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.


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, 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.