Looked at life from both sides now…

One of the simple pleasures of my life is having a few tickets pinned to the notice board of our study, the suggestion that there are a few bright things on the horizon. At the moment, pinned to our board are two tickets to see Iron & Wine at St George’s in Bristol, which have been there for over two months – the closest I ever manage to forward planning. Four days, and counting…

John Smith / Davy Graham

Until last week, we also had two more tickets for Sixties folk-legend Davy Graham. I recently told a friend about these tickets and he went on tell me in no uncertain terms that Graham has a reputation for being a little… erratic. (Probably best not to repeat what he actually said.) I’d love to say that all the various Cassandras were proved wrong, that he came on fresh as a daisy and keen to play, that he had the hall in rapture etc etc.

But, well, I guess I was warned.

St George’s is a great venue, an old tabernacle off Park Street with most of its original features still in place and because of its shape and size, it has a really terrific sound. Support act John Smith (another Green Man act I’d not been cool enough to see at the time) made the most of the acoustics and played a really accomplished set. I can’t begin to understand the various picking devices or the detuning techniques he used, but it was clear even to me that he was just damn clever, with a bunch of well written songs and a surprisingly powerful voice.

At one point, he turned his guitar onto it’s back (back?) and coaxed this song out of it with a series of taps, flicks and bumps.

Clever bloke, eh?

You’ll not get very far Googling “John Smith”, as you can imagine, so here is his website and here his Myspace page, where you can skag an mp3 of this song. Or you can take it here.

Winter – John Smith

Davy Graham? I’d rather draw a discrete veil over his performance really. He didn’t really enhance his dwindling reputation, it would be fair to say.

(I don’t mind that he sent his rather harassed-looking driver onto play a few tunes before he came on – that was the cue for a few worried looks in the hall; I don’t mind that he chose not to play any of his past songs or even any from his new album; I don’t even mind the fact that he played a series of “challenging” medieval Spanish and Armenian pieces; but I guess I was disappointed to see that he no longer appeared to be master of his instrument and that the songs he chose to play seemed to be too difficult for him.

And I really, really regret seeing groups of people leaving half way through the set, shaking heads, clearly disappointed, clearly bewildered… )

Old Time’s sake…

Like a Freaky Swarm of Bees

You know that old cliché about music having the power to uplift you and transform your very existence? Well, turns out it’s pretty much true. (Who’d’ve thought, eh?) After a fairly rough week at work that left me shattered, I went along to last week’s Acoustica to see Nizlopi, and slightly against the odds had a helluva time.

I’d somehow missed out on the JCB Song, and so didn’t really know a whole lot about Leamington Spa’s finest, but a bit of homework and a quick watch of the JCB video convinced me it was going to be a decent evening.

First up was a rapper called Jimmy Davis, a real Brummie, who must have wondered what he’d stumbled into when he walked into the normal Acoustica set up, with soft lighting, chairs and tables and candles. And it has to be said, in front of an audience made up of balding, middle-aged middle-class types (and that was just the women). Hardly, his core audience, I wouldn’t’ve thought…

To his credit, though, throughout a witty and intelligent set of soft-ish hip hop, he was relentlessly upbeat, never once getting frustrated by the unwillingness of punters to leave their seats. Good man. I’ve not got much time for being berated by younger, cooler types, and this balding, middle-aged middle class feller enjoyed his set immensely.

There are three downloads that I can find for Jimmy Davis, which I think are available from the Channel 4 website, a couple of which I’ll put up here:

Sown the Seed

Jimmy Davis

Nizlopi

If things were a little awkward for Jimmy Davis, the Nizlopi thing was even more of a strain on the Acoustica format. There were quite a few younger punters than normal in the hall, and the whole sitting at tables thing was always going to be a problem.

And I think Nizlopi dealt with it pretty well. They chose not to come onto the stage at all at first, preferring to set up in amongst the tables, completely unmiked, delivering three great songs that clearly took everyone’s breath away. I loved the combination of Luke Concannon’s extraordinary voice and John Parker’s stand up bass / beatboxing.

After this they moved onto the stage and it got a little noisier, and with a couple of returns to playing amongst the tables, they managed to balance the slightly schizophrenic nature of the evening pretty well. They clearly make a real attempt to connect with their audience with Luke seeming to direct his voice and gestures all over the hall, and you could say that there website has got a similar nature to it, with forums, jukeboxes and even a “Demand Nizlopi play near you” facility. Only one download available unfortunately, although it is a good one:

Extraordinary

And I can’t resist putting up the video for JCB song. I know you’ve all seen it before, but still…

Cracking evening, Al!

If you’re talking out of turn, if you’re talking in turn, uh-oh

Has there ever been a less promising start to a band’s bio section of their website than this:

“In the grand tradition of bands such as Van Halen, Bon Jovi, and Zumpano…”

I’m sure it’s all tongue firmly in cheek, and post-ironic and that, but come on fellers, there are some things you just don’t joke about. (I’m reminded of a friend’s comments on what a great set Robert Plant played at Green Man, this year. I’m sorry I can forgive but I can’t forget. Or, to be honest, forgive, really…)

Gooblar

The point that Gooblar were trying to make is that … er… in common with those bands this London four-piece have taken their band-leader’s surname as their own. But thankfully this is all these boys have in common with the aforementioned back-combed eighties ninnies.

Gooblar play a neat mix of poppy new wave (with a distinctly 1979 feel to it) and more edgy idie stuff which is pretty much hitting the spot right now.

There have been a good few mentions on proper blogs, although none recently, and there’s an EP out now, four tracks of which are freely available at the band’s own website.

I’m posting one of those tracks, because I don’t think I’ve seen it anywhere else, but you can pick the others up at your leisure once you’ve taken a hit here. Good stuff… (particularly recommend “Twentieth Century”)

Uh-Oh – Gooblar