Monthly Archives: July 2009
Birmingham’s 7 year old Supersonic festival has gradually expanded to a 3 day line-up but thankfully the best attractions are usually reserved for Saturday. Since All Tomorrow’s Parties descended into self-parody, it has become probably the most credible alternative as the UK’s best festival of international underground music (even if it does feature an unhealthy amount of metal-based garbage). So once again, the afternoon of the 25th of July found me heading up the motorway to the Midlands suppressing the impending trauma of the first coach service back to London at 5am the following morning.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the night was Continue Reading →
Last night I found myself in London’s (un)fashionable Shoreditch at a monthly “electro party” with the rather unpleasant name, “Dollop”. The bar was full of moustachio’ed buffoons who will be able to reflect comfortably on their sartorial misdemeanours in a few short years.
I am happy to report however, that the scene upstairs was slightly different. The Old Blue Last is actually a great venue with a high, black back-dropped stage and impressive sound. O. Children, the only live act of the night, are fronted by a statuesque model type with a croon pitched somewhere between Adam Green and Paul Banks of Interpol. The rhythm section sport the kind of hair-cuts that take up hours of valuable rehearsal time and the guitarist looks like the kind of lad who your mum would like to cook a nice meal for. Musically, it’s the kind of slightly dark, 80s-tinged electro-pop embraced by the bright young things which doesn’t seem to want to go away in a hurry.
The good news is that O. Children have a strong grasp of the dynamics of a good alt-pop tune and also know a hook when it looks them in the face. Singer Tobias can command a room but also has that tiny degree of gawkish self-consciousness that will make him likeable, if not adorable to girls and guys up and down the land. A brief, energy-charged set convinces everyone in the room and they are on their way. Tobias’ closing words, “Remember the name, O. Children”.
Keep ’em peeled.
I’ve been visiting my home town this weekend; you know, the one that’s “famous for trip hop and slavery” (that’s what the programme for this exhibition says anyway).
Banksy is surely now Bristol’s most famous son; eclipsing Cary Grant, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Thomas Chatterton, Russ Conway, Massive Attack, The Wurzels, Tricky and even Fred Wedlock. There is no greater evidence of this than the several hundred person long queue that has stretched down into Park Row all day, every day from the 13th June this year and will no doubt, continue to do so until 31st August when this free exhibit ceases. I took the opportunity to experience the phenomenon and joined the hoards at 10.15 on Sunday morning, finally entering the gallery about 70 minutes later. Glancing around during this time I realised that the line was largely comprised of fairly conventional looking Bristolian families, the kind of people who 10 years back would probably have denounced the work of a graffiti artist as a social menace. Now along with a revisionist Bristol City Council they have embraced the celebrity-friendly recidivist as a symbol of unity and prosperity for a city starved of national attention since the early 90s trip hop halcyon. Continue Reading →
My friends, The Saskatoons have a couple of new songs up on their MySpace page. Their mainman Ross, hails from the West Midlands and his love of the country/Americana vibe led to him christening his label “Black Country Records”. An EP will be out on the afore-mentioned imprint in the near future. In the meantime go and have a listen.
By the way, did I mention I recorded and mixed the sessions for them?
This weekend I hitched along to the 5th Field Farm Festival with my friends Coconut Monkey who were part of the Saturday afternoon line-up.
You won’t have heard of it and you probably won’t have heard of any of the bands that were on the bill and you also won’t be that familiar with the concept of a festival such as this i.e. it’s not about a “lifestyle choice” (like all those bullshit “boutique” festivals) and it ain’t some sort of corporate pig circus (like…well, you name it really), it’s actually about the music (to paraphrase Neil Young). Field Farm is a great day in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside, it’s totally free, the bands don’t go for the money cos there isn’t any and it’s full of people out to enjoy a wide range of performers (largely from the local area) and a drink or two. It’s a great set-up with 2 stages in a large farm building, good loud PA, bar with local beers and free camping. The whole thing is run on pulled-in favours and it’s a great example of how some real enthusiasm and a bit of community-spirit can produce an excellent, well-organised event.
As well as Coconut Monkey (who helped turn my birthday party in January into the best night ever) I’m going to give a shout-out to Alpha Road, Our Escape and Devilfork whom I particularly enjoyed.
I imagine there are lots of similar things going on up and down the country and indeed, around the world. So why not do a bit of digging about, find one near you and get yourself along?
Edit 2012: Field Farm Festival is sadly no longer with us but countless other small festivals have sprung up around the UK since 2009.
My Biog page mentions the “dogma of punk” which is something I experienced first-hand in the late 70s. I just beat my brother to it by owning the first “punk” single in our household in 1977 – The Stranglers’ “Go Buddy Go/Peaches”. On the same day he bought “The Crunch” by The Rah Band which we both thought was punk because they wore bin-liners on TOTP. However, being five years my senior he soon became the authority on punk due to his attendance at a tough Bristol comp.
One of the rules that he brought home with him was the fact that you were only allowed to like punk music or in the eyes of other punks you would be viewed as a fraud or specifically a “poser”. This was the ultimate humiliating insult when your musical credibility was on the line so it became a directive I clung firmly to. When I gained precocious entrance to my senior school this proved of great value. Kids who previously wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence now deigned to actually take an interest in me once they’d found out about my collection of Sex Pistols jap imports.
Those who had no particular musical allegiance were also dismissed as posers, I remember clearly the disdain with which one of my brother’s friends was regarded for issuing the statement “I quite like Blondie, actually”. I disowned Blondie in 1980 when Debbie Harry made the announcement that they were going disco on TOTP. My kind of behaviour was perpetrated by a large element of the punk scene and even encouraged by elements of the press with “sell-outs” being exposed on a weekly basis. You wouldn’t believe it now but back than it was a reality. The battle-lines had been drawn early on and we all had to decide which side of the bed we’d been lying on.
The reality was much different – Johnny Rotten’s 1977 Capital Radio interview included music by the likes of Peter Hammill and The Third Ear Band, Keith Levene was a big Yes fan (even rumoured to be Steve Howe’s roadie shortly before joining The Clash), Pete Shelley loved Can and Joe Strummer was a Springsteen/Dylan Obsessive, to name but 4 of the “guilty” few.
Of course, in retrospect it was all utterly absurd especially as The Stranglers – much as I loved them were just a speeded up R n B band who, by their own admission, had jumped the bandwagon and Blondie had clearly always been a disco band anyway. It’s funny to see how the party-line Chinese-whispered its way out to the provincial playgrounds. At least I had the excuse of only being 8 or 9 years old.
All of which brings me to why I love this clip so much – the long-haired hippy in the front row loves The Clash more than anyone else in the place!
It’s highly probable that the source of all this dogma was Bernard Rhodes, the manager of The Clash. Rhodes was an ardent Marxist and is viewed by many to be the true architect of the UK punk scene. A close associate of Malcolm McLaren, it was Rhodes who both initiated the birth of the Sex Pistols and discovered Johnny Rotten, inviting him to the famed miming audition at the Roebuck pub. Joe Strummer was so inspired by Rhodes’ vision that he adopted a year zero approach which involved sacking many of his friends as well as his band, The 101ers – a move that (understandably) rankles some, even to this day. It’s a similar dogmatic approach to that employed by fellow musical Marxists, Ewan MacColl with his region-specific school of folk revivalism in the 50s and Cornelius Cardew’s early 70s denouncement of the avant-garde in favour of an idealised proletarian popular song.
Thankfully, the birth of a post-punk “scene” within about 18 months of year zero brought with it a welcome and vital musical cross-pollination. You can read all about that in Simon Reynolds’ excellent “Rip It Up And Start Again”.
So it looks like my brother was right buying “The Crunch” all along.