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Live Review: Maximo Park with Stagnant Pools and the Neighbourhood at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 15th September 2012

By on Wednesday, 26th September 2012 at 2:00 pm

I found myself in one of Washington, DC’s more recent entries in the live music venue on a Saturday night, U Street Music Hall. Blessed with a superior sound system (they hold a lot of DJ shows here) and the intimate atmosphere a basement venue engenders, it’s quickly becoming a favourite place of mine to see gigs. The night opened with a band called Stagnant Pools, a rather unfortunate name. Just two guys, brothers, playing your standard three strummed chords and a drum. I was sorely unimpressed. The guitar and vocals were really quite muddy and since I know the sound system can’t be beat, I can only think they were going for the noise rock thing. I have always thought that three in a band was a hard sell, but two? Sorry, but I think these guys have a way to go.

The next band held more promise. The girl beside me had driven from the next state over just to see them. The lead singer of the Neighbourhood (yes, an America band who spells it properly), Jessie James Rutherford, is heavy on rhythm rather than melody, but with a combination of smooth R&B and clear hip-hop influences, he’s a voice to listen to. Barely a year together and with just an EP to their name, they’ve got a sound that will likely find traction. Their EP ‘I’m Sorry…’ is rather lo-fi and even slightly silky, but the live show is anything but. Full of energy, their songs translate well into the live setting. Closing the set with ‘Sweater Weather’, a track that has received moderate airplay both in their native California and Radio 1, punters midway in the crowd were clearly waiting for this tune as a group of them exploded into song at the chorus. Look for them in November when they hit London, Manchester, and Glasgow.

Which brings us to Maximo Park. The band haven’t been here in a while, 5 years in fact. Much to our editor’s lament, she missed them yet again, and the duty fell to me to enjoy their high energy, new wavish, jumpy, frenetic sounds. Wearing the familiar chapeau and fitted jacket, Paul Smith literally jumped out on to the stage as ‘Graffiti’ rang out behind him. He looked so very English to these American eyes with his hat misshapen into a nearly bowler shape. Smith was all posing and skinny and hip shaking, and while the jacket and tie slowly dribbled away as the set progressed, that hat stayed on all night! Ever the well seasoned frontman, he had the crowd wowed and undulating throughout the venue in minutes. So frenzied were some that my rather novice gig going companion was christened with her very own beer shower quite early on.

But no matter how damp those around me were, not much could dampen the enthusiasm for songs like ‘Going Missing’ and ‘Books From Boxes’, the latter of which received the biggest sing along of the night. Despite being stood right there in front of them, I still had Kasabian’s ‘Switchblade Smiles’ coursing through my head when ‘Limassol’ started. Of course ‘Limassol’ was first, so I guess I have to blame Kasabian for stealing this ultra-cool riff. The northerners kept the party going by providing song after song rather than inane chatter, aside from name-checking DC’s own Fugazi. A full 22-song set chronicled their entire catalog. I am always happy when a band can do that rather than playing, and pushing, mostly the new album. With such a good reception, I hope that we don’t have to go another half a decade before they grace our city again. And next time they better pick a date when our editor can go!

After the cut: Maximo Park’s set list.

Continue reading Live Review: Maximo Park with Stagnant Pools and the Neighbourhood at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 15th September 2012


Live Review: The Rocketboys with Bearcat and Quiet Company at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 13th September 2012

By on Tuesday, 25th September 2012 at 2:00 pm

It was definitely a lovefest at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA the other night. I went to see Austin, Texas’s The Rocketboys play. When I got there, I discovered that an additional band had been added, Quiet Company, who were their best friends, as we were repeatedly told. They aren’t touring together, they just happened to be in the same town on the same day and decided to do a one-off together. So amid the hugs and shared stage time, I managed to see not one but two stellar performances that rocked my socks off that night.

To start off the night, and initiate the love, local Andy Zipf took the stage with his brand of countrified rock often found here in the south. The Rocketboys keys player Justin Wiseman joined him for about half the set. Having seen Zipf play solo, I was impressed with how much better he came off with a full band behind him.

Second on that night was the aforementioned Quiet Company. Hailing from the same Texas town as the headliners, Quiet Company were far and away more than I expected and surely not properly represented by their name. The beardy, dark shirt, tie and waist-coated band looked like their name might imply, but what you got was a loud, throbbing, rich, slightly screamy dose of true indie rock and roll in your face. It was an absolute delight. And of course, half of the Rocketboys found their way on stage for the final song. I was right pleased to have been introduced in this manner to another great Austin band. But don’t ask them about SXSW – actual Austin residents think it is a nightmare and none of them have ever attended as punters. I have plans to cover their full set come November, so more then.

Sharing the bill and Invisible Children tour promotion with The Rocketboys, Bearcat is a female-fronted torchy, jazzy outfit that reminds me of the great songstresses of the ‘60s. Again, I spied the keyboard player as well as their drummer, Josh Rodgers, from the headliner gracing the stage. Singer Renee Yohe is the real life inspiration for the non-profit To Write Love on Her Arms, an organization dedicated to helping those who struggle with addiction, depression, self-injury, and attempted suicide. With just a touch of Adele and Amy Winehouse, Yohe captures your attention and you just want to watch her as she draws you to her with her presence and music.

When the night brought me The Rocketboys I was already fully satisfied with my evening, but knew more great music was to come. The ‘boys haven’t let me down before and I am happy to say I doubt they ever will. Having gone through a personnel change that saw 40% of the founding members step down, I was concerned about the resulting effect. I shouldn’t have been. If I dare say, I think their line-up is stronger now with the addition of youngster Kyle Samuel on guitar (complete with big black Xs on his hands to ward off any errant bartender who might accidentally hand him a beer) and Rodgers on drums. Singer Brandon Kinder, bassist Josh Campbell and Wiseman on keys complete the quintet as they ripped into ‘Marching to the Palace’ from their latest release ‘Build Anyway’ followed quickly by ‘All the Western Winds’, one of my favorites from their 2009 release ’20,000 Ghosts’.

Kinder sings with an intensity that shines through on every tune, wavering effectively at the emotionally wrenching spots. With the theme of loss in many guises to the rebuilding of self and soul woven throughout the new album, we were taken on a ride through the set from quiet self-reflection to gut busting joy, the music capable of soundtracking just about anyone’s life. Closing out the set with ‘The Best’ (official music video below), a song about the debt you owe to your best friends, the guys from Quiet Company joined them on stage. Certainly not surprising to see based on the blubbering earlier, it did make for a joyful, triumphant ending.



Luke’s Alphabet Tour – Q: Quadron at Camden Jazz Café – 19th September 2012

By on Monday, 24th September 2012 at 2:00 pm

Camden Town has long had the reputation of being one of the coolest places in London. An area of trendsetters, creatives and hip young things, all on the lookout for something fresh to call their own. As such a veritable smorgasbord of venues in Camden are operational almost every night, catering for mainstream rock acts at Koko, underground metallers at Purple Turtle a range of chart botherers at the Barfly. But there are one or two venues that offer a slightly different experience.

From the outside the Jazz Café looks like a run-of-the-mill venue conversion, but from within it’s a modern, blue-lit bar and stage with very suave clientèle. Sofas full of regulars and revellers face the now empty stage area that will soon be full of 300+ music-lovers for tonight’s sold out special.

Despite headlining the Jazz Café, Denmark’s Quadron don’t bare the hallmarks of Louis Armstrong or Miles Davis, and are often described as neo-soul thanks to their spacey, synthesised vibes and front woman Coco O’s staggering vocal ability. Tonight, though, in the confines of the high ceilinged, contemporary music lounge, the sound works and the capacity crowd are adrift in a sea of eccentric electronica.

Opening on the sublimely minimal ‘Buster Keaton’, London starts to sway to the sound of Coco’s angelic prowess. She stands at the front of the stage with flowers in her hair and a top that resembles chain mail – a juxtaposition in styles that Quadron themselves can relate to. As the funkier songs take the night up a gear, flirting with a Jackson 5-esque boogie, the band rein it in with the slower, more emotive songs in the vein of Little Dragon.

‘Pressure’ soothes in with a downtempo piano and Coco’s mindblowing operatic vocals, that leaves the Jazz Café in a stunned silence, before switching into a Supremes style groover shaker that kick starts the dancing feet of the hypnotised audience. It’s impossible to take your eyes off the stage, particularly the microphone as Denmark’s answer to Yukimi Nagano delivers flawless falsettos with ease.

For the obligatory encore, the neo-soulers try a little their hand at the King of Pop, with their cover of ‘Baby Be Mine’. Admittedly it’s not a song everyone in the venue seems to know, but in terms of musical ability Quadron cannot be faulted. They’ve managed to keep the largely non-singing crowd moving all evening, even instigating a brief bump ‘n’ grind, and it ends with a justly deserved rapturous round of applause. The Danish trio leave with Cheshire cat grins as do the fans rushing toward their bus home. No doubt we’ll be visited again soon.


Preview: Split Festival 2012

By on Thursday, 20th September 2012 at 3:00 pm

The tent is packed away. The wellies have been demuddied and chucked in the back of a cupboard, not to be seen until next year. By September all the big summer music festivals have been and gone in a haze of traffic jams, mud, and the occasional transcendental musical performance. But for the music fan that wants more, there are a few notable events still yet to come – of which Split Festival in Sunderland is one. A modestly-sized, two-day, outdoor-but-under-cover shindig just outside the city centre, Split has a great local feel to it, showcasing a superb blend of North-East talent and national acts.

Following on from the success of 2011, which saw the Drums and the Charlatans headline a rich and varied bill, 2012 promises to be even bigger, better and brasher. The pièce de resistance, perhaps curators Futureheads’ greatest coup ever, is the appearance of Public Image Limited in their headline slot on the Main Stage on Saturday night. Johnny Rotten’s post-Sex Pistols outfit reformed in 2009, and in May released ‘This Is PiL,’ their first album of new material in 20 years. Expect a razor-sharp band featuring guitar virtuoso and Fagin lookalike Lu Edmonds, and coruscating bar-room banter and plenty of brandy-swigging from Lydon himself (pictured right at Primavera Sound 2011). As the last PiL date before their American tour in the autumn, this is simply a no-brainer. One to savour.

Elsewhere on the bill we find a double dose of West Yorkshire noise in the form of Pulled Apart by Horses and That Fucking Tank, postmodern chanteuse Kyla La Grange, the dreamy pop of St. Etienne, and finally our hosts The Futureheads wrapping things up on Sunday night on the Main Stage. If the ears finally succumb to noise, there’s a fine tent of folk at the Tunstall Hill Tent on the Saturday (Kathryn Williams, King Creosote, followed by The Unthanks to close out the night), which turns noisy again on the Sunday with headliners Future of the Left. Last year saw a food tent with international delicacies galore, and a wide selections of real ales to dig into, both of which make a welcome reappearance this time around. Split is a great way to wrap up to a fine season of festivals, and with tickets a veritable steal at £40 for the weekend and day tickets for £25 for either Saturday or Sunday also available, it’s bound to be Rotten.


Live Gig Video: I Dream in Colour perform ‘Still Got A Hold On Me’ in a ‘Sofa Session’

By on Tuesday, 18th September 2012 at 4:00 pm

I got a friendly Tweet this afternoon from I Dream in Colour alerting me to this ‘Sofa Session’ shot at Surrey Quays of the band performing an acoustic version of new track ‘Still Got A Hold On Me’. Well, what else would I do, except to share it with all your lovely readers of TGTF? Watch it below.


Mercury Prize 2012: Writers’ Early Predictions

By on Tuesday, 18th September 2012 at 11:00 am

So it’s been about a week since the nominees for the 2012 Mercury Prize were announced. We here at TGTF have been mulling over the options, and here are our early thoughts on who will win this year’s gong.

Mary Chang, Editor (current location: Washington, DC, USA)
With the exception of Leeds band Roller Trio, all of the acts nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize are no stranger are known acts. A large proportion of the 12 nominees are those with high profile debut albums. The releases by alt-J, Ben Howard, Django Django, Jessie Ware, Lianne La Havas, Michael Kiwanuka, the Roller Trio blokes and Sam Lee being considered this year all fall into that category.

Wait a minute, count those up again. That’s eight. You read that right. EIGHT. That’s means without even counting bookies’ odds, there’s a two out of three chance a debut album will be picked. Was this shortlist borne out of the fact that legend PJ Harvey‘s album ‘Let England Shake’ won the honour last year (and it was her second time winning), so the powers that be decided the list should be more heavily weighted to favour newcomers? The nominees should reflect the best of the best, and not because a band has suddenly leaped onto the scene on the strength of on media buzz. Let us not forget Speech Debelle’s win in 2009. Where is that follow-up album, eh, Debelle?

I’m not saying that there is no danger of having sentimental favourites nominated because there can be the thinking that although a band has been around forever and they never have won anything, let’s give them a go this time around, shall we? I am saying that given the importance and weight of a Mercury Prize nomination, let alone actually winning the prize, the winner shouldn’t be the band that has the largest promotional effort. Which, let’s face it, tends to happen with the Next Big Thing band, because thanks to the cynicism of labels, bands are pushed hardest when they are signed and put out their first releases. When the list was released last Wednesday, I groaned inwardly because there is one band on this list whose lead singer’s voice I cannot stand, but I expect to hear him and his band constantly on BBC Radio in the next 2 months without fail, all thanks to their Mercury nomination…

So my vote is for Field Music‘s ‘Plumb’. This is pop, but not in the way you used to view pop. It’s interesting and intricate, with piano and guitar lines that sound like no-one else’s. And more importantly, what they come up with is entirely unexpected. Brothers David and Peter Brewis trade off on lead vocal and drumming duties, adding two additional variables into the mix. They’ve made it okay not just to like but embrace the art rock genre, with its atypical time signatures, flying directly in the face of that urban pop piffle that’s become all too commonplace on radio. And this album has the word “smart” written all over it. Seriously, when was the last time you heard transitional bits in an album that were purposely made into tracks, and they worked? Should they win, I’m expecting naysayers to complain that they’ve been around too long and ‘Plumb’ isn’t as fresh as some of the debut albums that were nominated. Just because something’s new doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good, or the best. ‘Plumb’ is an intelligently written, intelligently made album that deserves this praise.

John Fernandez (current location: Lincoln, UK)
The question on most people’s lips: “where’s the crazy curveball they normally throw at you?” I, for once, found myself knowing all the acts nominated, something almost unheard of over the last few years! When looking at the list the name that jumps out is an obvious one: alt-J have been gathering plaudits far and wide and feel almost as certain to win as the xx did in 2010. You really would be a fool to bet against them, but I never said I was anything but a fool.

My money is going slap bang on Plan B, an artist who over a short career has reinvented himself so successfully. ‘The Ballad of Strickland Banks’ introduced a character and backed him up with some of the most soulful tunes of the past decade, thoroughly thrusting Ben Drew into the mainstream. Now his new album ‘Ill Manors’ is out and he is firmly back to his roots, rapping about financial hardship on council estates and the plight of “Broken Britain”. Plan B says he wants to have the same impact by winning this that Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Boy in Da Corner’ did, and why not? He’s the outspoken voice of his generation.

alt-J are cool and have some killer tunes, but Plan B is representing the underrepresented and should win the Mercury Prize.

Luke Morton (current location: London, UK)
alt-J must be the favourites to win the Mercury Prize this year, and for good reason. Since their inception in 2011 with the ‘?’ EP, the Cambridge four-piece have been spreading their melancholy, indie pop across Britain to the delight of the mainstream music press including BBC Music and NME.

Debut LP ‘An Awesome Wave’ is a supreme example of the evolution of indie in the UK in recent years, as it flirts with ideas of folk, electronica, art rock and straight-up pop music. It’s been accused of being too pretentious but it’s in fact a perfectly-crafted, 44-minute odyssey into experimental playfulness that has produced the enchanting singles ‘Breezeblocks’ and ‘Tessellate’. There’s a reason the internet exploded at the release of this album, and hopefully it will receive the recognition it deserves.

Martin Sharman (current location: Gateshead, UK)
This year, the Mercury judges have the opportunity to comment on not just music, but society itself. For they have nominated Ill Manors, Plan B‘s uncompromising soundtrack to his eponymous feature film, a collection of grim stories set on a London council estate. This is the real deal: Ben Drew has the requisite first-hand knowledge to make a story of council estate debauchery and violence spring to life, and is reinforced here by collaborators of impeccable credentials. Never before has there been such a vivid piece of work documenting council estate life, and the moral- and morale-crushing struggle for survival which such an environment engenders.

Plan B pulls no punches; there are stories about drugs, violence, prostitution, drugs, gangs, and more drugs, leavened with heavy doses of swearing. No doubt there will be some who dismiss this as nothing more than a tabloid-style “demonisation” of the working class, exaggerating and exploiting their woes for cynical financial gain. Which is nonsense. Everything here has the ring of truth about it: Drew grew up on the eponymous estate; John Cooper Clarke is on board, and he, of anyone, knows his subject; take a wander through the syringes and discarded aluminium spoons of any run-down corner of London’s concrete chaos and then reasses those opinions. This is a more important piece of work than any dry government report on “Broken Britain” – its task is to seep into the consciousness of those lucky enough to have grown up on a manor not quite so ill, and make them aware of what’s going on, often just a mile or two down the road. In comparison, every other nominee appears twee and enfeebled – pretty music, but nothing with the relevance and gravitas of this collection. Richard Hawley fares particularly badly when listened side-by-side, smothering any relevance of intent with several decades’ worth of electric guitar. Ill Manors is the sound of today – however ugly the truth might be. Let’s hope the judges can find the bravery to reward fact over artifice.

The winner of the 2012 Mercury Prize will be announced on Thursday, the 1st of November. For an overview of all the nominees, read this post.


About Us

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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