Record Store Day special: Ethan Johns @ Raves from Grave


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Yesterday, everybody, it was my first Record Store Day. It was also Saturday, day in which you would never expect to see from your living room window a bunch of people queueing in front of a tiny Record shop in Widcombe parade, Bath.

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Gig Report: Tall Ships @ The Fleece

Back in Leeds, still waking up on a surprisingly comfy couch…

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I wish you a good morning from the delightful red-brick houses of Leeds. I am currently at a fellow music junkie’s house, but probably the original house owners had a rather questionable obsession with Buddy Holly. Anyway, sorry for the tangent, I blame the post-wake up ramble. A couple of nights ago, back in Bristol, I joined Tall Ships at the Fleece,  which is undoubtedly my best-loved music-destination, for the first date of the “Everything Touching” tour. The common thread between the support acts was the synth-driven sound. First on stage were the local Oliver Wilde, delivering a combination of fuzz and electro-beat, which blurred the overall sound and sidelined the vocals – or it may just be me being next to the left amps. The music itself moved towards a general chill-wave ground, adding Dirty Beach-esque distortions to the steady tempo. The overload of sounds however did not convince me fully, so I’ll give them another try on the Net.

Instead, main support Emperor Yes, a London-based math-rock band were definitely my cuppa tea. Synth-infusedBattles-esque samples, animal-focused lyrics and playful attitude a là Bearsuit (on top of whimsical falsetto-backing vocals) was the smooth yet effective formula the band delivered. A bit of the 80s electro-salsa whisked with a lot of energy, and you ended up with an half-an-hour of contented nodding.

Last but not least, Tall Ships came on stage with its grungy-fuzz aura and not-so-dreamy experimental punch (playing the comparison game, I’d suggest Local Natives with a less naive aura)The music itself was even more potent on stage, highlighting the shoegaze-y undertone more than the indie-rock core of the new album. Indeed, the occasional almost-reached wall of sound, perfectly blended in the dreamy-rock in songs like Gallops and T=O. A final note on the encore, when lead singer Rich Phetean came back on stage starting off his own version of Robbie William’s “Angels”. Epic. As if it wasn’t enough controversial describing tall Ships sound through laptop speakers, now, if I come to think of the shortest and punchiest tagline I’ll simply say: Experimental fuzzy rock you may fall in love with.

Gig Report: Georgie Vale, the Bo-Hos @ The Saracen’s Head

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Hello, hello it’s gig time! First of all, I’d like to suggest all the Bathonians to make the most of the new gig night at the Saracen’s Head on Saturday. The first “Live Fish” night featured  both the lovely Georgie Vale and the Bo-Hos, aka Bohemian Assembly. Despite being a hilly tourist-y and University city, Bath still hides some musical gems worthy of a listen.

One of those is Georgie Vale, who jumps on stage armed with her acoustic guitar to deliver almost thirty minutes of inspired indie-folk. Drawing more from Alessi’s Ark silky atmosphere’s rather than Laura Marling-esque country-infused tunes, the intimate, slightly cheesy yet catchy short life-captions are songs you’d easily fall in love with. If you are particularly keen on mellifluous vocals and minimal music patterns, and have a special appreciation for adorably cheesy lyrics (like when she sang “I didn’t like the Spice girls, I liked the Smiths” I genuinely was going to hug her).

Completely different, yet equally brilliant, is the riot-rock of Bohemian Embassy. Five people on stage delivering what could be compared to Dropkick Murphys’ Celtic punk, with a bit more fuzz and a lot of violin-driven punk. Introducing the audience to the joys of the album “Built For The Future”, the band mixed Negative Pegasus-esque noise-rock, Gogol Bordello and Viza-infused gypsies-rock guitar riffs, making the whole crowd jump and hop around. The guys themselves were jumping around the remarkably small stage, going from rough-vocal-based punk to early REM-esque indie rock. Unfortunately, I had still to keep my professional hat on, sitting on a chair drinking gin and tonic; I promise, next time I’ll be jumping around front row.

Now, time for me to poke the guys and get my hands on one of their releases – and now, I should end with a villainous evil laugh in front of my screen, if you can picture it.

The Strypes @ The Birdcage (Bristol)

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First things first, The Birdcage in Bristol is one venue that all of the British vintage connoisseurs should check out. Mod outfits, vintages clothes, named-drinks (my cider, for instance, was Frank the Fisherman): as my boyfriend called it: “sounds like a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”. To give justice to such a place, what would be better than some 50s rock and roll, delivered straight from Ireland?

The Strypes

I talked about The Strypes before, and I really liked the vibe and the explosive punch of You can’t Judge a Book by the Cover. The idea of seeing them live for free seemed quite a good one, especially for a Saturday evening (after a mental week at work, hence my weird-update schedule, apologies). Joking about the mixed age of the crowd, my friend pointed at some really young fellas dressed in tuxedos, just to suggest that you could really find everything at the Birdcage. Guess our astonishment when these four really young fellas jumped on stage. To be honest, we were not the only ones rather skeptical and surprised, despite them being labeled NME’s “No.1 Band To Watch In 2013”.

Lead singer Ross Farrelly (re-named “young Miles Kane”) has a mature voice for his age, without sounding excessively fake, lead guitar and backing vocalist Josh McClorey (“young Pete Doherty”) was the chatty one. Bass guitarist Pete O’Hanlon has a real touch with harmonica despite his young age, whilst Evan Walsh kept bashing the drums in pure rockabilly style. The lyrics draw from the typical themes of the time (Route 66, wild and passionate love etc.), in a cheeky attitude which reflects perfectly the core of the spicy Mississippi blues (I Got Love if You Want it). From the Doobie Brothers to the second-Dylan era, passing through Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Elvis, The Strypes jump from the harmonica Delta blues-y ballads to dance-floor boogie riffs.

Clapping hands and shaking your hips in rhythm is inevitable. It may be the age, it may be the music (blues and rock & roll are powerful stuff, need to handle them with care), but The Strypes prove that age really doesn’t matter anymore. The revenge of the young fellas: Jake Bugg, you have been warned.

Graveyard + Spiders + Baron Greenback @ The Fleece

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The Fleece is officially my favourite Bristol venue, as it condenses such a variety of acts, especially underground and breakthrough. However, most of them end up becoming the Next Big Thing – just take a look at the “gig hall of fame” on the counter (Editors, Muse, Franz Ferdinand, Supergrass, The Dandy Warhols).

Last Sunday it was a bluesy night, and its protagonists were the Swedish mustachioed band Graveyard. The stoner-y blues a là Bad Seeds, the Leonard Cohen-esque dusty approach and the general wooziness created an explosive mixture, which blues lovers will simply get addicted to. To support them, the stoner-y Baron Greenback and the 60s blues-y rock and roll Spiders. I am not going to spend too many words on the first act, as my stoner metal knowledge is quite rusty; luckily for me, the 60s-infused acid blues rock is my area of expertise. Therefore, Spiders got me from the first riff. Female-fronted Swedish band, mixing hard rock and blues rock, electric riffs and boogie bass guitar – really hard to stay still during their set (see Weekend Nights). Ann-Sofie Hoyles’ stage presence reminds me of Grace Slick meeting Janis Joplin, after a couple of drinks with Sly Stone, jumping around, playing tambourine, harmonica and maracas (Hang Man). Alongside the female-fronted lot of Nitroville’s rock and roll and Kill for Eden’s pop-rocky melodies, this four-piece from Gothenburg had energy, vibe and a new album entitled Flash Point out now via Crusher Records. Write it down on your Christmas list.

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The main act itself was dusty and rough, blending in the emotional tension of the Muddy Waters’ blues ballads, and the garage blues anger. Forget Black Keys’ radio-friendly tunes, here we are talking about screaming and tapping, a vortex of flaming electric riffs and a pinch of fuzz now and then. Starting from the anthem Hisingen Blues you feel trapped in this retro bubbles, which leads you to ZZ Top’s early crunchy rock with Goliath, Swedish bits in Buying Truth (Tack & Förlåt)and the heartbreaking Hendrix-like ballads Slow Motion Countdown and Uncomfortably Numb. It may be the atmosphere they created onstage, it may well be the alchemy between the group members, but all of a sudden I feel pushed back to the roots of blues, when slaves were singing on the edge of a river, tear-jerking stories about their life. After the trends of 80s synth, 90s delay and 2000s dreaminess, a bit of gritty blues was all I was asking for.

Maybeshewill+Neoritmo+Gallops @ The Exchange (Bristol)

As a music journalist, I have one of the worst misfortunes ever: my short-term memory is appalling, therefore my music agenda and smart-phone are two essential fellow travelers, despite ending up filled with bilingual notes and barely legible handwriting. After the Maybeshewill set my gig-mates and I tried to piece together the whole experience, setlist included, so this is my brief yet intense first encounter with the band from Leicester.
Our journey started with my first gig at the Exchange, quite an interesting and cosy venue in Bristol, 15 mins from the station, quite easy to miss if you do not pay enough attention to the signs. The main room is quite intimate, so by the time the first act was on stage, there was a small but highly involved audience to enjoy the local group Neoritmo. Despite being less “in line” with the main act’s sound than Gallops, this four-piece really grabbed my attention. Clean vocals, heavy funk-y bass line (Rage against the Machine’s funk) and guitar virtuosity were the main features. However, the sound swung from RHCP’s early funk rock (BSSM) to 70s hard rock, mostly thanks to the guitars – especially the lead guitarist, whose solos were just, wow: I must tip my hat to him. On the other hand, Gallops got the grip with mathy-synth rock, more “Bristolian” in its dub-d&B infused tunes: kind of like Pendulum, yet more poppish. The drums themselves experimented with both jazz and tribal, guitars got electric-vibe adding some spice to the formula.

Maybeshewill got on stage like a squadron, standing with guitars/bass guitar in front of us, ready to explode. In that exact moment I realised the punch of their music, which is hard-hitting and captivating, at least as twice as on CD. Beautiful songs like To the Skies from a Hillside embraced even more power during the musical climax: you know it is coming, but you’d not expect it to be so unpredictable. The contrast between drone-driven, intangible interludes and heavier stormier post-rock jams is inescapable (Critical Distance). On the plus side, those guys on stage are highly passionate, scarily energetic and, by the end of the set, impressively sweaty – which means, they bounced a lot like crazy, despite the little space on stage. The band mixed some new tunes from the latter I was here a moment, then I was gone (such as the opening Take this to heart) and evergreen tracks, slightly heavier and enriched with film samples (like a famous quote from The Verdict in the track Co-conspirators) and the well-known The Paris Hilton Sex Tape. As a final gift to us, the band came back on stage for a long version of the stunning He Films the Clouds pt.II, which I heard there for the first time.
After the show, waiting for my bus, you could see me writing like crazy, filled with beauty and excitement, thankful for such an emotional shake, reminded once again that music may hit you, but it never harms you.

Don McLean @Colston Hall (Bristol)

On Friday 19th at Bristol Colston Hall, Sir Don McLean played for the 40th Anniversary tour. Despite possibly being the youngest couple who paid for their own ticket, for an hour and a half my boyfriend and I felt in just the right place.

For those who don’t know, Don McLean is the songwriter of the masterpiece called “American Pie”, a 70-year-old incredibly short man, with more energy than some of the young frontmen that I’ve seen onstage. Moreover, he was accompanied by four elderly musicians, aged 60-plus, including one of the most energetic drummers I’ve seen in a while (remarkably alike Kris Kristofferson, I simply loved that man). Don played blues and rockabilly, going from the bluegrass of the 50s, Motown to including his famous track “And I Love you So”. He also paid homage to both Elvis (“That’s alright mama”) and Marty Robbins, with the country-Western ballad “El Paso” (the forefather of songs like Dylan’s Knocking on Heavens Doorand Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive).

The setting floated from some intimate and acoustic tracks to thick and funky jamming experiences (“Fashion Victim”), including a roundup of classics such as “Vincent (Starry Starry Night)”, “ Empty Chairs”, “Winterwood”. Despite the long setlist, he seemed not to feel the weariness and made the age difference disappear, as the audience was living in this dreamland made of memories (recent or old, it really did not matter). Don McLean combines the freshness of folk, the carefree and cheeky approach of 50s Rock and Roll and the glossy (yet contagious) romanticism of the 60s ballads. As the end of the show was approaching, everybody was shivering with excitement for the hit “American Pie”. We sang along, we clapped our hands, a whole theatre standing up and singing in one single voice about “the day the music died”.

Friday night proved to me once again that music has no age, has no expiry date, and its echoes can be heard over the decades, and make all our age differences disappear. If this is not a reason to love music, then I don’t know what else to say.