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Live Review: Saint Etienne with Volta Bureau at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 25th October 2012

 
By on Monday, 29th October 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

While Martin was able to catch ’90s dance icons Saint Etienne at both Split and Deer Shed festivals in the lovely North East this past summer, us Americans aren’t as lucky. We were, however, very lucky to have the trio stop in Washington on their current American tour, and it turned out to be quite a night!

The opening band for the evening was homegrown dance band Volta Bureau, starring Outputmessage‘s Bernard Farley on vocals and electronics, U Hall co-owner and legendary DJ Will Eastman on guitars and electronics and Micah Vellian (that’s a stage name, if you were wondering) on bass. Having seen Farley support Ladyhawke last month at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, I expected and we received soulful lyrics delivered with thudding house and techno beats. They’ve put out two well-received singles, ‘Hope’ and ‘Alley Cat’, and live, they didn’t disappoint, bringing a great, energetic dance vibe to really warm up the crowd before the main event. I was a little surprised to see they didn’t have a live drummer, but to be honest, you don’t miss it, because there are so many things going on onstage with their huge array of synths, sequencers and turntables.

I was pleased as punch to see days before on U Hall’s Twitter that the Saint Etienne gig was close to be selling out. Considering it was a Thursday night show and this is DC, that’s quite a feat indeed. I also wondered what kind of crowd Saint Etienne would attract; I knew the majority of punters would be male (that was correct) but I guess I wasn’t expecting as many people older than I am. I guess you could say the majority of early arrivals were blokes who had been reared on Saint Etienne in the ’90s, and younger folks who have a good sense for dance music arrived later. I was taken aback by the number of people getting totally pissed and being loud and obnoxious, but I suppose this is part and parcel when you’ve got an eager audience, one that Sarah Cracknall was quick to point out and commend early on in their set. And along with that, she stated emphatically that we were “one of the top three best audiences they’d ever had”. It’s great news to my ears that DC’s stoic reputation is cracking!

While the set began with songs from earlier on their career (‘Lose That Girl’ from 1991’s ‘Interlude’, ‘Like a Motorway’ from 1994’s ‘Tiger Bay’), the band’s focus turned quickly to newer songs from this year’s ‘Words and Music by Saint Etienne’ on Heavenly Recordings. The electropop ‘DJ’ and the Goldfrapp-y single ‘Tonight’ would both feel at home on Radio1, no doubt about it. The album proves that the band has seamlessly changed their style just slightly but enough to fit the 21st century.

This is not to say that old favourites were left out. Not at all. The chill vibe of ‘Spring’ and the disco beats of ‘Sylvie’, the words mouthed by a good portion of people near the front, sounded phenomenal. Though Cracknall was self-deprecating about her age, if I look that good and can pull of a feather boa when I’m in my forties, I’d consider myself well off: she dazzled in a form-fitting, short sparkly dress and heeled boots, and her voice, though maybe less strong, was still wonderful. Age also wasn’t a factor to the very excited people to the left of me, who kept shouting how beautiful she was and one bloke even managed to kiss her hand.

When the groove of ‘Nothing Can Stop Us Now’ started up, at first I was a little worried. Was this the end? After the crowd shouted “I’ve never felt so good! I’ve never felt so strong!” back at her, Cracknall and her winsome smile thanked everyone and she, along with the reticent Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, and left the stage. They returned with ‘I Got Your Music’, explained by Cracknall as being about the old style of mixtapes you’d make for your friends and lovers. This was quickly followed by the Eurodance hit ‘He’s on the Phone’, with lots of audience participation during the “someday!” parts. They thanked everyone again, and off the stage they went. Again.

Then the unthinkable happened. Saint Etienne came out for a second encore. Somehow, I knew they weren’t finished after the first encore. They hadn’t played ‘You’re in a Bad Way’ yet. While I realise some people were antsy and wanted to get the hell out of the venue, as a result, you missed a great second encore (and I even managed to finally make it to the front). See, it does pay to wait around a little more after gigs…wait a moment longer, and you might just be rewarded.

Saint Etienne has always been one of those bands that I’d hear being interviewed by Stuart Maconie on Radio2 and never once did I ever think they’d come close enough to DC for me to see them gig. Check another box of that “bands I need to see” list. While I do whinge a lot when I see tours in the UK, I do relish the fact that here in Washington sometimes I have the chance to see bands in tiny, tiny clubs. This night with Saint Etienne was pretty much perfect.

After the cut: Saint Etienne’s set list.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8k5y3d-RCA[/youtube]

Saint Etienne Set List:
Lose That Girl
Like a Motorway
Who Do You Think You Are (Candlewick Green cover)
Burnt Out Car
Popular
Spring
Haunted Jukebox
When I was Seventeen
A Good Thing
Sylvie
Tonight
Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Neil Young cover)
DJ
Nothing Can Stop Us Now
//
I’ve Got Your Music
He’s on the Phone
//
You’re in a Bad Way

 

Live Gig Video: The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon covers Foo Fighters’ ‘Everlong’

 
By on Friday, 26th October 2012 at 4:01 pm
 

The Gaslight Anthem stopped by the Radio1 Live Lounge on Wednesday. Frontman Brian Fallon indulged Fearne Cotton with this acoustic cover of Foo Fighters’ ‘Everlong’. Watch the performance below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvTvUMotnkY[/youtube]

 

Live Review: Passion Pit with Wild Belle and Youngblood Hawke at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 16th October 2012

 
By on Friday, 26th October 2012 at 2:11 pm
 

I made the choice to do this show differently. I was actually going to shoot from the pit and enjoy the show from the back. Everyone says about the 9:30, “the sound is better in the back”, but I am so very short, so for me, it’s “the more front, the better”. While the sound was lovely from the back, what I really noticed was that the bass is really amplified in the back. I could actually feel my earplugs vibrate within my ears. I think I’ll just stick to the front.

First opener Wild Belle, with brother/sister songwriters Natalie and Elliot Bergman, filled up a stage already crammed for the night: three bands, 15 musicians and still the same square footage the venue always has to offer. A bit of West African flavour from Elliot Bergman and the soulful voice of sister Natalie effectively obscured their Midwestern origins. Packed with sax, a tinge of reggae and a bluesy vibe, this act made themselves unique by layering it all over a strong synthesiser base. It was quite fresh.

Youngblood Hawke were who got me interested in this gig in the first place. As one of TGTF Bands to Watch (read here), I was quite excited to see how they translated their shimmery pop onto the stage. I was a little shaken by the appearance of Sam Martin, the lead singer; it seemed to me he was channeling Steve Perry from Journey. Blue and white striped trousers, a sequined shirt and shoulder length curly hair. All he needed was a long scarf on his mic stand to look the quintessential ‘80s rock figure.

They took the stage with an energy that I hadn’t quite expected based on their excellent eponymous EP. In fact, during ‘Protect Yourself’, Martin took a very aggressive rapper-like stance that seemed pretty polar to the sparkly pop found on their record. Their cover of Better Than Ezra’s ‘Juicy’, however, grabbed the crowd and had them singing and dancing before they launched into their single ‘We Come Running’. At this point, they truly had the whole place filled with their infectious enthusiasm with Martin breaching the barrier to join the fans. They ended their set with an exceptional percussion piece that had all five of them with sticks in their hands pounding on something.

I went into the Passion Pit gig thinking that it would be populated by hipsters galore, and while I did see my fair share of plaid, beanies, and overly thick-rimmed glasses, it wasn’t too bad. On the flip side, I also did not experience the same kind of mass jumping I’ve seen at festivals (and indeed was a part of the last time they graced the DC area with a free outdoor set). Not withstanding those expectations, this, the third and final of three sold out gigs at DC’s famous 9:30 Club brought it once again. One thing astonished me, although knowing their music, it shouldn’t have. For 80% of the show, there was no guitar. A bass, yes. But no guitar. I almost don’t know how you can be a band with no guitar. Yes, yes, electronic music is all the rage and you don’t need a guitar, but I guess it’s not my usual thing. Gee, even Goyte had a guitar!

The set started off with the catchy single ‘Take a Walk’ getting the crowd dancing and singing. Despite the fact that the nine previous musicians’ worth of equipment had been removed, the stage fairly burst with the ensemble backing Michael Angelakos. The night belonged to Angelakos, prowling the stage like a caged big cat as he does. He wasn’t chatty, but he kept it flowing as they ripped through new and old. It was especially gratifying to hear a couple tunes off the first EP. But it was the sing-alongs like in ‘I’ll Be Alright’ and ‘Little Secrets’ that identified the night. While I have no idea how many in the crowd were repeat attendees, I do know that by the end of the night, Passion Pit had provided spectacular satisfaction for quite a few thousand people during their time in America’s national capital.

After the cut: set lists from Passion Pit and Youngblood Hawke.

Continue reading Live Review: Passion Pit with Wild Belle and Youngblood Hawke at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 16th October 2012

 

Live Gig Video: Local Natives perform new songs ‘Ceilings’, ‘Heavy Feet’ and ‘Columbia’ at CMJ

 
By on Thursday, 25th October 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

American music Web site Consequence of Sound have posted live video of Local Natives performing at New York City music festival CMJ last week. Here are ‘Ceilings’, ‘Heavy Feet’ and ‘Columbia’, which all feature on the band’s forthcoming album ‘Hummingbird’, out soon.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/51660230[/vimeo]

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/51660231[/vimeo]

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/51660232[/vimeo]

 

Live Review: Savoir Adore with Santah and Royal Canoe at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 20th October 2012

 
By on Wednesday, 24th October 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

After getting stuck in traffic for 2 hours thanks to a university’s homecoming activities, I had a Magners pear (unheard of in DC!) and a pretty good fish and chips at H Street pub the Queen Vic. Properly nourished, I was in a much better headspace to enjoy Savoir Adore on their current North American tour, performing at hole in the wall Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel up the street.

There were two openers. The first was Santah, a five-piece originally from Champaign, Illinois (as explained to me by their bassist Otto Stuparitz), but who have since moved to the Big City, aka Chicago. Santah’s vocals are provided by brother and sister Stan and Vivian McConnell. Think of the lovely harmonies of Grouplove, except without all the craziness, with a good helping of the surf pop chillness of Princeton, but without the airheadedness of Best Coast.

Santah have just released an EP, ‘You’re Still a Lover’, and track ‘I Love the Way You Seal the Deal’, with its “eee-ohhhhh-ohs!” off the EP was one of the standouts of their set. If you like your indie rock unpretentious, with wide-eyed wonderment and made by a pair of siblings who clearly get along with each other (I can’t even imagine being in a band with my brother!), then check these guys out.

The second opener was Winnipeg, Canada sextet Royal Canoe, who had been touring with Savoir Adore from when this Savoir Adore tour began in the Great White North. The RNR stage is already small to begin with, but really, you should have seen all the gear Royal Canoe had with them. Now, when half your band have synths as part of their instrument set-up and you have three drummers – a traditional one, a second who plays electronic drum pads and a third who plays guitar occasionally but obviously preferred hitting a drum with the head of a mike – to me, you’ve really got to show up and prove to me all that gear makes sense to your band.

There’s a ‘canned’ feeling you can’t escape, whether it be some tropical instruments that you hear but you clearly don’t see the said instruments on stage. While they played with a lot of energy and at times had a slow jam Hall and Oates meets r&b vibe that could be very popular on Radio1, and I can see Is Tropical and even Friendly Fires enjoying this band’s more tropicalia moments, I think there’s something to be said to be able to do much with a lot less.

Having impressed me with their EP ‘Dreamers’ this past spring, Savoir Adore didn’t disappoint me with their new album ‘Our Nature’ either. I had worked myself up so much that even with several people cancelling on me, I was determined to have a good time. (Even if I went white-knuckled with nerves as I proceeded to get stuck on Georgia Avenue on the way down…) I’m really glad I went, even if I had to go alone. What I already knew: there would be lovely dream pop moments like ‘Loveliest Creature’, which I was captivated by in Brighton at this year’s Great Escape but this time had group-coordinated hand gestures, and ‘Our Nature’ closing track ‘Sea of Gold’. The coloured spotlights they chose to illuminate the centre of stage – their equipment racks hidden under a white sheet to allow for maximum coloured light reflection – just added to the overall drama.

What I didn’t know: this is a band that can really groove. I wasn’t expecting the loudness of a disco, but I guess I should have expected this from new(er) song ‘Regalia’, the first single from ‘Our Nature’ with a killer bass line. Also unexpected: a cover of Thompson Twins’ ‘Hold Me Now’, which you can get a feeling of from the video below (sorry for the quality; I blame the sound system at the venue, but at least you can see what I’m talking about with the coloured lights). My favourite moment of the night? I wasn’t sure if they’d return for an encore, but I realised after they left the stage the first time, they hadn’t played current single ‘Empire of Light’ yet! They returned and played this and oh god, be still my heart. I guess I must have been verklempt, because I know they played a song after it to end the night, and it looks like ‘Morning Fruits’ to me in my scrawl from in the dark. It’s a good night gigging if you can’t think straight and your mind isn’t working well enough to write properly, eh?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIzWT121EFs[/youtube]

 

Live Review: Divine Fits with Cane and the Sticks at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 18th October 2012

 
By on Monday, 22nd October 2012 at 3:05 pm
 

I detest the word ‘supergroup’: there are too many different connotations, and not all of them can be true for any one particular band that includes band members of other popular bands. However, the word is bound follow Divine Fits around because it has an incredibly fab musical pedigree: Dan Boeckner (ex-Wolf Parade / Handsome Furs) Britt Daniel (Spoon) got together when their primary bands were on hiatus and grabbed Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks) to form an entirely new band.

I guess when you’re dipping your toe on the American touring circuit with your brand new band, even if you’ve got touring experience and fans from your previous outings under your belt, there’s still a level of trepidation, like, “will people bother to turn up for our show?” Early on in their 9:30 Club Thursday night, Boeckner looked absolutely gobsmacked by the turnout, commenting with a smile, “it’s only the third show of the tour.” Daniel echoed this sentiment later, sounding genuinely touched as he cracked a million watt smile: “we weren’t expecting so many people!” Divine Fits isn’t exactly like any of their members’ other bands, except maybe Boeckner’s Handsome Furs, as there’s a new wave-y element with synths, but overall, I find Divine Fits an incredibly intriguing coming together of three musicians, each at the top of his game, knocking out numbers from their debut album ‘A Thing Called Divine Fits’ with confidence and swagger. I’ll come back to that last word in a moment.

The support, Cane and the Sticks, turned out to be a local band. (That’s what I get for asking for tickets last minute and then not having time to do any research ahead of time.) I thought about the name of the band and wondered if it was a play on candy canes, something yuletide, etc. Cane is Peter Haynes, playing with Liz DeRoche, quite possibly the skinniest armed yet most wild female drummer I’ve ever seen and who also contributes occasionally on vocals, and Arthur Noll on bass.

There is a down and dirty, garage-y feel to their sound, with Haynes sneering in the rock ‘n’ roll style favoured by Roger Daltrey, or maybe a less vitriolic Johnny Rotten. Being the only support act, they were allowed a long set, which ran from ‘gentler’ numbers like ‘Baby’s Brain’ to more powerful rockers like ‘Jump Off the Boat’. It’s not apparent from their Bandcamp, so I guess they improvised live with long, strenuous, jammy outros that an gear head would have loved. I’d have to pay closer attention to the lyrics but all in all, a pretty good warm up act.

Before Divine Fits came on stage, an eerie, minor key classical piece was playing. It made me think of Dvorak or the work of some other suitably dramatic composer. They then started right into the last track of ‘A Thing Called Divine Fits’, called ‘Neopolitans’. It’s an ambient, relatively chill, if somewhat unexciting way to start the night off. (The backdrop was also less than awe-inspiring; when I came into the club, I saw this white screen covering the back wall, so I assumed when Divine Fits took to the stage, the screen would drop to reveal something exciting. No such luck. Synchronised coloured lights reflected off the screen, which was only used to capture the band’s shadows from the stage.) Dan Boeckner’s first words to the audience was something about how today (18 October) was People’s Day and we should be “celebrating personhood'”. Given all the recent debating and discussion regarding the rights of women (and fetuses, for that matter) related to the presidential election, I had to laugh a little. I looked this up on Google and didn’t find a ‘Person’s Day’ so if anyone can clue me in, I’d like to know. Otherwise, I think it was just a topically funny (for DC) comment.

From there though, the set slowly burned towards what I considered the highlights of the set. First, ‘Would That Be Nice’, which will probably be the band’s calling card as they continue through the years, came in with all the swagger and attitude of Mick Jagger minus the big mouth; it was the song that made me sit up and notice them, with a sexy as all hell bass line and earworm melody on a buzzy synth. This is the kind of song you can see men hearing in their heads when they’re going after a hot woman in the club; at the same time, it’s the song us women hope that attractive man in the corner giving us the eye is thinking of. ‘…Nice’ was followed by ‘Like Ice Cream’, which continues the . This is the way to woo a woman, fellas: a woman doesn’t want to hear what you plan to do with her (I’m looking at you Miguel and the Wanted). She wants to know she’s being appreciated for the pretty, lovely being she is; give her control, and she’ll be waiting for you. Like ice cream. (I think. I’m sorry, but this song has really gotten to me…it’s simple, yet what a song.)

Boeckner delivered the vocals for their first single ‘My Love is Real’ with desperation, down on his knees, writhing on the floor. ‘Flaggin’ a Ride’ earlier in the set is another swagger- and testosterone-filled tune, and it goes down incredibly well live. How could I tell? Mens’ heads were bopping in the crowd, and that rarely happens in DC, probably because men are too embarrassed to be seen moving any part of their body to the music. But hey, we’re talking about some titans of rock music playing here, so any of those reservations went out the window.

I wondered how they were going to fill even an hour, with only one debut album to their name. Four covers graced their set: a highly talked about live cover of Frank Ocean’s ‘Lost’, the recently in the news Rolling Stones’ ‘Sway’, Tom Petty’s ‘You Got Lucky’ and a version of the Birthday Party’s ‘Shivers’ that serves as one of the most emotional moments on their debut featured in the encore. So much attitude oozed out of their debut album, and it translated to so much more than I could have expected live. All I have left to say is, “Divine Fits, hurry up and put out another album!” And Britt Daniel, if you are reading this like you said you would: THANKS for a great night. We will be back to see you anytime you’re in Washington.

After the cut: Divine Fits’ set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Divine Fits with Cane and the Sticks at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 18th October 2012

 
 
 

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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.

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