Lucky Seven – The Joy of Sets

dexys2OK, regular Christmas readers of this organ will remember that it often takes me a while to get into this end of year malarkey, but once I’ve warmed up…

So, anyway, I’m venturing forth and starting with some great gigs I’ve been to this year. I’m always a bit sheepish about recounting my gig tally for the year – usually I can do this on the fingers of both hands, although this year I’ve had to take off my shoes and socks too. (I have buddies who talk about getting close to three figures, think about it…)

That being as it may… here we go, chronologically:.

 

February: King Creosote & Jon Hopkins @ The Fleece, Bristol

My first visit to the Fleece, if I remember rightly, and really enjoyable evening it was too. Hot, pubby, beset with sound problems yet still gentle and intimate. Spent a lot of time following Creosote and his warm, delicate songs, but Hopkins impressed too, sympathetically colouring in around the King’s bold lines. Really nice support spot from Withered Hand too.

Only Living Boy in New York

 

April: Trembling Bells with Bonnie Prince Billy @ Frog & Fiddle, Cheltenham

Possibly my highlight of the year. Oldham was as unconventional as you’d expect, by turns daunting, witty and self-effacing, employing a new and impressive set of quirky gestures and never less than whole-hearted in the delivery of a terrific bag of songs. Trembling Bells were also powerful and more than a little scary, and a storming set was delivered with what can only be described as Gusto.

Every Time I Close my Eyes (We’re back there)

 

June: Anaïs Mitchell & the Young Man Band @ St Bonaventura’s, Bristol

Another massive treat in the warm, DIY surroundings of one of my favourite venues. Performed most of the wonderful Young Man in America record, and a good selection from her earlier stuff, all with affection and intelligence, and was supported expertly by one of the most talented bunch of musicians I’ve seen for ages. And she signed a copy of Hadestown for me.

Saw her later in the year solo in Oxford, which was also brilliant but didn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of this gig.

Tailor

 

June: Andrew Bird @ Trinity Centre, Bristol

Another debut venue, and another beautiful evening in Bristol; and if we’re talking expert musicians you’ve got to tip your hat towards Andrew Bird. I’ve never seen a man play the fiddle like this guy, bowing beautifully, then strumming it like a yuke, then back to the bow all within a verse sometimes. Played a good long, occasionally theatrical set and finished it up with an Ol’ Timey clutch of toons. Didn’t know whether to stroke my beard or grin like a loon…

Desperation Breeds

 

July: Wooden Shjips @ The Fleece, Bristol

This was the steamy, roller coaster of an evening you kinda hope for when Ripley Johnson and his awkward crew lumber on stage. You know what you’re going to get with the Shjips, meandering, uncomplicated and repetitive yet somehow fascinating and complex at the same time. The Elevators of the 21st Century… Another evening where the support band, three young lads from Weston called Towns, added to the fun.

Flight

 

August: Dexy’s @ Green Man

So to the festival season.

Despite the rain, there were some fine moments at Green Man as usual –some of them young (TOY, Savages, Field Music), some of them old (Van) and lots of them Welsh (Cate le Bon, H Hawkline, Sen Segur, Pen Pastwn). But the most enjoyable set of the weekend came from the wild-eyed bugger himself. Only managing to get through 5 or 6 numbers in his hour (so gloriously teased-out was each one), Rowlands, and a band that included long-suffering confidante Pete Williams; Mick Talbot and spurned chantoose Madeleine Hyland mugged their way through a hugely pleasing set. Highlights included This Is What She is Like, Lost and a gigantic version of Come On Eileen. Wow!

Lost

 

August: Woods @ End of the Road

There were some even better sets at my End of the Road debut this year too. Honourable mentions should go to Yeti Lane, Gravenhurst, First Aid Kit, TOY (again) and a bedraggled Midlake, but my favourite section of the weekend was Saturday afternoon’s belter from Woods. Their records often major on the slightly fey, slightly geeky tones of Jeremy Earl’s vocals and Woods’ bubblegum sound. On stage. however, the shackles were off and some great garage-y, psychedelic meandering went on. We also heard a lot of stuff which was new then, but which appeared on Autumn’s Bend Beyond.  Happy daze.

Cali in a Cup

Yeti Lane – a few more recordings…

I’ve bought the most recent Yeti Lane record, The Echo Lake and a friend has given me a copy of their first album. And to be honest I’m going a bit Yeti crazy. The more I hear, the more I want of their plush, glowing sounds…

I’ve also been going through the recording I made at End of the Road – it’s great, probably one of my best.

Six slices of warm, intimate electonica.

Fill yer boots…

Wave

The Echo Show

Sparkling Sunbeam

Warning Sensations

Dead Tired

Analogue Wheel

It comes on strong, waits till I’ve gone…

Genuinely can’t decide about this month’s Hot New Act, TOY. Lots of people talking about them, of course, and their record  has just come out to some sort of fanfare all around…

TOY

I’ve seen them play twice this summer and both times were pretty exhilarating affairs, lots of sonic boom and feeding back, liberal amounts of dry ice, great look and all the rest…

The record has its moments… not quite as good as I hoped, not quite as “murky” really; and nowhere near as good as their live performances. I like the mumbled vocals and repetitive rhythm guitar assault. I really like the reedy, Joe Meek-style organ that niggles away through a good few of the tracks. Not so keen on the tone (or tonelessness) of the feller’s voice when it does come through or the slower more ponderous tracks that wind the record down.

Guess it all comes down to whether you associate them with My Bloody Valentine (in which case they’re shamelessly derivative) or whether you listen to them with a psychedelic (or even motorik) helmet on, in which case, they’re bang on…

Here are a couple of tracks recorded over the summer, one at each festival (the two sets were pretty much identical btw…)

Motoring @ Green Man

Strange @ End of the Road

And here’s some video I shot of TOY at Green Man doing “Dead & Gone”:

I’m going for the drones of the Seventies….

End of the Road – a couple of videos

Best two sets of the weekend, I reckon…

 

 

End of the Road ’12 – Best Sets of the Weekend

So that was End of the Road. Lordy!

I had a ball, really, a much brighter experience than Green Man this year. To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s because of the weather (GM = foul; EotR = mostly fine), but for me End of the Road far outshone Green Man in pretty much every respect. I was very impressed with EotR – they just seemed to do everything right.

Hmmm… next year…

Lucky Seven – Best of End of the Road ‘12

I’ve not been entirely idle since then. As usual I have a mountain of recordings, some of which I’ll post about soon, some of which I may never use. But while I’m sorting myself out, I thought I’d put together a Best of… compilation of some of the recordings I have. It’s hardly exhaustive – I saw some great sets and by all accounts missed some great sets too. Also some of the great sets were not unfortunately great recordings (combination of wind on the mic / being surrounded by gibbering ninnies / being a gibbering ninny myself…)

Anyway here goes:

Midlake – “Roscoe”

A combination of a long day and the first rain of the weekend meant I was hanging on a bit when Midlake made their way onto the Garden Stage. Pretty much straight away however, I was woken up by a really accomplished performance, mixing material from The Courage of Others and The Trials of Van Occupanther with a few new songs. Lovely set which the band themselves seemed to really enjoy. All very good mannered too…

 Alt-J – “Tessellate”

Nearly missed this set altogether, drinking and chatting with friends, and when we rolled up at the Big Top, we were met with the biggest crowd I saw in there all weekend. Once we’d elbowed our way in (and I’d lost all the people in was with), Alt-J put on a really tight performance, going through most of their record, in what felt like an absolute sauna. Indeed at times it felt like listening to the recording itself so polished was their performance (I don’t mean that in a bad way…)

Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard – “Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song”

Didn’t really know anything about Jeffrey Lewis and actually missed his scheduled Garden Stage spot earlier on the Friday. Fortunately, he did a few songs later on that evening in the Tipi Tent. What a character he is! His songs were alternately garage-y, throw-away, poignant and always funny. Another highlight was his PowerPoint presentation on the history of Punk Rock on the Lower East Side 1950-75, all written in limerick form, which really needs YouTubing…

First Aid Kit – “Emmylou”

Another set that was packed out, and which I also nearly missed part of was this one by First Aid Kit. I really didn’t realise they were so popular, but with hindsight there was a bit of a buzz about them for most of the previous day. Just the three of them but they made an enormous noise and went down very well.

I Was Gone – Woods

The reason I was late for First Aid Kit was that I simply couldn’t tear myself away from Woods on the Main Stage, who were a bit geeky at first but really started to cut loose about half way through and by the end were really “wigging out” (I think the term is…). Once I’d got used to Jeremy Earl’s high pitched vocals, it was all good from there…

Analogue Wheel – Yeti Lane

About half way through the weekend I started to feel that I was spending too much time seeing bands I knew, (and in some cases had seen before), and not enough time investigating new bands. So for that reason, I ditched Patti Smith and went to see French psychedelic duo Yeti Lane. Best decision of the weekend, didn’t regret it for a second. The duo consisted of a drummer with electronic noodling duties and another “wigging out” guitarist. Particularly liked their retro, Doctor Who-style electronics desk…

Ghost of St Paul – Gravenhurst

Last set of the weekend was Gravenhurst, who again I didn’t know at all, but was realty impressed by. A really quiet, precise set that finished rather too quickly and prompted me to buy the last two releases.

A lovely weekend altogether…

Best of End of the Road ‘12

Won’t Fear the Sun…

I’m beginning to get my teeth stuck into this pile of recordings left over from last summer, and finding some real gems…

Wooden Shjips

Somehow I missed this recording, again made by my good friend Marcus, again at End of the Road.  As before, can’t say a whole lot about the set, other than that the performance seems pretty faithful to the records (remarkably so, to be honest) and that the sound is a bit muddy (but that’s OK it kinda favours Ripley Jonson’s playing….)

I’ve only fairly recently grown to love Wooden Shjips, especially the haunting vocals and the equally spooky keyboards of Nash Whalen, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them at the Fleece in the summer. I like the sludgy, bass-driven sound they’ve fashioned (and keep returning to) and approve of the way they doggedly refuse to move on from it. Something very Sky Saxon and Daryl Hooper about it all…

Wooden Shjips @ End of the Road, 2011

Black Smoke Rise

Lazy Bones

Motorbike

Fallin’

For So Long

And while we’re at it…

“You’re frightened,” she said “No one can hear us at all”

I had some time on my hands yesterday and was feeling a little idle, so I started rummaging through the pile of untouched recordings I have from last summer, including a few that my friend Marcus made for me at last year’s End of the Road. Turned out there were a few unidentified ones (I say “unidentified”, but let’s be fair, I’d not really looked at them at all) and amongst them was a set from one of the Austin Psych Fest bands, Austin’s marvellous Black Angels.

The Black Angels

To be honest, I’m not really sure how I’ve not picked up on the Black Angels before, them being the massive Elevators devotees that they clearly are. Apart from that (and the obvious Austin, Texas connection), Wikipedia also tells me they spent part of 2008 as Roky Erickson’s backing band. [Scratches head]

I wasn’t at End of the Road last year (that’s sorted for this year…), so I can’t tell you much about the set itself, except that it sounds pretty darn good and I wish I’d been there. It features some full of beans guitar work, punky, spikey drumming and what sounds heart-warmingly like an electric jug in a couple of songs (I’m sure it isn’t, but kudos for getting an effects pedal that sounds like an electric jug…).

I give you, the Black Angels at End of the Road ’11:

Sniper at the Gates of Heaven

Sniper

Haunting at 1300 McKinley

Sunday Afternoon

Yellow Elevator #2 / Black Grease

Entrance Song

And while we’re at it, here’s a video (not one of mine, thanks to Acstalker) of the Angels doing “Telephone” (unfortunately not on the tape):

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