Get up, get down, get outside!

Well my Autumn of music moves on apace…

Frank Turner

Another evening of jigging and cheering, this time at the Anson Rooms in Bristol, with an impressive and vigorous Frank Turner. Not hugely impressed with the Anson Rooms, to be honest, just a large school hall with poor acoustics and an absolutely crazed heating system which made this probably the sweatiest gig I have ever been to.

Frank was great, though, tearing through a set which lasted a good hour and a half and covered most of the Love, Ire and Song album and a lot of his new one, Poetry of the Deed. I’m a new convert to him, really, having been completely unaware of his records until my friend Adam persuaded me to come to this gig. For most of the evening, it felt like I was in a minority of one, though, as song after song was greeted with cheers and rousing sing-alongs. In fact I don’t think I can remember a gig with as much enthusiastic singing and as many people who knew every song all the way through.

There’s something Turner does with his songs that seems to touch people quite deeply and make them relate to him, regardless of personal circumstance. I like the songs on Love, Ire and Song, chiefly because he seems to be dealing with issues of growing old (dis)gracefully, which as a gentleman of a certain age touches a chord with me. But at the Anson Rooms, there were very few old geezers like me, and most people were under 25, I’d say, and so it was a little weird to hear the whole hall singing along to Photosynthesis with gusto.

He played over twenty of his songs, bantered cheerily with the audience, invited one game lad to play a harmonica solo during Dan’s Song and did a wild encore of another ten minutes before traipsing off exhausted (and presumably satisfied) at eleven o’clock. I made some recordings of the gig, which have come out OK, and am attaching some of my favourite numbers, although to be honest, I could have put a good few more:

The Road


Love, Ire & Song

Long Live the Queen

Great gig and a lovely bloke.

Who wants something real when you can have nothing?

Well, with a whole host of tickets pinned literally or figuratively to my notice board and another triumphant evening in Bristol at the weekend, I’m on a bit of a roll…


Martin, Steve and I went to a new venue for me called the Cooler on Park Street to see much lauded and very cool San Francisco act, Girls, last Friday evening evening. Now, I don’t often get the chance to check out the newest bands that are setting keyboards a-flutter, first hand, so it was with something of a spring in my step that I found myself walking up the hill after a couple of refreshers in the pub.

The Cooler is another intimate venue in much the same style as Thekla, intimate downstairs space, poorly-lit with only the smallest of steps up onto the stage. I don’t seem to have been so close to the band for quite a while and I enjoyed it.

Girls came on looking as languid and foppish as I’d imagined the Wild beasts would last week, at least two of the members of the band sporting extravagant Hunky Dory-esque ringlets, and the singer wearing some sort of long, chunky-knit scarf. As Martin pointed out, it was reassuring to see a singer that you might actually be able to have in a fight.

Their set was appropriately nerdy, directed by reedy vocals and riding upon waves of feedback and twangy guitars, and showcasing most of the tracks from their album. It was great, as good as anything I’ve seen for a couple of years.

I do usually try to do a little research about the bands I’m writing about (although at times you could be forgiven for not noticing) but in this case I’m more vague than usual about even the most basic facts – I don’t even know anyone’s names. (Go on, you try googling “Girls”…)

Anyway, the sound at the Cooler was somewhat clearer and consequently I’ve managed to make some pretty good recordings of the evening. Again, there’s a couple of tracks I’m not as well informed of as I might be and have had to guess at names… But this is pretty much the whole evening, with a couple of tracks taken out from the middle.

Get hip!

Girls @ The Cooler, 16th October 2009

Lust for Life
I Take the Key in my Hand
Hellhole Ratrace / Morning Light
Love is Everything that You Need
Big Bad Mean Motherfucker

One of these days I’ll feel much better

One of the little bonuses that came my way during this summer’s Green Man was the chance to catch up with a friend of mine I’ve not seen for a while.

Men Diamler

Going under the obscure moniker of Men Diamler, Richard seems to have had a pretty busy year already, including his first CD “Sea Shanties for the Far Inland” and a Radio 6 session for Mark Riley. I fear his days of leaping across bar stools at Calmer may well be drawing to an end.

He’d not actually been booked to play Green Man, but with commendable spirit had come anyway to do a few impromptu performances on various tree stumps across the site. (This is pretty much what I’ve come to expect from Richard – this week I got an email from him saying he was near Manchester and would anyone like to book him to play at their house, for a meal and a bed…)

Having spent a pleasant hour or so catching up, a CD plopped on the mat a week or so later. It was, of course, the aforementioned “Sea Shanties..” and not having heard him play for a while I’d forgotten just how curious a song writer he is.

We have songs about despair, suicide, horses starving in terraced houses and rivers as black as puddings, phrased in (more or less) traditionally folksy ways, alongside others with a much pricklier, rawer feel to them.

He also has this remarkable, aggressive voice which completely belies his affable nature. At times he appears to be on the brink of hysteria on stage, and it’s a little discomforting, to be honest. I kinda hope this apparently uncontrolled colouring outside the lines is done to provoke a reaction from an audience, because otherwise I am a little concernedfor the man’s well being…

Here are three songs from the record, which will pretty much give you the long and the short of it:

No Matter

Oh, Joy, When will you come?

Houseache Horse

I’ve written about Men before and posted a YouTube video of him at Slak, most of which featured an empty bar stool, as he pranced around the bar singing acapella on tables and chairs. Indeed, the first time I saw him play, he’d actually removed three strings from his guitar and filled it with stones to get some sort of wacky effect from it.

Well, these days, he appears to have calmed down a little and at least managed to stay on stage for the whole of this particular song, Black as a Cat in the Morning (also on Sea Shanties).

The Belle of the Ball

A great evening at Thekla with friends Martin and Steve on Saturday. Thekla is a place I’ve not been to before although the list of indie bands on their schedule has often made me feel that I should be there. It was indeed my debut and I was well impressed.

Some sort of cargo boat / ship thingie in its time, it’s now a seriously cool music venue with most of its endearingly industrial features – pipes, heaters, railings – still in evidence, hiding behind only the scantiest coat of black paint. On top of that there’s the lowest balcony above the main floor I think I’ve ever seen – I could have reached up and tickled the toes of the punters above me. Not a video screen in sight, I loved it.

The Wild Beasts

Anyway, the occasion of my maiden appearance was the visit of indie crooners the Wild Beasts, who were for a few moments in danger of falling foul of my being so absorbed by my surroundings. Thankfully, sanity prevailed and a storming set roused me from my (frankly embarrassing) reveries.

Having had their first record Limbo, Panto on my iRiver all week, and being mindful of the swooning falsettos in evidence there, I’d built up a picture of the Wild Beasts being a troupe of ambiguously dressed young fops smothered in eyeliner. In the event, this was not the case and they ran through a tight, fidgety and very danceable set that sped by.

I don’t pretend to understand these things, but a friend had told me that the sound was particularly good there and if I took said iRiver along I’d get some good recordings.

And so it proved it.

Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants

All the King’s Men

The first of these songs was their debut single from almost three years ago, which I think still sounds pretty fresh. And, with a satisfying symmetry which may lead you to the (quite wrong) conclusion that I actually plan all of this stuff, the second song is due to be released as their new single … wait for it… today.

There you go, impressive huh?