Wednesday 31 March 2010

Here Comes The Sun - Music for Maggie's album launch, 28.03.10

Music for Maggie's - Here Comes The Sun album launch @ Maggie's Cancer Caring Centre, Glasgow

Sunday 28th March 2010 - the day when the clocks spring forward and supposedly signal the start of British summer time. It was with this in mind that I named the album I had compiled 'Here Comes The Sun', knowing that the launch would fall on this date.

Sadly, the skies were grey, not blue, with a hint of rain in the air when I arrived at Maggie's Centre in the West End of Glasgow. I work for the charity and when Maggie's announced that their first charity day would be called Love Maggie's Day and encourage people to do something they love, or something for someone they love, I thought I would lead by example and curate and compile a cd of some of my favourite Glasgow bands and artists.

I was thrilled by the response from the artists. Within an a couple of hours of sending the initial email 'Closing Doors' by The Moth & The Mirror had dropped into my inbox. That set the tone for the rest of the album as a whole host of outstanding songs came my way.

I decided to have an intimate and informal launch night at Maggie's Glasgow Centre - keeping with the kind of atmosphere that Maggie's itself aims to create in their centres. Three bands were on the bill, it was bring your own bottle and there was plenty of tea and cakes to go around.

Kicking off the night was Kevin from Little Eskimos. There is a large room at Maggie's Glasgow that is used for practical workshops that help people living with cancer. Relaxation and Stress Management workshops are extremely popular (as you can imagine for people going through a life-changing experience), Look Good Feel Better is a workshop for women living with cancer that does exactly what it says on the tin and helps them adjust to changes in their appearance, there are Tai Chi sessions, writing classes and art therapy.

I've seen so much go on in the Centre and it felt extremely natural for music to take a place in that room. People were sitting on the sofas and chairs with a beer of cup of tea as Kevin took to the 'stage area' at the back of the room. 

Without a warm up Little Eskimos immediately launched into a passionate song entitled (I think) 'The Sailor Song'. Kevin's voice was warm and inviting and not a word was spoken during the length of the song. Warm applause greeted the end before Kevin introduced 'Get Yourself Together Kid', the song that Little Eskimos donated to the Maggie's album. It is a stunning song, catchy, emotive and punchy in all the right places. After a further song that I can't remember, Little Eskimos then played a lovely song called 'Mixtapes' all about love, making up, breaking up and mixtapes, before ending with an outstanding cover of Bowie's 'Five Years'. With some of the audience currently living with cancer the lyrics were powerful and certainly made me think 'we've got five years, that’s all we got'. No-one knows how long they have, or at least very few, but I guess when you have a critical illness it must be something you consider.

After a break for tea and cake Sonny Marvello took to the stage and won some new fans with their witty banter and fabulous songs. Knowing Sonny Marvello as I do, I knew the songs on their set off by heart, yet their semi acoustic set was a little slowed down and stipped back and again the setting of the centre made some of their lyrics stand out.

'Made of Magic' the song on the Here Comes The Sun CD is truly beautiful and the line 'wherever you go, I'll follow that star, you are my only lifeline' caused my spine to tingle. 'Pull Me Up' is an upbeat number that never fails to get people tapping their feet or nodding along in appreciation. 'We're All Cruel', the bands current single, is an epic and the line 'why are your eyes still streaming, don't cry unless you mean it' hit me harder than it had done previously. It was quite an emotional night. There were three guys in the audience that I have got to know well from their use of Maggie's and I know that there have been times when they must have been crying recently.

It was a brilliant set and Stephen Farrell, lead singer, charmed the crowd with his banter about Bowie's drummer failing to realise the song 'Five Years' (that Little Eskimos covered) had ended while he was playing it on The Old Grey Whistle Test. That coupled with mini-mock arguments about what song to play next before settling on the gorgeous 'Don't Wanna Be Held' with it's 60's groove certainly kept people entertained.

After another break it was on to headliners Pooch who played a particularly emotional set. Laura Boyd, on lead vocals, was diagnosed with cancer last year and has visited Maggie's a couple of times. So a number of Laura's family and friends came along to support her.

For those of you unfamiliar with Pooch, they are normally a stomping electro pop band with an energetic live set that involves the four of them hurtling about the stage. While I would quite liked to have seen that, as I was in charge of the centre for the night I was quite relieved that they played a stripped back electro-acoustic set, so nothing was broken!

In all seriousness I was spellbound by Pooch's short 4-song set that they had worked on especially for the night. It showcased their talent, songwriting and in particular Laura's vocal strengths. It could be viewed as lazy journalism to compare Laura to Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but that comparison and with a hint of Beth Ditto from the Gossip was the one that immediately sprung to mind.

With bassist Roddy playing acoustic guitar, drummer Kirsten playing electronic drum pads and a bit of synth and guitarist Stephen also on acoustic guitar, the stripped back set allowed the songs space to breath. The opener captivated the crowd with Laura's vocals rising and falling as the song demanded. Second song in was Masquerade off the Maggie's CD and the band really got into it with Kirsten somehow managing to do about three things at once during the song.

A new song was introduced as being without a title, before it was confirmed on the spot. It was a fragile beauty sung by Roddy and Laura as a duet. It possibly generated the loudest response of the night and again emphasised the songwriting qualities of the band, something that can often be overlooked with a lot of electro acts. The closing song (the name escapes me) closed a fantastic night and there was time for cups of tea and more cake before the centre closed.

The centre was ideal for a small night like this and I will certainly consider putting on a night there in the future.

To buy the Here Comes The Sun cd for Maggie's visit and for more info on Maggie's visit

Sunday 14 March 2010

Sonny Marvello at Stereo 13.03.10

So this is more of a diary than a blog or review, seeing as I manage Sonny Marvello. And what a pleasure that is.

This was the slightly late launch of the bands debut single on Mteropolicana Records due to problems with mastering, pressing, delivery and the drummer going to Japan for 6-weeks.

All of that was forgotten last night when Sonny Marvello took to the stage for their first gig of 2010.

But before that, lets begin at the start of the night. Ross Hamilton AKA Rosco played a short solo set to warm up the crowd before The Cinnamons brought their American college-rock/pop influenced sounds to Stereo. Despite technical problems during their first song this was the best I have seen them. Lead singer Gerry made full use of the large stage, shimmying around to the beats and riffs produced by the rest of the band. Highlights included the single Dead Mans Shoes, Armed Robbery and a glorious Analog Man.

A soundtrack consisting of Wings, Bowie, Motown and Blur brought Sonny Marvello on to the stage before a packed and eagerly awaiting crowd. The band launched straight into debut single Easy Boys with singer Stephen Farrell working his charm on the crowd and giving it his all. The band then played new song Made of Magic for the first time. It's a poppy track that embeds itself in your head on first listen with the closing section being particularly memorable; 'M A G I C what you're made of, is magic'.

Don't Want To Be Held and Whispering Song were old favourites, with the latter drawing a particularly good crowd response before the band played another new song entitled Tiny Little Sparks. Mick Caldwell's guitar was beautiful, this is a song that Chris Martin would be proud of.

The double-a-side We're All Cruel showcased the bands songwriting ability and it sounded big enough for Hampden, never mind Stereo.

Pull Me Up is guitar pop heaven and the crowd were dancing and singing along to one of Sonny's poppiest moments. My Lover kept the crowd dancing and singing, with the band throwing in a little bit of the Bee Gee's Jive Talking for good measure.

There was no way the crowd were going to let them off without an encore and the and dutifully returned to play the excellent Love Ain't Sweet. Another stadium anthem in the making.

This was an excellent night for Sonny Marvello. The money raised will go straight into recordings as the band look to record and release regularly throughout 2010.

Thanks to all that came down

Saturday 13 March 2010

Memory Tapes & Nevada Base at Stereo, 12th March 2010

Stereo is a cracking little venue slap bang in the centre of Glasgow so I was delighted to find out that Memory Tapes were playing there after discovering their Seek Magic album just the week before.

It was a pleasant surprise to find that Nevada Base, one of my favourite Glasgow bands, were supporting. The doors opened at the relatively early time of 7.30pm with the gig having a strict curfew of 10pm to allow for a club to go on afterwards.

The upstairs bar was a busy and it was a slow trickle that came down to catch Nevada Base as they took to the stage at 7.45pm with singer Albert delivering a mocking 'Hello Glasgow' before launching into the opening number.

Nevada Base seem to take their influences from the likes of LCD Soundsystem - nice funky bass, wah wah guitar and short sharp riffs, and lots of synths, with the added bonus of using a keytar when playing live.

Love In My Mind drew the crowd loitering at the bar at the back of the venue closer to the stage and the band seemed to warm to this. They then announced they would be playing an Abba cover that immediately stopped people at the back talking over their pints.

This was no Abba Gold, but a track called The Visitors from Abba's 8th and final studio album of the same name. It was an inspired cover that the trio admitted a friend had suggested to them. Their friend has good taste and I'm downloading the album as I type.

Nevada Base closed with If I'm Late my personal favourite track of theirs. Squelchy synth bass, playful guitars and Alberts dead pan delivery 'If I'm late, then I'm late I don't care, cause being on time doesn't enter my mind.'

Memory Tapes is an alias for Dayve Hawk and he took to the stage backed with a drummer and launched into a mesmorising 30 minute show that if I'm not mistaken was pretty much the album. There wasn't a lot of talking as one track segued seamlessly into the other thanks to the backing tracks.

Hawk clearly has a talent for layering sounds, these range from beautiful backing vocals, to guitars and synths, to pounding beats. Some of the guitar riffs seem to take inspiration from New Order.

The show closes with a 10-minute version of Bicycle that leaves the crowd wanting more but the band refusing to oblige.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Groove Armada, ABC Glasgow, 1st March 2010

Last night started with drinks in The Variety Bar, followed by a lovely dinner at Nanakusa (recommended) and then another drink in the good old State Bar before heading across to the ABC to catch Groove Armada.

Tuts and The Barrowlands will always be my favourite venues in Glasgow, but the ABC is sheer quality. It's been more than a few years since I last caught Groove Armada but their last 3 singles; 'Song For Muyta', 'I Won't Kneel' and 'Paper Romance' have all been top quality, so I thought I'd go and catch them again, despite my reservations about it being a Monday night and having to miss a game of fives.

There was only a DJ for support and upon entering the ABC shortly after 8pm I was surprised to see the place so empty. I knew it hadn't sold out, but Groove Armada always put on a show and have a good strong fan base. My worries soon eased as the place filled up and Groove Armada took to a smoke-filled stage just before 9.15pm to a near full-house.

An energetic and extremely fit blonde girl was on lead vocals for most of the tracks and bodypopped and danced her way through the entire set in a silver sparkly catsuit. 'Song For Muyta' was the second song in, swiflt followed by 'I Won't Kneel'. The band consisted of drums, guitar, bass, keyboards/synth and the lead vocalist, but it was MC Mike Daniels (AKA MAD) that promoted the biggest response of the night when he came out for the encore of 'Superstylin'.

In between 'I Won't Kneel' and 'Supertsylin' the band got Glasgow jumping to an instrumental version of 'If Everybody Looked The Same' and 'My Friend' promoted a mass sing-a-long.

'Chicago' put the groove into Groove Armada and new single 'Paper Romance' was proof that the band are still more than capable of producing inspiring and euphoric dance music.

Just before the kiss-off of 'Supertylin' came the beautiful 'At The River' with Andy Cato on trombone. It was a hands in the air moment before 'Superstylin' got the place absolutely bouncing. 

A great night.

Monday 1 March 2010

Futuristic Retro Champions & Ace City Racers, 13th Note, 27/02/10

Futuristic Retro Champions launched their FRC EP with a packed out show at Glasgow's 13th Note on Saturday night. Such was the demand to see the band, a few people actually watched/listened from the corridor outside.

The band were supported by long-term friends Ace City Racers (formerly Juno!). This was only Ace City Racers 3rd gig, but they showed plenty of promise with songs like 'Radio Candy', City Boys, City Girls' and 'Scenester' going down well with the crowd. The band are heavily influenced by Blur (no bad thing in my book) and frontman James Barker showed that he is capable of Coxon-esque playful guitar riffs and Albarn-esque vocal hooks and delivery.

With the second support band splitting up that very day due to indifferences over the weather (makes a change from artistic differences) it allowed Futuristic Retro Champions the time to play a 45-minute set, re-instating older song 'Epic' along with brand new song 'My Magpie Eyes' and a very special cover.

The size of the crowd charged the band as they romped 'Epic' and 'Speak To Me'. 'Strawberries and Vodka Shots' is a summer anthem in the waiting, during which fans let off confetti guns, yet you could say that for all of the FRC's sugary coated pop songs. 'DIY Lovesong' was full of 'ooohhh waaahhh oooohh's', 'Lets Make Out' is a love song for the Skins generation and 'Count To Ten' is pure pop in it's simplest form.

'Kitten With A Loaded Gun' tells the tale of a teenage temptress with the uplifting chorus exclaiming 'you could take your pick from anyone, you could take your pick from more than one, you were only 16, a little teenage dream, like a kitten with a loaded gun.' While 'Jenna' was a clear fan favourite about a girl who is always last to leave the dancefloor.

'You Make My Heart' and 'Told Ya' kept the pace going before the band ended with an inspired cover version of Bananarama's 'Robert De Niro's Waiting' that brought the house down and left everyone heading into a cold night grinning like Cheshire cats with a warm glow in their hearts.