Live Music Reviews

Josephine Foster @ The Cube, Bristol 03.11.12

Reviewed for Bearded Magazine

In Spanish, the word ‘duende’ – literally a fairy or goblin-like creature – is used to describe the alchemical feeling when all is aligned in great art or great performance, the human spirit is lifted, and the emotions are intensified accordingly. It is an elusive thing, one that is as hard to explain, as it is to capture. Some musicians spend their lives searching for it. Some are plagued by it. Tonight’s magnificent showcase proves its existence to all with the capacity for it; the sense of self, or the collective conscious, or however it is recognised/felt/revealed . . .

Read more . . . 

Devon Sproule / The Pictish Trail @ The Louisiana, Bristol 04.09.12

Reviewed for Bearded Magazine

The twelve rugged and beautiful square miles of the Hebridean isle of Eigg are undoubtedly too small an area to keep contained the exceedingly large personality of Johnny Lynch (The Pictish Trail), one-man acoustic/electro balladeer, and co-founder of the Fife based collective, Fence Records.

Read more . . . 

Annette Berlin Plus Friends @ Cafe Kino, Bristol 21.07.12

Cafe Kino plays host to popular Bristol night ‘Plug 58’

Reviewed for Bearded Magazine
Annette Berlin Plus Friends @ Cafe Kino, Bristol 21.07.12With the centre of Bristol teeming with Harbour Festival attendees, Saturday night in Stokes Croft becomes a much more peaceful affair than normal. One has to laugh, when the hordes fenced into a once picturesque Queen Square by a ring of sausage stalls are unaware that for the price of a single sausage, or a spoonful of Thai green curry (with potato in?!) they could be sat in the company of well-informed and smiling intellectual types, witnessing a world class line-up. A line-up constructed with care, performing feet in front of you, a good quality beverage in your hand, a feeling of belonging . . . Read more . . .

Latitude Festival 2012 @ Southwold, Suffolk 12 – 15.07.12

Reviewed for Bearded Magazine (with Danny Le Guilcher)

Queen of the boutique festival scene, Latitude’s seventh edition is once again held on the Henham Park estate, not too far from Southwold in Suffolk. It is a beautiful setting in which to revel in good British weather, and indulge in exceptional musical talent from around the globe. Moreover, there’s a myriad of other arts/entertainment, starting early and running late into the night, that makes this festy the sort to suit most tastes. Read more . . .

Esmerine / Eric Chenaux / Olan Mill @ The Cube, Bristol 13.05.12

Reviewed for Bearded Magazine

Long may the relationship between Constellation Records and The Cube continue; last year they lent us Siskiyou for a night, now they’ve only gone and flown us over Esmerine (part Godspeed You! Black Emperor, part Thee Silver Mt. Zion, part earthly paradise) AND Eric Chenaux – who is the best kind of surprise one could hope for – in the role of supporting artist. Canada has long been one of the world’s musical superpowers; that such diverse talent as this resides on the same label is testament to Constellation’s love for music. That we get to see such talent time and again in a small independent cinema in the west country is part of the distinct upside to globalisation, and too, a fruit that never sours.

First up though some homegrown talent. Olan Mill is the sombre, winter project of Alex Smalley and Svitlana Samoylenko. Live tonight though, it is a four-piece contemporary classical scene-setter, with piano, samples, keyboards, guitar and violin. Some sound issues disrupt their ultra-smooth, ambient vibe a little, but after a few nervy moments equilibrium is restored, and a generous, hungry audience receive a settling, contemplative set which commands respect. This music is hard to pin down, and though it takes itself very seriously, it is undoubtedly composed and performed with great care.

Eric Chenaux’s very being is all that stands between the unspoken truth, the holy grail, the light at the end of the tunnel; and us. Yet this playful troubadour is the joker in the pack, the Peter Pan figure, and the travelling merchant, with a glint in his eye and a story to tell. Chenaux opens up with signature guitar moves, twin wah pedals folding tone into tone, as he lets loose jazz scales from his Gibson semi-acoustic, whammy bar always at the ready for accentuated swoops and dives. He has various other pedals in series, off to one side, triggered from a single switch at his feet that create sustained harmonised frequencies, allowing him to play over his own progressions without the aid of a looper, it’s clever stuff, but you wouldn’t know it, for it comes as naturally as breathing to this man. With Chenaux still jamming away, he gifts us the serendipitous tale of his love-at-first-sight for a French woman, and his debt to a Bristol lemonade stand; complete with the happy ending you wouldn’t dare make up. If there’s anyone that’s yet to be won over by Chenaux, he then gifts us his singing voice and we’re all suddenly in love with the man. For Chenaux is a vessel for all that’s good about the twin arts of singing and songwriting; his latest record Guitar & Voice demonstrates his purity in the field, and live, he lets his talent flow over you like the bejewelled waters of a sun dappled stream. Switching between acoustic and electric, or 21st and 14th Century, never is the flow interrupted. If only we had a few more Chenaux’s in this world, we perhaps wouldn’t have to suffer the James Blunts.

Ha, and yet the night is still young. Esmerine, oh Esmerine, the one thing our dreams are lacking is a soundtrack by you. Close your eyes, they’re painting colours in your mind, wait, colour becomes form: A path through a garden thick with life, a snow-covered landscape, ripples in an alien lake, glyphs that have meaning only to you, only in sleep. Wait! You’re awake and watching marimba magicians dance notes down your ear wells, crystalline beats overflowing with pure feeling, married with plucked and bowed strings that feed a hunger you did not know you had. Hypnotic and mesmeric both, Esmerine have successfully constructed a priceless ornament of experimental post rock, chamber music and modern classical, that’s held together with some roots-y glue – purchased in the last shop before the Arctic circle, and a passion and belief that glows as brightly as the stars do there.

Godspeed’s Bruce Cawdron (drums, percussion) formed Esmerine with cellist Rebecca Foon (SMZ) a decade ago in Montreal. The current touring line-up also sees Jamie Thompson add more percussion – which really is this set’s keynote, its backbone – esp. struck and bowed marimba, Brian Sanderson, who is at ease on baritone ukulele, violin, trombone, and bass guitar alike, and Clea Minaker, who projects her live, light table art onto the cinema screen behind the band. It’s a step further than other bands would go, and this rather highlights their confidence, self-belief, willingness to take a risk, and attention to detail. Outside of their other projects, Esmerine simply don’t have the numbers of peers that high-ranking bands from other genres would have. Empowered by this, and driven by pure talent, they have recorded three very fine albums indeed. Tracks from their latest, 2011’s La Lechuza are rightly given prime billing here, and seem to carry extra weight, due to their subject matter. The death of a friend is often an understandable reason for a group’s music to turn funereal in nature, but the thought-provoking oriental scales and exquisite rhythmic patterns are nothing if not celebratory. Band favourite, ‘Why She Swallows Bullets and Stones’ from second LP, Aurora is another of tonight’s highlights. Wait! Everything about this set is a highlight, every note, every tone, every individual, and all of them together. This is a band to cherish, and a night to remember.

The Black Twig Pickers @ Cafe Kino, Bristol 26.04.12

Reviewed for Bearded Magazine

Sadly, too few are present to witness tonight’s trio of talent from Virginia, and Bearded only hope there are enough to help the awesome Kino crew break even. Damp weather plays havoc with ticket sales, and with string tension, but rarely with the morale of those that do turn up, and credit is due to musicians and attendees alike for making this event a success.

Talent comes in many forms. We’ve seen the Black Twig Pickers described as an old-time Crazy Horse and this goes a long way to describing their supreme natural talent; they are ‘feel’ players, and it’s through that ‘feel’ that the feeling of these old-time Virginia songs and tunes is best conveyed, and felt most. Nathan Bowles takes to the stage first for a set of banjo tunes, some penned by others (Charlie Parr, Jack Rose . . . friends, fallen comrades) he plays these with a good deal of self-expression and confidence. The original numbers highlight an inventive streak, and show off his instrument’s under-appreciated versatility, for the banjo has the ability to cross mood and genre boundaries if handled correctly.

Next up there are further banjo delights from Mike Gangloff, his banjo is new, perky and fretless, he exploits alt-tunings to great effect, and a world of dancing notes opens up in the room. Gangloff is at his best though with a fiddle in his hand, and he has two to choose from, each tuned differently, and each with an individual sweetness of tone that gets under the skin. He sites The Hammons family as clear influences and plays a number of their tunes. He talks freely; of home, of the origins of the music; names that conjure up clichéd images of traditional Appalachian life. Indeed, it is stirring enough without the outstanding folk music, and with it – striking melodies from strings and now voice as well – the evocation is complete, then third member of the band, Isak Howell, picks up his guitar and joins Gangloff for a song and we’re reminded that this is just the warm-up.

The three players, when united at last, turn what was a good evening, into a truly excellent display of musicianship, and the music’s power to transport, to even defy space and time, comes to the fore. If Gangloff’s tunes of birds and the sky fairly took flight, now the whole earth is open to us, and our simple basement has become a vessel for sound, and a portal to an older world. This music has travelled so far – back and forth across continents, and through the ages – that it is refreshingly logical that the resulting power and energy is so apparent. Bowles shows off his multi-talented nature as a percussionist, especially on fiddlesticks and mini washboard, and like Gangloff, he has a stunning voice, rich and warm, and trained on the road. Howell has exquisite, relaxed timing and delicate touch on guitar, and adds another extra dimension with his skills on the mouth-harp. Gangloff plays as a cat might with a ball of string, his arms like white-socked forelegs batting at the sky, somehow in perfect control, and always having fun with it.

Acoustic (completely acoustic, not a mic or pickup in sight) music demands the levels of passion and mutual respect on show tonight. If the Black Twig Pickers roll into your town make sure you catch them whatever the weather.


The Louisiana, Bristol – 16/04/12

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

Tonight is the first night of a month long tour for the Brighton based wordsmith Chris T-T, and his touring partner She Makes War from London. It’s a no frills affair of limited amplification, guitars and voices, glitch-y-ness. Yet an attentive and obedient audience are richly rewarded with high–calibre songwriting, ballsy professionalism and raw intimacy.

Witnessing too little of Oxygen Thief’s set causes me to make snap judgements about his aggressive style. However, I’m open to persuasion about certain things; and his anti-middle-of-the-road slant is a worthy angle, almost certainly worth shouting about. His acoustic-metal guitar free-stylings set him apart from the crowd – It’s a great use of what is a rhythmic instrument by design, but perhaps just a little more could be made of the melodic capabilities of both the guitar and his voice. Bristol’s Barry Dolan is then, an acquired taste, but one who can connect with his crowd and his own emotion. Chris T-T assures us that he has an excellent toilet too; now that is worth shouting about.

For Laura Kidd – a.k.a. She Makes War – this is both the beginning of a tour, and the solo comedown gig after the big success of a hometown album-launch show complete with full band. Like any self respecting musician in this situation, Kidd has packed up her kit, and taken to the road with exuberance, armed with a well honed canon of songs with which she can weather any storm, and a combination of determination and fearlessness that becomes her. Switching  between acoustic and electric guitars, ukulele, and a cappella loops, keeps her set sounding fresh and varied, whilst she simultaneously ties the whole thing effortlessly together, with every song radiating the same gloom-tinted glory; lest you forget that sunshine is also starlight. Her voice is a little croaky tonight, but Kidd offers no excuses and lets everyone know it is still a voice worth falling for. Weight is shared fairly equally, between new LP Little Battles and her 2010 debut Disarm, for both records deserve it. The newer songs are for the most part better crafted, but there’s extra passion in the delivery of a few old favourites that really helps the audience to believe in her, as she believes in herself.

And so, we come to Chris T-T, an underground success with a left wing bent and a heart of gold, who has seven albums, plus numerous EPs and singles to his name. That’s a wealth of material for a young man to draw on, and he does so with all the expertise of the seasoned professional that he undoubtedly is, though he confesses that he hasn’t actually gotten round to making the EP that this “Singing Jeremy Clarkson to Sleep Tour” was supposed to promote. It matters not a jot, the tour will be just as it would have been with it, a showcase for the many, all equally engaging strings to T-T’s proverbial bow. A familiarity born of simple arrangements and solidarity lends extra intimacy to a set of songs that winds its way through heartfelt love songs emotionally delivered over dripping semi-acoustic rich tones, to protest songs of wordy wit, stripped back and beaten out. Whereas ‘Love Is Not Rescue’ has a Longpigs like melodic melancholy, ‘Preaching to the Converted’ is as subtle as a brick to Billy Bragg’s shiny windscreen, and ‘M1 song’ is a vocal only ‘Matty Groves’ type melody with a contemporary lyric, new folk as it should be. T-T is a storyteller and a dab hand at the art of comic timing, Clarkson makes his appearance in a song about the last surviving Fraggle, which dies on the rocks beneath JC’s Isle of Man lighthouse, and we’re indulged with true tales of toilet photo collections, and conspiracies behind-the-scenes at BBC 1’s The Voice. The set is perhaps at its finest when T-T sings the words of children’s poet AA Milne; he explores every ounce of the poetry’s metaphor, and somehow makes every word sound like his own. This kind of subtle magic is rarely even aimed for, let alone achieved.

Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves of Destiny / Goodnight Lenin / Emma McNeill @ The Louisiana, Bristol 28.02.12

Reviewed for Bearded Magazine

Tonight’s sold out show is a real hotchpotch; part inter-band love-in, part misguided naivety, part weeknight-end of tour-searching for fifth gear-on-the-cusp of greatness irritation, part brimming potential, part sweat-box, part disappointingly predictable affair, part party and part awkward encounter.

Emma McNeill needs to concentrate on penning self-styled, standout, less middle-of-the-road material, just as much as she needs to concentrate on getting her committed and good-natured backing band to gel. There’s certainly hope, things will probably go one of three ways either by falling by the wayside, or progressing into Dido-esque blandness, or growing into something altogether more intelligent and creative. Let us hope these youngsters play to their strengths and achieve the latter. Read More. . .


The Green Park Tavern, Bath.


Self described gloom-pop act She Makes War opens the show with Fender tones, occasional ukulele, low-key looping and matter-of-fact melodies. That would be a gloomy description for what is a spirited and heart-warming performance from Laura Kidd in her solo guise. The name connotes feminist defiance and productivity; and whilst the DIY approach to industry success is inspirational, the lo-fi approach to performance is an excellent platform for what is essentially the work of an accomplished contemporary songwriter. Work of this sort is essential to the survival of the industry, and songs of this calibre are essential too. Simple melodies sung beautifully over rich tones, such as in ‘In This Boat’ and ‘Exit Strategy’ are an excellent introduction.

Klad Hest, (literally ‘happy horse,’ misspelt in Swedish – for the purposes of internet memes – so in effect ‘hapi horz’ or some such ‘cheezburger’-ism) is a culturally on-the-ball, tongue-in-cheek Matt Loveridge laptop party, of chip-tune highs and no-mercy, bass heaven lows. Energetic, would capably describe both ‘Klad’ and his meticulous programming; his stream of consciousness meets faux Tourette’s syndrome vocals are largely incomprehensible, but, like everything about this Freudian and highly entertaining performance, are impossible to ignore. Nyan cat makes a YouTube appearance, but Loveridge’s impulsive writhing, and smart orchestration steal the show.

And so we move to Thought Forms; a reference to Sanskrit mantras expressing the divine powers of music; Eastern mysticism, which conjures up thoughts of enlightenment through uplifting, droning and meditative sound, which is exactly what this noise-rock trio achieve. In plain English terms this is related to a more abstract notion, descriptive even – like bubbles of thought, notes rise and drift on warm winds . . . Thought Forms can also be read as a statement: Thought forms, thought ‘simply’ forms; but where and how? Questions with no firm answers are sometimes best expressed through artistic mediums, Thought Forms delve deeper than most. The three minds of Deej Dhariwal, Guy Metcalfe, and Charlie Romijn mesh together; fusing schools, or forms, of musical thought; the contrast of hard and soft a lesson in understanding one’s instrument, its history, its desire to be held softly and yet still be heard. As we move ever towards the post-earth, post-death, achingly, yes achingly, empty future we need music that will heighten perception and thus slow down time.

(The) Hysterical Injury is the kind of feminist reference to Freudian psychoanalysis that is more of a joke on Freud, rather than a joke of his own. Its meaning may change over time, lessening the impact, whereas the songs and performances go from strength to strength; tonight feels like a pinnacle in the band’s journey, an emotional culmination, a climactic victory salute, a battle won. ‘Visions of Trees’ is a dream that you would choose not to wake from. To live inside a song like ‘Bitch’s Balls’ would be to live in a future that is not afraid; a golden-age of sexual and gender equality. Annie Gardiner channels Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Kim Gordon alike on her way to cementing her superlative entry in a gallery event that has dazzled at every turn. Tom Gardiner was born to entertain, the more he loves what he does the more he is loved in return. Dead Wolf Situation might evoke bleak imagery – and some of its content may be stark – but will hopefully be canonised in a future that recognises what may be a turning point for the industry. Tonight’s showcase would be canonised in any hardened gig-goers book.

Swimming / Poppy Perezz / Fixtures @ The Louisiana, Bristol 24.11.11

Reviewed for Bearded Magazine

Some bands are better than others. Some bands seem better than they are until they are held to account by their superiors. Some bands surprise you. Everything is relative. A band can earn your respect or they can think themselves above you and then lose it. Ah well, some of this has something to do with tonight’s gig, some of it probably doesn’t. Some bands simply blow you away. Read more…

Siskiyou / Silver Pyre / I Know I Have No Collar @ The Cube, Bristol 12.11.11

Reviewed for Bearded Magazine

The Cube Cinema/Theatre is a wonderfully intimate venue; it is small but houses one of the biggest indoor stages in town. Tonight, it is littered with a staggering array of instruments belonging to all three bands and decorated with giant fabric tulips; it looks a picture. The seating is sadly far from full as the first band take to it (all braces and Bristol whimsy) but the audience keeps coming in dribs and drabs, every one eager for a comfy chair and a soulful homely atmosphere. The nights draw in – music is our salvation.

I Know I Have No Collar, who on record sound a bit quaint and shambolic at times, are a live act to be reckoned with, they shift around the stage swapping instruments which include stand-up drums, clarinet, trombone, bass, six-string electric and keys – there’s even a twin melodica led track. They are quirky for sure but also talented and Aaron Sewards’ lyrics are playful and often thought provoking. His dry wit comes across well between songs and he strikes up a real bond with his audience. This band of Bristol artists and arty types do feel more like a collective than a band, and though this lends them a certain charm perhaps they do lack a certain cohesion needed to raise them to the next level.

Silver Pyre are a much more professional outfit in terms of their sound and their stage presence, but the music has that element of workmanship, rather than a folk-y things falling into place vibe, they fuse electronic beats and triggered effects and synth lines from David Edwards on one side of the stage into driving and exceptionally tight kit beats from the other played by circuit pro Dave Collingwood. In the middle is main-man Gary Fawle (composer and rural archaic culture obsessive) with his minimal but neat guitar work and honey-gruff vocals that offer brief glimpses to his obsessions, sadly these are slightly too low in the mix to cope with the dazzling rhythm play that acts as the lead instrument, taking the place of the guitars in a more traditional set-up, if you like. It’s clever, slick and borders the line between indie and dance music.

The common way of introducing Siskiyou is to talk of it almost like a side project for two (one ex) of The Great Lake Swimmers, but this does a massive disservice to their other two members, who are a massive part of what is one heck of a live performance. Heart wrenching and upbeat sits alongside bittersweet simple melody and musicianship of the highest order, but this is a songs band primarily, and just two albums in they have a set full of classic material and a future glistening golden, an open road, with great songs rising like mountains on either side. Drummer Shaunn Watt plays soft, kicks up the leaves when needed, and slips moments of Jim White-like jazz-folk chaos into the mix before falling back in time with the precision of a Shakespearean sonnet (I’ve never owned a Swiss watch) all with a wild, almost pained, totally focused expression on his face. Watt also sits at his kit with a guitar, painting a backdrop, and offers ghostly backing vocals that are some of the sweetest ever heard. The band rip through songs from both their records, they play their fabulously alternative version of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘El Condor Pasa’, heavy with soft doom keys that twinkle on the way out. They turn it on with ‘Never Ever Ever Ever Again’, fan favourite from their eponymous debut (a classic), bassist Peter Carruthers playing with such focus, and throughout, he plays the roll of the rock, listening with joy and responding accordingly. Erik Arnesen plays with intricacy and passion on banjo and keys (once, both together) he has a true folk style, simple lines that send the mind on a journey from the wilds of Canada to other kinds of wild under Californian skies. ‘Twigs and Stones’ from Keep Away the Dead (perhaps another classic), has that folk-y foot stomp vibe that also allows them to brave the hallowed ground of Neil Young’s ‘Revolution Blues’; they cross it unscathed. The set seems to reach a peak, bringing all these elements together in the song ‘Big Sur’, where our front-man Colin Huebert leads us in with a beautiful picked acoustic part which becomes intertwined with banjo, before Huebert’s throaty but luxurious and oh-so-Canadian vocal sings of California, taking us from the seashore, through an internal monologue, to the party and the refrain of ‘Let’s party… all night long’ which is spattered with drum bursts, and melodica from Carruthers. The crowd bristle, some want interaction, some are there to be moved; everyone goes home happy.

St Vincent / Cate Le Bon

The Fleece, Bristol.11/11/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

Tonight’s sold out show buzzes with the air of great expectation that surrounds a classic Bristol tour date. Rain has soaked the streets and the queues are building outside the bleak exterior of this famous venue. Inside the talk is of music, we may just be about to witness something special.

Being the solitary support for a hugely talented artist such as St. Vincent is an extra pressure, as is playing solo, as is stripping back your acoustic guitar parts so that your vocals are right out there to be openly examined; Cate Le Bon handles these pressures well and certainly delivers on the vocal front, confidence is her ally. Her welsh lilt rolls along like an Atlantic wave heading for shore, with an intimate intensity under big skies. Every wave is unique – for she is a songwriter and not a by-the-books vocal soul sucker. Le Bon is casual in appearance as she subtly charms her way into your heart with a slickly executed set, this is a well rehearsed classic warm-up act but perhaps not one for those that yawn at folk, the techno geeks or those a little too desperate for the night’s main draw.

Beer flows and the latecomers fill the fleece to capacity, and when Annie Clark walks on to front her band the reception for her alone is a rapturous one. With her selection of tasty electric guitars she fronts a drums and two keyboard setup that seems to have the ability to replicate or enhance any instrument, tone or feeling from the eclectic St. Vincent catalogue. They open with Surgeon from latest album Strange Mercyand it is staggering from the off just how strong Clark’s vocals have become from her time on the road, her guitar playing is of course phenomenal, she may indeed be the most exciting contemporary guitar playing talent in the world today. She is note perfect and in every way heartbreakingly beautiful, the band dynamic is perfect, this is perfection, or as close as it gets to it. Clark is petite but not short, and her delicate slender arms work overtime to effortlessly glide her long fingers all over the necks of her guitars in highly individual patterns of raw beauty, poetry in motion. Clark is the complete artist who in three albums already has a canon of classic material from which to draw, it is quite literally enough to make you weep. Neutered Fruithighlights where her journey as a guitarist has taken her, Strange Mercy (the track) is the most beautifully layered quiet epic and Actor Out of Work from Actor lets you in to what these incredibly crafted gems really mean to their composer; there is such a release in the concluding section of the song that you really begin to feel as if her whole personality is woven into the fabric of her work. It is intense, intelligent and so utterly compelling that you’d almost be forgiven for forgetting the session-tight three-piece who back her, the drums are just brilliant, the drummer himself with all the right credentials having played this same venue with the late Jeff Buckley. One keyboardist blends backing vocals in to the mix so slickly that they sound like Clark is suddenly double tracked. Lyrically too, Clark demonstrates what a serious and intelligent songwriter she is, there is reportage, role-play, masked personal experience, mystery, intrigue, anger, and love. Outside of the serious zone Clark engages with her crowd, for they are hers and she appreciates it, she is sweet, informative and funny with stories behind the songs and boundless enthusiasm. She plays her latest cover version, The Pop Group’s She Is Beyond Good and Evil… it rocks! ‘Year of the Tiger’ has the jauntiness of a late Neil Young track, with the world-weary lyrics of a person who can plumb the depths and come up shining like a diamond. Encore track The Party is just vocals and solo keys that wrap it up in a chrysalis of warmth and textured bliss. Her vocals are crystalline and melt the mind and heart alike. Then we get the climax that is Your Lips Are Red, the solitary offering from debut album Marry Me, the die-hard fans have been waiting for it, and it’s quirky rock riffing is breathtaking to behold. Sell your spouses, biscuits, and DVD players for tickets to her shows.

This review ends now with a short epilogue to let those reading this who know me personally that after Annie Clark leaps into the crowd and that magic threshold is crossed, when we then hold her aloft before then lifting our heroine to her feet again it is one of the single best moments of my life so far.

run, WALK! @ The Green Park Tavern, Bath 28.10.11

Reviewed for Bearded Magazine

Armed with a fierce determination, an eye for style, an ear for the simple yet potent powers of rock and roll, and also copies of their Greasy Soul EP, The Dynamite Pussy Club are the hard working unit of Chris Mitchard (guitars/vox), Danny Le Guilcher (guitars/percussion), Edward Calvert (drums). Songs like ‘Under the Groove’ and ‘Crazy’ are party mood infusers, oozing their garage aesthetic. The combo of twin guitars fairly swarms, Mitchard’s faux-American shtick is charming, Calvert’s hammer blows could put dents in a tank, but it is Le Guilcher who captivates most, with rhythm/lead crossover parts that counterbalance everything perfectly, and an energy and focus that sets the tone for the night’s high octane adventures. These are the boys behind ‘Killing Moon’- promoters with a penchant for noise, and our much-loved hosts for this evening. Read more…

EL WRISTO / THE PERVERTS / PLAN D’AYALA / NUDYBRONQUE @The Louisiana – Bristol. 05/10/11

It is almost a surprise to see such a bustling throng at a local music event on a rainy night in October. Unfortunately most are here to support one of the two opening acts; the majority will leave too early to catch the Bath based headliners, El Wristo. Perhaps they are scared off by… The Perverts.

Of the two openers, Nudybronque have the better songs. For a band who have only been together a couple of months they are impressive. They tell us they are from Wooton Bassett, yet at times they have distinctly Northern singing voices. Perhaps influences such as The Futureheads have rubbed off a little too much. Plan D’Ayala lack cohesion, but not talent. They need to find space for the great guitar work to come to the fore.

To the frightened outsider The Perverts are two guys, one pink guitar, a drum machine and lots of fuzz, high pitched vocals (lyrics unrecognisable) and unique dance moves. They do have a certain queer charm. Their ultra-short song format and playfulness keeps things compelling, and they show a confidence that defies their unconventionality.

For some the 90s is a place that you’re from, a comfortable hometown. It’s not like the 80s, that no-one really wants to come from, they just pretend to because they think it is cool. Amy Daniels Bevan and Kim Wills of El Wristo both share a certain 90s aesthetic, which lends their band’s music a real honesty; crushing pretentiousness with nostalgia. Wills plays bass with a Kim Deal smile on her face, Bevan sings with controlled aggression, selling the songs on the strength of their melodies in a gimmick free performance; songs such as ‘Noise’ and ‘Physics’ that take you back to a time when pure  infectiousness could get you in the charts. Bevan delivers with a world weary tone that matches up well to the straight-to-the-point observational lyrics. Guitar in hand she combines brilliantly with the well honed lead play of Cliff Looker. They sit well atop a rhythm section that gives the sound a harder edge when needed. Wills caps off the set with spoken word, amid the phaser maelstrom of their closing number (a secret track from their most recent EP). She delivers these verses in her own accent, its like a live sample, and it definitely is cool. 90s cool.

Love Inks / Swimming / Hi-Fiction Science @ The Thekla, Bristol 21.09.11

Reviewed for Bearded Magazine

A sparse crowd, upstairs aboard Bristol’s own boat that rocks are treated to an eclectic display of 21st Century guitar based gamesmanship. Three bands, three different takes on the post-indie, post everything, traditional band setup. Read more…

EMA / GHOST OUTFIT @The Thekla, Bristol – 15/09/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

I have read various reports of tonight’s main acts not living up to their recorded selves in live shows. I’m happy to say that some journalists are deaf, stupid, liars or are simply looking to antagonise. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, sure, but bringing the studio to the stage can often make for a very dull experience. New bands work very hard to hone their identity on the stage, and new bands with good (or even great) songs must look to deliver them to the audience in an accessible way in order to build their fan base. Read more…


@Thekla (top deck), Bristol. 13/09/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

Praise must first be given to those at the good ship Thekla, who have decided to put more artists on in their cosy top deck bar, and also to the man at the sound desk this evening whose attentiveness really adds to the homely, autumnal atmosphere.

Gavin Osborn is a local-ish lad with a nervy charm that belies his over-thirty tag. Not in a mousey Thom Yorke way, he’s more polite than that. He sings humorous tales; of tragic 18th birthday parties, of 77yr old rock gig addicts, of failed robberies, and of ‘breaking up’ with his star player in Championship Manager. He is funny; he does weddings, but also Radio 4. He’s at his best though when laying it all out there in a touching song about his wife.

Some of the simplest things in music are often the most beautiful; Neil Young making three chords sound like a symphony, the opening lines of Sandy Denny’s ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes?’ Elliot Smith playing hardball with his soul…

Sarabeth Tucek’s music has elements of all three. Read more…


Reviewed for Listomania Bath

Artscare and Offbeat join forces to put on a Sunday night two room spectacular of alternative rock acts. Axes are wielded, tubs are thumped – ear-splitting entertainment ensues.

Belliesopen up on the main stage and it’s the best I think I’ve seen from the drums and guitar duo. Their off-kilter morsels of good-humoured riot grrrl/post rock are a delight for fans of musical deconstruction. Natalie Jennifer Brown (also of The Jelas) plays guitar like she just invented the thing – Its all indie-jazz meets math mayhem, charming, captivating and cool – She sings a bit too. Deborah M. Withers (also of Drunk Granny) sings a bit more, whilst playing drums like Nat plays the guitar. Rarely is music this honest. Its like opening the back of a pocket watch, or discovering the secret of Oz behind the curtain – then comes the realisation that understanding the magic is not a disappointment but just another kind of magic. Read more…

Shonen Knife/ No Cars/ Parrington Jackson @The Fleece, Bristol 20/08/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

The laws of appropriation are pretty much clear in music: Anything Goes – and Japanese bands have been selling their take on western music culture back to us for some time now, often with hilarious or endearing results, mostly out of their love for it/them/us, but also not often with any level of global success. On display for the delight of a decent Fleece crowd tonight is an example of one of the more successful Japanese bands of the last 30 yrs, Shonen Knife, plus an example of a new, younger band and another 3-girl band who are keeping the J-Rock and Pop Punk banners flying high, the erratic yet charming No Cars. Read more…

Rock in Your Pocket, The Shogun’s Decapitator, FTSE 100 & Finglebone. @The Cooler, Bristol. 11/08/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

Finglebone’ Adam Varney kicks off with his brand of alt-acoustic ambience to an almost fearless Bristol crowd of about 6 or 8, its difficult to count in the luminously challenged box that is The Cooler. Finglebone’s taste for layering and looping is not an easy thing to achieve onstage and alone and it is to his credit that his vision is clear and not compromised. Field recordings are accompanied by the right choice of guitar tones and effects and the occasional vocals are a nice surprise. This may be more of a cathartic calling than an exercise in songwriter-ly performance but at its best it has a ‘Dead Man’ soundtrack quality and is a sound all of its own. Read more…

Devon Sproule / Baby Dee @The Spiegeltent (Bath Fringe Festival). 29/05/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

Multi-instrumentalist Baby Dee opens an eclectic and inspiring evening of song with some beautiful, instrumental accordion, that sounds a little Scandinavian to me. Then it’s a set of harp-accompanied songs that bridge an interesting gap between folk and classical using alt-Jazz vocal phrasings. Her harp playing is stunning, not overworked and the songs are original. This is not music that is instantly accessible and nor is it meant that way. There are moments of dark personal feeling that perhaps belong to performer alone, yet this is captivating work, and it is with sadness that I observe not only bewilderment and a smattering of laughter from the predominantly middle-aged audience but also the curse of the drunken heckler. Read more…

GARAGE-ARAMA @The Louisiana, Bristol. 07/05/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

Killing Moon presents an excellent showcase of local talent, an eclectic line-up with a few standout sets and bags of professionalism all-round. No dampened spirits to be found here aboard Bristol’s very own land dwelling Louisiana steam barge, with its traditional carvery kitchen, quiz machine and TVs showing football. Acts alternate between the excellent upstairs room with all it’s boom and dark glory and the makeshift stage downstairs, where there is some well-handled sound and spring’s best spattering at the doorstep.

Bite the Buffalo kick things off upstairs, solidly with heavy-set drums and polished, attention grabbing guitar. Brothers Stos and Dimitri Goneos know a little more than they’re letting on about ‘attempting’ to play the blues. Read more…

The Jim Jones Revue / Lewis Floyd Henry @Thekla, Bristol. 12/04/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

Lewis Floyd Henry is a rare beast, a one-man band, a busking sensation turned touring pro, a bluesman with a sprinkling of psychedelia and Stooge-y punk, and a thoroughly nice chap, with all the pretentiousness of your gran. In the manner of Hendrix LFH has strung his fender upside down for opener Good News, a rollicking slide driven blues romp down the motorway, sung humourously by a man who has just driven hell for leather down the motorway to make it to the show on time. The set continues along the same lines, with LFH now sporting a tasty black Gibson. He pounds the pedals of his mini drum kit as a garage band howl explodes from his 30w battery powered amp that rests in the chassis of a pram. Henry is engaging and his raw energy straddles the line between shambolic and exhilarating, yet there is too much talent here for this ever to become a shambles, and more musical diversity than is first apparent too. Read more…

Daddy Long Bones/ The Dynamite Pussy Club/ The Mucky Pups @Mr Wolf’s, Bristol. 31/03/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

The small-but-perfectly-formed Mr Wolf’s is the venue for another top night of raw entertainment presented by local legends Killing Moon.

The Mucky Pups are an underground, name-changing, three-piece project fusing punk, garage and blues fronted by Dan Butcher withRita Lynch on drums. They have a distinct music purist’s edge to their sound that really grabs hold. Deep South swampy twang meets West Country piracy by way of the warehouses of Detroit.  Snappy lyrics are growled with a vengeance and the second guitar is a subtle but welcome addition to the rip-roaring bluesy rhythm. Lynch, known for her solo work, is successful in her role-reversal, holding her own behind the kit where self-styling can prevail as long as time is kept. This is a band that knows what it wants and how to get it.  Read more…

Patrick Wolf and Rowdy Superst*r @Thekla, Bristol. 28/03/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

I was once taught that perhaps the hardest thing to do as a writer is to create a new genre. Partly because the art form is a closed book, genre is not decided by the writer or the critic but by the corporate selling machine. Music may be a monstrous machine in part, but true music fans and great live performers alike both know that the machine can be manipulated, and genre and the culture of labelling transcended.

It’s a blackout in the belly of the boat as Rowdy and his dancing/backing vocalist duo The Hype Girls take to the stage…and then it’s beats, lights, melodic lines and spitting rhymes; brilliantly choreographed, unpretentious and high-impact. Rowdy is a tall, physical performer and a master of pedal technology but it’s his vocal gymnastics that really impress. Read more…

STORM IN A D CUP – Cyclone Yasi Burlesque Fundraiser @The Croft, Bristol. 02/03/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

An all-volunteer project aiming to raise money for the victims of Cyclone Yasi in Northern Queensland. The cyclone was unlike any in recent history and has wiped out entire towns and left hundreds homeless.

Music, dancing and over £200 collected for a good cause. Now you can’t argue with that! Just as you can’t really argue with the social, partly political, cabaret movement that is burlesque. As a revivalist form of performance art, it seems to inspire devotion, unity and loyalty and is in part a crafty poke at the fear inducing state that would have us all at home in front of the memory-loss box or out on the streets mugging grandparents for the price of a slab of value butter. Read more…

Action Beat/ The Hysterical Injury/ Ekoplekz/ Eftus Spectun @The Croft, Bristol. 25/02/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

The Croft is currently trying to affirm its reputation as Stokes Croft’s leading gig venue, with a never ceasing turnaround of gig nights. Acts are wide ranging but generally have some sort of following. Smart promoters are artful with their line-ups here too.

Eftus Spectun feature media culture p-takers ‘The Dagger Brothers’ with drums and a tongue-in-cheek take on the art rock scene. Twin guitars chime discordant harmony; this is jazz or noise rock minus the noise. The drummer plonks his sticks down vertically. The crowd goes wild! Read more…

Rita Lynch/ Daddy Long Bones @The Den, Corn Street, Bristol. 19/02/11

Reviewed for Listomania Bath

Live music is a multi-faceted art form, there are many different skill sets required and many variables that can affect performance, some of these are out of a bands control.

The band themselves need to be a unit, great individually, yet greater than the sum of its parts. Daddy Long Bones are such a band. New drummer Jon Harper adds power to an increasingly impressive rhythm section with Adam Tucker, whose bass-lines roll, not beneath or behind the keyboards and guitar, but through them. Dynamic sensibility appears second nature to a band that really play as a unit and launches the riffs, crunchy pirate rhythms, licks and fills to stadium level. Read more…