+++*

Symbolic Forest

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Blog : Posts tagged with ‘gig’

Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Like Clever Music

In which we see Pelle Carlberg

We were hoping, when we moved here, that there would always be lots of exciting little gigs to go to, given that this city is always supposed to have an exciting music scene. Last night, we went to the second one we’ve been to since we moved to, to see one of our favourite Swedish indiepop acts, Pelle Carlberg. Swedish indiepop? Yes, indeed. A classic genre, I’ll have you know.

Not many other people seemed to think so, though. We were the first people there – indeed, when the first act, Made From Clouds, started, we were the only people there. “Have you heard of Flight Of The Conchords” he bantered, at the end of the first song. “This feels like the episode where Bret left the band and Jemaine was left on his own.” There’s nothing wrong with resembling Flight Of The Conchords to my mind, though.

Other people did start to filter in, although as usual at small gigs a lot of them were friends of the local bands, coming in for one band and disappearing afterwards. Pelle Carlberg arrived, too, and sat down next to us, to listen to his support. Slowly, people who had come to listen to him specifically started to appear.

The main support, who’ve been following Pelle round the country, were pretty good. Called “The School”, they’re an indiepop band of the Cardiff school, with cheerful melodies and tinkly glockenspiels. We bopped along in our seats, with smiles on our faces.

Pelle Carlberg himself tends to get compared to Belle and Sebastian. On the posters for this tour, certainly. Having a song in his set called “1983 (Pelle and Sebastian)” possibly doesn’t help that; and his gawky dancing style does remind me slightly of Stuart Murdoch. Generally, though, his songs are slightly more biting, less vague, about reality rather than hypothetical dreaming teenagers. After listening to him, you know exactly which airlines he refuses to use* or which journalists he doesn’t like any more. He’s very good at it, though, and moreover, very catchy. We might have been bopping in our chairs to The School; for Carlberg, we were bouncing about and singing along. As there were only about 15 other people in the audience, we think he probably noticed.** Rather than have a merchandising stall, Pelle had a carrier bag, and invited everyone to come up to him to buy stuff from him after the gig. We went up and bought a Pelle Carlberg cloth shopping bag, embarrassed and happy and giggling. On the side it says “Clever Girls Like Clever Boys More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls”, one of his best (and best-known songs).*** And then we walked home, bouncing and cheerful and whistling his choruses to ourselves.

* Ryanair, in case you were wondering.

** not counting the members of The School who had stayed to listen.

*** It’s on Youtube; I recommend it.

Low

The band, not the album, not the feeling

Last night: we popped up to The Sage, Gateshead, the first time I’d ever been to a concert there. To see a band which has been on my “second-favourites” list for a few years, but who I’ve never really been a fan of. Low. The audience was a strange mixture: lots of former indie-boys now in their thirties, and a good supply of men with long hair, glasses, and bristly Vollbart beards. We spotted, in the audience, the waitress from the Side Café in Newcastle, a very good café which I’m sure I’d written about on this site before; but I can’t find any such post anywhere. Ah well; it’s a very good cafe, and I even have a photo:

Side Cafe, Newcastle

My first thoughts about the venue itself: it seems very big from the outside, but Hall Two, in which the bad were playing, is tiny. An octogon, much taller than it is wide, with two rows of balconies from which you could, if you wished, peer down at the band from a great height. The balconies are in the round, which singer Alan didn’t like – “it’s like having an angel on your shoulder,” he said. He doesn’t do banter, which led to long silences between some songs whilst he fiddled with his pedals and feedback equipment, a pair of miked-up monitors behind him. “Play more new songs!” shouted the audience. “Play more old songs!” “Play songs from in the middle!” “Play songs in the order on that piece of paper in front of you!”* “Can anyone else hear … voices?” replied the taciturn Alan.

They’d been preceded by The Helio Sequence, a drummer/guitarist duo from Portland, who had never been over to Britain before. They were rather chattier. “Hello, Newcastle!” shouted their singer-guitarist. “They told us not to say that. ‘No, no whatever you say, not Newcastle, this is Gateshead.’ So I thought I’d say it anyway.” Their music was good,** but what really struck me was: how much their drummer, Benjamin Weikel,*** enjoys himself whilst playing. He is the absolute antithesis of the famous Charlie Watts: flailing around and bringing his arms up high, a joyous and broad smile on his face.

Low are on an album-promoting tour; but, as per the requests, they did indeed play a good mixture of old and new songs – the oldest I recognised being “Lion/Lamb” from their late-90s album Secret Name; but as I don’t have any of their earlier albums, there may well have been older songs I didn’t know before. They really are a beautiful band to hear live, singers Alan and Mimi harmonising beautifully together, supported by a tremendous wash of noise from the two intruments, guitar and bass guitar. With those alone they can fill the space entirely with sound. Before the gig, regular reader and commenter Kahlan asked me what sort of music they play. Now, I hate genre-classification anyway; but I was stuck for words to describe them. They turn a minimalist collection of instruments – Mimi’s drumkit consisted solely of two drums and two cymbals**** – into a grand swell of mind-filling sound. I went away with my ears ringing and a smile on my face.

* which, I think, came from one of the angels over his shoulder.

** K already has two of their albums anyway, so she already knew this.

*** a sometime member of Modest Mouse, according to the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia

**** plus a few other hand-held things like tambourine and sleigh bells. Sadly, despite having the sleigh bells with them, they didn’t play my favourite Low song, “Just Like Christmas”.

Review Time (again)

In which we get down with the youth of today

Having written that big review of Indietracks the other day, I’d almost forgotten to mention the gig I’d been to the day before: Patrick Wolf, at the Middlesbrough Institute Of Modern Art, a venue so stylish they insist on only ever being referred to in small letters: “mima”.* You could argue that it’s been done, but never mind.

The venue itself is a large, glass-fronted edifice in Centre Square, opposite the victorian Town Hall. The gig was held right by one of the windows; and as we were walking round the building trying to find the queue, other gig-goers were impressed they could see the crew setting up. “I saw Patrick Wolf!” one screamed. “With my EYES!”

Patrick Wolf is fashionable at the moment – popping up on the NME’s Cool List and Albums Of The Year** – so there were lots of Fashionable People in the audience; or, rather, lots of teenagers of the sort who think the NME’s Cool List is important. Plenty of tight trousers, and emo hair. Mr Wolf outdid them all, though, turning up onstage in a blue gingham outfit which looked vaguely like a Tyrolean barmaid’s costume, glitter covering any and all exposed skin, and artfully-tousled yellow hair dangling over his left eye. The careful placing of the hair didn’t last long, though; by the fifth song it had been pushed out of the way so he could see properly.

His music’s good, though. His singing voice makes me jealous of its strength, and he makes melodic, synthetic, original landscape-based pop. He deserves to be where he is, in fact, in the press and on the telly, because he’s very good at what he does, and there’s noone else really doing it.

* Even on all the road signs round the town. This gig, too, was K’s idea to attend.

** And popping up on Never Mind The Buzzcocks tonight, which is probably slightly less fashionable.

Review Time

In which music and trains make us happy

Every month I promise myself to start Blogging Properly again, and every time I’m tired.

I still haven’t mentioned much about last Saturday: a mysterious midwinter pop festival, somewhere on a train between Ambergate and Pye Bridge.* We arrived early, and lurked around the railway station warming our hands by the fire.

First band. The Deirdres are some of the most enthusiastic people I’ve seen on the stage for a long time; they haven’t become cynical enough to hide their enthusiasm yet. They bounce about between different instruments, fight over the percussion, banter with each other and put themselves down, but their joyfulness comes through in the music. They’ll accidentally start Demo Mode on their Casio and apologise for it sounding better than they do; and Russell Deirdre has a picture of a steam train on his glockenspiel case, which has to be a good thing.

Second band. The Poppycocks have applied a lot more polish to their work, and have turned the amps up a bit whilst the audience weren’t looking. They’re bright and cheerful, with a hint of 1960s bubblegum and brocaded jackets; and waste no time getting The Deirdres to work on a few organised dance moves. “This song’s called The History Teacher, it’s about, er, a history teacher … so maybe for this one your actions can be books, turning pages, things like that.” Miles Poppycock had a badge on his lapel that he’d snaffled from somewhere around the railway station. Finding myself stood by him later on, I sneaked a quick look: it said “I’ve been on the Santa Special!”**

Headliners: The Icicles had come a long long way, indeed, so much so that everyone in the audience was invited to sign a Christmas card for them. As we were lurking around the gig early (see above), we got to sign it first! So if any Icicles are reading this, we’re the couple who had plenty of space to write long messages like “Thanks for coming so far”.*** Their tour manager, on the merch stall, is a very friendly chap too. We walked off the train into the empty marquee, to find them in place and almost bursting to play. “Do we just start? Is anyone else coming?” “Nah, everyone else is staying on the train,” I said, and after a few seconds’ confusion they kicked into their first track.

As for the music: it’s the sort of thing that I’d never say no to, sweet vocal harmonies over jangling guitars, and good enough for me to buy the albums straight after the gig. The song about Gretchen Icicle’s cat***** was a bit too sweet and romanticised, at least if her cat is anything like mine, but you might call it a kind of romantic lullaby. I wanted to mention the music first, because every other review of the Icicles probably mentions their matching and home-made stage outfits first – in fact, I enjoyed myself during the first two bands by spotting members of the Icicles, by spotting the hems of their stage outfits peeking out under their winter jackets. That’s not important, though – it’s important as part of the experience,****** but not compared to the music. The whole experience – dark winter cold, the 1950s steam train, the fire-lit footplate – gives the festival an amazing atmosphere; but the music is what we were there for.

Other people who were probably there: The Autumn Store, and this chap on Flickr.*** I was planning to take the camera myself – but discovered too late that all my batteries were dead. Arse.

* It was K’s idea to go. Thank you!

** This is a British railway museum, and it’s December. Of course there’s going to be a Santa Special.

*** Or words to that effect

**** I checked very thoroughly to see if he’d caught either of us in the background anywhere. He hasn’t.

***** I was a bit misled, as I saw a song called “Gedge” on the setlist and thought: “ooh, a song about The Wedding Present.” But, no, Gretchen Icicle’s cat is named after David Gedge instead.

****** The Deirdres, too, had themed stage outfits, customised appliqué t-shirts with their names on; and they make them to sell to the fans, too. The Icicles sell badges made from their fabric offcuts.

Aging on the balcony

In which we are the oldest people in the audience

Mike Troubled Diva recently wrote about how it feels to be middle-aged at gigs, and suchlike. I’m not middle-aged yet, but I know how he feels, because on Saturday night I went to my first gig in ages, at Leeds Met SU. It felt like: I was the only one there over 25.

We hid up on the balcony, with a small crowd of other late-20s people, and watched. Sometimes I wasn’t watching the band as much as I was watching the frenetic crowd, moshing away. They were here to see a local band, Hadouken!,* who (if you believe the NME) are part of the New Rave scene. Personally, I think the NME is only ever interested in puns on “New Wave”, but there you go.** I might not believe in the existence of New Rave as a genre myself, but the crowd definitely seemed to. The crowd of 17 year olds were wearing outfits last seen in 1989, and covered themselves in heavy trees of glowsticks. After a few minutes they started to get bored,*** and threw them all at the stage; or broke them open to drip and spray each other with luminous toxic goop.

The band themselves: well, they were energetic. Rapping with guitars, and very very loud. It definitely got me bouncing; but when my own attention span occasionally started to fade, I began to wonder: does “rapping with guitars” really deserve its own genre name? And whatever did happen to Baxendale, anyway? But then, I started bouncing again.

* the exclamation mark is part of the name, I think.

** Hands up who remembers the NWONW scene!

*** “I don’t know, kids today, no attention span at all…”

Holiday

In which we listen to music

And the year starts with a long pause, whilst I enjoy a bit of a holiday. It’s all very well taking time off work, but the real way to take a break is a sudden, unexpected trip to stay with someone who doesn’t have internet access.*

We popped out to see a couple of local bands last night, in a pub just up the road from the Railway Museum. The pub was full of teenage emo kids in tight trousers, chains and handcuffs hanging from their belts and hair across their faces. I bet they’ve never actually used the handcuffs they all seem to have, any of them. Sitting there in plain trousers and a t-shirt, it made me feel rather old. Mind you, one of the bands seemed to take their fashion style** from Simon Le Bon circa 1982, so they must have long memories too. They weren’t as good as the openers, who didn’t do anything more imaginative than late-80s hair metal, but did it well.

The main band weren’t bad for that sort of gig,*** but they didn’t jump out at me. Their sound levels didn’t seem great, with the singers hardly audible. Maybe that’s the sound they were going for. The lead singer ran offstage and disappeared into the loo during the final song. I’m not sure if that was planned beforehand, or if he was just really, really desperate, and couldn’t wait another 32 bars. He waited until the music had died away, and emerged to a cheering crowd.

* If it hadn’t been sudden and unexpected, I’d have put some effort into writing blog posts in advance.

** but not the music

*** the sort where everyone in the audience was either a friend, or a friend of a friend.

More from London

In which we listen to a friend play

One of the events from my trip to London recently: a gig by the band Montoya, at the Betsey Trotwood pub in Farringdon.* I have an interest to declare, of course: John, Montoya’s lead singer, is someone I’ve known for years, and don’t see at all often enough.**

I’d not seen them play before, but they really were rather good; and I’m not just saying that because John’s a friend of mine.*** Lively, bouncy indie-rock with intelligent lyrics and intelligent chord progressions; look out for them.

I shot off a whole roll of photos, but – like the Shimura Curves gig a few days earlier, I’m not really happy with them. The Shimuras photos had put me off doing natural-light photos; so I went the other way, and produced a roll of brightly-lit shots with horribly detailed backgrounds and hardly any atmosphere. The few I did with natural light were by far the best. Here are some of them; I also didn’t get any good shots at all of the drummer, because he was hiding away at the back.

John from Montoya

John from Montoya

John from Montoya

Chris from Montoya

Peter from Montoya

Nick from Montoya

* Directly above the Widened Lines, and almost above the Ray Street Gridiron bridge – if you look at this 1860s picture, the Betsey Trotwood is above the tunnel mouth on the left, now the Circle Line.

** He’s a regular reader, too – hi John! – and there are photos of his daughter Piglet Jaime elsewhere on the site too.

*** or because he’ll be reading this.

Girl-Group Harmonies

In which we go to a gig

Number two argument why I need to buy a digital camera: scanning photos really is the most boring job in the world.

I intended to post sooner about last Sunday’s Shimura Curves gig, but ended up writing all sorts of random nonsense which has since been deleted instead. I should really have written about the band too, because they really were rather good. They’re rather hard to categorise, though: laptop electronica, dronerock guitar, but above it all some lovely polished girl-group harmonies. The chap who came on before them, singing along to the best 1980s Casio rhythms, wasn’t so great,* but we found ways to amuse ourselves during his set by standing in front of the ventilation fans and pretending we were on the Baywatch credits instead.

Miranda does Baywatch

Miranda does Baywatch

I tried to take photos of the band, but the lighting was truly awful. A complex mauve backdrop was projected over the whole stage and the band with it, turning natural-light photos into an abstract mass of blurred shapes. Still, here are the best I came out with. The order of the band photos reflects their on-stage positions. I hope none of them mind how bad the photos are; and I like the way K Shimura seems to have a halo.

Anna Shimura

AMP Shimura

Marianna Shimura

K Shimura

* a couple of days later I was chatting to Anna Shimura in a pub, and I mentioned that I’d been at the gig. “Oh, yes,” she said, “I remember standing in front of you during the first act, and listening to you slagging him off.”

End of term feeling

In which we prepare for a break

It’s not only Friday again, but it’s my last day in the office until July. Hurrah! Come Sunday, I’m off down to London for a week, to mooch around museums, go to a Shimura Curves gig, do some geek-shopping, and generally get up to nefarious stuff. I’ve already arranged to meet a few intimidating internet people, who, I suspect, are not to be trifled with; but if anyone else would like to stalk meet me, get in touch.

Fertility Newsflash: there are now two regular readers of this place who are expecting babies around Christmastime. Congratulations to Archel and Matt, the latest to announce their pregnancy.* Clearly, this is a good thing: regular Symbolic Forest readers are bound to be far more intelligent than the average, so if you have children, they will be smarter too. I’ll shut up now before I turn into Robert K Graham.

Big Dave is away too at the moment, having gone off camping in the Lake District. As he’s never been camping before, and I have, he asked me what advice I had.

“The top piece of advice?”

“Yup.”

“It’ll piss down. No, really. You’ll go off, set up camp, and it’ll piss down the whole week. Take plenty of books.”

I hope his tent isn’t leaking.

Oh, the other pregnant reader is still a secret, by the way. But as she never leaves comments on the site anyway, and doesn’t hang around any of the bits of the internet that most of you readers come from, there’s no point me telling you who she is.

I seem to have lost interest in anything political at the moment. I’m back at my default state of “meh, they’re all awful,” which means I really don’t care to blog about any of it. Which is a shame, because there are so many terrible things about the state of politics in this country. Both parties are but a shiny layer of media gloss covering an authoritarian heart of darkness; Tony Blair’s shiny paint has pretty much worn off now, but Cameron’s is still fresh and tacky. There is so much I could be doing, too; so much campaigning you can do from your own home. I need to pull my finger out a bit.

Blogging will start off on paper, next week, sitting in a café with a cup of coffee and a notebook. Very civilised. I’ll try to get online regularly and keep updating, though. A week of sitting in cafés, with coffee, cake, and … well, all the other stuff you get in cafés, will do me the world of good.

* Well, Archel’s pregnancy, at least. It’s not like you can take turns to incubate it for a week.