Auntie Clancy and Uncle Dillard…

maxresdefaultWent to the recently-spruced up Thekla for the first time in ages, last week, to see the evergreen, ever-whimsical Euros Childs, and a quality evening it was too.

Euros

Having scrambled to get in on time, (and therefore missed the support band – something of a feature of this year), we were treated to a lovely show, full of off-kilter charm and light melancholy, with Euros backed by his own keyboard but also by a full band, including the thrilling mandolin-flute of Laura J Martin.

Mostly, he ran through the group of bewitching songs that make up his new record, Sweetheart and very good they were; but thrillingly, he did manage to find time to fit in a jaunty version of one of my favourites, “Heywood Lane”, and by a stroke of very good fortune, there’s this footage of it from another leg of the tour:

 

And while on YouTube, I came across this little gem, which features a charmingly inept Mel Fung inviting Euros and a couple of other musicians I didn’t know, to play outside her house in Cardiff. There’s chatting, drinking, table tennis and a bit of singing. Look out particularly for the part where the power fails but… trooper that he is, Euros ploughs on, plonking away on a dead keyboard until he’s plugged back in.

 

Inexplicably, I forgot to take my little recording device with which I like to capture these events, so I’m afraid there’s nowt to show for my last gig of ‘15.

It did get me thinking about the gigs I’ve managed this year, though…

I got a bleedin’ strop on, I’ll tell you mate.

1438759864_11393773_857748454300049_587296402972426246_oWell and truly missed the boat on this, a gig from more than a fortnight ago, now. Another truly cracking evening, though, and it deserves its moment…

Sleaford Mods, Bristol Bierkeller

… Although to be fair, I’m not really sure what else you can say about your second Sleaford Mods gig. I pretty much said what needed to be said the first time, really… and this wasn’t a whole lot different. Andrew Fearn stood around with a beer, Jason Williamson jogged about, cussed, belched and shouted a lot, people joined in noisily. Just the ticket.

But having said that, it was another really, really exciting evening and it was hard not to be energised and enervated by the sweary, sweaty parcel of energy and nerves before you. Even though I saw them not six months ago, the set was very different, about half the songs being new (I say “new”, largely from the Key Markets record which I’ve not bought yet, so not really new – but I have seen bands play the same set two years apart…). Williamson’s words are still stream-of-consciousness – jolts of anger and wit, ideas and words linking improbably, nonsensically with an indistinct clarity. It’s fair to say he still has something of a strop on…

If anything, the sticky-floored Bierkeller was even more worked up and disorderly than the Exchange had been in May, punters careening about and oi-oi-ing their way through choruses of spittle-flecked anger and good-natured argy-bargy. All pretty damn stirring…

The recordings are extremely noisy, but what are you going to do?

Jolly Fucker

No One’s Bothered

Tiswas

One of the things that was different this time round, was that a more than decent support slot had been arranged, in
the shape of Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life. The average keen-eyed reader of this Blog will of course recall that Ignorant was the co-founder of dyed-in-the-wool seventies anarchists Crass (I needed reminding…), whom I remember being more than a little nervous about, back in the day.

Things come round again though, don’t they? And it was something of a buzz to see an older, wiser but still very, very angry Steve Ignorant on stage before me. He’s obviously toned his act down a little, backedKWVNQY4H as he was by a modest, almost soulful band with actual tunes – not an electric guitar in sight. (Although, recent YouTubes suggest he’s still true to his noisy roots, most of the time.)

Softer the sound may have been, but there’s no question that Steve Ignorant also (still) has a bit of a strop on too; and another man who uses an impressive range of expletives – Williamson was no doubt backstage taking notes furiously. It was thrilling, challenging, even moving to see a 57-year-old man, still unhappy with the state of the world, still determined to speak out and still full of seething, bubbling ire.

I enjoyed his set immensely. Good man.

Love and a Lamp Post

Ain’t just another sound that you hear at night…

IMG_1590I’ve got something else I should be doing (and I have something about the ever-exciting Sleaford Mods to put together still), but I’m just going to sneak this in…

Went to see a rejuvenated Graham Parker and the Rumour at the Academy, Sunday night, a gig that’s been pinned to my board for ages now but I’d kind of forgotten about.

Strange thing is that none of my hipster buddies seem to know or care much about Graham Parker (this rings a bell… unsure whether I’m very, very cool or whether I’ve finally been rumbled…). A great, great night, though…

Graham Parker and the Rumour

I’m old enough to remember some of the GP albums as they came out, not as part of the pub rock boom, I should say, more the period when he slightly readjusted himself, became a little bit more “New Wave” after signing to Stiff. Actually, I’ve made that sound like he was more mercenary than I think he really was – in truth he always had a more edgy, sinewy sound than his contemporaries; I don’t think the advent of Punk left him as creatively discomfited as many at the time.

In the event, I was (not for the first time) a little worried about what the turnout would be like but (not for the first time) needn’t have worried. A robust group of more than a hundred grizzled old gentlemen made the trip and a rare old time was had by all.

What I hadn’t factored into the evening was that the Rumour were no mean bunch of performers themselves, and are still pretty much as they were. The lead guitarist was still Brinsley Schwarz, original member of the Rumour and also founder of legendary country rockers er.. Brinsley Schwarz; the familiar swirling keyboard sounds were provided by another founding member of BS, Bob Andrews; drums were by Steve Goulding, another original Rumour member. And the other guitarist, nominally on rhythm, was the mountainous Martin Belmont, formerly of Ducks Deluxe, a member of the Attractions at various stages and (I’ve just found out) a former BS roadie.

We were really taken by Belmont, in truth. Tall (ridiculously so), bedecked in black shirt and white tie, he looked like a gawky physics teacher, strapping on his guitar after many years (and having a ball). He gurned, grimaced and generally larked about, contributing some cracking, twangy guitar breaks throughout. You kind of wished he was your Dad…

Parker’s voice was outstanding, as strident and tough as ever, and he pretty much ripped through an hour and a half set with some gusto, clearly enjoying himself and making for an engaging host as he wandered through a remarkable back catalogue, sprinkled with a good few newer ones.

The recordings are OK, but slightly spoiled by a feller near me, singing along throughout. Annoying for a while, but then I realised he knew all the words to all the songs, and was clearly well away – you carry on, mate.

That sort of evening…

Protection

Fool’s Gold

Passion Is No Ordinary Word

The train comes to take you where you’ve got to be

telemanWell, I guess the Green Man “moment” has passed. School has started again and summer’s feeling like it’s over – the tent’s been wiped down and packed away, the mud’s dried up on my boots and 2016 Early Bird tickets go on sale next week.

I will do this, though – there are a couple of really good sets still to post. And to be honest, there were a few fairly ordinary ones that I’ll mention, in that White Fence, The Fall and Super Furry Animals all disappointed somewhat, for different reasons. The first didn’t look very “connected” to the whole Green Man vibe (inexplicable really, considering GM stalwart Cate le Bon is still playing with Presley and co); Mark E Smith’s approach to live performances I’ve covered before (it wasn’t a whole lot better than this time); and although SFA started off well, the onset of rain and an over-extended Mwng section squandered an adoring crowd’s late Saturday evening attention. I need to listen to the recordings of each of these sets again, I may well be doing them an injustice.

This lot were a treat, though…

Teleman

I played the Breakfast record quite a lot when it came out, but by the summer had lost touch with it (and stupidly passed up on the chance to see them at Thekla). So it was good to be taken through some of the highpoints of a fine collection again on a heedless Friday afternoon in the big tent.

Actually, bounding around onstage, infectious and friendly, Teleman led us through a fair few new songs as well, some of which I cannot give names to (this drives me squirell-y), but which suggested that another equally good record cannot be faraway.

I’m not a big synth and eighties baseline man, which I think it’d be fair to say are Teleman’s signature sound, but such is the strength of their melodies (which are deftly accompanied by Thomas Sanders’ words and polite vocals) that it’s surprisingly easy to forgo the pleasures of fuzztone and farfisa.

The set concluded with a mesmerizingly kraut-ish version of “I’m Not in Control” which set us off on our way with something of a Suuns-ish buzz in our ears. Good stuff.

Steam Train Girl

Strange Combinations

Glory Hallelujah

I’m Not in Control

Passing slowly through the town…

IMG_1570The picture on the left is a souvenir from last week’s Kevin Morby gig. I often hang around the merch stall at gigs but by now have learned to curb my natural urge to buy an ill-advised t-shirt or the support band’s murky CD. But I did buy the t-shirt this time, partly because it looks quite cool, but mostly because, now, I have seen this man and by the looks of things last night, I am one of only 25 West Country folk who actually has…

Kevin Morby, The Louisiana

So anyway, I flew solo down to the Louisiana last Monday evening to see ex-Woods member and (ex?) Babies frontman, Kevin Morby, whose two terrific solo records I think I’ve droned on about before. Both of them are great, I reckon, and have been well-received by press and Twitterati alike, so I was pretty surprised at how few people had come out to see him, the Louie being pretty much empty when I arrived (admittedly early). The contrast between this and the previous night’s Sufjan concert couldn’t have been much stronger. He looked a little pissed off himself, although he graciously thanked those who had showed up, mentioning other good shows in Bristol that evening that might have tempted folk away, but I could see that fresh as he (also) was from End of the Road, it must have been a bit disheartening.

No matter. It was actually a very good show indeed. Dipping in and out of Harlem River and Still Life, he led a drums-guitar-lead trio, with Justin Sulivan and Meg Duffy, that switched to drums-bass-lead once he strapped on the electric guitar. The set went up a notch, at this point, to be honest, and he injected a bit of life into his itchy, awkward songs. “Motors Runnin” and “Harlem River” were particularly blunt, both with extended freakouts to close.

And, all a bit soon, it was over. No encore, and by the end it all felt a little perfunctory. I would like to have heard “Arlo Jones” and perhaps something from the Babies’ records, but there you go. I can understand it, a fine set nonetheless, and the recordings are well worth hearing.

Motors Runnin’

Harlem River

Parade

Sucker in the Void

Even more, they were boys with their cars, summer jobs…

I’ve got all the recordings for Sunday’s Sufjan … experience… sorted out now and picked a few you might be interested in. I’ve thought on the evening long and hard, and considered my immodest, somewhat gushing review of a few days ago.

I regret nothing.

Here. Enjoy, try to ignore the squeaky seat, the audience reactions (I was obviously sat near to a “whooper”), and the ninnies sat in front who managed to kick over their beer at one point; but most of all enjoy:

All of Me Wants All of You

There’s No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross

The Only Thing

John Wayne Gacy Jr (his “murder ballad”)

There’s blood on that blade, fuck me, I’m falling apart…

Sufjan-Stevens-2015Well.

The Green Man sets will have to wait.

I’m still going over and over in my mind a really quite special night at Colston Hall on Sunday – a beautiful, beautiful evening in the company of Sufjan Stevens.

To be honest, I’m going to struggle even more than usual to get thoughts onto paper, it was simply magnificent. I cannot remember ever being swept away by a concert as much as I was, two hours slipped by in the blink of a moistened eye.

Sufjan Stevens at Colston Hall

Haven’t been to Colston Hall for quite a while now and I always forget what an impressive old venue it is. This being a larger gig, all the seats were out and there was an encouraging buzz in the hall as we came in. A quirky, enjoyable set from Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear (who it turns out is Ward’s Mum…) got the evening off to a light start and I might well come back to it at a later date. A deceptively short turnaround meant that I was caught chatting to friends and was left stumbling around in the dark, looking for my seat, apologising profusely, as the main event started. Unforgiveable behaviour…

All forgiven, I like to think, as a long intro moved gracefully into “Death with Dignity”, the opener of the heartrending Carrie and Lowell record. Backed by the ethereal vocals of Dawn Landes; guitarist Casey Foubert; drummer James McAllister and a multi-instrumentalist whose name I missed but bore more than a passing resemblance to Ripley Johnson, Stevens ran through the whole record, mostly (although not religiously) in order. From the first bars of the intro, I was just spellbound and for the first three or four songs I don’t think I moved in my seat at all. When I did, I glanced around me to see other people similarly hooked, a hall full of people looked on, entranced, stupefied…

In my head at least, Sufjan Stevens has become something of a man of mystery. I’ve not bothered to look at any performances of YouTube; I’ve obviously never seen him play, and I don’t think he’s been over here all that much. I know a couple of people who are real Sufjan obsessives and somehow this also adds to something of a disconnect for the rest of us.

And I have to say, he wasn’t quite what I expected; he was, well, bigger – I’d imagined him to be a sensitive and slightly nerdy type. He had a few endearing tics and mannerisms and seemed at times as if he wanted to burst out into ill-advised mime. At one point, he wore a pair of red sunglasses that made him look like a member of a lo-fi Daft Punk. Some of the songs were given a new perspective to how I’d imagined – “All of Me Wants All of You” was particularly different, a whole new light shed onto it by a harder, dancier rhythm track.

After Carrie and Lowell was over, the man went on to a light sprinkling of material from his other albums, and played a generous encore that included perfect versions of Chicago and John Wayne Gacy. And on top of everything, the lights and visuals were also brilliant, genuinely adding an extra dimension of wonder to an already swollen evening.

Reading this back now, it all sounds a little over the top (hyperbole being something of a weakness of mine), and that I’ve got rather over-emotional about the whole thing. Let’s just say, I shall remember the evening for a very, very long time.

The downside of the stunned attentiveness of an entire audience was on occasion the creak of my seat or the slightest rustle around me can be heard on the recordings. I’m afraid as the evening wore on, and people’s weak bladders got the better of them, this got slightly worse (at one point, I can be heard on the recording saying “It’s like being in the Buildbase”…). I’m not finished fiddling around with them yet but I can only say, go with it, take them when I post them (er…, very soon), they’re still great recordings of a special performance…

Here’s a taster:

Death with Dignity

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