Monday, 23 July 2018

The Killers 0 - Intimacy 2. Trojan Sound System: Latitude Festival, 14 July 2018

Fifty years young 
What is it with me and the Killers? In 2010 I needed the loo at the V Festival and came back to find I'd lost my friend in the crowd waiting to see the band. Festival-tired, I retired to the big tent for a rest. And I found myself watching Peter Doherty put on an intimate, fantastic performance; made all the sweeter by the fact that I'd stumbled over it. 

Fast forward to Latitude 2018 and it was impossible to get to see the stage where the Killers were obviously killing it. So I went with instinct and turned up to see an act called Trojan Sound System. Except there were only four of us in the tent. There were 40,000 watching the Killers. But soon the reggae started and three guys came to the microphones and began. Ten minutes later the tent had gone from four punters to 400. 

Trojan effort 

I'd stumbled again. My plans to go back to the Killers were scuppered as these guys put on such a great show to celebrate 50 years of the Trojan record label. Wikipedia says: 'Trojan was instrumental in introducing reggae to a global audience and by 1970 had secured a series of major UK chart hits.'

I think you had to be of a certain age because when they played Night Nurse by Gregory Isaacs - and the three singers did their own interpretation - we all knew all the words and the little tent was heaving with nostalgia. And then the same happened with Dawn Penn's No, No, No. I had such a fantastic time, all on my own. 


In 2000 I bought a few Trojan box sets and remember, all that summer, only listening to reggae, to the exclusion of everything else. I love some of the songs that the box sets introduced me to, for instance, Bangarang by Lester Sterling and Stranger Cole. 

But back to the gig and the Dad dancing was pretty bad. I include myself in this because I'm no dancer at the best of times; but when attempting to bop to the Trojan beat...well I'm glad that people were using their phones to video the Killers and not us. Yet it didn't matter. A man near me, probably in his late 60s, was doing a very-unreggae-ish Highland Fling. And the really cool security guard who came along and made all the right movements (He was younger but I suspect that he was feeling nostalgia for his parents' record collection) - he didn't care we couldn't move right. 

Listen up 

The lead singer kept getting the DJ to stop and wind the records back to the start because he wanted to keep telling us that there was love in the tent, on the anniversary of Trojan's birth.  And it's made me want to listen to lots more reggae. Who knows: perhaps I'll spend the rest of the summer listening to only reggae.  

I'm excited about the next time the Killers headline a festival. I'd love to see them, but suspect I might get distracted by something more intimate and memorable that I stumble across. 

Sunday, 22 April 2018

The Pied Piper of cover bands. The Scratch Band: Water Rats, 21 April 2018

The Scratch Band belting out another winner
The thing is: I used to work with the lead singer, Pamela. I'm so glad I didn't have to write a review where I had to - rather embarrassingly - report that her band 'were OK.' So, I declare an interest. But I also declare that I'm interested...

Because they were fantastic. They aren't just a run-of-the-mill covers band. OK; content-wise, they play out diverse numbers from yesteryear (Martha and the Muffins) and nowadays (Noel Gallagher). But lead singer Pamela's great in a party / wedding scenario because it's like she gets under your skin and you have to start dancing. Like the Pied Piper of covers bands. 

In  these reviews I know I keep banging on about stage presence and the importance of 'talking between the tracks' but Pamela is so good at that - and at getting the crowd going. The band had birthday guests dancing from the start. There was no time to take a breath. 

So if you want to book in a band for your event then think about the Scratch Band. And declare an interest...

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

At the height of their talent. Fleet Foxes: Latitude Festival, 16 July 2017

Some friends and I were lucky enough to see Fleet Foxes in Berlin in 2009. In a small venue. They had nice long beards and even longer pauses between tracks, with drummer Josh Tillman (now Father John Misty) cracking jokes. I loved it because it was perfect for a small, intimate stage with one album under their belts.

Robin Pecknold, Fleet Foxes
In 2017, they're on their third album, they have smaller beards, Tillman has gone and singer Robin Pecknold has been to college. And all of those experiences seem to have only served to send them to the stratospheric level of festival headliners. This was their territory 100%. 

They have purpose and are at the height of their talent right now. They kept a punishing schedule going, mostly segueing between songs for an hour and a half. Fleet Foxes have turned into a slick machine that sees the band completely in control and in total sync with each other, with spell-binding stage presence. Standing there watching and listening to the harmonies on Mykonos is one of the gig moments of my life. 

Wonderful. And we were lucky enough to be there.  

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

£10 for all this simplicity? Samantha Crain: Lexington, Angel - 4 April 2017

Is it me or am I starting to crave the simple things in life? Like doing something spontaneous and booking a gig ticket with two days to go? Like it costing £10. Like the fact that the stage times were already on the venue's website two days before showtime. Or like the burger and fries purchased downstairs before the gig. Like the small audience in an intimate setting. All of that's great but to top it off Samantha Crain was talented, side-splittingly witty, interesting, endearing and entertaining. You had to be there. Luckily I was - with gig-buddy-Steve. Samantha Crain has a bunch of songs that come to life when performed live; one (Red Sky, Blue Mountain) is sung in her native American Choctaw tongue, a language taught to her by her grandmother. And on top of that we had a bit of room around us because we weren't crushed in like you usually are. And we got home quickly. A perfect evening. And oh so simple. It was so easy to enjoy so much talent. 

Friday, 3 February 2017

Hang on - Is it 1969? Hidden Charms: Dingwalls, Camden - 2 February 2017

Yes in 1969 and Hidden Charms in 2017

I was five or six when the post-summer-of-love and pre-progressive-rock thing happened: it was called psychedelia. So I missed out, but here we were in 2017 with a bunch of twenty-somethings moshing away to a band of what I can only describe as beautiful hippies. Long hair, friendly, talented. Hidden Charms have a natural stage presence and I'm sure when they have a longer repertoire they will be a big band. That's if enough youngsters are willing to embrace the psychedelic. The first thing I did on the bus home was to watch Yes on YouTube perform 'Beyond and Before' from 1969. It was as if I'd just watched them live in Camden as well. 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The unexpected saves the day. Cuban Brothers at the Hyde Park event - 1 July 2016

'The Cuban Brothers will make you laugh, sing along, cry with joy, wet your pants and shake your booty.'

If  you've ever been to a festival, how often did the headline miserably fail to live up to expectations, only for you to discover a real gem in a tiny tent? For me, that's happened often. But nothing like on Friday night. 

I have to say that Patti Smith was underwhelming. Sounding good, but there was no moment of magic between her and me. 

And so my brother-in-law and I nipped over to the Bacardi stage to watch the Cuban Brothers. It sounded interesting, but for quite a while, no one came on stage. There was just sound from a DJ. We nearly left. But we didn't and we lucked out. 

Onto the stage came a storm of LGBT / Los Angeles Latino insanity which I could hardly believe I was seeing. People doing spinning jumps in sparkly costumes, a man in a big white suit with a boxer's belt and acerbic gags; and another in the gayest hat you've seen this side of the Castro. 

Before long forty people were dancing, laughing, high-fiving and having a post-Brexit vote commiseration party. It went on for about forty minutes and it made us late for Massive Attack. We didn't care. Even after the Cuban Brothers left the podium, everyone danced out of the little gate that keeps the stage enclosed and we high-fived the security guard. 

Massive Attack were underwhelming. Sounded good but after what we'd seen, we knew it was time to go home early. 

Are the best things in life free? I wonder...I think the best things in life are unexpected. 

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The disappearing moshpit: Steve Hackett: Shepherd's Bush Empire - 07 October 2015

I fainted in front of Phil Collins in 1980. Did I swoon to his version of ‘A groovy kind of love’? Well, luckily no. PC was still the Genesis frontman at the time and 35 years ago, at the Brighton Centre, I lost consciousness because I got encased in a very sweaty moshpit.

It’s hard to believe now, that as a teen prog fan, I girated around to the full twenty minute version of ‘Supper’s Ready’; and last night, as Genesis’s guitarist (until 1977) Steve Hackett, played his set, it was seating room only. The seats in the stalls were pyloned in. There was even a half-time break so that the predominantly male audience could relieve that 50+ year-old bladders.

I’ve seen Steve before doing just Genesis numbers so last night I was there for his solo stuff. Look: it’s deeply proggy but it took me back to a time listening to these songs with my sister’s boyfriend’s brother in his house in Brighton. For some, ‘Shadow of the Hierophant’ is all prog nonsense. But last night, Steve Hackett’s guitar-playing was so good that this behemoth track was mesmerising.

I actually found the Genesis material disappointing because, if I’m honest, the set was for people who are even more Genesis-purists than me – there was nothing that wasn’t originally recorded before 1974. But Steve did it again with Firth of Fifth, to finish the evening. Another mesmerising performance. It was worth going just for that.

Collins and Hackett back in the day
And then the old men cheerily emptied their bladders again after the encore.

At the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, on levels one and two, you can actually stand if you want to, up against a wall. I did this and obviously used the wall for leverage, being over 50, for the whole three hours.

Because I just wish, in some small way, that I was down the front again, moshing and fainting to Steve Hackett…and Phil Collins.