Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas rock n roll mixtape

Last year I made a couple of Christmas mixtapes. Rock and indie bands love the irony of writing a Christmas tune, except for Sufjan Stevens who writes them sans-irony. Somehow only one of the mixtapes still exist on the internets and my external hard drive is somewhere between Amsterdam and Sydney, no doubt caught in the massive European blizzard so I can retrieve the other one. Nevertheless follow the link to Slay Bells Not Reindeer.

Consider it my little gift to you. Ho Ho Ho and have a great Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gig review: Ava Luna at Storing

My friend Grant said we had to go, he was putting on the show. We were happy to support our friend but it was the night after his birthday so we were holding a hung over grudge as we all caught the train from Amsterdam to Haarlem. But Grant found a great venue in Storing, that provided some good pub grub before the show. Another plus, the venue with its roots in the squat movement make it a rule not to charge for gigs.Photobucket
Unfortunately, it wasn't just my liver that was disgruntled. Not only did the band's name conjure Paramore-ish connotations but I had been initially put off by the Brooklyn band, Ava Luna, by the shitty car stereo on which Liz and I sampled their demo in preparation for the gig while we drove around Europe. There weren't many ticks in the boxes, only Xs.
On arrival to Grant and Amanda’s house after our euro-sojourn their home stereo unit and a more polished EP redeemed the band’s sound, where soul meets post punk and you can hear elements of fellow New Yorkers TV on The Radio in their early days.Photobucket
Bringing the crunching post punk edge to the music are keyboards, bass and drums with equal amounts of thickness and negative space as lead singer, Carlos Hernandez croons in a falsetto recalling TVOTR's singer Tunde while a trio of female backing singers swoon with delicate harmony that when combined, compliment each other brilliantly.
In fact the term 'backing' is doing the girls an injustice. On the small Storing stage with little room for the seven members to move, the gals, Anna, Felicia and Becca are the main attraction, keeping a sweet and swaying chorus line bringing a uniqueness to an indie stage. Carlos wails about in a suit and maintains between-song banter as a leader should while bassist Ethan, drummer Julian and synth player Nathan keep the engine turning over like a dirty metronome.
Along with my last bowl of bitterballen, I had to eat my words - they were very entertaining with a fresh sound.

It was the band’s first trip to Europe and first show in the Netherlands. They seemed chuffed to be here and received a decent crowd for a Sunday night show in a city that wasn’t Amsterdam. Grant, ever the one to please had also offered his house as accommodation. Supposedly they were all stoked but as Liz and I were sleeping on their floor just a few days prior after returning from our roadtrip, I can’t imagine how all eight (tour manager included) fitted on the living room floor. I believe Grant took them to sample some Dutch delicacies so maybe that wiped them out. Ah to be a young band on the road.

For those in the Holiday spirit and love a good indie Christmas song, take a listen and if you like it, buy it, all proceeds go to the NYC Food Bank.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Mohawk Lodge

PhotobucketInspired by John Cage's 4'33" I've been silent for a long time due mainly to roadtripping around Europe for the last three months in Bumblebee with my girlfriend, Liz.

However I'm back in Amsterdam for a few days before I move home to Sydney indefinitely.

Apart from my friends and the beautiful city of Amsterdam, the thing I'll miss most is the fantastic gig-going to be had from small international bands.

Tonight is no different with Canada's The Mohawk Lodge playing for free at little known venue on Zeedijk named Skek.

I dunno what genre the band call put themselves in but I'm dubbing them Logger Rock. Signed to White Whale records (founded by ML lead singer Ryder Havdale so drr), it's Bruce Springsteen-inspired blue collared workin' man's music. Burly and rough but honest, you can hear alignment with fellow Boss worshipers Gaslight Anthem and The Hold Steady. Any decent Canadian expat worth their rock salt will bear the snow covered cobblestones, lumberjack flannels on to enjoy the sounds. No doubt they'll play tunes from new album, 'Crimes' which Havdale says is partially about "the feeling of punching out a friend for f**king your girlfriend".

Labelmate Eamon McGrath, who makes a similar sound, played last night and may just join in.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review: Eurockeennes 2010 - Fashions in the field

This blog entry is for all those people who think that the French are the most stylish, most elegant and most refined in the world and pay twice as much for dijon as they do for squeezable dijonaise, just to taste the culture. Or for those people in English-speaking parts of the world jealous of a country able to instill classy words like 'chic', 'vogue', 'avant garde' and 'champange' into a vocabulary responsible rhyming slang and 'spaakling woite woiné' (note the inflection - go up at the end).

Well guess what? It's not all hot girls with nice eyebrows and seemingly happenstance styling. Without further ado I give you Eurockeennes' Fashions in the field.
PhotobucketAirborne were just the band to get Jacques and Luc pumped for a brisk, sunny jog in scoops and velcroed sandals.

PhotobucketSuitor #2 is Cliché Guevara: As a mature-age Arts student/first year militant, Chomsky reciter and avid pot smoker, Cliche loves Radio Radio and long walks on le Plage scene.

PhotobucketBig Foot was cool with being papped in his daisy dukes. He assured us they weren't never nudes, stating 'I've worked out hard to shake my ape-ish appearance. The homo-erectus body is beautiful - why not flaunt what you've got.'

PhotobucketThough the rest of the Empire of the Sun crowd dissipated, passed out Amelie here remained walking on a dream.

Photobucket In mullét (pronounced 'Moolay'), chain-mail shirt and blue fishnet stalkings and a comfortable banana-hammock, Jean Luc was psyched for Mika.

A few photo creds go out to Amanda and Liz for this. Nice stealthness ladies.

Related topics
Review: Eurockeennes 2010 Day Three
Review: Eurockeennes 2010 Day Two
Review: Eurockeennes 2010 Day One

Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Eurockeennes Day Three

How we're running late after sitting around the campground all day is beyond me, but we find ourselves missing most of Townsville Australia's The Middle East who, it seems, inspired enough other festival goers to reasonably fill the Big Top with their folky and graceful forest rock.
PhotobucketMartina Topley Bird, maybe best known as Tricky's female voice on Maxinquaye, has a much sunnier side. On the Loggia scene, tucked among the trees, her trip hop influence shines through on cute art-pop ditties. With a ninja backing her on drums, both kit and djembe as well as, err, whirling vacuum hoses (remember those plastic tubes you'd play with as kids) she builds tracks from vocal loops, Casio strings and echoing wood blocks. She sparkles with a red bandit-mask styled make up, flowing red dress and sunny demeanour. Sadly no 'Black Steel' though. She'll appear later with the impacting Massive Attack.

On the main stage The Drums and their feelgood hit of the summer 'Let's Go Surfing' keeps me watching only for a short while. Their songs are boring bits of regurgitated pop done better by others far less retarded. And watching singer Jonathon Pearce strut like a really camp Morrissey meets Ian Curtis (again, nothing new here) sends me off to Ethiopiques.

An east African version of the Buena Vista Social Club, Ethiopiques draws on a historic line of artists who released music through the '60s and '70s and are now re-releasing compilations through a Parisian label dedicated to the era. Out first, like the African Elvis, Alemayehu Eshete opens the set. Crooning by the beach, he's all smiles, all lounge. Alternatively, Mahmoud Ahmned's sound and stage presence is more traditional and organic. Upbeat in the summer heat, we're on a trip to Ethiopia and Eritrea and my tastebuds salivate for last night's delicious dish from the Ethiopian stand.
PhotobucketWe move from organic roots music to raw punk power. It's the running of Gallows, more dangerous than the running of the bulls. Plumes of dust flies from a stampede of fans in 'the largest circle pit France has ever seen' as demanded by singer Frank Carter. Aggressive yet humble, they thank their fans as well as those who've come to see what all the commotion is about. It's vicious punk rock cut from the same stone as the dissidence and agitated energy that spawned the British scene in the 70s. And at that, Carter explains, 'You may not know our music and that's fine, but if you don’t know this next song you have no fucking right being at a rock festival.' The drums roll into a raucous rendition of The Clash's 'I Fought The Law'. It's 2:39 seconds of gut-wrenchingly basic rock n roll rebellion, a mix of quintessential anti-establish-mentality, and dropped-out loser-dom. Goosebumps run up my spine, across my shoulders and to my fingertips manifesting into fist pumps and loud shouts. It's basic and you clap and sing along to its sentiments. Frank couldn't be more right - if you don't see the raw beauty in this song, you shouldn't be at a rock festival.
PhotobucketThe Stroke's Julian Casablancas in hi-tops, red jeans and puffy red leather jacket, not to mention his pasty, spotted face looks like Michael Jackson in Thriller. His band are a ragtag posse of musos rather than the other stylish Strokes, an indie-styled mutli-instrumentalist girl, an old rocker on guitar, and the leather bikie from Village People. Nevertheless Julian is indie cool with his Sunday afternoon attitude, chatting between songs, the girls are eager for his flippant slacker charm. For those that had hoped for a stroking were instantly delighted when he opens with 'Automatic Stop' from the band's second record 'Room On Fire'. Of course he's here for his solo album, performing the electro pop single '11th Dimension' is a treat while the soulful '4 Chords of the Apocolypse' and cheery 'I Wish It Was Christmas Today' are also highlights. Nevertheless another Stokes tune 'Hard to Explain' is the standout as the spunky pop gives us enthusiasm for a return of the band.
One of the festival's big draw cards, that had us drive through four countries to get here is LCD Soundsystem and 'the time has come' as they open with 'Us V Them'. James Murphy and friends coerce out a tribal rhythm of hard grooves and repetitive intensity from indie-dance that other bands in your playlist can't quite grasp. On the strong rhythmic backbone and almost paganist trance, 'over and over and over again' as 'Us v Them' goes, they weave an indie woolly sweater, a mosaic of fuzzy sounds, of cowbells and handclaps to fill out and dress up the groove in hip rags that we kids will recognise as our own. Mix this with Murphy's idiosyncratic lyricism that finds poignancy in the life of a shallow hipster and you've got one of the finest festival acts around. Likewise This Is Happening's lead single 'Drunk Girls' does all this in spades, building on their hard groove; the festival atmosphere and hipster motif - it's a great call 'n' response for the audience as we shout the chorus. 'Tribulations' is a massive tune, an all out rave, and the four-to-the-floor punk beat of 'The Movement' doesn't quite garner the moshpit of a couple of months ago when we saw the band in Amsterdam but it's urgency is no less. This is Happening's 'I Can Change' shifts gears into mellower melancholy and shows Murphy can hit all those recorded high notes live. It's gripping and beautiful - I catch myself swaying. Meanwhile, 'All My Friends' brings fake piano hands and group hugs as we wail 'where are your friends tonight'. Worth the drive.

A friend recommended I catch singer/songwriter Woven Hand, and teamed here with Hungarian folk act Muszikas, it could be something interesting so Rhys and I check it out as others move on. On the plage scene, a blondie-gray haired man topped with a ten-gallon hat holds solemn vocals recalling Nick Cave or Jim Morrison and it's immediately an improvement on what I was expecting. Together with the eastern bloc collective, they create brooding country soundscapes like the score to a Balkan cowboy film not yet made. It’s stories of hard luck and misfortune that are tense, gothic and expansive courtesy of both Mr Hand and the trembling and warbling Ottoman Empire era instruments Muszikas play. It is perfect dusk music.

Over on the Laggia stage is an intensity of another kind about to take hold with a one-two-three punch of Health, Action Beat and Fuck Buttons (BYO ear plugs or let them bleed). Firstly, four-piece Health make caustic industrial noise coursing below melodic and ethereal vocals that feel like the bad comedown of a night spent on glo-fi. A decent crowd are rattling free their cobwebs via the thundering drumming, tense and warping guitar and epic synths (the young chap kneels on the ground to play) of tracks like ‘Die Slow’ and ‘USA Boys’. We're all pretty impressed.

Immediately as Health finishes on stage, no wave band Action Beat turn the crowd’s attention around to below the sound tower. Equally intense, the instrumental Action Beat’s army of guitars pump through jagged riffings. There may have been two drum kits in there as well but I couldn’t see for the lack of stage and swarming crowd.

They fill the sound and drown out Mika who is prancing about in the distance on the main stage until Fuck Buttons replace Health on stage, ready to test mine and Matthew's IBS with their gut-rumbling search for the brown note. It began as noise, thick fucking white noise, filtering out the weak. Eurockeennes put emphasis on being a festival who accommodate for the disabled with great wheelchair access and even aiding the deaf. Well this is where the deaf should be – front and centre for Fuck Buttons – my chest feels like it’s being rucked by the All Blacks. This music has it’s own force field. The two knob twiddlers who face each other on stage slowly cut the fat, parring the noise back to varying pitches that begin to resemble a melody. It’s possibly the most challenging music I experience all weekend. And it's good to be challenged. However, without earplugs there’s only so much I can take. Plus, Massive Attack are about to start.
PhotobucketI regroup with Grant, Liz and Rhys with the amphitheatre almost already full. Soon the lights go up and Massive Attack's eight-piece band take the stage including 3D and Daddy G orchestrating the electronic symphony. In the background, from long thin lights, flashing political statements and images scroll; life in numbers (Countries’ GDPs, poverty and human rights stats and gallons spilled from the BP oil well); France’s daily headlines; the logos of multinational companies (ending on again BP, the audience responding appropriately with loud boos).
3D and Daddy G sing and rap their way through a few lesser songs (but also ‘Inertia Creeps’) before Martina Topley Bird takes the stage to sing ‘Teardrops’. Hers is a cuter version to original Elizabeth Fraser’s – not quite as piercing, a little more delicate. Reggae star Horace Andy brings his stirring vocals to the fore on ‘Angel’. There’s a pleasant wisdom to his voice but it's quickly swamped as the song rises to monstrous proportions. It’s vocalist Deborah Miller however who escalates the show to another level taking the entire festival with it. The lungs on this woman are breathtaking for all around - I guess because she needs all the air.
She brings an extra gravity to ‘Safe From Harm’ as the music builds and builds like a blockade of riot police forcing their way towards me. Likewise ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ is bigger than on record as Miller raises it to be spine-tinglingly operatic – it is indeed a massive attack.

With a long drive ahead tomorrow we wander home to call it a night, weary from three days of an amazing array of music, from Arabic disco to Bulgarian folk, New York hip hop and English punk rock – if only we could have swum.

Read Day Two
Read Day One

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: Eurockeennes 2010 - Day Two

After a long day at the campsite avoiding the mid-30s sun with the odd beer but the campervan fridge is broken, the gates open on Day Two and Broken Social Scene kick things off. 'How was Jay Z?' asks Kevin Drew and the small crowd cheers. 'How was Missy Elliott?' 'Booooo.' He's taken back. Songs from new and old mingle through the collective's set like 'Texaco Bitches' (new) and the brilliant '7/4 Shoreline' (old) that leaves me hanging for those punchy horns through swooning vocals over riffing indie guitars.
PhotobucketMixed in with the hip hop, rock and dance is almost equal amounts of world music and experimental to check out. Omar Souleyman is Arabic electro, with a young guy on keyboards and what might be his dad, in the full sheik style: headdress, aviator shades and Tom Selleck 'tache. The tunes are cool, if not cheesy, with enough pop and bass to make you wanna try partying in Syria for a night.

Airbourne are loved in Europe. I feel there's a tongue firmly in cheek with their AC/DC-lite schtick that they themselves may not be aware of it. Marshall stacks, at ten by two, cover the main stage. In their scuzzy white NB trainers, black jeans and no shirts, they lap the stage with their cordless guitars as the French audience lap them up like Angus Young never existed and after every song he screeches a loud, high pitched 'Merci'! like Bon Scot screeched 'THANK YOU!'. Liz is fairly certain she hears singer Joel O'Keeffe rhyme the lines 'Chewin' the fat' with 'Havin' a chat'. Matt and I try to get involved; devil signs, head bangs - Matt even rips off his press-stud shirt whipping it to the ground in a frenzy but it's all a bit too contrived - then again so is the music. PhotobucketDown on the beach Radio Radio mix English and French for frivolous uptempo party hip hop. It's the perfect stage and time for them. They get their crowd going but it's not too riveting.

Having recently seen (and enjoyed) Memory Tapes, foremost exponents of blog-genre-of-the-month 'glo-fi' (though some blogs are calling it 'chill-wave'), I opt for the always entertaining Specials with Rhys. Thirty years of ska (give or take) draws a large afternoon crowd ready for a sunny summer skank. Classics like 'Message to You Rudy', 'Ghost Town' and 'Too Much Too Young' are obvious hits with the crowd, all delivered by a deadpan Terry Hall.

It's during The Specials a political movement takes hold. Sponge Bob Square Pants helium-filled balloons had already been released from their strings which prompts a revolution over the festival. Chants circulate through the festival to Libere Bob l'éponge ('Liberate Sponge Bob Square Pants') when someone is caught with a Bob on a string. Sporadic releases saw Bob, Patrick and sometimes even Dora, explore the world beyond Eurockeennes. During The Specials numerous balloons rise and spin with a mesmerising rotation. Patrick particularly, off kilter with his wide bum and arm out waving, he danced into the stratosphere serenely. It was real life American Beauty shit. Vive l'éponge!PhotobucketFrom the UK, The XX's brooding, down-tempo trip hop has been well received over the last 18 months through rigorous European touring. It's paid off, they've got the word out with a large crowd amassing under the Big Top. Opening with favourite 'Islands', they move through 'Shelter' 'VCR' and 'Crystalised'. Never too jovial or hyperactive on stage, their music is reflected their solemn live personas. As a result Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim come off kind of humble but also kind of pretentious - Sim shows his appreciation through Gere-esque, hand-clasped Buddhist bows.

Though I'd been expecting to see The Hives who are headlining the main stage we all decide to take up Liz's suggestion and see new R n B artist Jonelle Monae. On the beach stage with a storm brewing overhead, lightning in the clouds are putting on a threatening show. But Monae won't be upstaged. A protégé of Outkast's Andre 3000, she's crazy, sexy, cool. Elements of all the best who've come before her are incorporated into the Monae package. With costume changes and art-diva sensibility of Grace Jones, she rampages the stage with river deep soul like Tina Turner and when she slows it, she hits every note, elevating to the next, all the while keeping it in the bounds of a singular artist.

Two dancers, hooded and masked like an Eyes Wide Shut scene accompany Monae, as does a top-hatted ringleader. 'Cold War' is upbeat like Gnarls Barkley's 'Run (I'm a natural disaster)' as she shadow boxes through the dry ice while the loungy other-timely 'Locked Inside' provokes an impromptu finger clicking and backing singer styled shimmy from us. 'Tightrope' (which on record features Big Boi), brings that Motown jive via Andre 3000's production filter and the wet sand dance floor is stirred up and churned over. The raw punkabilly strut of 'Come Alive (War of the Roses)' summons the lightning and thunder cracking overhead and the sky opens up on us as the voice from the diminutive body creeps from whispers to boisterous rock wails that could rival Airbourne's squeels. Her quiff comes undone as she shakes loose, all the while her band are tight time keepers.

The guitarist's hair, like a black Johnny Ramone hangs down in his face and his swagger and swing, it seems familiar. I don’t know how much of the audience caught on, but certainly once we clue in that that is Andre himself, he holds our attention almost as well as the beautiful and captivating Monae. He's electrifying on guitar, somewhere between Chuck Berry and Prince.

Nevertheless Monae is the star and shines she does, through smoke and lasers, on the beach under a storm about to break, she summons the lightning and the thunder with this high energy soul. We're blown away - the kids didn't stand a chance. Though Afrodizz and Vitalic are still ahead we call it a night ending on a great note - weary from another hot, thirsty day of beers and great music.
PhotobucketRead Day One

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: Eurockeennes 2010 - Day One

Day errr Zero?
The four of us, Amanda, Grant, Liz and myself, arrive at the Eurockeennes campgrounds before most campervans. Five minutes later through the gates walks Rhys. Thirty minutes later we've caught up with Matt and Jenny who've arrived by bike… the gang's all here.

We fire up the BBQ and a pop champagne bottle sized Leffe Blondes we picked up on our way through Belgium's Ardennes. Musically, the long weekend opens with the pre-festival skittish rumblings of dubstep's Gaslamp Killer. Warped by name and record label the Killer jilts and jolts behind the decks. He's followed by some tropical group not as impressive.

Day One
The first act on stage, under the big top, was the aging thrash-punk godfathers Suicidal Tendencies with Pyscho Mike-O out front. Catching only their last song, the entire stage was full of die-hard fans in blue bandanas and Suicidal shirts chanting 'S.T' over and over again. Most would avoid Jay Z later that night for the band's hard funk alter-egos, Infectious Grooves a show that reportedly carried high energy jams.

A friend had suggested we see Baroness who are on the small but powerful Laggia Scene. Powerful yes, but I honestly can't remember them now… other than they were pretty bad.

The jagged and off-kilter rock of The Dead Weather holds the agitated tension of RATM and the scorched soul of the blues wrapped up in greasy garage rock. Allison stalks the stage in her leopard print shirt, slick black jeans and a mane of hair like a predatory cat. Cigarette and tamborine shake through her hand. She occasionally slinks on to an amp allowing Jack pride and place off the kit and on the mic - they're a savage pairing. The best cuts come from 'Treat Me Like Your Mother', 'Cut Like A Buffalo', and 'So Far From Your Weapon' and 'Gasoline'.
In the big top the Black Keys duo, Dan and Patrick fail to disappoint and keep me engaged even after seeing them just three days before at Amsterdam's Paradiso. Heavy soul and swaggering blues builds the audience into a hot fever.

On the Plage or beach stage, with sand under our feet yet sadly the lake cordoned off from swimming despite the heat, Two Door Cinema Club have their fellow Frenchmen and women enjoying the indie-pop. It's not particularly challenging or innovative, in fact it's all pretty derivative but offers harmless fun in the sun with crowd participation.

Kasabian, I thought might hold my interest but their ballsy Brit rock can't do it like it has in the past. Nevertheless them shouting 'Merci-Fucken-Beaucoup!' as English as possible is worth the visit anyway.

Afterwards we head for Foals back at the Plage as they fling into their set. Standouts for me come more from the mathiness of Antidotes rather than this year's mellower Total Life Forever. Sand flies from my thongs (flip flops, people) for 'Cassius' and 'Balloons' but the heat is heavy and I've gotta re-hydrate for Jigga, so I take a seat on the cooling sand.

To use Jay Z's quote from 'Izzo (H.O.V.A)' back at the man himself, 'You could have been anywhere in the world tonight and you're are here with me - I appreciate that.' A filled amphitheatre in front of the main stage and a sea of Diamonds (terribly confusing if that's your sign in a crowd to find your friends like it is ours') shows appreciation for the 'greatest rapper alive'. His 'Naïve' (Evian) T shirt nods to his French audience with a playfulness. He seems genuine, having a great time and appreciating us too without a sense of egotism. With a big band and fellow MC Memphis Bleek behind him he swings through modern classics 'Hard Knock Life', '99 Problems,' 'Izzo,' 'Numb/Encore', 'Dirt off Your Shoulder' as well as the recent Blueprint 3 'Death of Autotune' and 'New York State of Mind.' Hell, the whole thing is amazing. The Roc is most definitely in the building tonight and conscious of how to work a crowd.
Hot Chip are the first real dance act for the festival and is our leap from hip hop to electro… Crowd favourite 'Over and Over' along with 'One Pure Thought' and the epic rave of new track 'I Feel Better' gets the big top firing on all lazers. Love that kettle-drum too. Similarly to the Black Keys, I've see Hot Chip recently but it only heightens the fun, knowing how great these new songs are live.

Missy Elliott, unlike Jay Z, is not in the building - or so it seems. Delays of some sort hamper her appearance on stage for a 2am timeslot, making a tired audience grow further weary. When she appears with black light dancers there's definite promise however a quick medley skims over a couple of her best songs including 'Gossip Folks'. Will she return to them in full? She's wanting everything turned up but the speakers are crackling. She sings a song, but fuck me, is she miming? She spends nearly ten minutes without music trying to hype a crowd who want hip hop to energise them rather than forced 'wassup' diatribe and a barrage of diva posturing. Then she walks off stage leaving the DJ to play Black Eyed Peas' 'I Got A Feeling'. Seriously. However, the young audience eager for MTV are stoked - finally some music at least. That's it for Liz and I though. We turn and walk. BEP is mixed into Nelly or something which gives way for a Missy track eventually, but she's not on stage. Her dude MC is rapping her parts. Where is she? Fuck knows. From a distance, leaving for bed, we note she's returned. Meh.

Read Day Two

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Surfer Blood interview by my mate Olly

PhotobucketMiami band Surfer Blood conjure those great slacker moments of the 90s, the likes of Weezer, The Pixies and Pavement.
Astro Coast is a joyous trip back to my youth with distorted three-chord pop, carrying echoey, dreamy vocal harmonies of The Beach Boys.

I recently saw them play directly across the road from my house at Bitterzoet and they were every bit brilliant. If you're reading this in Australia catch them at Splendour in the Grass along side The Pixies, the Strokes and LCD Soundsystem to name but a few. They'll also play a side show at Sydney's Manning Bar for those not heading north.

I used to have a radio show way back when on Byron Bay's Bay FM with Al Crombie and Olly McElligott. Olly is still on Bay FM and he interviewed Thomas from Surfer Blood. The interview goes for about 15 minutes so boil the jug, sit back and listen to both Olly and Surfer Blood's dulcet radio tones.

Surfer Blood Interview For Bay FM by Oliver McElligott by Olylama

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: The Black Keys at Amsterdam's Paradiso

The hottest day of the year so far, a Dutch win against Slovakia in the World Cup and five hours of celebratory drinking bred a thirsty, sweaty fever for The Black Keys' heavy blues, that thickfreakness if you will, the Akron Ohio duo are known for.
And sure enough, Dan and Patrick appease the masses opening with just that, 'Thickfreakness'. The brick-house riffing and hard drumming of the early single stirs the sold out old church and the crowd heaves. Hot.

Patrick drives down on the simple kit, his face twitching and coursing through a range of expressions; slightly rock, slightly mental. Dan's rolling guitar picking, while technical, carries more flow and when he jams out, bent over the guitar he seems to have this headbang-on-slo-mo style where his hair defies gravity and his back curls hard.

It's sexy voodoo blues, writhing with the burdened spirit of Robert Johnson, tales of wrong doings and love gone foul. From Attack Release, 'Strange Times' creeps with a lurk, sprawling the Keys' music beyond their original sound to something more multidimensional, aided initially on record by producer Danger Mouse.

Rolling down the line, as if the sound they punch out isn't enough, the two are accompanied on stage by a bass player and keyboardist. The bass rumbles past Auerbach's guitar - which wouldn't normally need support - and throughout the overflowing hall. Likewise the organ grinds out a psychedelic path of its own, adding to that wall of voodoo. If it wasn't before, it's scorching now.

New tunes play equal favourites to old, with a succession from Brothers. Opener, 'Everlasting Night' chugs along with Auerbach's falsetto before the personal redemption and kiss off of 'Next Girl' and the glam stomp of the Dr Who-esque 'Howling For You' as we all sing 'dada-da-da-da, dada-da-da-da'.

With more axes then an angry dwarf convention, Dan chops and changes with every song, all immaculate with new tones and a whole lotta richness, continuing through the soul of Brothers' 'I'm Not The One' and Magic Potion's 'Your Touch' and finishing the set with raw, creeping roll of 'I Got Mine' from Attack Release.

An uproarious crowd laid it on thick for an encore, from the stage front to the third tier rungs. 'So She Won't Break' burns to a slow heat. The Black Keys are an amazing live band who harness unbridled rock, while keeping it wild - no more evident than on 'Set You Free', their closer for the night, where wrangling guitar licks and whipping drum rolls are cut through by Dan's soulful voice and heavy groove.

We spill out of the old church and onto the street to an unfamiliar yet comforting warm night in Holland that feels more like a steamy evening in the deep south after midnight mass. Thank heavens for the Black Keys.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Warm Heart of Africa: the alternative World Cup podcast

To write 'Recently I've been digging music from Mali' feels so pretentious and old... 'Watch out, he's exploring world music.' Dude must be getting deep into his 30s and frustrated with his diet of white-guy indie rock like Wilco, The Hold Steady and TV on the Radio.
But what with everyone else cashing in on the World Cup, why can't I? If a Colombian can make a theme for Africa then I will too. So to get Shakira's kaka cover of a Fozzy Bear tune (get it - 'waka waka') out of your head and stop the swarming hum of the Vuvuzela, listen to my Warm Heart of Africa podcast.

Warm heart of africa by colinrdelaney

Track listing
1. The jagged Sahara desert blues of Tinariwen is heady psychedelia. I caught the nomads at the Paradiso last year and it was worth skipping out of a Yo La Tengo show and crossing town for. More recently they appeared at the World Cup opening ceremony. Wikipedia has it that leader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib made his own guitar out of a tin can, a stick and a bicycle brake wire not long after seeing his father killed in the 1963 Mali uprising. This tune is 'Ahimana' from 2007's Aman Iman.

2. From Damon Albarn's 2002 Mali Music project that featured Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabaté & their mates, 'Le Hogon' is a more chilled affair, a laissez faire jam session in the dusty sunset of numerous towns throughout Mali that Albarn and friends visited.

3. If there were a God and he had a voice it would be Ladysmith Black Mambazo belting out the South African style of a cappella, called Isicathamiya, across the clouds. They're teamed here famously with Paul Simon from his album Graceland. 'Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes', an African expression similar to 'filthy rich', opens with Ladysmith's mesmerising harmonies, followed by Simon's idiosyncratic lyricism to weave a beautiful two-worlds tale like a global version of Billy Joel's 'Uptown Girl'. And when the horns kick and the bass pops to make you move, man, it's magic.

4. Vampire Weekend seemed like an obvious choice to mix with Simon, having appropriated and modernised from him generously. 'Horchata' has only grown on me since adding this song - the heavy drums coupled with the unflappable glockenspiel (possibly xylophone?) feels like the two sides of Africa, the hard and the playful.

5. On their opening track 'Suprise Hotel' of the self-titled album, Los Angeles' Fool's Gold play a similar jangly indie mixed with twangy guitar and Afrobeat but couple it with gutteral Hebrew lyrics over top - a delicious melting pot of rock. (Followed on their album by 'Nadine' which brings elements of Tinawiren's staccato desert groove - the whole album is great value. They're touring Europe this summer).

6. 'Tonight's Today' hand claps, chants and choir feels like Jack Penate has matured since rambunctious 'Torn on the Platform'. I'm surprised I haven't heard the vibrant live-in-the-moment, party song in the BBC's wrap-up package from Match of the Day, but then maybe they're waiting for England to actually win. ZING!

7. On The Clash's 1980 record Sandanista they tried pretty much every genre, for the most part succeeding. 'Let's Go Crazy' keeps Penate's London party thriving with the Afro-cuban rhythms, kettle drums, the whistles and Joe's dare - 'So you wanna go crazy'. The guy at the beginning I imagine is at the Notting Hill Carnival but could well be speaking about the World Cup Carnival. He gets his chance at the end of the podcast too.

8. Possibly the hardest band name to search for online, The Very Best from London/Sweden/Africa, lend their song to the podcast name 'Warm Heart of Africa'. Ezra of Vampire Weekend collabs here on vocals for what could be the coach's song of the World Cup - 'When the boys move fast, you should take it slow, We all need someone to tell us when to go.' The choir harmonies and infectious rhythm definitely sum up the warm heart of African music, feel good hit of the summer.

9. I first saw Mali's Amaduo and Mariam supporting Blur in Hyde Park last year. They are an amazing married blind couple (in music and life) who blew the crowd away with up tempo Afrobeat syncopation, funk rhythms and shredding surf/garage guitar, shredding since the 80s too. As 'the original east coast/west coast collaboration' they're joined by Senegalese rapper K'naan on 'Africa', a simple love song to the continent.

10. From the Australian radio station, Triple J's Unearthed initiative is Jinja Safari out of Sydney. 'Peter Pan', with an Indian zitar up front and a Afro-back-beat is an ethereal trip, like Ravi Shankar and the Beta Band on an African savannah safari. I look forward to hearing more from them.

11. Underneath Jinja Safari, and playing out the podcast is again, Ladysmith Black Mambazo again with the a cappella 'Music Knows No Boundaries'. Haunting and emotive, their collective voice is so affecting.

12. I let our preacher man-come-record & clothes salesman from The Clash's 'Let's Go Crazy' say a few words at the end: 'We don't want no war at the carnival today - all we want is peace, love and happiness.'

It's a shame there are still so many boundaries today. I'm not sure if the World Cup accentuates boundaries and borders or helps to bring them down. Nevertheless it was a thrill to see an unexpected North Korea give Brazil a real run for the football poster-boys' money (let's ignore Portugal and that amazing Ronaldo goal).

Anyway, some analogy about music, sport and the 'level playing field of life'. Enjoy the podcast.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders

Failed drummer Colin Delaney spoke to one of the most exciting drummers today, Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, about singing in his new band, playing with Dave and wearing Britney Spears mics.

From: TNT Downunder

The name Taylor Hawkins may not jump at you straight away but if I say the Foo Fighters’ drummer you should be picturing a blonde-haired, wild-limbed drummer that’s always pinching the microphone from Dave Grohl in interviews. Now, he’s grabbed the mic for good with his side project Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders.

You recorded this album quite quickly. Does that make it more fun?

I think a lot of the best music comes quickly. Sometimes if it's been too laboured over it sounds like it’s been laboured over. That’s not always the case. I think there have been a lot of great recordings that took a long time to do, 'cos they were real studio-type things. You know ‘Good Vibrations’ took a real long time to do. Because this is my first album with my own songs I think it’s important to get the quick energy. No point trying to do Sergeant Pepper’s the first time around.

You obviously played drums and sang on the album. I’m a drummer, a poor one, but I am. What is it with drummers wanting all the limelight?

I don’t know if I want the limelight necessarily. I like to write songs to hear what they sound like after they’ve been recorded and played live. I don’t go out front and sing these songs, I’m behind the drum kit whenever we do play live. I’m not looking for more fame, I just like to play and do something creative. I don’t think this album is gunna make me more famous.

You mean we’re not about to see you become the next Tommy Lee and have your ego become bigger than your rock?

No. I think Tommy Lee is a really great rock ‘n’ roll drummer and I think people forget that, because he’s in the media for everything else other than his drumming. There’s no reality shows or sex tapes. I don’t see that in the future.

Did you have to change your aggressive drumming style to accommodate your singing?
Yeah, it changes a bit, otherwise I could never get my head next to a microphone. I tend to flail around a lot. I didn’t know until I saw it when I was a kid. I wasn’t conscious of it, I just love Keith Moon, Tommy Lee and those kind of drummers. Your body does it naturally to get the job done. I enjoy it. I play a little more controlled actually. I think I keep better time when I sing. I don’t know why. You’d know - you’re a drummer.

A drummer who tried to sing and failed.

Give it another shot. I thought I’d have to have one of those awful Britney Spears-type headset mics. I tried a couple but they just felt so stupid and they never worked so I said fuck it and used a mic stand.

Was it intimidating when you first started with the Foo Fighters to have Dave Grohl looking over your shoulder?
He's actually been very much ‘do your thing’, especially live, as long as I’m staying true to the thing. They’re pretty crafted drum-lines, so I always stuck to a programme to a certain degree. I feel like I got more intimidated from what other people would say. Well, he’s really nice, he’s really cool and we’re not that competitive. I think Dave is one of the best drummers ever in rock ‘n’ roll. I can’t be Dave. There’s no way, and I don’t try to be, I just try to be myself. There are definitely elements you pick up from just hanging around, trading licks, maybe he shows me a thing or two here and I show him a thing or two there. Dave was always pretty damn cool and wanted to make sure I felt okay about it. The only pressure was what I put on myself, for the most part. When we get in the studio he pretty much knows what he wants to hear from the get-go. He’s the songwriter and even if you’re not a drummer you’ve got an idea of how it should go. I think John Lennon had an idea in his head when he went to Ringo with ‘Come Together’. You’re a fucken drummer, you know. You’re basically there to support the songwriter.

And what would it take to get you to tour Australia?

Not much, we’re working on it man. We’ll sleep on people’s floors and play the bad bars.

Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders is out now through Inertia.
August 16th, 2007

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Phosphorescent in Amsterdam

Matthew Houck and friends, better known as Phosphorescent, are an alt-country/indie-folk/whathaveyou outfit originally from Athens Georgia, a town of great rock pedigree, now residing in Brooklyn.Photobucket Prolific recording under the Phosphorescent moniker, Houck has cut five records since 2003 including the Willie Nelson tribute album, To Willie that brings to light just how dark the country star could be.

In his own right, Houck's latest, Here's To Taking It Easy is far more upbeat than 2007's equally brilliant, yet more melancholy Pride. Opener 'It's Hard To Be Humble' sets the tone with horns and honky tonk while 'I don't care if there's cursing' carries on that copacetic attitude of the album title - Phosphorescent are here for a good time, not a long time so if the beer runs out, well it ain't worth sticking 'round. 'The Mermaid Parade' is a dreamy slow roll 'n' sway named after the Coney Island festival while 'Heaven, Sittin Down' feels cut from the Willie writing book about a tiring but content life on the road.

However, 'Hej, Me I'm Light' shifts gear as a hypnotic, eerie and atmospheric track with a gospel sound and simple chorus that builds in intensity with mesmerising effect. Meanwhile final track 'Los Angeles' sprawls like the city in sluggish heat with slow heavy steps and slide guitar for a full eight minutes and feels like a modern-day western soundtrack.

In Amsterdam on a press day before returning again for show at Bitterzoet on 6 June, a few cowboy boots converged on scuzzy converse as Matthew and band stopped into the Subbacultcha headquarters. With cocktails in hand and a sun who came to the party occasionally, a small and lucky audience, a few which were cameramen, gathered on the building's rooftop, privy to a performance by Houck. While the rest of the band knocked back mojitos and strawberry dacquiris and chimed in occasional harmonies, Matthew played new tracks 'We'll Be Here Soon', 'The Mermaid Parade' and 'Heaven, Sittin Down' to the city - to the church steeples, canal houses and noisy trams. See 'Mermaid Parade' below (you might even spot my ugly mug) and check out the new album and his great back catalogue.

Subbacultcha! Rooftop Session Phosphorescent from Subbacultcha! on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Phoenix Interview

Last night's Phoenix show at Amsterdam's Paradiso was so incredible there is very little reason to review it. If you are a fan just go see them - their upbeat, hook-laden indie is irresistibly cool yet wholly accessible, even your Dad would dig em. So rather than review the show I've posted an interview from the TNT archives.Photobucket'Versailles is really boring so I wouldn’t advise anyone to live there,’ says Laurent “Branco” Brancowitz, guitarist for French band Phoenix. The band began in the affluent Paris suburb, but while singer Thomas Mars’ partner Sofia Coppola made it look exciting in Marie Antoinette, Branco disagrees: “Maybe it was exciting 300 years ago but not anymore. Paris is cool, I love Paris, my home town,” he says.

So what’s the music scene like in France?
France is a special territory in music where there is a long tradition of very bad musicians. But right now we have a new generation of kids that are doing garage rock. It’s the first time we have had a big crowd of cool kids in Paris.

Who are some of the cool bands we should be checking out? 

One is Naast. They sing in French but they are cool.

You sing in English, was that to reach a wider audience?

Yes. I think the prospect of having only a French life and a French career and not having the excitement of discovering the world would be so boring. We couldn’t imagine something like that.

Were you looked down upon at first for not singing in French?
Yeah actually. That kind of happened. We knew it would be hard for a French band to be taken seriously by the world. That was our concern, we didn’t worry about France. They kind of viewed us as traitors in the beginning but now it’s cool. They don’t care anymore. They are happy we are at the centre of French culture. 

When you came onto the music scene there was great stuff coming out of France - yourselves, Cassius, Daft Punk, Air... What was that like at the time?
It was really good because the scene was natural. We knew each other. It was cool to see that every band was having success while doing their own thing. The first ones were Daft Punk. It was really exciting.

Has Thomas ever been pulled up or corrected on his English?

I think it’s okay, but when we started we were afraid to make mistakes. Now we know we make a lot of mistakes. Broken English is more touching for you guys anyway. Now it’s our strength. So we don’t try to correct it anymore.

Were you nervous about changing styles from the synth-pop to the indie-garage sound?

No. From the beginning we would not stick to one particular style and we would try to evolve so we think our fans got it. We weren’t afraid in any way. All the artists I love, they try to lose their fans at some point. We cannot control it so there is no point in being afraid.

What can we expect from the next album?
I would like it to sound like the last one, but I think there will be more harpsichord. I have a harpsichord vibe right now.

We’re a magazine for travellers. You cover long distances. How do you overcome the boredom?

The main thing is to have a good crew - a good friendship is important. Another tip I would give is photography. When you are a photographer there is always something to do. 

Are you a hobby photographer?
I want to be one of the greatest photographers, but I need more time. In 12 months I will hope to be really good.

You’re coming here for the V Festival. Who are you most excited about seeing?

The Pixies, I am a big fan. And Soulwax, they’ll be cool.

December 12th, 2007

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jamie T at Amsterdam's Melkweg

The first time I saw Jamie T was in Sydney's Kings Cross, at Candy's Apartment – a low ceiling basement, jam-packed with up-to-speed Brit backpackers and in-the-know locals not a month after his first album had been released. Jamie took the small stage with only a borrowed acoustic bass guitar. It didn't stop the kids from moshing and crowd surfing - The upstart's urgent, thrashy style transcends instruments, it could have been a ukulele and we'd have still got those scuzzy Pommy pumas in our faces.
The next time was at the Gaelic Club. Word had got round and Jamie had got a band, The Pacemakers. The show this time was a raucous punk show, loose and youthful. T's brash accent spat rhymes like the beer he sprayed on the crowd and everyone was up for it. Panic Prevention was filled with chant-a-longs and a chance for everyone, travellers and locals alike, to become unashamed geezers, from our "screams calling 'London!'" to his cover of Billy Bragg's 'A New England'. He's visited more recent - read these Sydney reviews: Metro & Gaelic Club

For me, three years on and Jamie T and the Pacemakers play Melkweg's Oude Zaal, sold out. Seemingly the support act didn't turn up, giving much time for the packed crowd to get beers under belts before a rowdy night. Jamie, however, starts mellow with 'Emily's Heart' (see the very sweet video below), an acoustic cut from new album 'Kings and Queens' (reviewed here by Bobby Six).

'Atlantic City', a Bruce Springsteen cover follows that may have gone over the heads of kids down the front but hit the balcony of elders (we had a great view). Out to prove his worth and longevity on the second go-round, 'Kings and Queens' brings a more mature side to this Wimbledon youf. Whether he's covering them or just acknowledging them, you can hear the Troubadours before him: Dylan, The Boss, Strummer, Billy Bragg, and Skinner. And when the band kicks you've got the Clash, Beastie Boys and Rancid on up-rocked ska and grinding organs.

Highlights through the set include the 'oh ohs' of 'Chaka Demus', the Balkan ska of 'Dance of the Young Professionals', the back-chat of 'If You Got The Money' and of course 'Shelia'. The Encore, as well as The Clash's '1977', saw Jamie play a double time thrash version of 'Salvador' and cleared the dancefloor for an old school circle pit for the guys. Not to be outdone, two handbag-embracing girls hopped the stage for a skank as Jamie sang 'the ladies dance'. They crowd surfed off without sight of security. Well - that only added fuel to a fire. Photobucket Closing with the ska-punk of 'Sticks and Stones' turned the circle pit into a frothing mosh until that girl again jumped on stage. Then a girl from the left side. Then a dude in the middle. The three more on the right. Before long the stage was invaded by drunken teenagers as surely Jamie's did in his youth. The star steps aside and lets chaos reign and the kids taste the limelight as more and more clear the pit for momentary fame: front and centre, at the guitarist's mic, on the drum and keyboard risers. Forty people maybe.

It's this energy, frustrated and angsty, rough and tumble, raw and rebel-rousing that Jamie brings to an indie scene too often filled with acts polished and packaged before the ink has even dried on a contract.

An Interview with Jamie T

Jamie T Interview from the archives

From TNT Magazine
Jamie T is one of the UK’s most exciting musicians of the last year. He talks moshing at acoustic shows, blowing £5000 and sucking at the didgeridoo. PhotobucketIt’s 9am in Sydney and around midnight in London, and Jamie T, the affable lad, feels bad that I’ve only just woken up and he’s in full swing.

Full swing?
Well maybe a bit past full swing, but still okay. I just got home an hour ago. I went and saw a friend play an acoustic show. So I’ve had a good night.

Anyone we’d know?
Nah, but he’s acoustic, folk kinda stuff.

I was on your myspace yesterday.
Well he’s in my top eight friends. His name is The Turncoat.

I was listening to him last night.

He’s got a great tune called “Port Arthur” about Tasmania. I don’t know exactly what Australian Folk is but he’s right into it. It’s kinda upbeat folk.

Well I was listening to a song of his with didgeridoo on it.

That’s on my new mixed tape. It’s called “Messerschmitt”. He has a mate called Grant who plays didgeridoo really well so he got him in to do that.

Is Grant able to get up with him and play live? 

Yeah, they played with us at the Hammersmith Palais, which is this really cool venue and we played a gig there and he got up and played it. Someone gave me one while I was in Australia but I don’t know how to play it, it’s crazy man.

I was at your Sydney show and you mentioned your didgeridoo. How’s it going?
There’s no point man. I can play anything that is like a keyboard, guitar, bass – I can’t play anything properly but anything that is wind, I can’t get a thing out of them.

Your small shows were great... 

It was great. I had a really good time and met so many cool people. We ate some great food which helps when you’ve had a party the night before. This time I’m bringing my friends with me and it should be great.

How do the two shows differ – your solo shows and an evening with the Pacemakers?
Oh man, immensely. When you play acoustically the best possible outcome for the audience is quite quiet and listening to you, whereas playing in a band the best thing is to get people screaming. We’ve always tried to have a party and fuck shit up.

Well your acoustic set down here wasn’t too quiet.
That’s the thing that’s weird. When I started if I could shut a crowd up it was good ‘cos it meant they were listening to me. But it’s strange ‘cos I’m playing acoustically and people were dancing about. That’s almost better than people shutting up. I had a good laugh.

You were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, but Klaxons eventually won. As a result you had to postpone your Australian shows until October. Does the Mercury Prize mean a lot to you? 

These things are complicated. It was lovely to be running against the bands that are involved cos they are all fucking wicked bands but as awards go, you speak to those bands and they don’t give a fuck – music isn’t a competition. Getting nominated was a fucking nightmare though ‘cos it meant cancelling shows in Australia. I had a dilemma cos I didn’t wanna fuck these people off. So we came up with a compromise, move it back so I could get this thing over and done with and get to Australia. I’d rather be playing shows than going to some fucking awards show. No disrespect, all my friends are saying that’s quite an accolade but it’s a nightmare when you’re trying to play shows to people and someone is telling you you have to go and do this whole malarky.

Although the £20,000 would have been nice.

I was thinking about it the other day, chatting to a friend of mine and when we were about 15 she got five grand of inheritance and we literally spent it all. She was like you wanna spend my money with me and I was like “Cool let’s do it” and we fucking rinsed it. And I said I tell ya what, if I do win 20 grand we’ll go out with five grand and blow it. It’ll be a right laugh.

Are you the type of musician that needs to be always recording, always creating?

I think so. It’s one of the things I enjoy doing. When you record something you enjoy listening to it back and I find it frustrating to be away from it for too long.

Is it a type of venting?

It’s everything – from writing lyrics that you believe in, and writing music behind it. It’s on many different levels.

Musically who’s influenced you?
Let me look at my computer ‘cos I got loads of music on here. Finlay Quay, you got Finlay Quay over there? Beastie Boys, Massive Attack, Paul Weller. Joey Thunder and the Heartbreakers – a massive band. And you better stick Tom Waits in there. There’s a band called DFL that were on Grand Royal, and another called Bran Van 3000 that I really like.

I love Bran Van 3000.

Yeah man. Both albums are sick. No one gives a shit about them but I love ‘em.

And they just disappeared.

Yeah, but I know someone that knows someone that knows someone and they are trying to get it back on track. 

Who passed these bands down to you? Do you have an older brother?

I have an older brother but he was a musical thicko until a few years ago. I think he introduced me to Guns N Roses and the Beastie Boys but I had friends that were down with good shit. So I think it was my friends. When they find a band they’re like, “You’ve gotta listen to this, you’ll shit yourself when you hear this.”

How have you been received in the US?
We’ve only played five or so shows there to be honest. I treat everywhere the same way. It doesn’t matter about the country, it matters about the gig you’re paying. The people inside the venue. Whether a country is getting you, is just too big-scheme-of-things to worry about. I had one guy tell me America didn’t need me ‘cos they already had the Beastie Boys. I was like, ‘Yeah that’s cool, dickhead.’ I’m a big fan of the Beastie Boys. I can’t complain.

Will you get to see much of Australia? 

We’re only there for a week and I’ve seen the schedule, it’s like gig, promotion, gig, promotion. But I’ve always thought to get to know a city you’ve got to drink in the bars and clubs and fortunately that’s where I play, so we get to see enough.

Live review from Amsterdam's Melkweg (15/02/10).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Midlake at Amsterdam's Paradiso

Last night Texan classic rock revivalists Midlake (interview below) rolled into town. With the band running late, a few of us lucky early ones snuck in and caught their sound-check just before the doors actually opened. It was interesting to watch with the lights on - kinda like sex, there's definitely something missing - and I'm pretty sure they hadn't applied their onstage-beards yet.

A sold out show at the Paradiso promised an enthusiastic crowd while an album just released, The Courage of Others suggested there'd be a mix of new and old songs, for better or for worse.
Midlake came to prominence with 2006's The Trials of Van Occupanther (was he Dutch?) an instant indie classic for both you and yer old man, conjuring the spirits of Crosby Stills & Nash, Neil Young's Harvest-era, Fleetwood Mac and a touch, dare I say, of the Eagles - 'forrest rock' as my girlfriend, Liz calls it.

Last night, the shows' standouts came from said first album, the likes of 'Young Bride', 'Head Home' and the gem 'Roscoe' were all crowd favourites with a rocking end to 'Head Home' courtesy of drummer McKenzie Smith. Likewise, their encore 'Branches' was from Van Occupanther, and a mellow closure to the evening.
At the end of the show the band were openly blown away when the house lights went on to reveal three tiers of fans in rapturous applause.

Maybe that's because the band knew what I knew; where the old songs rocked, the new songs felt awash in sameness. Since Van Occupanther we've seen a swag of fellow vintage rockers lathered with smooth folk vocals and harmonies, check shirts and beards. None derivative, all bring something new to the table (or take away) - the likes of Fleet Foxes, Bon Ivor and Local Natives.
Understandably, in an attempt to distance themselves from the sound, or more appropriately, three more years of touring the same style of songs, Midlake have moved from forrest rock to druid-folk, especially if we're going off their album covers; American woodland the former, robes and celtic symbolism the latter.

The move to British folk territory on The Courage of Others seems to have payed off as well as Michael Jordan's to baseball. Instead of my Dad's Neil Young records I hear my mum's Steeleye Span records. Fair play, they give it ago and have mastered the sound but at what point might one think 'maybe four guitars are too many?' There's also more flute than you can chuck an Enya at. Plus, on the night, Tim's voice was too low in the mix, his mellow tones too easily washed away.

With the best seats in the house (for those in the know, front and centre on the balcony, that almost box-seat part) we were hoping to be blown away, and for the songs from the first album we were by their weaving tapestry and texture. Songs from the second instead blanketed us in druid drone with not enough melodies or rich harmonies. Shame really.

An Interview with Midlake

With their 70s folk-rock, Midlake will swoon you back to simpler times. Colin Delaney chats to the band’s drummer, McKenzie Smith, about life in Texas, their new record and Jason Lee. 

While the UK and US indie music scenes have been wallowing in the stagnant waters of an 80s revival, drowning in Morrissey and Gang Of Four wannabes, a little-known band from Texas has been diving deeper into the rock ‘n’ roll gene pool. Midlake’s second record, The Trials Of Van Occupanther, evokes the 70s spirit of artists like Fleetwood Mac, America, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young. Drummer McKenzie Smith has just got himself a haircut and is driving back to the band’s hometown of Denton,TX. 

Has Texas and its great outdoors influenced your sound?

Yes, but not like you might expect. People might assume that because you’re from Texas you must be into country music - that’s the majority of the music here and obviously there is a large fanbase for that kinda music, but we’re not exactly influenced by it. Texas is an interesting place to live. There’s lots of cool things about Texas, and not so cool, and I’d say we’re affected by that. But I wouldn’t say that we’re affected by country music. The places we live, the people in Texas and our backgrounds, they all play a part in our development as a band. I’ve heard it’s very similar to Australia. Texas is huge, with everything from dense forest with huge pine trees to the tropics down south and desert, and up north it gets cold. Our singer Tim got influenced by nature in general. I guess you could say it’s Texas but it’s also anything with a pastoral setting.

Your album is a breath of fresh air. It seems very sincere, a throwback to the great folk rock artists of the 70s. 

We worked really hard on that album so I’m glad you liked it. The first album has lots of influences, from The Flaming Lips and Granddaddy to the Beatles psychedelic kinda stuff. And then after we made that album we started checking out the 70s stuff like Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac, America and Bread, Joni Mitchell, Jethro Tull. One thing leads to another and before you know it, Tim, our singer became so engulfed with this and it really affected him and he loved it so much that it started coming out of him naturally. And we just said, ‘We really like what you’re working on and the direction you’re taking.’ It was a long process to eventually evolve into that but I think we’re ready for that. Everyone compares this album to a 70s album and I think they’re right. It hopefully hasn’t come across as contrived, it was just a very natural thing. We just said these albums are timeless and classic and how good would it be to make a record that feels the same kind of way.

There’s no sense of irony to what you’re doing...

That was the plan, we didn’t want to make something that seemed like we were just ripping them off, like it was a throwback, kinda ‘look what they’re doing’ thing. I think you could put on Neil Young’s Harvest right now and it would sound like a great record. You’re not going to put this on in 10 years and go ‘Oh, I can’t believe I was ever into that.’

So who is Van Occupanther?

Well, Van Occupanther is actually only in one song but everyone thinks he’s a recurring character, that he’s the guy in every story. There’s a lot of ideas about going back to a simpler time when things weren’t so complicated - you have your wife, and your land and your job and you make an honest living without all the complications.

Jason Lee (of My Name Is Earl, Almost Famous and Chasing Amy) has been championing your work, and spreading the word. How did that come about?

Jason knew Simon Raymonde (of Cocteau Twins), who runs our label. He was a huge Cocteau Twins fan and had written Simon years ago and Simon wrote him back and they became friends. Simon started sending Jason records and he sent him our first album and Jason flipped out. He did a top 10 records in Entertainment Weekly and we were number two on his list. When we met him in Austin at South by South West we thought we were the ones that were supposed to be bowing down to him and he was like, ‘Let me buy you a drink, I can’t believe I’m talking to you guys, I love you guys.’ Since then he came to Denton and filmed a video for us. He’s just a really great guy to have on your team. We’re very thankful for his friendship.

*Midlake’s The Trial of Van Occupanther is out through Speak n Spell.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Brown Bird at Amsterdam's Paradiso

Dear Brown Bird

Sometimes when you go to a gig and you know nothing of the support act and the support act sucks it's no great loss other than wondering why the main act selected them. But other times, those glorious and precious times, you catch the support act and it feels like you've struck gold, not always as polished as the main act but all the more satisfying for digging that bit deeper - or at least arrived when the doors opened.
I was taken away by your music, simple and earnest. David's voice, so clear through that beard, what should have muffled actually filtered, Morgan's aching strings and Joan Baez vocal style plus Mike's classic dobro filled the magestic Paradiso's hall with a rustic stomp that bands with more plugs, pedals and pomp have failed to do.

After the show I'd hoped to congratulate you on a fine set. If only I had stopped at the merch desk mid-Low Anthem as I smuggled myself out for a quick piss. Alas, at the end of a spectacular set by your fellow Rhode Islanders it was their turn to meet and greet.

Nevertheless I bought The Devil Dancing on CD - I owed you that much - and added my name to your mailing list (about three quarts the way down on the first page). I popped the disc in my girlfriend's bag and went home to bed.

This morning I woke irrationally early so I hopped up and tackled a mountain of dishes and what better way to help me get through the slog than with some gentle morning music.

I sliced open the plastic seal of my new CD and opened the cardboard sleeve, fired up the computer and tried to pop out the disc from its casing. Like a reluctant virgin the disc wouldn't pop from its centre. It just bent, bowed with a creaking sound, before finally, snap! To quote Dylan, the Brown Bird disc 'breaks, just like a little girl.'

Was it my eagerness and heavy man-handling that broken the CD rather than easing it gently and wooing it from it's casing? Most probably.

Or was it in this day and age, as CD sales drop in the face of downloads, manufacturers cut corners and construction gets flimsy… I don't blame you Brown Bird, I blame the system.

Feeling jilted, I jumped straight online to find your torrent. Alas as a small act, your discovery by a prospecting punter is real gold* and the price of gold is high for its rare and exclusive qualities, not for its ubiquitous torrent. I did dig up a file called 'Brown Bird at the Nave' but the progress bar didn't move beyond infinity. And that's fools gold.
Sadly I've lost my nugget of Brown Bird but I can say I discovered you before the inevitable gold rush. In the interim I'm not so much panning for gold, but washing the pans... in silence.

Kind regards,


*I'm dropping the 'virgin' thing and reclaiming the gold analogy 'cos when you start talking about the price of virgins on the internet the FBI start knockin' – or so I've heard.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Still Flyin' at Amsterdam's Paradiso

Tonight at the Paradiso there's two great shows. At 7.30 get along and see the brilliant twang of Low Anthem. These Rhode Island natives have just about made Amsterdam their second home with numerous shows and recording here. At 10 see Still Flyin' - a delightfully fun outfit from San Francisco I first saw at 2008's Sydney Laneway Festival (a festival we sadly missed this past Sunday when Liz and I had to fly back to Amsterdam - from all accounts, a brilliant day with great bands) where body boards helped the crowd surfers. Tonight's performance is now half price at the Last Minute Ticket Shop, so get buying.

From iamsterdam.com

Still Flyin', a San Francisco collective bring nothing but fun and good times to their shambolic shows with a revolving door of artists and honourary members. Depending on their location in the world you might find more people on stage than in the crowd.

Take your shoes off
With sugary doses of indie-pop, the up-rocked skank of reggae plus the sunshine of Jimmy Buffet and the avant garde of Talking Heads, a genre they've dubbed Hamm Jamm, Still Flyin will hold themselves accountable if your dancing shoes wear out in one night. But then again, with a band website titled www.takeyourshoesoffyoudontneedtheminthesky.com, they've already suggested you remove them. Expect tunes like 'Lucky It's A Ghost Town Around Here' (see vid), 'Aerosmith Take Me To The Otherside' and 'Forever Dudes'

Flyin Facts
They've played alongside the likes of Architecture in Helsinki finding a musical kinship with the oddball Melbournites, as well as Jens Lekman and Spiral Stairs who curated and hosted them at the 2008 Sled Island Festival in Calgary. Last year they released their debut album Never Gunna Touch The Ground after a succession of singles and EPs. Hamm Jamm, more fun for your feet than toe jam.