pony Collaboration first played with the headliners in 2007 so a reunion was long overdue. The six-piece perform heartfelt, emotionally self-deprecating songs, many from their new album ‘Everything Was Ages Ago’. Occupying similar musical territory to The Smittens from the USA and Cambridge’s own Model Village this ensemble make a great sound, driven by acoustic guitar, organ and virtuoso percussion.

The Wave Pictures
have such a massive back catalogue, every show is different in setlist and subtle variation of overall tone. Tonight opening with the loose polyrhythms of ‘Roosevelt Sykes’ there was a rockier sound in ‘House By The Beach’, ‘The Running Man’ and chart hit ‘Pea Green Coat’.
New songs ‘Hazey Moon’ and ‘Close Your Eyes Mike’ with its inviting imagery of ‘…alligators stirring in the soft white street…’ fit neatly into the set and Jonny Helm steps up from the drum kit to deliver an impassioned vocal on the slow ‘Sleepy Eye’ and ‘Now You Are Pregnant’, accompanied by the most delicate guitar and bass.

The triumvirate of ‘Pool Hall’, ‘Spaghetti’ and ‘Stay Here And Take Care Of The Chickens’, each with gradually increasing bass solo prominence from Franic Rozycki provides a peak near the end of the set. Through it all shines the majestic guitar intricacies of Dave Tattersall, effortlessly integrating solos, chords, riffs and impossible tricks into his playing. He is a versatile singer too and with some absurdist links between songs and a beguiling vocal performance on the mellow groove of ‘The Red Suitcase’, he bonds easily with the audience of believers and recent converts to this brilliant and much-loved band.

Rare rocker ‘Canvey Island Baby’ made a surprise appearance at the end, then the unrelenting drive of ‘The Woods’ was an excellent encore leaving us all wanting more but knowing we could wait until the next time they visit…

http://thewavepictures.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ThePonyCollaboration

The Scissors : Look Good In Cheap Clothes, LP released December 2018

This excellent third full-length LP from Cambridge four-piece The Scissors pushes their sound into new territory musically and features words and ideas that chime with modern day concerns…

1. Plug Me In Kicking off with a chord from the soundtrack of a western, the sinister guitar of the verses is balanced by the organ-drenched chorus and it all ends very abruptly.

2. Parking Cars More of a rocker, driven by a pulsing bass riff. Not sure how the title line fits in but it is certainly catchy ‘…parking cars…you got to do it right…’

3. Death Engineer A moody song about built-in obsolescence, suggesting that it is the responsibility of the title character. Around this lyrical resignation a Doors-sounding electric piano and rolling cymbals ominously threaten.

4. Look Good In Cheap Clothes A surreal monologue, spoken by frontman Stewart Harris as the band play freely with the structures and sonic textures. This is a companion to the disturbing artwork of the album front cover (which itself brings to mind the notorious Beatles ‘Yesterday And Today’ sleeve?)

5. I Dream In X-Ray Vision In case you thought the Scissors of old had disappeared this impressive track is a pounding reminder of their trademark sound, with unrelenting unified riff, dissonant guitar and even the theremin gets a look-in. The lyric of course has enough ambiguity and imagery to satisfy the diehard fan.

6. Edgelands Picking up the ‘edge of the world’ theme from the end of the previous song, this loose psychedelic americana is echoing and atmospheric, driven by a roving guitar and accordion.

7. When Is A Boy Not A Boy? A cinematic, sweeping track; a guitar solos plaintively over exciting drumming weaving in with a strong vocal performance.

8. Ufotopia This mid-tempo song is the longest on the album and features a subtly uplifting band sound with the questioning and resigned reflections from the narrator. A guest saxophone solo steals the show at the end.

BONUS TRACKS
9. Glossy Magazines (EP ‘b’-side) This noisy staple of their live set is given a more introspective feel here, piling on the paranoia as the music moves in all sorts of unpredictable directions.

10. Electric Line Terminus (EP ‘b’-side) Another previous release and storming live track, this again has a Doors feel, a sort of doom-laden cataclysm of blues-based garage rock.

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/

Annie Dressner, CB2, Cambridge, 26 October 2018

Opening the sold-out show in the atmospheric basement space of the CB2 café bar was Milton Keynes based singer/songwriter/guitarist Anna Hester. Playing her own compositions she moved effortlessly between genres, but always with an emotional core. Starting with the minimal ‘In The Meantime’ she soon won over the supportive audience. Especially poignant was the musical interpretation of WW1 poem ‘Everyone Sang’ (which we did…) and I particularly enjoyed the gorgeous drifting jazz tones of ‘Watch The Clock’; as light as air in the spirit of an early John Martyn track as it resonated around the intimate venue.

Luke James Williams uses the percussive and rhythmic possibilities of his guitar to showcase his intense, personal songs which he describes as ‘…reflecting the opposing forces and wonderful chaos of the world around us…‘. There is some darkness in the lyrics of ‘Snares & Traps’ and lead single ‘Rabbit Hole’ from his forthcoming EP. He played ukulele too, and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ fitted in well. The final thoughtful song ‘Still In Bed’ rounded off an impressive set.

This was the launch event for ‘Broken Into Pieces’, the new alt folk/country LP from Annie Dressner, with her set featuring a complete play through of the album.

Annie led with acoustic guitar, supported by occasional keyboard/electric guitar/cajón/percussion from her two fellow musicians. On the album there is denser instrumentation on many tracks but this line-up worked too, because of the strength of the songs and Annie’s pure, clear voice.

Opener ‘Fades Away’ builds around a simple guitar figure, with a dream-like hookline. ‘Heartbreaker’ is an uptempo jaunt featuring eternal themes of country music; reminiscence, then the inevitable ‘moving on’. Lead single ‘Don’t Go’ is a cleverly structured pop song, with big chorus and classic middle eight. ‘Bruise Beneath My Bone(s)’ is a compact, deceptively simple song of regret.

And so it continued; this is an excellent album, with many, many highlights. Originally from New York, Annie is now a Cambridge resident but recalls anecdotes and memories of her former life to draw on for lyrical inspiration, especially on two of my favourites ‘Kentucky’ and ‘Paper Moon’. The haunting, spiritual ‘Morning’ was the closing track from the album showcase, but there were more delights to come, especially ‘Fly’ and ‘September’ from her previous LP.
‘The Book Of Love’ by the Magnetic Fields suited Annie’s voice perfectly, then for a final encore the three acts played a gentle version of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ bringing a fine evening to a close.

http://anniedressner.com/
http://www.lukejameswilliams.co.uk/
http://annahester.com/