Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Seen It>> Pixies at Hammersmith Apollo, 24 November 2013

With the band being idle for a few years and original bass player Kim Deal leaving, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Pixies would be no more. However, just a week after Deal’s departure, the quartet announced a new single “Bagboy” and European tour. This tour included a stop at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, where their new line up included The Muffs’ Kim Shattuck replacing the other Kim on bass.

Opening with previous favourites “Bone Machine” and “Gouge Away,“ products of the quiet/loud fusion that made Pixies a huge influence on bands from the early 90s to today, revved the crowd up, before they enforced a spate of newer songs such as “Magdalena 318” and the aforementioned “Bagboy,” before an atmospheric cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On”. 

If this was all about showcasing the new Pixies onto the crowd, then it was the old material that resonated most of the audience, with “Velouria”, “Hey” and “Monkey Goes to Heaven” drawing large crowd interaction. A cover of Neil Young’s “Winterlong,“ whilst apt given the weather, was mostly lost on the crowd, before Black Francis kept hold of his acoustic guitar, to unleash “Here Comes Your Man,“ drawing the biggest sing-along of the night, until “Where is My Mind?” closed out the set.

The Boston quartet returned after the encore with “Caribou”, “Wave of Mutilation” and “Planet of Sound”, which was interrupted by the lights being turned on, a signal that the show was almost over. 

While Pixies may have been keen to showcase what is a indeed a new era for the band, their long lasting legacy is still evident enough to see thousands still lusting to hear their songs from over 20 years ago. 

Friday, 9 August 2013

Seen It>> Texas is the Reason at Electric Ballroom, 4 August 2013

As a member of the mid 90s post-hardcore/emo scene, Texas is the Reason have become a highly influential band since their break up in 1996. Though they were never as big as contemporaries such as Sunny Day Real Estate or Jimmy Eat World, they still have retained a passionate and hardcore fanbase in their following years. Their sold out show at London’s Electric Ballroom, is advertised as their final ever one, so it promises to be a highly engaging evening.

A somewhat dramatic backdrop begins the show, with a playing of “Do Who Know Who You Are?” before the band walk on to a rapturous welcome greeting “Back and To the Left”. Their energetic riffs seen on “Blue Boy” and “Johnny On the Spot” and “If It’s Here When We Back, It’s Ours”, are greeted by an exuberant crowd, despite the prospect of starting the working week again in a few hours’ time.
Whilst no one can ever be happy at the thought of a band calling it a day for good, the fact that it is Texas is the Reason’s final show adds a sense of excitement to the evening. When the night dawns on the band, the opening chords of their most heartfelt song, perhaps, “A Jack With One Eye”, is the perfect way to say goodbye, with audience members embracing one another and sing-along along for one final time. It all gets a bit too much for frontman Garret Klahn, who can’t hold his tears back following the last note.

Whilst some reunions can’t get tedious, there’s not one note of cynicism one can detect from this one. 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Seen It>> The Smashing Pumpkins at Wembley Arena, 22 July 2013

The stage that once played host to The Smashing Pumpkins’ farewell UK show in 2000, was once again host of the band, though this time it seems they were hosting a much more rejuvenated and forecasting band than 13 years ago. Positive reviews to last year’s Oceania album, meant the band were on an upward curve for the first time perhaps since those halcyon days in the mid-1990s.

One major criticism of the Billy Corgan-fronted band is regularly that they refused to “play the hits”, however the opening nostalgic burst of the anthemic “Tonight, Tonight” and the rocking “Cherub Rock”, put that to bed, before a storming rendition of “X.Y.U” and a beautiful sing-along to “Disarm”, complete with the mellotron opening chords.

The crowd are completely onside following the hit-friendly opening, allowing the band to show off material from Oceania, complete with psychedelic visuals on the big screen. The likes of “One Diamond, One Heart”, “Pale Horse” and “Pinwheels” are well received, with many in the crowd singing back. Corgan briefly opens up to the crowd, heartedly thanking those in attendance and reminiscing previous trips to London, including the now demolished Astoria venue. He promises “more hits to come”, after the bombastic “Oceania”, complete with searing guitars courtesy of long-time member Jeff Schroeder and funky basslines from Nicole Fiorentino.

The hits do indeed come, a relentless burst of ”Thirty Three”, “Ava Adore”, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, “Zero”, “Today and Stand Inside Your Love” follows, “Bullet” and “Today” showing the type of atmospheric crowd pogoing that you rarely see anymore, certainly not at a soulless arena such as Wembley. The 10 minute progressive beast “United States” closes things off, with 23-year-old drummer Mike Byrne doing a decent job of filling Jimmy Chamberlin’s impossible footsteps, with a melted image of the US flag projected on the screen behind.

A two song encore sees an acoustic sing-along to “The Celestials” and the surprise of the night perhaps, the nine-minute long “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” from 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which features the usual ingredients from the Pumpkins’ back catalogue; slow builds, thumping drums and an explosive release of noise.

Tonight’s set is about as crowd pleasing as it can be, for a notoriously unpredictable live band, one to please the hardcores and casual fans aplenty. Perhaps it could be the start of a progressive and positive new era for the band at last. 

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Seen It>> Japandroids at Dingwalls, July 17 2013

With temperatures outside reaching the lower 30s, it was inside however, where there was a much more sweatier and claustrophobic environment.

Japandroids were in the UK to play a few shows before their slot at Latitude Festival, and the final UK shows on the tour of critically-acclaimed Celebration Rock. The sweltering conditions inside, meant for a stuffy show, that wasn’t going to hold back despite the intense heat.

Their extensive global touring hasn’t slowed them down, the two journeymen from British Columbia, who’d planned to call it a day before the success of their debut album, Post Nothing, play ever show like it’s their last. The opener “Fire’s Highway” starts off the crowd with the hollering of ‘woah ohs’ that seem a present fixture in every Japandroids song, whilst the nostalgia-filled “Younger Us” is an anthemic beast ready made for bigger venues than a modest Dingwalls, whilst “Wet Hair” saw the crowd bouncing up and down.

“Continuous Thunder”, with its military drumming, slowed down the relentless pace for a few minutes, before the rare “I Quit Girls” got an outing that was complete with a few improvised chord changes. The duo followed with their so-called “hit single”, “The House That Heaven Built”, where singer/guitarist Brian King called for “anything goes”, resulting in a surge of crowd surfers and stage divers. The set was ended their take on The Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy”.

This is Japandroids’ one final knockout blow before heading home to Canada to work on a new record and a well-earned rest, and no doubt they’ll coming back for more in later years. 

Friday, 31 May 2013

Seen It>> Fucked Up & Titus Andronicus at Electric Ballroom, May 30 2013

Three of North American punk’s most exciting young bands teamed up for a UK wide tour, spanning Bristol, Leeds, Glasgow, Manchester and finally London, in between dates at both Primavera Sounds.

First up was Toronto’s METZ, who garnered comparisons to the likes of Melvins and Drive Like Jehu with the release of their debut self-titled album last year. The power trio threatened to destroy the eardrums of everyone present with their relentless loud-fuzz anthems such as “Wasted”, “Headache” and “Wet Blanket”, making a similar racket to their forbearers like Sonic Youth and Big Black.

New Jersey’s beer brawling Shakespearean punks Titus Andronicus followed, who are a combination of The Pogues, The Replacements and with a dash of Springsteen for afters. Opener “Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ” had everyone awaiting to chant “FUCK YOU!”, before “A More Perfect Union” had everyone launching into a moshing frenzy. The sweaty atmosphere inside saw frontman Patrick Stickles remove his top to unveil a Lil Wayne t-shirt he’d purchased from Camden market. “Titus Andronicus vs. The Absurd Universe (3RD Round KO)”, from last year’s third album, Local Business, took on a hardcore flavour, reminiscent of early Replacements, whilst the self-titled loser anthem “Titus Andronicus”, saw Stickles go into the crowd, with everyone in unison chanting “Your life is over”, like it’s a badge of honour. The 14-minute epic “The Battle of Hampton Roads”, earned a brief rest bite, before the climatic and chaotic ending. The quintet ended on Neil Young’s classic “Rockin’ in the Free World”, which was dedicated to the Canadian friendly line-up, and saw members of Metz and Fucked Up join in.

Third and finally, Toronto’s hardcore punks Fucked Up closed the show. If you were expecting the audience to be knackered by that point, then opener “Let Her Rest” paid rest to those fears, as a giant pit opened up, with frontman Pink Eyes joining them, before “Queens of Hearts” had everyone singing along. The growling Pink Eyes (or Damian Abraham to his mother) gave a shout-out to Camden’s finest punk record store All Ages Records, before dedicating “I Hate Summer” to anyone who’s ever suffered from tormentors about weight issues or else. They closed with “Police” and “The Other Shoe”, the latter leading a chorus of “dying on the inside” from the crowd. They returned from the encore with “Two Snakes”, which Pink Eyes dedicated to the audience member who shouted out “I hate weed”.

A carnage and chaotic triple bill that delivered on its promise, it will be hard-pressed to find a better line up for a gig this year. 

Monday, 27 May 2013

Seen It>> Primavera Sound 2013, May 22-26 Parc Del Forum, Barcelona

Thursday, 23 May>>
Tame Impala>>The Australians were at Primavera promoting Lonerism, which was one of 20102's most acclaimed albums. Their psychedelic fuzz set included "Elephant" and "Apocalyptic Dreams" on the Heineken Stage.

Dinosaur Jr>>The American alternative legends were back at Primavera, but without drummer Murph, after the release of I Bet On Sky in 2012. They gave a tour round their impressive back catalogue, including "Lung", "Watch The Corners", "Fell the Pain", "Freak Scene", and rounded off their set with an appearance from Pink Eyes of Fucked Up, to cover Last Rights, a Boston hardcore band.

The Postal Service>>Tears aplenty were at the Heineken Stage, to witness the return of The Postal Service. Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard's electronic side-project had reformed after 10 years from their only album Give Up was released, which was played in full. 

Grizzly Bear>>A later than scheduled appearance meant only a glimpse of the Brooklyn indie rockers, which included songs from 2012's Shields, including "Speak in Rounds" and "Sleeping Ute". 

Fucked Up>>On the more intimate Pitchfork Stage, were Toronto hardcore band Fucked Up. With no new album to promote, the band were just here to show everyone how to rock out with fury, the set included opener "Queen of Hearts", "The Other Shoes" and "David Comes to Life".

Friday, 24 May>>
The Breeders>>The Ohio based band, featuring Pixies bassist Kim Deal and her twin sister Kelley, were playing their 20-year-old classic The Last Splash in full, which meant crowd favourite "Cannonball" made an early appearance in the set. 

Shellac>>Steve Albini's band are regulars at Primavera, and the show just why with a loud, blistering set that included "Ghosts" and "Watch Song".

The Jesus and Mary Chain>>The Scottish alternative rock band were a rare sight on the festival line ups of 2013, and they were a big pull for the Primavera audience. Their set included "Halfway to Crazy", "Some Candy Talking" and "Just Like Honey", where they were joined by Bilinda Butcher from My Bloody Valentine. 

Blur>>The Britpoppers are headlining festival all over Europe this summer, with a stomping and atmospheric delve through their back catalogue, including "Tender", "Parklife" and opener "Girls and Boys".

Titus Andronicus>>New Jersey's beer brawling punks Titus Andronicus were back at Primavera, after last year's release Local Business. Their manic beer-fulled anthems such as "No Future Part III" and "Titus Andronicus" got the repetitive fist pumping chants that they deserve, "You Will Always Be A Loser" and "Your Life is Over" respectively. The rowdy crowd were treated to new tracks such as "Still Life With Hot Deuce and Silver Platter" and "In a Big City", along with classics "Upon Viewing Bruegel's 'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus'" and "My Time Outside the Womb". 

Saturday, 25 May>>
Thee Oh Sees>>The quarter from San Francisco had a fast paced and eventful set, that saw frontman John Dwyer arguing with security guards over their handling of the rowdy crowd. Their psychedelic garage rock featured the new release of Floating Coffin, including "Strawberries 1+2" and "Minatuor". 

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds>>Nick Cave was at Primavera with his Bad Seeds in tow. They gave a pulsating delivery through his ethereal back catalogue, including "Jubilee Street", "Jack the Ripper" and of course, "Red Right Hand."

My Bloody Valentine>>Festival and Heineken stage closers My Bloody Valentine, drew a somewhat modest crowd. Their loud guitars had blocked out Kevin Sheilds' vocals, which caused a problem. Their set included songs from the new record, mbv, "Only Tomorrow" and "Wonder 2" and their first EP You Made Me Realise, "Slow" and the self-titled track. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Incoming>>Titus Andronicus - "The Dog"

New Jersey punks Titus Andronicus, have given us a slice of summer thanks to their Record Store Day split, "I've Got A Date Tonight/The Dog". The latter is a two minute punk jam, with vocals provided by drummer Eric Harm. It is more lo-fi than their recent third album Local Business, with an 80s punk sound similar to the likes of Cock Sparrer and The Replacements.

The five-piece will be hitting the UK at the end of the month, alongside Fucked Up and Metz, so make sure to catch them. Dates are:

Sun 26 May 2013, Bristol, The Fleece
Mon 27 May 2013,  Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
Tue 28 May 2013, Glasgow, SWG3
Wed 29 May 2013, Manchester, Soundcontrol
Thu 30 May 2013, London, Electric Ballroom