Tuesday 30 July 2013

Kevin Harper at King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, 29th July 2013

Last night I ventured out to the legendary King Tuts Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow to catch Kevin Harper, one of my favourite artists, performing live as part of the venues Summer Nights run.

Summer Nights is a series of shows put on by Craig Johnstone of DF Concerts during the festival season, showcasing some of the best unsigned and DIY music from across the country.

I've been following Kev since I discovered his old band Little Eskimos. Kev's passion for music is evident through his recordings and performances, his talent is all too clear to see and when you meet him, or catch him live, then you can't fail to fall for his sense of humour. That also comes across on Social Media!

Kev took to the Tut's stage alone and I was initially a little disappointed that he didn't have a band backing him. That feeling soon evaporated as Kev booted up his laptop to back him and his guitar and launched into a little tirade about 'how f**king hard it is to sell tickets for a show on a Monday night'.

The crowd was pretty quiet but the sound of music soon sent people scurrying up the stairs from the bar below and before you knew it there was a decent crowd.

Kev performed a mixture of solo material from his album 'Kingdom of Wires' (reviewed here) (BUY HERE), some Little Eskimo's tunes and 'a cover of a traditional American folk song' that turned out to be The Pixies 'Monkey Gone To Heaven.'

After the opening blast of 'Couch' Kev seemed generally startled by the response from the audience and they easily met his encouragement to step forward to the stage, immediately making the gig seem incredibly intimate.

'Legs' from Little Eskimos was treated as long lost friends, both by Kev and a few delighted female followers in the audience who Kev described as his eskimo-ettes. 

'Start It Up' (also a Little Eskimos song) was delivered with ferocious passion, while 'Kingdom of Wires' was a real highlight, tugging on the heart strings.

'Jacqueline' closed proceedings (after the aformentioned Pixies cover) to roars of approval that caused Kev to admit to being genuinely taken back, the show was over. Sadly the chants for 'mmmmooorrrreee' and 'one more tune' were politely declined.

I hope there will be another show soon. Kevin Harper is a warm and natural performer - perfect for those quiet Monday nights and any other day of the week.

Monday 22 July 2013

Mogwai play Zidane, Glasgow 21st July 2013

Last night an extraordinary event took place in Glasgow that combined music, film, art and festival.

Zidane - A 21st Century Portrait by Douglas Gordon is a film focusing on Zidane playing for Real Madrid against Villareal in April 2005. Seventeen cameras were trained on the magical footballer throughout the match and afterwards Gordon approached Mogwai, his fellow Glaswegian's to provide the soundtrack to the film.

The results have been available on DVD and album for some time, however Mogwai had never performed the album live as the film was being played.....until now.

The Manchester International Festival has a first class reputation for combining music with film and art and they approached Mogwai with the idea of playing live to the film. They accepted and additional dates were set up for their hometown of Glasgow and in London.

Their was a real buzz about the show in Glasgow, not only down to the facts above but also because the performance was to take place at a brand new venue/site - 220 Broomielaw, oh, and it was going to be outdoors!

220 Broomielaw is waste ground in Glasgow's financial district on the banks of the Clyde. At some point in the not too distant future it will become an office block similar to those that surround the site, however last night the dusty waste ground was transformed into a mini-festival site.

Doors were opening at 6pm and although the band were not on until 8.45pm I arranged to meet my friends Lorna and Colin at 6.30pm as there had been an announcement of a BBQ and we thought we would make the most of the stunning Glasgow weather!

The site was small but perfectly formed - toilets at the back; some cool merch (I got a ltd print) at the back to the side; a beer bar, cider bar and BBQ to one side, sound-desk in the middle and a small pop up bar to the other side with the stage obviously at the front!

The traffic flying over the Kingston Bridge made it all look quite surreal at times. It all generated a great atmosphere.

Mogwai came on stage at 8.45pm promptly and the film began. The film and performance were exhilerating.

Zidane glided about the pitch, his eyes following the ball like a hunter, his feet moving effortlessly when the ball came his way, the sweat dripping from his brow. Everything is captured beautifully and originally by Gordon and his team, I especially liked the rare smile from Zidance to Carlos towards the end. Zidane's focus on the ball and the game is complete.

Mogwai were all seated, caressing their instruments (well maybe not the drum kit) and building waves of sound from nothing. We started off stage right but soon moved back due to the volume (class Mogwai) and it worked in our favour as it was good to take the whole thing in; film, music and the site.

Mogwai excel in producing emotional and inspiring instrumental post-rock music and to see them doing it in this setting with Gordon's film playing behind them was truly memorable. Their music was delicate when required, it rose and soared at others and when required it was furious and intense.

Gordon's portrait of Zidane is incredible, yet one of the most memorable parts of the film (or certainly last night) was the piece that Mogwai played to soundtrack the half-time section of the film. At half-time Gordon's portrait cuts to other events that happened around the world during the game; in many ways it reminded me that 'football is only a game'. Mogwai's soundtrack to this section of the film was sensational as they generated all kinds of controlled white noise from their instruments.

It really was quite an incredible night and Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai was quick to thank everyone involved in making it happen. That was echoed by everyone in attendance, this was a remarkable display of music, film, art and venue (and weather) combining to create something unique and beautiful.

A short clip from the film is posted below;

Saturday 20 July 2013

My top blogs and stats

So people do read my blogs! Well some of them anyway!

Here are my top 10 blogs since i started, I don't tend to check views so I was pleasantly surprised when i did tonight!


One Direction - Best Song Ever

One Direction's 'Best Song Ever' isn't the best song ever but it is an excellent pop song and the gimmicky title is excellent; I can't believe no-one has ever thought of it before. Will someone make the move and write a song called 'Worst Song Ever'? Anyway, it was really the title that caused me to check it out, the sheer cheekiness of it fits perfectly with One Direction.

It starts with Baba O'Riley style power chords and bubbling synth that may well have Pete Townsend's publishers picking up the phone. The verses are pretty non-descript, it's the chorus that is slammed home time and time again and the additional hook ' I think it went oh-oh-oh, I think it goes yeah, yeah, yeah....' that make this pure pop.

The bridge; 'Can I take you home with me? She said 'never in your wildest dreams'' is prime American teen move material.

The breakdown is hands in the air, clap along material before the chorus is rammed down your throat.

The 'best song ever' is in fact the song that played as our hero (which one?!) danced all night with his new girl. It caused me to think of the times that it has happened to me (a long time ago), when you met someone at a club and danced and a song that came on that just captured the mood perfectly and it did seem like 'the best song ever'.

In many ways 'Best Song Ever' is incredibly clever pop - it seems so simple but the hooks, choruses and lyrics are really well thought out.

We danced all night to the best song ever
We knew every line now I can't remember
How it goes but I know that I won't forget her
Cause we danced all night to the best song ever

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Icona Pop (featuring Charlie XCX) - I Love It

Fuck me this is pure pop perfection. High energy that just doesn't let up and somehow reaches higher with a simple chorus 'I don't care, I love it.'

This is pop genius.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

The New Mendicants at Mono, Glasgow

Last night I had the pleasure of watching one of musical heroes at very close quarters as Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) performed with his friend Joe Pernice (The Pernice Brothers) under the guise of The New Mendicants at Mono in Glasgow.

The warm summers evening generated a positive vibe even before Norman and Joe took the stage and told us of how they hooked up through a mutual friendship with the author Nick Hornby. Nick had challenged them to write music for a film based on his novel ‘A Long Way Down’. As the pair were neighbours in Canada (they both married Canadians) this seemed like a great wee project in between their day jobs.

It turns out that Hornby never used the songs, so Joe joked about them having an album about a lot of people jumping off the side of a building!

The album isn’t due out until January 2014, so this current tour was a chance to plug their Australia EP (recorded for their Australian tour earlier in the year) and for the pair of them to highlight what incredible songwriters and performers they are; taking it in turns on lead vocals as they ran through some highlights from their back catalogue, some New Mendicants numbers and a couple of covers.

The set up was simple, 2 acoustic guitars, 2 mics and a glockenspiel for Norman. Their voices were sweet, melancholic and utterly entwined in glorious harmonies. It really was a beautiful show and as my friend Lorna and I were standing at the side of the stage we were spellbound.

I have to confess to not knowing any of Joe’s material with the Pernice Brothers, but on the evidence of last night I will certainly be checking it out. Joe is a talented and confident songwriter and it was easy to see how he has bonded with Norman – similar sense of humour, musical taste and talent.

Norman delighted the crowd with a gorgeous solo rendition of ‘Did I Say’, dedicating it to his wife. There was also a delicate and emotional ‘Dark and Lonely’, a free flowing 'It's All In My Mind', a stunning stripped back ‘I Don’t Want Control Of You’ that really highlighted the lyrics about his daughter ‘every day I look at a different face, this feelings getting stronger with every embrace’, and the duo ended with a beautiful rendition of ‘Everything Flows’.

Apologies for not noting or remembering the titles of Joe’s songs. They also did a cover of a Zombies song called ‘Butchers Tale’ and a Go-Betweens song that sounded like it was unreleased from Norman's introduction - it was truly beautiful and a real highlight of the show. I hope they go on to record it.

All in all this was a magical demonstration of the songwriting skills of Blake and Pernice and I am really looking forward to the album and another live date in Glasgow.

Sunday 7 July 2013

20-years of T in the Park

There is a show coming on BBC2 later on tonight that will celebrate 20-years of Scotland's largest music festival - T in the Park.

The journey of the festival and the people behind it has been truly remarkable in that time. While I've not been every year, I have certainly been to my fair share. Looking back at the line-ups, I think I went the first 7-years to start with.

It is almost a right of passage for teenagers to head to Balado for a weekend of music.

I thought I would write a blog with 20 memories of my own journey's to T in the Park;

Oasis at T in the Park, 1994
Still one of my all-time fave gigs, only it wasn't a gig, it was a cup final with Liam and Noel even playing football on stage. They were on the crest of an unstoppable wave, a tsunami, they were incredible. I would LOVE to see a video of this.

Rage Against The Machine and Cypress Hill turn up, 1994
Back in 1994 we didn't have mobiles or the internet, so festival rumours swept like wildfire. Back in 1994 we also couldn't believe that someone had booked some of the biggest and coolest bands in the world to come and play in a field in Hamilton!

With announcements that the bands were held up, things were not looking good. However they both played and even jammed a couple of songs together. Both had massive hits back in 1994 and remain cult bands to this day.

A human pyramid to Crowded House, 1994
I popped my festival cherry in 1994 and have a lot of fond memories. People building a human pyramid to a huge cheer during Crowded House in glorious sunshine was just a real festival moment that brought everyone together. Neil Finn egged them on and it was pretty impressive!

Pulling a Levellers fan!, 1994
Yeah I pulled a crusty. She was from Manchester and she was gorgeous!

Kylie Minogue, 1995
Kylie played in glorious sunshine and i was determined to get near the stage. I ended up leading a conga and snaking my way through the crowd to see her in the flesh. Poptastic!

Black Grape, 1995
Quite a few memories from this year as it was just so glorious. Black Grape kicked up a dust storm with their party set. A crowd of us were right down the front and it was brilliant.

The Charlatans, 1995
One of my fave bands who have played T in the Park on countless occasions. The Charlatans have a lot of love up in Scotland and it was displayed in full. Their brilliant singles from The Charlatans album were perfect for the sunshine.

Someone over turning a portaloo at the campsite, 1995
Funny but quite sickening at the same time. Especially when the person came out - eeuuggghh!

Going to see the Bluetones instead of Radiohead, 1996
Not my best memory of T - totally the wrong choice, as much as I love The Bluetones.

Camping - 97
Another sunny year - the first one at Balado. Their was a huge crowd of us that went up from Carluke and we got there really early to set up camp and drink some beers. Then some lads challenged us to a game of football. It was brilliant, that year was just really special. Lots of friends, sunshine and good music.

The campsite cheer, 1997
A cheer started going around the campsite, everyone started joining in. It was incredible, building and building, getting louder and louder, it was tribal. Then everyone started heading in one direction to congregate near a tent with a huge soundsystem and started dancing. If only we had had phones to record the footage. The guys tent got trashed!

Natalie Imburglia, 1998
I was in love with Natalie and in love with 'Torn' - still a stunning piece of pop music that sounds fresh to this day. Natalie wowed the crowd and me. I was maybe a little easier than others!

Echo & the Bunnymen, 2003
Skipping a few years as we head to 2003. The Bunnymen were first or second on the Main Stage, where my sister Carla had just texted to say she was rather ill after drinking a bit too much the night before. The sun was out and The Bunnymen blasted through their back catalogue.

Polyphonic Spree, 2003
Talking of my sister, she introduced me to a rather special band that year; the technicolour explosion that is the Polyphonic Spree. They were absolutely superb, that debut album was brilliant. Wearing tartan robes had the crowd in the palm of their hands from the off.

Underworld, 2003
One of the best live acts I have ever had the pleasure of watching; ranging from the Barrowlands to Benicassim with T in the Park in between. On this occasion they closed the NME stage and they closed it in epic fashion with Karl Hyde really getting the crowd going.

Orbital, 2004
What a show this was. One of the brothers last before they called it a day, only to come back again. We were down the front, 'Belfast' and 'Chime' were just perfect. And did they drop Bon Jovi or Belinda Carlisle - or both? Good times.

Chemical Brothers, 2004
We hot footed it over to the Slam Tent after Orbital where the Chemical Brothers blew the place away with hit after hit. Tim Burgess joined them on stage looking rather worse for wear but the romp through 'Life Is Sweet' was a hit with me.

The Magic Numbers, 2006
How could the sun not shine for a band like The Magic Numbers. Their debut album was the sound of summer for me that year and they attracted a huge crowd to the main stage.

The Charlatans, 2006
The Charlatans again. I've seen them more than any other band. This show was one of the best I have ever seen them at.

Vigo Thieves, 2012
And so to last year when Vigo Thieves played the BBC Introducing Stage - I say played, they tore it apart with a euphoric set that showcased exactly how big their songs are. Check this incredible fan footage for 'Heartbeats'.