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Live Review: Friendly Fires with the xx at Paradise Rock Club, Boston – 04 December 2009

 
By on Thursday, 10th December 2009 at 2:00 pm
 

a-paradiseHabits are hard to break. This particular habit of mine isn’t especially dangerous (I’m not including getting stepped on by drunks in Brooklyn) or detrimental (unless you count lack of sleep). This year, my worst habit of all has been looking longingly and futilely at Friendly Fires‘s tour dates and scheming ways to get to their gigs. Most of the time, an event is ridiculously expensive to get to that it’s worthless to even consider trying to go. (Two examples: Splendour in the Grass in Australia and Calvi on the Rocks, anyone?) Why all the scheming? The band has not returned to D.C. since they played here in March with White Lies on the NME Presents Tour, so if I’ve wanted to see them, I’ve had to travel. This time I went for the Nylon Magazine Winter Music Tour stop in Boston, Massachusetts – over 300 miles northeast of Washington. The Fires played a sold-out show there at the Paradise Rock Club with fellow Beggars Group act the xx.

I was lucky that night for a couple different reasons. One, I actually had a ticket in hand, unlike one of my good friends and many other people we met who arrived at the club early trying to find someone who had an extra or two to sell. I’m not sure how many people actually got in this way. Two, Boston was experiencing unseasonably mild weather (although the corduroy jacket I’d chosen to wear that night was still ill-advised, as when I stood outside of the club for a short time before the bar to the club opened, I thought my arms might freeze off). Three, I had seen the xx earlier at their in-store at Newbury Comics, and it sounded like some people at the gig were unaware that there had even been an in-store. Once inside, most people I talked to were most excited to bop along to Friendly Fires but they were interested in seeing the xx because the xx had never played in Boston before. I filled some people in on them, so I think I helped garner some additional excitement for the xx’s set.

e-xx4The xx Romy Madley-Croft on vocals and guitar, Oliver Sim on vocals and bass, and Jamie Smith on percussion and programming – came out from under the cover of darkness. A minimal show of coloured lights brightened the stage slightly during their set but kept things dramatic for the xx’s brand of dream pop. I’ve seen this band four times now (if you count the earlier in-store), and I have yet to be disappointed in their performance. The beauty of the vocals and guitar work of Madley-Croft and Sim have to be heard live to be believed. With its steamy lyrics and melodramatic percussion, ‘Infinity’ is my current favourite. If you don’t feel the desire within the song and it doesn’t start oozing out of your pores, you must not have a pulse. Since this was an opening slot, they only played eight songs. But they already have another North American jaunt scheduled for next year.

l-ffires5And then there were Friendly Fires. It seemed incomprehensible to me that I had seen them perform less than 4 months ago in New York; surely more time had passed than that? When Nylon Magazine announced back in July that Friendly Fires had been chosen to headline their first-ever Winter Music Tour to set the winter on fire, they weren’t kidding. For sure, this style of music is great year round but even more so in winter, when everyone’s suffering from seasonal affective disorder and wondering when the sun will shine again. That night at the Paradise, multicoloured lights shimmered brightly from the stage as Friendly Fires played hosts to a lively dance party.

A personal favourite, ‘Lovesick’, with its wicked bass lines from touring bassist Rob Lee and Jack Savidge‘s pounding backbeats, got the party started. Singer Ed Macfarlane shimmied like a man possessed on ‘In the Hospital’, the audience cheering him on with gusto. Edd Gibson ran around the stage with his guitar, eager to give every section of the venue some of his precious attention. I admired the way the band powered through the high-octane ‘On Board’. (Incidentally, the song will be available on an extremely limited edition 12″ at specialist record shops and at their dance party at London’s Coronet on Friday.) The band’s energetic routine lasted all the way through ‘Paris’ and ‘Ex Lover’, the band’s last two songs and the ones that received the most applause. But then it was over. Now we wait – rather impatiently I might add – for album #2!


After the jump: set lists and photos.

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Continue reading Live Review: Friendly Fires with the xx at Paradise Rock Club, Boston – 04 December 2009

 

Live Review: The xx with Jon Hopkins at DC9, Washington DC – 15 November 2009

 
By on Wednesday, 18th November 2009 at 3:00 pm
 

On your side of the Atlantic, it was Steve Lamacq I believe who first tipped the xx as one of the bands to make waves in 2009. On this side, Pitchfork sang the praises of the band’s debut album in late summer, practically ensuring that hype would be following the band around wherever they went. So it follows that the news that the xx’s fourth member Baria Qureshi caused the band to cancel some European dates and subsequently decided to leave the band permanently would make headlines. The band decided recently at a London gig to continue as a three-piece and not replace Qureshi. To accommodate the loss of a bandmember, some changes had to be made to the stage show that I’m sure the band did not anticipate just weeks before. Percussion/electronics guru Jamie Smith works double time now, and some of the synth parts are now played by singer/guitarist Romy Madley-Croft. Despite these minor physical changes, I could not find a single fault with the xx’s headlining, sold-out performance at DC9 Sunday night. Well, except maybe for the lighting.

On many an occasion I’ve wondered to myself what kinds of electronic noise must be emanating from producer Paul Epworth‘s West London studio. And indeed, I had it in my mind that if I could choose from anyone on the planet, I’d want Paul to teach me how to play the synth. However, after seeing Londoner Jon Hopkins perform, I may have changed my mind. This was the first time I’ve had the opportunity of seeing an electronica artiste at work. When you listen to electronic music from an album, you, like me, probably envision someone sat in front of a computer console, hooked up to a multitude of electronic gizmos and thingamabobs, clicking a mouse here and pressing a button here. Hopkins’s performance in contrast was mesmerising. Flurries of buttons pushed, fingers sliding, and dials turning gave way to songs feeling as expansive as the night sky (and at one time, ringing out with thunder) to those as happening as the beats at your neighbourhood club down the street. And all under near darkness.

And now, for the main event – the xx. Guitar playing from Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim (bass) is wondrous to behold live. Because of the spareness of the guitars against the rest of the backing instrumentation, it becomes immediately clear that these two know what they are doing with their instruments, and being in their presence while they are playing feels like a gift. With both of their gentle, gorgeous voices, the overall sound is tight and confident, sultry and full of yearning. ‘Heart Skipped a Beat’ and the Womack and Womack cover of ‘Teardrops’ in particular were standouts to me, but really, the whole set was fantastic, and better than when I saw them open for Friendly Fires in New York in August.

Sim prefaced a cover of Filipino soul singer Kyla‘s ‘Do You Mind?’ with the comment, “we’ve only played it a handful of times, so it’s quite possible we’ll fuck it up“, but the caution was unnecessary because the song sounded great; Smith abandoned his desk for the song so he could beat on two drums stage right of Madley-Croft. Black Book Mag describes the xx’s music as “new indie lovemakin’ music“, a sobriquet that sounds laughable but I have to agree with the assessment. This may not be the kind of music to make you get up and dance, but surely the lush melodies will make you tingle and you will ache from inside out from the r&b-tinged loveliness. Catch them on their March 2010 UK tour if you can. I shall be seeing them again (twice on the same day) the first week of December in Boston. Fingers crossed.

After the cut: set list and my attempts at photos. (I told you it was dark!)
Continue reading Live Review: The xx with Jon Hopkins at DC9, Washington DC – 15 November 2009

 

2009 XFM Winter Wonderland Announced: Razorlight + more

 
By on Wednesday, 11th November 2009 at 3:58 pm
 

Local Natives (side)The lineup for the 2009 XFM Winter Wonderland in London has been announced.

Razorlight, The Temper Trap, The Big Pink, Bombay Bicycle Club, Local Natives (pictured right), Goldhawks and Cassidy will all play the gig, taking place at the O2 Academy in Brixton on Wednesday 16 December 2009 – just over a month away. With that many bands I doubt there will be much of the usual “standing around looking bored”, which is what we like to see.

Don’t be at all surprised if there are some top-secret “special guests” as well… we might well be wrong, but it’s always possible…

Many of the live sets will be broadcast on XFM.

Tickets are available to purchase for just £25 from the Xfm Xchange 084547 83936 or at See Tickets

Meanwhile the Manchester leg of the Christmas shows has sold out, featuring Delphic, Frank Turner, The Cribs and Echo & The Bunnymen.

 

Mencap Little Noise Sessions / November 2009

 
By on Sunday, 8th November 2009 at 3:50 pm
 

Following on from the amazing lineups of the past two years, the Mencap Little Noise sessions are back again this November to raise more money for the mental disability charity.

The lineup is almost complete, with a string of pretty amazing performances scheduled. Personally, I’m most excited about Editors day, along with the pop-tastic Alexandra Burke, Mika and Newton Faulkner days – all of the shows have great talent and with the promise of special guests, I say you should hop on down to Union Chapel to check out some great music. Head on over to the Little Noise Sessions website for more answers to your questions.

The artists so far announced include:

Monday 16th November
Editors
The Maccabees
Bombay Bicycle Club
Everything Everything

Tuesday 17th November
Alexandra Burke
Alphabeat
Marina and the Diamonds
VV Brown

Wednesday 18th November
Mika
Paloma Faith
Alex Gardner
Daisy Dares You

Thursday 19th November
Richard Hawley
I Blame Coco

Friday 20th November
Lostprophets
The Blackout
Egyptian Hip Hop

Saturday 21st November
Taio Cruz
Tinchy Stryder
Chipmunk

Sunday 22nd November
Florence and the Machine
Golden Silvers
Erik Hassle
Ellie Goulding

Monday 23rd November
David Gray
The Low Anthem
Lisa Mitchell

Tuesday 24th November
Newton Faulkner
Scouting for Girls
Little Comets
Stornoway

 

The Magic Numbers / November and December 2009 UK Tour

 
By on Friday, 23rd October 2009 at 5:00 pm
 

The Magic Numbers have announced a pretty big UK tour, going back to their roots for late November and early December by playing some smaller venues around the UK.

They’re also giving away a shiny new free MP3 in exchange for your email address – just pop over to their offical website or jump straight there.

Catch the guys at:

Saturday 21st November 2009 – Oxford Jericho
Sunday 22nd November 2009 – Manchester Band On The Wall
Monday 23rd November 2009 – Preston 53 Degress
Tuesday 24th November 2009 – Liverpool Masque Loft
Wednesday 25th November 2009 – Wrexham Central Station
Friday 27th November 2009 – London St Aloysius
Saturday 28th November 2009 – Gloucester Guildhall
Sunday 29th November 2009 – Exeter Cavern Club
Monday 30th November 2009 – Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach
Wednesday 2nd December 2009 – Tunbridge Wells Forum
Saturday 5th December 2009 – Cork Opera House
Monday 7th December 2009 – Newcastle Cluny
Wednesday 9th December 2009 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Thursday 10th December 2009 – Edinburgh Bongo Club
Friday 11th December 2009 – Leeds Brudinell Social Club
Sunday 13th December 2009 – Northhampton Roadmender
Monday 14th December 2009 – Nottingham Bodega

 

Live Review: Frank Turner at Oxford O2 Academy – 20th October 2009

 
By on Wednesday, 21st October 2009 at 1:06 am
 

Frank Turner (side live)Last night was my first Frank Turner live experience. I was pointed in his direction by the marvellous Winston’s Zen earlier in the year, and since then he’s rarely been out of my top 10 last.fm most played artists of the week. Not entirely sure what to expect, I took my sister along to the (jam-packed) Oxford O2 Academy to check him out.

First support was the ace Beans on Toast. Normally first supports are a load of cack, but Beans on Toast rose to the occasion giving a strong collection of amusing anthems that were both topical and entertaining. Though I wouldn’t have minded if he laid off his “I’ve got a GCSE in Crowd Control” spiel which he seemed to use to fill the time between songs.

Next up were Fake Problems. They’ve been on our radar at TGTF for a while, (indeed, Steve reviewed their album back in March), but if I’m honest they just weren’t my sort of thing. Beans on Toast seemed to connect with the crowd much more (at least, from where I was standing near the mixing desk), and Fake Problems just went for the “deafen them into submission” approach. It sort of worked, but just wasn’t my cup of tea. Sorry.

Finally, 9:30 rolled around and Frank came on to one of the biggest cheers I’ve heard since that fateful McFly gig last summer (yes, I still don’t know why I was dragged to see them either…). I always forget just how many amazing songs he has – just about every song on the setlist was a crowd-singalong, from the opening trio of “Live Fast Die Old”, “The Road” and “Long Live The Queen” to the closing bars of “Photosynthesis”.

“Long Live the Queen” morphed itself into a celebration of life rather than the loss of a close one, “The Real Damage” a sing-along that most bands can only dream of, and “Reasons not to be an Idiot” became a jubilant exploration of our faults. Having the audience in his hand, banter was kept to a minimum (other than a quick introduction of his Mum who was watching on the side of the stage), Frank letting his songs do the talking.

Personally, the highlight was was a gorgeous cover of The Postal Service‘s District Sleeps Alone – completely different to his own songs, he re-vamped it and gave it a unique touch. Something I completely was not expecting, and one that summed up my evening.

Unsure of what to expect at the start of the evening, it turns out that Frank Turner may well be one of the UK’s best live performers at the moment. Entertaining, aware of the current climate and talented, he is one guy that I have firmly put on my list of  “bands to see again, and again, and again”, along with Bloc Party, Ben Folds, Idlewild, Friendly Fires and Delays.

Frank Turner‘s UK tour continues till next Thursday, with all dates (except Plymouth) sold out at the moment. After the jump: some pictures.

Continue reading Live Review: Frank Turner at Oxford O2 Academy – 20th October 2009

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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