Hotel blogging from Liverpool Music Week...
It’s our last night so we go for a full-on blow-out at Korova. We check the state of the current dance music scene until 4am before staying up watching Takeshi’s Castle until 6am. Here’s who we saw last night…
Kissy Sell Out – Korova
Mr Sell Out joined the Radio 1 ‘In New Music We Trust’ team recently but I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him. The Korova club is busy as the vest clad DJ takes to the decks with crowds waiting in expectant confidence to hear the best music around. Instead the London mixologist decides to play a remix of Cindy Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ mashed up with Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ and even ‘The Eye Of The Tiger’. Maybe that’s why he’s put a towel around his neck – look out Hatton!
Most likely to see at: Creamfields
Riton – Korova
Riton has brought his chunky electro beats up from Camden and he’s putting on quite a showing in the sweaty back room. A cheeky cut of Human Resources’ ‘Dominator’ and the Walrus Of Love’s ‘You See The Trouble With Me’ prove to be cheesy crowd-pleasers.
Most likely to see at: Creamfields
Who Made Who – Korova
Who Made Who are possibly the greatest export from Denmark since Carlsberg. The disco-funk trio are absolutely rocking the small downstairs room. With house drums, Chic bass and riffing guitars the Copenhagen three-piece get the Korova crowd bouncing.
Most likely to see at: Glastonbury
Pull Tiger Tail – Korova
When they first started out the band were name-checked in the nu-rave talent, but since the Klaxons comedown and people noticing that the genre wasn’t all it was billed up to be, it’s refreshing to listen to Pull Tiger Tail again without expecting a party. The trio sound a lot more like an indie band with energetic dual guitars and galloping drums. ‘Hurricane’ seems to lost a lot of its wind since its first airing but the set stands out when the Brighton band finish of a brilliant rendition of ‘Let’s Lighting’.
Most likely to see at: Reading
Autokratz – Korova
It’s always good to have a bit of self-indulgence but this electro-duo are just really boring. The pair are dressed in identical black clothes and one looks like Richard O’Brian, but maybe he should take up the harmonica too. The band have two laptops and lots of buttons onstage, but their music is bland. File next to Cagedbaby and never revisit.
Most likely to see at: Glade
Every night at Liverpool Music Week seems to spring up another find. Last night it was the eccentric American Dan Deacon, who played in the Barfly. It feels a little unfair, and indeed futile, to explain what goes on during his set. We walked in to find a small gathering nestled around a pile of laptops, keyboards and other noise machines, all gazing glassy-eyed and arms held aloft to a strange looking man with big glasses and an luminous skull. What followed was half an hour of mashed up madness, as if Derren Brown had broken into the most depraved corners of our musical minds. His tunes are a mix of Daft Punk, Slayer and Goldie but it's what he does in between that makes his show truly stand out, somehow persuading the crowd to do ridiculous things, from pretending to fly, to showing off your finest strutt during a game of tag. Just make sure you see him before you die.
Most of our afternoon was spent at the Tate Gallery with local band The Tiger Picks, checking out the Turner Prize entries. The first time ever the controversial competition has been exhibited in Liverpool it seemed only right to drop by and try to work out what the four entries are all about. There was much chin stroking, discussion and bemusement and one of our party even got lost inside one of the installations, later admitting he felt like a child dislocated from his mummy at Tesco, but it was otherwise rewarding, albeit in a slightly puzzling kind of way. Is a guy dressed up in a bear suit worthy of a prize? Can photographs be classified as art? How can a film about sheep's wool make you scared? And, as suggested by Martyn Tiger Pick to the gallery's press officer, would a tank of glitter and dead bodies win next year's competition? We'll bring you the band's full review of the Turner Prize, including who they think should’ve won, plus full details of their ingenious entry for next year, just as soon as we've made sense of it.
The Tiger Picks performed later at Bumper and were as ace as ever, all smiles and plenty pf pow. Part of an electro-eged bill, we were also treated to impressive sets by Wax Stag, Delta Fiasco and Dog Show. It all went rapidly downhill from there though, the night nosediving into a '70s themed club called 'Flares' where we fell out with an entire Irish family over a pink wig. The situation did 'flare' up a little before we all made up by dancing to 'Fairytale In New York'. It wasn't far off.
Here's who we saw…
It was bound to rain at some point, but gallantly we splashed around town to find one of our favourite rave-pop bands, a bit of hip hop and possibly the greatest act you will ever see. Ever…
Friendly Fires – Bumper
Oh dear. If we’ve learned anything from Michael Jackson it’s that if you’re going to wear trousers too short at the leg, then don’t wear white socks. No one seems to have told Friendly Fires lead singer this and they’ve not only allowed him to go onstage, but he’s hip-wiggling like Elvis Presley as well. Possibly the most disappointing ‘headliner’ of the week so far, especially for a band with so much hype around them. They sound like Bloc Party’s latest offering, ‘Flux’, on repeat. Make it stop!
Most likely to see at: Glastonbury
Dogshow – Bumper
Anyone that wears a top hat that lights up is a winner in my book any day. But someone wearing flashing headgear whilst inciting the darkest rave since infamous Bournemouth all-nighter Fantazia circa 1992 is our new best friend. The duo manage to pull off the greatest bits of Urban Shakedown and Human Resource in a swift 30 minute set that shows up every song Klaxons ever produced for what it ain't.
Most likely to see at: Creamfields
The Tigerpicks – Bumper
After an afternoon with these rave-pop scamps perusing the latest Turner prize entries we wade up to a packed Bumper for their big beat, sugar synthed electro. Energetic front-girls Emma and Frankie bounce around and giggle like they’re discussing playground crushes while Martyn gets squelchy on keys and computer . ‘GUERILLA’ is like Altern8 giving elocution lessons to Mel and Kim. Always a proper party starter.
Most likely to see at: Reading and Leeds
Dan Deacon – Barfly
Like a teacher explaining a science experiment, with a set-up doesn’t look far off, Dan Deacon is a music mudering mind Jedi for all the right reasons. A melee of pedals, knobs, keys, light bulbs and a flashing green skull that burps louder than Vince Noir’s brain, the originality of his set belies its invention. Music aside, the ginger bearded serial colour clasher has a comedic edge too. He asks for the lights to go up so he can start a strut-off around the venue: when one person runs around the sound desk he does his best strut and tags the next to join him around the desk to the beats of a squelchy drum and bass track. Cuts of House Of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ and the lyrics of Ludacris’ ‘What’s Your Fantasy’ are all thrown in for measure as this madcap American genius has the crowd eating out of his hand. “Your band already played man – shut the fuck up!” he snaps to a cheer from the crowd. Stories of a world made of hair and finding his brother having sex with another version of his brother are just the tip of his mental world. Imagine The Mighty Boosh entertaining at a children’s party and you’re halfway there – breathtaking brilliance.
Most likely to see at: Bestival
Shabbon, Mark and Greg – Django’s Riff
Even their names strike fear into grannies up and down the country. This hip hop threesome have drawn quite a crowd to Django’s Riff for their Afroman and Insane Clown Posse styled spitting. “Welcome to the shittest gig in town/You know we’re the shittest around,” they rap – hardly selling yourself boys.
Most likely to see at: Lovebox
Black Cherry – Bumper
Black Cherry sound like The Gossip performing The Sunshine Underground songs with John Squire on guitar, well the song we catch does anyway.
Most likely to see at: Camden Crawl
One of the great things about Liverpool Music Week is the way it builds up. While the festival officially started last Thursday the free gigs didn't get going until Monday (and no that's not the reason we didn't come until then) when just the one venue hosted a full program of music. Tuesday saw three and last night saw six. Tonight is destined to be the biggest night of the series with a coronary inducing 12 venues all hosting live music.
And as the week goes on the crowds get bigger. Bumper lived up to its name last night with Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip attracting hordes of fans. To say 'it kicked right off' is the biggest understatement you'll hear all week. Fortunately it meant things were a little more chilled out in Alma De Cuba, meaning that everyone could hear a stunning set from Lightspeed Champion who look set to go all massive in 2008. We chatted with singer Dev after his soundcheck and he revealed the scale of his touring schedule next year, including shows at South By South West as part of a US tour, a huge UK tour in the New Year and several festivals, among which the words 'Reading and Leeds' were mentioned.
We also caught up with fellow members of Lightspeed Champion's fellow 'axis of ear-ful' Emmy The Great and Eugene McGuinnes. They're all good mates – Eugene got on stage with Lightspeed, Lightspeed got up with Emmy, Emmy opened the merch stall at the back of the club and sold t-shirts and CDs for the lot of them – you get the picture. We should've got Emmy to interview Eugene actually. When we caught up with her at about 4pm she was huddled up half asleep on a sofa "It takes me 8 hours to wake up". She then tried to persuade VF to ask Eugene about his fascination with group sex and small animals. We decided not to but in hindsight perhaps we should've. It's difficult to take what Emmy (real name Emma) says too seriously though. She honestly thinks she's not very good (she is) and queried the sanity of people who pay money for her music. However, when we questioned this and tried to encourage her otherwise she managed to throw water over herself while sipping from a glass, so maybe she's got a point when it comes to co-ordination.
Someone who does need some water throwing all over them is Adam from Avenging Force. We caught up with him watching Zangief at Magnet looking slightly dishevelled. He revealed he hadn't washed since Monday night when his band played Bumper, and had only brushed his teeth half an hour before we bumped into him. Fair enough if he'd been partying like a rock'n'roll maniac but, no, apparently he just hadn't been home.
Prize for most frenetic, energy drenched, entertaining AND lyrically stimulating set of the festival so far: Metro Manilla Aide. Circle pits, sweat, shredding, ginger baiting (at himself) and the human condition set to the mechanics of the queen bee. Sheer class.
From the unwashed and the group sex animal lover to shit-hop and a Cillit Bang advert – we must still be in Liverpool:
Lightspeed Champion – Alma De Cuba
Their number suggests the band would have everything done quickly, but their album was finished in January and still won’t be released until 2008. But if it’s anywhere near as good as this performance it will be well worth the wait. The prolific Dev Hynes has got rid of the heavier Test Icicles sound and replaced it with a branded nu-folk indie approach. Choppy drums, a mixture of plucked and strummed ditties and a violin is giving folk a more pop face which will mean this hybrid genre is likely to grow. Eugene McGuinness even joins Dev onstage for an acoustic rendition of The Strokes ‘Heart In A Cage’, which actually sounds better than the original.
Emmy The Great – Alma De Cuba
After nearly falling asleep during our interview a few hours back it looks as if Emmy The Great has finally woken up. Flanked by violin and a second guitar the kooky, cutesy anti-folk hero eases through a short but sweet set, oozing the summery charm that’s so successfully sealed her into the hearts of her ever growing fanbase. New single ‘Gabriel’ is a fluttery flight of fancy but it’s Emmy’s touching collaboration with Lightspeed Champion singer Dev Hynes that returns the venue, Alma De Cuba, back to its religious place of worship.
Metro Manilla Aide – Barfly
“When they came for the Communists, I wasn’t one. When they came for the Trade Unionists, I wasn’t a member. When they came for the gingers…” The crowd jeer the shaved headed ginger and he chuckles. From the onset this four-piece are out to entertain: catchy riffs, stacks of shredding and intelligent lyrics. The band incite death circles then join in, they let the crowd choose the set and they explode in an aggressive rock-out and still return with a smile. Absolutely brilliant – set of the festival thus far!
Multi Purpose Chemical – Barfly
The name is daft. It sounds like Barry Scott from the Cillit Bang advert has decided to turn an advertising brand into an advertising band. Instead this quartet are merely ticking all the metal clichés: long hair, pompous riffs, bellowing bass lines and a headbanging audience. A shouting Barry Scott would’ve been better.
Gideon Conn – Bumper
Gideon Conn looks like he’s walked into a Harlem clothes store and asked to look ‘hip’, and the shop assistant have had a laugh and made him look like Santa’s little gangster. Conn’s folk-rap-jazz ensemble sounds cringy and is fairly awkward viewing. He sounds like Snoop Dogg tripping over a folk guitar he’s bought at a car boot sale.
Peter And The Wolf – Alma De Cuba
Imagine my disappointment when the band kick off and I find out that they aren’t telling the famous orchestral feel-good story at all and there isn’t a oboe in sight. Instead the indie-folksters deliver a harmony drenched set with Larrikin Love carnival drums and stuttering pop riffs. The highlight track is ‘Moon To The Sea’ which provides dual-sex harmonies and chasing guitar picks with exciting fiesta drums.
Eugene McGuinness – Alma De Cuba
Folk is normally associated with non-washing (see: Zangief) hippies with long beards, so what gives smartly dressed Liverpudlian youngster, Eugene McGuinness, the right to change all that? Quite a lot actually: his brash acoustic sound is like Alberta Cross leading Neil Young astray to throw stones at daisy-picking hippies, while his lyrical yarns make Jackanory sound like it’s for kids. What do you mean it is?
Zangief – Magnet
A little bit of musical incest here. Zangief’s guitarist is Avenging Force’s bassist, so it’s no wonder Force’s Adam is here in support. He tells us he hasn’t washed since his gig on Monday, so why VF editor Ross puts me in a position where I have to shake is hand is beyond me. The metal quartet sound like a gentle Black Sabbath and stand out track ‘Gravity Wolf’ is a chugging Egyptian assault enough to crumble the Sphinx’s ears off too.
Liz Green – Alma De Cuba
Liz Green seems to be having a bit of a hard time tonight. Firstly no one can hear her guitar, so she rattles it. “You hear that?” she says, “That’s the batteries from the pick-up – its fucking ace!” Oh dear. Then she struggles on her new instrument: the organ. Luckily her incredible voice carries her through. She sounds like a warped Billie Holiday record being played on your Grandpa’s gramophone backed by minimalistic organ grinding and finger-flicking folk guitar.
'Ssssh. You don't mention that band!" jokes former Space singer Tommy Scott. We've just mentioned The Beatles which apparently is a no no if you want to leave the city with your legs intact – or your credibility we're not sure. It's the second time I've mildly offended him (you can't imagine him getting too het up), the first when I mentioned the underlying melody in the music of his new punk band The Drellas. "Shit", he says in disbelief. "I was trying to kill that."
There seems to be a diliberate shift away from the sound that's categorised – or dogged depending on which way you look at it – Liverpool musically. Bands we've spoken to in our day and a half here have hinted towards a mini revolution that's sweeping through the area, but not a scene. "The only scene is where the scenesters gather that night really", mocks The Drellas bassist Phil. "There's no Mersey sound, which is what journalists want so you're not hearing so much about Liverpool as you once would." He points to when NME first picked the second Merseybeat wave, which included The Coral and The Zutons. "Now it's just lots of great bands playing all sorts of stuff. There's no way you can heap them in a group."
That certainly seems the case from where we've been watching. And live, Liverpool's bands seem to fit seemlessly together, be it metal or rockabilly, with the same fans following them around. At Bumper, which acts as the main venue for LMW, the nights are spread seemlessly over two stages. When one band finishes another starts almost instantly, something which adds volumes to the festival in terms of keeping the party alive and, of course, how much you can see. What really stands out though is the mass migration from band to band, proof that these crowd, be them students, locals or from further afield, believe in this music and are happy to revel in everything from the unknown to the overly familiar – some of these bands play in the city on a weekly basis.
We almost got dragged into the action ourselves last night. After grabbing a rare seat to relax our bones at the stunning Alma De Cuba we were approached by a rather worried looking woman who asked assistant ed Dan if he was Ivan Campo. Now Dan's not too shady at football but a former Real Madrid international player he is not. Also, he hasn't got the hairdo of the Bolton midfielder because he uses hair straighteners. Fortunately, we soon realised Ivan Campo is also the name of one of last night's performers. Explaining that we weren't him either, the lady left blankly in search of her AWOL artist who'd apparently forgot the fact he was due on stage. How Dan rued his chance to stake his place in music history – for all the wrong reasons – seconds after the potential possibilities dawned.
It's good to know that whatever festival you're at, no matter how big or small, there's always something that goes awry. In this case the wonderfully named Ivan Campo. Whether he was ever found we can not be sure. We had a date with the amazing Elle S'Appelle so had to shoot off.
Anyway here's what we caught last night – a dewy mix of playbus pop and friend-making folk.
Elle S’Appelle – Bumper
Live pop is the strongest it’s been for years and someone needs to tell the Spice Girls. Tonight Elle S’Appelle are busy teaching the X-Factor generation this lesson with their playbus pop. With drums as mathematical as Battles, bubblegum scenester synths and a bass guitarist who looks like a treacle version of Dave Grohl dancing like Franz Ferdinand it’s hard to go wrong. ‘Little Flame’ is like waltzing with Blondie at the arcade with the “Follow me around,” lyrics spinning dizzily until she falls down into a mêlée of Smarites sick.
Most likely to see at – Glastonbury
Voo – Bumper
Voo must be off to a fancy dress party after this, either that or they making a living as lumberjacks because they certainly aren’t going to make one out of music. If REM wanted to be ripped off they’d buy U2 tickets, instead this Liverpudlian band have put on the mandatory thick tartan outfits of Americana to perform the sort of soft-rock that is played over the break-up of Seth and Summer in the OC.
Most likely to see at – V Festival
SSS – Bumper
Really SSS should stick a few H’s on the end of their name to spell SSShhhh. Despite standing for Short Sharp Shock it looks like they could do with some sort of shock to their system because they are possibly the most static thrash metal around. There are traces of Black Flag and Suicidal Tendencies, but vocally they are lightweight, and with lyrics like “Money money money/I fucked a few whores” it’s hardly intelligent poetry is it?
Most likely to see at – Download
Wave Machines – Bumper
Yup everyone loves wave machines – smaller kids trying to stay afloat to stay alive in a urine-soaked swimming pool, but the band are something different. Clad in masks like Rocky Dennis from 80’s cult film ‘Mask’, the band certainly look different, but they sound like Athlete pushing Bright Eyes off a stool. The band’s plodding basslines underpin their acoustic pluckings take very few risks albeit 80’s keys here and there. It’s nothing new so I’m off to have a swim and catch a verruca instead.
Most likely to see at – Isle Of Wight Festival
James Yorkston – Alma De Cuba
James Yorkston looks like a young Dr Frasier Crane when he first moved to Seattle: wild scientist hair flaming behind his baud spot. Complete with a Scottish wisp Yorkston’s acoustic folk balladry is like John Martyn singing Nick Drake. The accompanying accordion and double bass gives Yorkston a fuller sound and the addition of John Smith for the last two songs makes the set one of the week’s best, so far.
Most likely to see at – Cornbury
While the rest of us pull off pointless advent calendars doors and stress about another frantic present-chasing Christmas eve, the city of Liverpool is doing what matters most by getting the party started early.
Welcome to Liverpool Music Week, an ever expanding winter festival that pits the best of the city's up and coming talent against a variety of big hitters, all combining to create the biggest 'week' in live music history – the festival is staged over a staggering 11 nights.
In that time fans can choose from more than 270 bands and artists, spread across 16 venues all within walking distance. The likes of headliners Kaiser Chiefs, The Chemical Brothers and Hard Fi are the most obvious eye-turners but having seen them at a zillion festivals already we made the trip up north to discover more about Liverpool's new music scene ahead of its European Capital of Culture status in 2008.
Something that does need to be sorted out ahead of such an important year for the North West are the trains. But after a seven hour journey from London we finally found ourselves back in the warm embrace of one of our favourite UK cities, despite the grey and rain, and began plannning our stay for the week.
Music surrounds us. We're staying in a funky bijou hotel converted from the ashes of Parr Street studios where Coldplay and Embrace both once recorded. All the venues are in spitting distance and, even better, all the bands we've met seem to be coming to us for interviews. We've already caught up with local acts The Drellas and 28 Costumes, plus festival organiser Mike Deane, for a beer and a chat so look out for those and many more features throughout the week. We'll be updating this blog daily too.
First though, here's the lowdown from our first night in the festival's base venue, Bumber, an evening of horror rock, punkabilly and sleazy stripclub funk which helped us settle in in seconds…
Zombina and the Skeletones
Halloween was over a couple of months ago, but it seems Zombina and the Skeletones still haven’t managed to get out of their costumes. The Horror Rock pioneers are scarily good with female front-skeleton, Zombina, tearing through their sixties Barbershop psychedelia. Think The Non Blondes battering The Pipettes’ CD collection.
Most likely to see at: Reading and Leeds
As the clock strikes 12 everything turns a little sleazy: Doktor Combover take to the stage with a swirl of 70’s sex songs. This fuck-funk fiasco drill the post midnight crowd into a sleazy swirl of Seventies sex songs. Slow, bendy basslines and stripclub licks, these red and black clad lads mix early funk with a grinding urgency.
Most likely to see at: Lost Vagueness
Singing about being “fucked up the arse,” ex-Space lead singer Tommy Scott still has plenty of black humour in his lyrics. His new outfit are a lot darker too: Smashing Pumpkins chugging basslines, scathing punk solos and even a Sean Ryder look-a-like on drums. As soon as his fur coat comes off to reveal a bare chest and the band launch in ‘Violence Is Art’ the post-punk revival is complete and the ‘Female Of The Species’ get a little bit of eye candy too.
Most likely to see at: Download
Hicks shout from your iron rooftops because Rockabilly is back! Those who enjoyed the revival in the 1980’s with the likes of The Stray Cats you’d better grab your Brillcream and curl your quiff because the sound is sexy again. Furious aren’t as scary as they sound but they certainly get the crowd moving and their bass-running version of ‘My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean’ pulls their set together tighter than their TIEs. They may look like a hillbilly Hanson, all fresh faces and smiles, but they're more rock'n'roll than your average canned Camden band.
Most likely to see at: The Big Chill
With all the energy of a school trip of six-year olds and the dance moves of Fred Durst this ska-punk five-piece are full of potential. With a saxophonist onboard they could be as good as their indie brass buddies The Zutons, instead they’re dragging on the heels of The Ordinary Boys, complete with carbon-copy frontman, but we can’t find Chantelle.
Most likely to see at: T4 On The Beach
“This is based on a true story,” exclaims lead vocal-sharer Adam before launching into a huge prog-rock instrumental. This threepeice tick all the hard rock stereotype boxes: headbanging bassist, loud reverbing guitar and a drummer who begins each song with his arms up in the air like a stiff Lego man. ‘Muscle Man’ is a riffingly good track that possibly should have come out in the seventies. And in America.
Most likely to see at: Isle Of Wight Festival
Polo-necks are cool and so is psychobilly according to these fast fingered crowd pleasers, who leave the crowd feeling like they’re in a Coen Brothers film rather than swearing at Bumper. The double bassist steals the show – and the ladies' eyes – but he'd be nothing without the slick guitar work and relentless drum bashing of his counterparts. A special and staggeringly talented live band.
Most likely to see at: Bestival
If the mark of a man is in his moustache than the lead singer of Seven Seals is right up there. His ginger hairy handlebar is perfect for a Victorian gentleman’s club, while their music should suit most indie clubs. A gritty Maximo Park sound rocking out with the precision of Foals means melody and invention can exist side by side, even if it's being forced into your face like a declaration of war.
Most likely to see at: Camden Crawl