Saturday 28 May 2011

Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire at Oran Mor, 27th May 2011

Roddy Hart and his band The Lonesome Fire displayed all the signs of a band on the way up at a sold out Oran Mor last night. Riding high in confidence on the back of the Forever Young - Bob Dylan birthday concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in January, Hart and his band flew through their back catalogue and played a few new songs to boot.

Support band the Sunshine Social played a short acoustic set, with Hart and co determined to have their equipment set up and ready to go. The highlight of the set was a stunning song that the singer played at the end called 'Bones' that moved him to tears. It was emotional and the young guy was baring his heart and soul on stage, resulting in a hug from his band mates afterwards.

The Lonesome Fire is now a 6-piece band as Hart continues to develop his sound; think Petty mixed with Dylan, The Band and Springsteen. With two (sometimes 3) electric guitars (Roddy is normally on acoustic), there is a real warmth and depth on stage.

Opening with a new song, the band barely let up for the first few songs until Roddy welcomes and thanks the crowd. 

Throughout the course of the night and the between song banter we learn that Roddy has had a busy day; finishing a song (that he plays along at the piano with the lyrics in front of him), attending a mate from uni's wedding and playing two songs, getting stuck on the M8 on the way ack(checking to see if someone who tweeted him to say they were stuck has arrived) and playing a packed Oran Mor!

There are many highlights from the night, I should really take a pen and paper to gigs to get the setlist, but I go to gigs to enjoy them, not to take notes. So in no particular order;

'She Is All I Need' was a searing blast of American rock with Hart on harmonica; 'Home' received one of the biggest cheers of the night and rightly so, with beatutiful guitar work and Hart's voice at its best.

'Send A Message' is epic pop with eches of U2 and Coldplay at times, Petty and the Heartbreakers at times, particularly towards the end when it moves up through the gears with the; 'send send, send send the message' section with a gorgeous stadium size (yet delicate) guitar riff.

The band rip through a song called 'A Girl Named Joe' and afterwards we learn that it originated from a jam session with Ryan Adams, although he ended up collapsed in a corner, so Hart finshed the song. It was good fun guitar pop.

'Take Me Home' was another cracker, harmonies reaching skywards, a lovely piano riff taing the song all the way.

'Edge of Love' is stunningly beautiful, the band seem to work as one throughout the night and Hart ensures they are well thanked and name checked to applause from the crowd.

'I will take away your loneliness and fear, to the edge of love I will follow you my dear'

'Bright  Light Fever' is one of a number of new songs thrown into the set, it is another epic song with the band really going for it. A possible future single (to my ears anyway), this is a song that the band clearly enjoy playing, I could imagine it being played and enjoyed at festivals.

'Mercy Boat' ends the night in stunning fashion, Hart's lyrics are among his best, his voice throughout the night is sensational, rising and falling when required, roaring and straining in all the right places, backed up superbly on harmonies by the Lonesome Fire.

'it might take time, strength, prayers, we'll get there'

This summer will see the CD release of his third album Road of Bones (currently available on LP here) and I am sure that the band will kick on from there. I'd highly recommend going to see them live the next time they are in town, although if you fancy a trip to Paisley they play there in June.

Friday 27 May 2011

Five for a Friday

In what may or may not become a regular post, here are five songs for your weekend.

I discovered this gem on the St Etienne mix album The Trip. This is just sublime, the vocals are reminiscent of a young Michael Jackson, the musicianship is tremendous, the feeling of the playing and the production just oozes soul. This is Foster Sylvers with the 1973 track Misdemeanor.

Next up we have Glasgow art school combo Orange Juice with this outrageous slice of pop-soul-funk. I've got this on 12-inch and the sticker in the middle looks like a sliced orange - I love that kind of stuff - geek.

For some reason when i search to post the 'long version' it doesn't come up - how annoying, so click HERE

For my third choice it is one of my all time favourite songs, the original version of Come Together by Primal Scream. Utterly magical pop music, later transformed into a gospel house anthem by Andy Weatherall for the Screamdelica album. I never knew this version existed until I bought it on 7-inch vinyl out of the original Missing Records many moons ago.

Again, youtube isn't letting me embed it so click on the link above.

Moving forwards we come a little bit more up to date with this track featuring two of my favourite acts/artists; Hot Chip with Bernard Sumner. This is pure old school with Bernard clearly relishing the chance to produce something of note after the demise of New Order.

We end with track number 5, a recent discovery through Moshi Moshi, this is Clock Opera with the sublime Belongings

Thursday 26 May 2011

Miaoux Miaoux 'Hey Sound' single launch at Mono

Miaoux Miaoux played Mono in Glasgow on Tuesday it was the launch party for his new single ‘Hey Sound’ b/w ‘Cloud Computer’ released through the lovely label Eli & Oz. I was pretty blown away.

It is a little over a year since I got hooked on Miaoux Miaoux, he was  playing a Glasgow Podcart night in the 13th Note shortly after the release of his ‘Blooms’ EP that I had ordered online. I then started managing him and I like to think we have had a pretty productive relationship to date and I am certainly excited about the next stage.

Not that being manager makes me biased, if I thought a song or gig was crap I would say so. Well I would say to Julian, I wouldn’t blog about it. I only tend to write about things I enjoy.

Miaoux Miaoux was superbly supported on the night by Nevada Base and Japanese War Effort and a DJ set by the lovely Lloyd from the Peenko blog. Sadly I missed Nevada Base’s debut show with new drummer Calum, although everyone seemed to be raving about his performance and that of the band when I arrived, just in time to see Japanese War Effort.

Jamie, who is Japanese War Effort, is clearly a guy who is head over heels in love with music and sound and all the variety that can bring. Jamie also plays in the rather gorgeous Conquering Animal Sound. Japanese War Effort is Jamie on his own, a chance to experiment a little more, to sing and to engage with the audience with his own unique sense of humour and personality, he is a very engaging guy.

Highlight of the set had to be the song with the lovely lyric (something like); 

‘why would you finger a stranger when you can f**k someone you love?’

Good question Jamie!

Lloyd from Peenko put a great big smile on my face when he played the Ghostbusters theme and ‘In The Jungle’ prior to Miaoux Miaoux taking to the stage. Mono is one of my favourite haunts in Glasgow, it has a record shop that is staffed by Stephen Pastel and the lovely Dep, it is out of the way – so people only go there for a purpose; the aforementioned record shop, the selection of vegan food, the atmosphere, the art, the people.....It also has a nice big sky dome that lets in natural light, unlike the huge collection of basement venues in Glasgow.

Julian played a magical set that spanned his discography to date and beyond; ‘The Colours of Glass’ was the perfect set opener, taken from the debut instrumental album ‘Rainbow Bubbles’. It allowed Julian to play with his gadgets and show off his ear for melody. It all looks so easy. I forget the exact set order but I think ‘Pixellated’ from the 2010 ‘Blooms’ EP was next. It was the best I have heard it.

Miaoux Miaoux’s music, ear for sound and productions skills as been quite widely written/blogged about, yet lyrically this guy is pouring his hear out; either about falling in love, being in love, having doubts, breaking up, making up and around again.

Every single day, of every single life, starts to vibrate alive in the summer time
You are a power source, you are an atom bomb, you are nothing at all

New song ‘Autopilot’ has been generating a great response when played live since its first outing earlier this year. Last night was no exception, the squelchy bass and semi distorted beats set the tone, with Julian’s angelic voice

'it's very sad to see you,this unhappy, 
when you're with me'

Julian is a tall guy and can spend a lot of the show hunched over his equipment, so when he stretched to his full height and curled his arms around the microphone, eyes shut and sang;

'I love you and I'm leeting you go'

It was pretty powerful stuff, 'Autopilot' is an emotional song.

Last years single ‘Knitted’ (that came out in knitted sleeves and there is still 6 or 7 left) is sublime. Beautiful electronic pop with almost wah wah style guitar.

‘and it’s your fault, and it’s mine, and it’s nothing, and it’s all of the problems, and it’s beautiful.....’

And on to the single that was being launched on the night. 'Hey Sound' is pure pop, yet clever with it with the closing instrumental taking on an almost tribal feel.

The b-side is the instrumental 'Cloud Computer' that contains a gloriously beautiful guitar riff that always remains with me for days after I hear it.

It was brand new song 'Stop the Clocks' that stopped me in my tracks last night. Opening with a folkie guitar riff over a huge beat before morphing into epic electro and closing in a blast of white noise. 

Julian had played me a very rough demo a few months back, him with an acoustic guitar riff and vocal melody. To hear the finished live result was a amazing, I can't wait to hear it on record.

'Snow' ended the set, the glorious guitar riff went on for ages, the vocal refrain was sung lustily by a few in the crowd.

This was an epic performance, I look forward to the next one. Come King Tuts in July, Miaoux Miaoux may be finished his album. I hope there is a label out there that will take it on and give this fabulous artist the exposure he deserves.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Alcohol and Music - Sailor Jerry's present Pete & the Pirates

Alcohol and music pretty much go hand in hand, I’m sure that goes without saying for many of you reading this blog!

In recent years the drinks industry has recognised the significance of the live music audience and moved to ‘get in there’ (Scottish football fans expression) and ‘get about it’ (another one). This has been tried and tested on various different levels.

This week will see Sailor Jerry’s put on a night at Stereo with Pete and the Pirates, to tie in with Sailor Jerry Spiced, with the crowd invited to get ‘torn into’ (another good Scottish expression) a number of combinations including Sailor and Ginger and Sailor and Cola.

Amazingly, I have been getting some rather good hits/visits to my blogs since I started writing regularly and someone got in touch asking if I would go to this gig. As someone who was converted to the wonder of Sailor Jerry’s by Sonny Marvello, I immediately asked if there was any space on the bill for them, sadly there wasn’t but I fully intended to go along and sample the wares anyway.

Until I realised that this weekend is absolutely manic for me and I had completely forgotten that I’m going to see Roddy Hart and the Lonesome Fire at Oran Mor on Friday.

Anyway, it got me thinking about Drinks companies and their increasing forays into the live music market, in turn prompting this blog. So I’ll look at Sailor Jerry’s, but also Miller, Guinness and Carling who have all got involved in the music scene in Glasgow over the last few years.

Sailor Jerry’s
I first heard about Sailor Jerry’s at the wedding of Sonny Marvello’s singer Stephen to his lovely wife Hayley. I was fed up of beer and needed a spirit. Low and behold, Mick and Craig from the band produced Sailor Jerry’s and with simple mix of coke and ice I was back in the mood to party, suitably refreshed and recharged. They seem to be a drinks brand going quietly about their business and generating recommendations through word of mouth and some clever advertising.

Sailor Jerry’s are no stranger to live gigs; in recent times they have put on gigs by rising bands The Joy Formidable and Mystery Jets. So they clearly have someone with their ear to the ground in terms of rising bands, indeed Pete and the Pirates latest single ‘Come To The Bar’ has been deemed ‘hottest record in the world’ by Zane Lowe. So they may just have their ear to Radio 1 rather than the ground!

Pic by Stephen Guillock

So Pete and the Pirates headline Stereo on Friday 27th May,tickets are a mere £5 with no booking fee and they are available from You can also visit where you can win a signed guitar and there will be regular giveaways through the year.

“we can't wait to play Sailor Jerry Presents and we always have fun when in Glasgow so it's going to be a great show" - Pete and the Pirates

Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins was the father of old-school American tattooing. Sailor Jerry preserves the legacy of Norman Collins and celebrates his old-school values of independence, hard work, and unyielding standards of craftsmanship. 

So there is a good link between independent up and coming bands who like to get out on tour and .....are good. It will be interesting to see how Sailor Jerry’s relationship with music develops. They seem to be ‘targetting’ a certain market and my own opinion is that they are choosing a good selection of bands and venues and Glasgow will naturally feature regularly given our love of live music and drink.

Pete and the Pirates seem to be a band on the rise, so with the mix of some Sailor Jerry’s and an excellent venue, this could be a good night. This is the first one I’ve heard about, so I look forward to seeing who they put on next.

My introduction to Alcohol Companies using the live music market to enhance and promote their brand was through Miller Genuine Draft and their series of monthly gigs in Glasgow and Edinburgh circa 2006-2007/8 (I lose track of time). The concept was simple – get two of the hottest and best bands around, get them in a cool venue, promote it well, make it free (you had to text) and get the beers in – Miller only though of course.

I went to a number of gigs at the Mill in both Glasgow and Edinburgh and two of the bands I went on to manage; Futuristic Retro Champions and Sonny Marvello, played at the nights they put on. So looking back I can assess them as a music fan, from a band/management perspective and in reflection on what they brought to the live music scene. I can also hazard a guess at what they got out of it. So I’ll do just that!

Music fan
The Mill gigs were weekly (yes that’s right – weekly) gigs in both Glasgow and Edinburgh. I think that not only highlights the number of bands in and around those cities, but also the quality. I recently met with the girl in charge of these nights and she wouldn’t put on any old crap, nor would the brand wish to be associated with terrible music. So as a music fan you had access to regular quality music in great venues – for free!

The Mill (Miller) promoted the sh*t out of these gigs with adverts in The Skinny, The List and on billboards throughout each city. So if you were an ‘out and about’ type of person, you really couldn’t miss the fact that they were on. This is a major plus point for bands, they knew that there was a very good chance indeed that they would be playing to people who had never seen them before in a great venue with a great sound system (several plus points).

To make things even better The Mill gigs were filmed at broadcast quality, a superb marketing tool for any aspiring band, something that would have cost them thousands. Check out the example below.

Sonny Marvello, 'Whispering Song' live at The Mill

They were also recorded through the mixing desk – yet another plus point, I’ve lost count already. Oh and the bands got a crate of beer each!

Music Scene
Miller brought a sense of excitement to the music scene, you would often hear ‘who is on at The Mill this week’ in conversations about what to do that week/night. They also brought a sense of trust – good bands, good venue, good sound system and all for FREE. They did of course have a huge budget in which to do this.

Miller must have spent a small fortune on the series of gigs. In actual fact I know they did, and it must have run easily into the high hundreds of thousands of pounds. So was it worth it? I’m going to say yes (I also hope it was as they deserve it). They got their brand out there, they did it over a sustained period ensuring raised levels of awareness, they got people talking about Miller and they certainly got people drinking Miller. Through the gigs they got direct access to their target market, there were questionnaires and research.

I would love them to do it again. I doubt Sailor Jerry's have the budget of Miller, but it would be worth a look at their model.

Carling were the former sponsors of the O2 Academy in Glasgow. This meant that their brand was promoted to hundreds of thousands of people through listings, tickets, adverts, promotions and through the actual sale of the lager in the venue.

So if Miller adopted a ‘hands on’ approach you can certainly say that Carlin were going in at a much higher level. Now I could only guess at how much Carling paid per year to sponsor the Academy. It must have been a fair whack.

Going at things in a different manner (as you would half expect from the Irish) are Guinness who sponsored Snow Patrol’s Bellahouston Park show last year. I was up in Inverness for Rock Ness at the time, so I don’t know what extent they sponsored the show to, but I do know that the second stage for unsigned bands was sponsored by Guinness. Putting on a big show like Bellahouston costs a small fortune, so to have the backing of a major company like Guinness eases the burden. It probably kept the ticket price down by a good few pounds! I’m also sure Snow Patrol like their Guinness!

So to summarise
Well it isn’t rocket science. Alcohol companies can align their brand with cool bands, get direct access to cool people (yeah OK, we’re not all cool, more of their target audience) and research opinions. In a way I guess this is ‘direct marketing’, just in a clever roundabout way.

And bands get a boost in promotion and occasionally some money in their pocket, certainly a drink in their hand!

It would appear that if the drinks company do their job well, the bands put on a show and people turn up, then everyone is a winner..?

Monday 23 May 2011

Echo & the Bunnymen - Ocean Rain

I was too young to get into the Bunnymen in their 80's pomp, however when they released the glorious 'Nothing Ever Lasts Forever' in 1997 it was enough to prompt me to explore their back catalogue; especially after catching them at the Barrowlands that year. McCulloch was icy cool, the band were bathed in dry ice, this was guitar pop with ambition, style, an edge and confidence.

My friend has just bought us front row tickets for their Glasgow Royal Concert Hall performance of their 1984 self proclaimed masterpiece 'Ocean Rain'. So I thought I would revisit the album.

As opening songs go 'Silver' is impressive. It flows along and McCulloch is in great form

'just look at you with burning lips, you're living proof at my finger tips'

The song, like a lot of the album, is allowed the space to breath and develop, with acoustic guitar underpinning everything, allowing Will Sergeant's chiming guitar to shine when used and the strings lift the song towards the end.

There is quite a dramatic change in style for 'Nocturnal Me' with the bands love of The Doors (they later covered and released 'People Are Strange') influence shines through. The music has an operatic feeling to it with a military style beat at moments. The 35-piece orchestra employed by the band for this album get free reign to add to the dark and moody atmosphere.

You can pack a lot into a 2 minute and 26 second pop song, as admirably demonstrated by the Bunnymen with 'Crystal Days' . Like 'Silver' the acoustic guitar drives the song along without being over-bearing, almost in the background. I wonder how much of the album was written on acoustic guitar.

Here am I

Whole at last with a golden view
Looking for hope
And I hope it's you
Splitting my heart
Cracked right in two
The pleasure of pain endured
To purify our misfit ways
And magnify our crystal days

McCulloch uses every trick he can on this album and the recurring use of 'hope' in each verse is extremely clever. The first verse has the line above and the second verse is;

Where are you

In shadows only I can see
Looking for hope
And you hope it's me

While the third verse goes back to the first but replaces the second 'hope' with 'know'. It is so simple, yet so effective. As is the electric guitar riff that kicks in after every chorus, I could probably learn it in a day. Simple and pure pop.

The song is under two and a half minutes long yet there is still time for a lengthy solo with strings,  'Crystal Days' has become one of my favourite Bunnymen songs.

'The Yo Yo Man' revisits some of the darker LA bands from the 60's like The Doors and Love. 

(I'm the yo-yo man)

Flames on your skin of snow turn cold
(Always up and down)
Cold is the wind that blows through my headstone
Collecting the bones of my friend tonight
Sowing the seeds in a fruitless land
You know when prayers all hit the ground
There is no higher hand

If I'm honest, it isn't one of my high points of the album, yet it still showcase the bands music ambition and McCulloch's poetic skills.

'Thorn of Crowns' is one of the strangest songs in the Bunnymen cannon, sounding like a loose jam at times with crazy lyrics, exploding into a glorious yet all to brief riff at 1 minute 27 seconds (and 2mins35) at others, white noise and feedback on occassion.


Men on Mars
April showers

If 'Thorn of Crowns' sounds like it was conceived out of (or is) a jam, then the remaining tracks on the album are absolutely sublime examples of songwriting and the Bunnymen at their majestic best.

'The Killing Moon' is just f**king fantastic. It flows and it glows. Mac is at his poetic best

In starlit nights I saw you

So cruelly you kissed me
Your lips a magic world
Your sky all hung with jewels
The killing moon
Will come too soon

The song rises at the right moments, it takes the listener on a journey and Mac is the pied piper, with songs like this it is no wonder that devoted fans followed the band around the UK to places as exotic as Shetland as they attempted to mark out a tour map in the shape of a bunny!

The strings are gorgeous, Sergeant's guitar knows when to be heard and when to remain silent and yet again the acoustic guitar lets the song breath and flow. The song got to number 9 in the UK charts when released as a single. Check this video of the band playing it live on The Tube back in the day.

If 'Crystal Days' shows what the band can do in under three minutes then 'The Killing Moon' is the platform for them to show what they can do in just under six - stunning!

'Seven Seas' keeps the momentum going and it is more pure pop with acoustic guitar, chiming electric, Mac crooning and strings soaring. The bass riff holds it all together.

'My Kingdom' gets into the groove from the off and McCulloch is in playful mood with his lyrics and delivery, all underpinned by by Will Seregant's acoustic guitar before he lets loose on electric at the end. McCulloch's love of the Velvets/Lou Reed is highlighted with the 'do do do do do' section.

I've lost and I've gained and while I was thinking 
You cut off my hands when I wanted to twist 
If you know how to dance to Boney Maroney 
He's doing the ballet on both of his wrists 

'Ocean Rain' 
s heart breakingly beautiful, f**king gorgeous, so slow and aching it hurts. It all sounds so simple and easy, yet this is songwriting and music of the highest quality.

All at sea again 
And now my hurricanes have brought down this ocean rain 
To bathe me again 
My ship's a sail 
Can you hear its tender frame 
Screaming from beneath the waves 
Screaming from beneath the waves 

All hands on deck at dawn 
Sailing to sadder shores 
Your port in my heavy storms 
Harbours the blackest thoughts 

'Ocean Rain' (album and song) is the sound of a band in top form, they show off their skills, influences and ambition. The orchestra reaches for the stars in the break at 2 minutes 30 seconds, the guitar riff /solo is just exquisite and McCulloch's croon is Sinatra-esque. 

What makes the album so special - well all of the above. Th albums stands up as a body of majestic work and at its peak it reaches truly magical moments that the vast majority of bands can only dream of. The Bunnymen had the look, the attitude and songs to inspire genuine passion amongst fans, on a cult and international scale. 

Check it out if you don't own it.