Thursday, 24 March 2011

Matt & Kim @ The Relentless Garage, London. 23/3/11

Matt & Kim are an exciteable pair at the best of times, but tonight is a pretty special night for the Brooklyn duo. It's the first show in the UK that they've managed to sell out in advance and they seem just as eager to start playing as the audience are to start dancing. Their growing popularity seems to be mainly an old school word of mouth affair. Apart from popping up as background music on a few US tv shows and computer games there isn't any huge marketing spend at work here.

Their basic setup has stayed the same throughout their seven years of playing live together. Matt plays some fairly simplistic keyboard riffs whilst Kim lays down the beats on her pretty minimal drum kit/climbing frame, but these simple tunes reach a whole new level when played live due to the wild enthusiasm that the pair display at their shows. This frantic exuberance certainly seems to rubs off on the crowd. The whole venue has turned into one big party, which only serves to fuel the antics on stage. During the course of the evening we witness them leaping around like maniacs, dancing like strippers, standing on their instruments, crowd surfing and even crowd walking.

The set itself is a good mix of tracks form across the three studio albums with some cheesy covers thrown in to the mix (Better Off Alone, Sweet Child O' Mine and Just A Friend to name a few) and by the time the set ends with the final notes of "Daylight" the entire audience is one big sweaty mess. At this point the duo decide to join them for a "dance off". I'd imagine that they won.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Get Well Soon / Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore @ The Relentless Garage, London. 29/11/10

Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore make quite a refreshing change from your average self-absorbed acts. Here we have a live duo who have made an album, along with Jim James (or Yim Yames as he likes to be known these days) to raise awareness of Mountaintop Removal coal mining in their home state of Kentucky. Their sound is a pretty basic folk affair, but the rather original cello style of Ben gives the tunes the distinction needed to keep the attention of the crowd.

Get Well Soon, on the other hand, are big fans of the grandiose. From overly long song titles (they open with We Are Safe Inside While They Burn Down Our House) to some epic instrumentation – they hit us with the kind of dynamics and emotion that fans of Arcade Fire and The Dears are quite accustomed to. The set is a very much centred on the Vexations album, with just the odd nod back to their previous opus. Singer Konstantin Gropper keeps things running smoothly, with his backing ensemble swapping between a myriad of wood, brass and electrics. The 90 minute set seems to fly by and, after finishing with a blistering version of If My Hat Is Missing I Have Gone Hunting, then they are gone. We, however, are dumped back outside into sub-zero temperatures and tube strike hell.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Memory Tapes @ The Social, London. 19/1/10

My second show of 2010 is the 2nd ever for Memory Tapes. Despite having caused quite a buzz since the U.S. release of “Seek Magic”, it’s for the U.K. release that Dayve Hawk has finally unleashed his electronic pop project into the live arena. Not that you can really describe The Social as an arena, but it’s the perfect size for the minimal set up that Hawk and his drummer Matt Maraldo (from his previous band, “Hail Social”) require. Hawk takes care of vocals and guitar whilst a trusty macbook provides everything else that they need.

The set starts off quite tame, with a lot of the slower tracks from the album loaded towards the front. Things soon start to pick up though, and by the time they play “Bicycle” they have well and truly hit their stride. The vocals also start a bit wobbly, but improve as the show goes on. You are still left with the impression, though, that Dayve Hawk would much rather be anywhere else but under the spotlight. Just as things start to peak (both in confidence and energy), it’s all over. The band leave and let the Mac provide us with an outro. It may have only lasted a little over 30 minutes, but (for a 2nd ever show) it hinted towards an exciting future.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Crippled Black Phoenix @ Dingwalls, London. 14/9/09

It’s very busy in London tonight, gig-wise. There are at least 6 shows (that I know of) that I could happily be attending If I wasn’t at this one. I’m hoping this is the reason for the venue being painfully thin on punters. It still seems odd, especially as Crippled Black Phoenix (in spite of being English) are not a band who tour all that frequently. It’s a month shy of two years since their last London show. Hopefully the lack of bodies will not mean an atmosphere free evening.

The stage is just about big enough to hold the rather extended live setup of the band. As usual, there is a blend of the traditional acoustic strings mixed with a sizeable bank of electronics. As much as the strings get lost in the mix during the ear piercingly loud parts of the songs, the acoustic guitar and cello add some real beauty and melody to the quieter moments. They start strong, and the set seems to improve with every new track. It’s about as far from Post Rock by numbers as you can get, with songs that know when to end and plenty of vocals. Even the rather modest sized crowd get in on the act for a superb rendition of the choral parts of “Burnt Reynolds”. Loved it!

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Antlers @ The Lexington, London. 4/9/09

Sometimes music can be a bit of a paradox. The Antlers latest release (Hospice) is the most beautiful and uplifting record to be released this year. It’s also an album about someone close dying of cancer. After crafting the debut album on his own, Peter Silberman drafted in Michael Lerner (Drums) and Darby Cicci (Keyboards) to help with Hospice. At some point during the recording process they became fully fledged members of the band.

The finished record is an epic production, and one that takes on a whole new level of emotion charged rawness live. Tonight they are the opening act, regardless of the fact that most of the room is here to see them. The downside of this is that we are teased with a painfully short six song set. They start with a solid rendition of “Bear”, hampered by some dubious sound levels. By the time they start the second song (Thirteen) this has been rectified, and we are treated to some of the choice highlights of “Hospice” (although not playing “Kettering” is almost criminal). It would be almost impossible for them to replicate the high production values of the record on stage, but the raw sound only adds to the dynamics and atmospherics of the show – leaving the subject matter feeling even more urgent and hopeless. A blistering version of “Two” closes the set and, all too briefly, it’s over. Ears are ringing, emotions are wrought and jaws are on the floor. They are back in town at the end of Nov for some (hopefully longer) headline shows. Only a fool would miss out.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Monotonix @ Upstairs At The Relentless Garage, London. 24/8/09

The Garage has just reopened after undergoing a fairly extensive refurbishment. After spending so much on the modernisation, it seemed rather odd that they booked in the band most likely to trash the place. Hailing from Tel Aviv (and rumoured to be banned from playing any of its venues), Monotonix are an act that puts on quite a show. They forsake the stage completely and set up their gear a few feet in front of it. They are all dressed only in the tiniest shorts I have ever witnessed. What ensues is utter chaos. Within the first five minutes we have a singer playing a floor tom whilst crowdsurfing, a guitarist climbing the walls and a drummer covered in beer – and this is just them getting warmed up.

The music consists of some fairly heavy rock jams with the odd song thrown in for good measure, but the music really does come second to the theatrics, raw energy and crowd participation. Members of the audience are now holding the bass drum up in the air, with the singer standing atop of it, screaming at and mooning the audience (gives a whole new meaning to the Gaza strip). I’ve lost sight of the guitarist completely. The drummer looks about to drown in his own sweat. A photographer tries to get a close up of the singer. He beckons him closer and then spits on the camera lens. I’ve spotted the guitarist. He’s behind the bar! Suddenly an hour has passed, the music stops and normality is resumed. I leave exhausted, smiling and covered in sweat and beer.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Oneida @ The Relentless Garage, London. 18/8/09

A rare London appearance for the New York 5 piece, promoting their ambitious new triple album, “Rated O”. How do you even begin to describe their sound? They are equal parts stoner rock, psychadelia, punk and garage - all played with the intensity of The MC5 at their greatest. The set is very heavily focused on the new album, with a couple of oldies thrown into the mix (“All Arounder “ from 2001's “Anthem Of The Moon” being a particular highlight). A projected light show , almost as psychedelic as the music, is covering the whole stage. The drummer is producing enough energy to power a small city. Tonight The O are about as intense as music can get. Long may they continue.