Mike Atkinson

Fuck Buttons / Zun Zun Egui – Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Monday September 21.

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on September 22, 2009

Following in the slipstream of acts such as Dirty Projectors and Icy Demons, Bristol-based Zun Zun Egui are the latest band to draw influences from the jazzier end of prog rock. Their playing was fast, tight and intricate, with rhythms that lurched and shifted when you least expected them to. Mauritian band leader Kush’s chiming, trebly, pleasingly academic guitar style was strikingly similar in tone to the Projectors, while also carrying distinct echoes of Yes’s Steve Howe, circa 1972.

African influences also featured heavily, particularly when it came to Kush’s high, ululating vocals, which suggested a familiarity with the work of Mali’s legendary Salif Keita. North African and Congolese elements were also stirred into the brew, along with some of the elegantly funky fluidity of vintage Talking Heads.

It might sound like a strange mix on paper, but these seemingly opposite styles blended together in a way that sounded natural and unforced, leaving you wondering why no-one had attempted the same thing before. Although the set dragged a little towards the end, weighed down by some slightly heavy-handed percussion work, it displayed immense potential and promise.

Headliners Fuck Buttons made significant waves in 2008, with their critically acclaimed debut album Street Horrrsing. A new release, Tarot Sport, is due out next month. Produced by Andrew Weatherall, it signals a shift towards a more recognisably dance-based template, while losing none of the duo’s droney, fuzzed-out sonic experimentation.

Performing for over fifty minutes without a pause, Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power faced each other on stage, studiously hunched over tangled arrays of knobs and wires. Thick, monolithic, slow-moving slabs of sound formed the basic backbone of each track, underpinned by brutally simple downbeats and overlaid with skittering, clattering rhythms. Relentlessly intense, it promised rather more than it delivered.

For underneath all that initially impressive bombast, there was insufficient detail to hold the attention for the full duration of the set. The music remained static and earthbound, leading the imagination to nowhere in particular, and the rhythms were too solid to lift the feet very far off the floor.

That said, the final ten minutes did build to a reasonably effective climax, the tempo quickening and the musical layers expanding into something more fully realised. An abrupt, unexpected ending left you momentarily wondering whether someone had cut the power supply. A dazed silence, then applause at last. But had we been taken on a magical, mesmerising journey, or merely been bludgeoned into submission?

Spex Fest – Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Sunday May 17.

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on May 18, 2009

Starting at 5:30 in the afternoon and ending shortly after midnight, Nottingham’s inaugural Spex Fest offered an opportunity to sample six experimental indie bands – most of them American – in a well-chosen line-up which showcased the diversity of the current scene.

Following opening sets from Lovvers and Shitty Limits, Icy Demons (from Chicago) took to the stage at 7:45. Arguably the most technically accomplished live performers of the day, the band played a dazzlingly eclectic set, drawing on influences that ranged from jazzy prog-rock to funk and dub, all underpinned with a keenly rhythmic intensity. If you’ve been mourning the demise of Stereolab, then Icy Demons might just be the band for you.

Rainbow Arabia (from California) are a boy-girl duo who combine dance-derived electronica with Middle Eastern influences, overlain with obscure, echo-heavy vocals and pealing guitar lines. They took a while to hit their stride – but when they did, the effect was compelling.

Times New Viking (from Columbus, Ohio) took things back to raw, lo-fi basics, with a thrashy, brutal simplicity that stood in stark contrast to the previous two acts. Appealing enough in small doses, there was something a little too one-dimensional about their approach, which would have benefited from a sharper sense of dynamics.

Telepathe (from Brooklyn) were perhaps the strangest, most awkward and most challenging act of the day, blending girlish innocence with an unsettling sense of menace. Melissa Livaudais and the splendidly named Busy Gangnes stood sweetly behind their keyboards and percussion, singing mostly in unison with frail, emotionless, unschooled voices – while a booming, throbbing, deafening maelstrom of sound crashed around the room.

Late of the Pier – Nottingham Bodega Social, Thursday March 12.

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on March 13, 2009

Despite enjoying Top Forty success last year with their debut album Fantasy Black Channel – and becoming our most successful band for many years in the process – Late of the Pier have yet to stage a large scale homecoming gig. Instead, they’ve opted to put on grassroots shows in small venues: firstly at the Chameleon Arts Café in December, where the set had to be cut short after thirty minutes after fears that the floor would collapse on them (“Don’t dance, or else you’ll die!”), and secondly at a “secret” show at the Bodega last night.

Publicised entirely via word of mouth – no press, no Facebook, not even a stray Twitter – the venue attracted a fiercely loyal crowd, many of whom would remember the band from their formative days as Liars Club regulars, at the same venue.

The forty-five minute set opened with a new song. By this band’s standards, it was a subdued, restrained, almost conventional affair – but any fears that commercial success had smoothed out their rougher edges were dispelled mid-set with a second, gloriously off-kilter new number. Starting out as jerky, staccato new wave, it morphed into a slow passage (causing certain over-excited punters to start stroking each others’ faces), before bursting into an almost heavy metal section and ending with atonal electronic bleeps and squelches.

“We’re playing this gig to demonstrate how broken our equipment is”, quipped the singer – and true enough, the set was almost derailed a couple of times by technical hitches – but nothing was going to stop this band from whipping its fans into a chaotic, near-riotous frenzy. During the wildly popular Focker, the left hand speaker stack almost toppled over, sending beer flying over one of the keyboards. Meanwhile, the Bodega’s security guy worked so diligently in quelling the crowd surfers, that he was thanked for his efforts mid-set.

At the final number climaxed, the singer joined the moshers – flinging himself into the front rows, where he was borne triumphantly aloft. It was a fitting end to a show that was thrilling, daring, and a rare privilege to witness.

Tagged with:

Holy Fuck – Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Wednesday October 15

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on October 15, 2008

They may have looked like mild-mannered indie kids – but when it came to unleashing an all-out barrage of distinctly unholy noise, this experimental four-piece from Toronto held nothing back.

Teaming a traditional rhythm section with a sprawling array of electronic devices, the band welded rock dynamics to dance-derived textures and effects. No pre-programmed beats were deployed, and there were no laptops on hand to provide easy shortcuts. Pieces of kit were rapidly unplugged and re-wired on the fly, according to need.

The psychedelic squiggles and swirls sometimes evoked the progressive space-rock of the early Seventies. At other times, the brutal rhythmic energy strayed closer to late Nineties hard trance – but equally, we were never bludgeoned by over-repetition. Tempos were constantly switched, keeping us alert and focussed.

The similarly mild-mannered crowd nodded and twitched their appreciation, but never truly cut loose. Considering the visceral power of the performance, their restraint was perplexing.

Heavy Trash / PowerSolo – Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Tuesday September 30

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on September 30, 2008

Having started as a side project, Jon Spencer’s Heavy Trash seems to have overtaken his Blues Explosion as the main focus of attention. In the four years since the last Blues Explosion release, Spencer and his musical partner Matt Verta-Ray have put out two albums as a duo. Last night at the Bodega, they were joined on stage by the three members of their Danish support band,PowerSolo.

Effectively playing a double set, PowerSolo were the heroes of the night. As the support act, they worked hard to win us over. During the final number, the band’s gangly, goofy front man Kim Kix leapt off the stage, and began to prowl the front ranks of the crowd. Dangling the neck of his guitar well below waist height, he pressed it into service as a kind of musical Geiger counter: provocatively probing his victims, and registering his reactions to hilarious effect.

Both acts specialised in roughed-up versions of Fifties rockabilly, as filtered through Sixties garage rock, Seventies punk rock, Eighties psychobilly and Nineties alt-rock. Shut your eyes, and you could hear echoes of everyone from the forefathers of rock and roll – Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Gene Vincent – through to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the Count Five, The Stooges, Doctor Feelgood, The Ramones, The Stray Cats, The Cramps and points beyond.

In place of PowerSolo’s more playful approach, Heavy Trash offered a more studied pastiche. His vocals drenched in reverb to the point of incomprehensibility, Spencer in particular seemed locked into character: expertly channelling the spirits of Presley and Vincent, but leaving you wondering how much he had retained of himself, beyond his obvious love of the genre.

Perhaps this was the only sticking point in an otherwise superbly delivered show. For all their raw physicality, and for all their fine musicianship, Heavy Trash never quite connected on an emotional level. They might have stirred our hips, but did they touch our souls?

The Dodos / Euros Childs – Nottingham Bodega, Sunday September 14

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on September 15, 2008

Two years on from the breakup of Gorkys Zygotic Mynci, former leader Euros Childs continues to plough his gently idiosyncratic furrow. Seemingly impervious to the normal aging process, his demeanour remains cheerfully relaxed, and his solo material continues to blend whimsical pastoralism with understated tunefulness.

The Dodos have been steadily gathering critical acclaim since the release of their remarkable second album Visiter. Their music is both brutally primitive and impossibly complex, with drummer Logan Kroeber the undisputed star of the show.

In place of a standard kit, Kroeber pounded out his dizzyingly syncopated rhythms on a semi-circular set of four drums, balancing his breakneck tempo with an extraordinary lightness of touch, and displaying a technical accomplishment which frankly beggared belief.

Over to the left, a seated, floppy-fringed Meric Long added plaintive indie-boy vocals, sometimes using two microphones to build looping effects. His equally unique guitar style combined bottleneck blues and oblique thrash, providing a mesmerising counterpoint to Kroeber’s ceaseless energy.

Meanwhile, Joe Heaner drifted on and off the stage, alternating between an industrial-sized glockenspiel, an ancient miniature organ, a giant cymbal and a vast, ugly-looking metal bucket.

Veering between rapturous applause and stunned silence, the uncommonly attentive audience lapped up every note.

Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir / Congregation – Nottingham Bodega Social, Wednesday August 13

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on August 18, 2008

There’s something not quite of this time or place about Congregation. While guitarist Benjamin picked out ethereal, Gothic twists on traditional blues figures – occasionally activating a kick drum via a foot pedal for added emphasis – vocalist Victoria maintained a mournful, otherworldly presence, as if beamed straight from a dusty 1920s photo album. The indistinctness of Victoria’s strange, slurred diction – like a Bessie Smith recording that had melted in the August heat – merely added to the mystery.

Victoria and Benjamin declared themselves thrilled to be supporting the Agnostics, and with good reason. Both acts take the blues as their broad base, shaping it into intriguing new forms. In the case of the headliners, a quartet from Calgary that have transplanted so-called “mountain music” from the Appalachians to the Rockies, their music has been informed by Beefheart’s scratchy roughness, the bruised romanticism of Tom Waits, and the energy of good old-fashioned garage rock.

Although frustratingly subdued to start with, the set gradually gained momentum, carrying the increasingly enthusiastic crowd with it. The playing was delightfully loose and instinctive, taking the sparseness of banjo, acoustic guitar and stand-up bass and building something remarkably rich and full upon it.

A dead ringer for Fidel Castro in his prime, bearded, behatted, bespectacled vocalist Judd Palmer saved his coup de grace for the climax, ecstatically riffing on his mouth organ at dizzying speed, as drummer Peter Balkwill pulled out all the stops. It was a suitably thrilling end to a fine display of ensemble playing, from a thoroughly likeable bunch of guys.

White Denim, Nottingham Bodega, Monday July 7

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on July 7, 2008

Nothing on White Denim’s debut album Workout Holiday could prepare you for the all-out aural onslaught of their stage performance. Quite frankly, you might as well be listening to two different bands. Where the album is measured, focussed, its production erring towards the dry and clinical, the live show is a hard, fast, deliriously messy, no-holds-barred experience. Perhaps there were hints of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in there somewhere, along with a whiff of Kings Of Leon’s raw Southern garage rock.

As we were repeatedly and cheerily reminded, the trio hail from Austin, Texas. At the city’s influential SXSW festival earlier this year, they received the award of Best New Band. The fabled “SXSW buzz” can sometimes be a poisoned chalice, but the band’s exuberant, spontaneous, instinctive energy cut through all the hype in an instant.

Star of the show was drummer Joshua Block, whose intensely complex playing style mesmerised the crowd. It didn’t matter that almost none of the songs sounded familiar; album opener Let’s Talk About It was mangled almost out of recognition. White Denim are all about capturing the moment, and attempting to reproduce it on record seems almost beside the point.

The Twilight Sad – Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Tuesday March 25

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on March 25, 2008

Nearly a year after the release of their debut album, the critical plaudits continue to roll in for this five-piece band from Kilsyth, near Glasgow. On the strength of Tuesday night’s arresting show, it is easy to see why. Taking the so-called “shoegazing” music of the early 1990s as their starting point, the Twilight Sad mix the widescreen, effects-laden sound of My Bloody Valentine with the fuzzed-out squall of the Jesus and Mary Chain, adding some of the sweetness of classic Phil Spector for good measure.

Perhaps their nearest contemporary counterparts are the much-vaunted Glasvegas, particularly in the heavily accented vocal department – but the material is denser, less immediate, less anthemic, and altogether more personal.

Standing at right angles to the stage, singer James Graham combined Ian Curtis-like intensity with a gentler, more measured approach. The overall impact was undeniably dramatic – but it was also unexpectedly uplifting, and almost reassuring.

Duffy – Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Friday March 7

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on March 8, 2008

If Duffy’s swift and seemingly effortless rise to fame has sometimes felt like the work of an uncommonly slick and efficient marketing machine, then you have to wonder what glitch in the masterplan allowed her to end up playing a tiny venue like the Bodega. With Mercy enjoying at its third week at Number One, and with her debut album Rockferry set to enter the charts at the same position, she could have filled a venue five times the size — and so it was very much to her credit that she opted to honour the booking.

As the Bodega isn’t exactly in the business of hosting chart-topping acts, there was a palpable sense of occasion in the room, as the lucky few jostled for position. In keeping with the singer’s star status, a full-sized mixing desk had been installed, reducing the available space still further. If our applause seemed muted, it was simply because we were wedged in so tightly that clapping had become a physical impossibility.

For Duffy herself, the show represented a fresh opportunity: to play her songs to an audience who were already familiar with them. Her excitement was evident, and charmingly genuine. Instead of the cool, untouchable professional polish that might have been expected, she radiated an unspun, girl-next-door quality, still very much the former Welsh waitress made good, and with something of the friendly, homely appeal of a young Dolly Parton. Even her slightly gawky stage banter (“and my next song is called…”) worked to her advantage, bringing her appeal down to a thoroughly human level.

When a dramatic pause in one song accidentally exposed one audience member in full (and foul-mouthed) conversational flow, she milked the moment to full advantage: grinning in mock-horror, sharing the joke, and stretching the pause almost to breaking point before resuming the song to loud whoops of appreciation. “You’re so… fluffy!”, exclaimed one excited punter. “Yeah — fluffy Duffy!”, she beamed, lapping up the compliment.

Although breathless comparisons have been made with Amy Winehouse and even Dusty Springfield, these do not serve her well. Vocally, the 23-year old is a good deal more eager Lulu than measured Dusty — but as some clued-up commentators have already spotted (and as a few visits to YouTube will confirm), her singing bears a particularly striking resemblance to the long-forgotten early 1980s singer Carmel.

Right from the first few notes of the opening number Rockferry, it was clear that the bright young starlet had the vocal skills to justify the hype. Hers is a powerful, dramatic instrument, which can confidently ride a melody and sweep you up with its sheer force. Yes, it still lacks a certain emotional depth — but equally, it doesn’t seek to compensate with false shows of manufactured melodrama.

For Duffy is who she is: an essentially cheerful girl, who readily confessed that she had never truly been in love (“Or maybe I have? Oh, I don’t know! What is love, anyway?”), and whose strongest suit is a gently assertive, not-going-to-take-any-nonsense-from-you-mister approach. By and large, her songs are not yet written from personal experience, and nor do they claim to be. Either that will come in time, raising her artistry to greater heights, or else Duffy will settle into the sort of role previously occupied by the likes of Sam Brown: a happy trouper, with many years of guest appearances with Jools Holland ahead of her. It will be fascinating to see how she develops — and after last night’s wholly delightful performance, only the most grudging of cynics could fail to wish her well.

Delays – Nottingham Bodega Social Club – Tuesday March 4

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on March 5, 2008

It’s unusual for a young, fairly successful band to play progressively smaller venues with each visit – but unaccountably, Southampton four-piece Delays have managed to slide from the capacious (Trent University, 2004) to the comfortable (Rescue Rooms, 2006) to the compact (Bodega Social, last night). For a band of their undoubted abilities, whose brand of good-natured, well-turned indie-power-pop compares more than favourably with the competition, this seems less than fair.

Still looking astonishingly youthful, and with a third album ready to drop next month, the band kicked off the hour-long set with perhaps their best known number, Long Time Coming. New material such as forthcoming single Hooray and the impressive sounding Pieces held their own against the instantly recognisable glam-rock stomp of Hideaway and the electronically propulsive set-closer Valentine – but there were few signs of any major musical progression. This is a band who knows what they’re good at, and who have chosen to stick within their limits.

Perhaps it was the messy sound mix (had there been a proper sound check?), or perhaps it was the crowd’s reserve (“They’ve got rigor mortis!” wailed one frustrated punter), but things never quite gelled. Maybe it was just the wrong venue, on the wrong night.

Menomena – Nottingham Rescue Rooms / MGMT – Nottingham Bodega Social, Thursday February 28

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post, Rescue Rooms by Mike A on February 28, 2008

Thanks to a staggered timetable and some canny cross-promotion via Facebook, dedicated followers of US alt-rock were given the opportunity to see two critically acclaimed bands in two different venues, all in the space of a couple of hours.

Over at the Rescue Rooms, the larger venue drew the smaller crowd. Menonema, a three-piece act from Portland Oregon, took an intriguingly experimental approach, with band members swapping instruments and alternating on vocals. Judicious use of foot pedals and a laptop fleshed out the surprisingly widescreen sound, and an amiably loose-limbed, musicianly vibe predominated. Although far from immediate in terms of melody and rhythm, the songs maintained a textural interest throughout, with all manner of pleasing twists and turns along the way.

Up at the Bodega, the smaller venue was packed to capacity, possibly due to MGMT’s recent appearance on BBC2’s Later. The Brooklyn five-piece adopted a tougher, more visceral style, whose relatively timid conservatism came as a disappointment after the Rescue Rooms show. Around the venue, concentration lapsed and conversations broke out. Yes, they might be the band of the moment – but one has to wonder how long that moment will last.

Glasvegas, Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Thursday January 31.

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on January 31, 2008

For a band who have yet to be signed to a major label, the hype machine has been rolling hard for this Glasgow foursome. Bigged up by the BBC, feted by the NME (where their forthcoming single is currently Track of the Week), praised by former Creation boss Alan McGee (“the most important band of the last twenty years”), and even schmoozed by Lisa Marie Presley, their future success already feels like a done deal.

Having all but killed the anticipatory buzz by subjecting us to a thirty minute tape of slow 1950s doo-wop, the band sauntered on stage in a haze of dry ice, and launched into a half hour set of extraordinary intensity.

Their reference points might be well worn – Phil Spector, surf-rock, the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine – but the sheer strength of the songwriting ensured that Glasvegas effortlessly transcended their influences. Quiffed up like a young Joe Strummer, singer James Allan belted outfuture anthems such as Go Square Go and It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry with articulate conviction.

The set climaxed with the remarkable Daddy’s Gone – part accusation, part pledge – and a fuzzed-out thrash through The Ronettes’ Be My Baby.

Fionn Regan – Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Monday October 22

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on October 23, 2007

Boosted by the recent Mercury Prize nomination for his debut album The End Of History, Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan faced a curious and respectful capacity crowd, at the start of his UK tour.

Aided by a four-piece band, the fifty-minute show kicked off in surprisingly muscular fashion, before quietening for an extended run of sparse, intense, folk-meets-alt-country numbers whose poetic, deeply personal lyrics defied instant analysis. From then on, the band had little to do other than add the subtlest of backings to Regan’s reflective, accusing, somewhat embittered balladry.

Stylistically and lyrically, the songs leant towards America, bearing distinct vocal similarities to Ryan Adams’ early solo work. Perhaps the best received song was the excellent Put The Penny In The Slot, which namechecked the authors Paul Auster and Saul Bellow.

Saving the single Be Good Or Be Gone until last, Regan unplugged his guitar and delivered the song without amplification. It was a brave conclusion to a highly promising set.

Palladium – Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Monday October 15

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on October 15, 2007

Already the darlings of the London fashionista set – a dubious honour if ever there was one –Palladium don’t yet mean much outside the capital, as last night’s sparse turnout demonstrated. On the strength of their short but superb set, that looks set to change very soon.

Drawing influences from late 1970s and early 1980s soft-rock and power-pop, the band could easily have fallen through the trap-door marked “ironic”. Thankfully, what could have come across as fey, arch and mannered was beefed up by startlingly fine musicianship, a strong sense of almost stadium-rock dynamics, and an irrepressibly joyful energy and attack.

His skinny frame squeezed into skin-tight silver drainpipes, vocalist Peter Pepper radiated an androgynous, other-wordly glamour that marked him out as a pop star in waiting. Meanwhile, curly-haired “axe hero” wannabe Rostas Fez all but stole the show with his flashy, fluid solos.

They’ll be back, and they’ll be big.

Euros Childs, Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Tuesday October 2nd

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on October 3, 2007

Since the break-up of Welsh indie-pop stalwarts Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci in Spring 2006, lead singer Euros Childs has thrown himself into his solo career, with a rare vigour that sits at odds with his laidback, dishevelled anti-image. Remarkably, he has managed to release three albums in the space of just eighteen months, whilst also finding time to contribute to the splendid comeback album by his musical hero Kevin Ayers.

The new material is a natural progression from the richly melodic, gently understated pastoralism that defined the Gorkys sound. Alternately romantic, whimsical and wry, the tight, traditionally constructed songs rarely reach out and grab you. Instead, they creep up from behind, charming you by stealth.

Last night’s set focussed on the most recent album The Miracle Inn, with the rollickingly catchy recent single Horse Riding setting the good-natured mood and the older Dawnsio Dros Y Môr keeping the Welsh contingent smiling. While most songs hovered around the three minute mark, the album’s title track – an ambitious sixteen-minute song cycle, during which we were politely asked not to applaud – inevitably stood out as a highlight, as did a crunching version of The Sweet’s (and Tony Blackburn’s) endearingly ridiculous glam-pop oddity Chop Chop.

Feist – Nottingham Social, Sunday September 23

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on September 24, 2007

Having celebrated its last night as The Social on Saturday, and ahead of its official re-opening as the Bodega Social Club next weekend, the Pelham Street venue remains open for the duration, even if its actual name is currently a matter of debate. (When pressed on this point, a helpful staff member suggested inventing an anagram.)

Billed as the last act ever to play The Social under its original name (but wasn’t that… oh, forget it…), the Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist proved a fine choice to mark the occasion. Following its use in the iPod Nano advertising campaign, current single 1234 has just entered the Top 40, once again confirming this tiny venue’s uncanny knack of spotting successful acts just ahead of the curve.

Feist commenced her set alone on stage, using live looping effects to augment the sound of her voice and guitar. The effect was instantly spellbinding. Her four-piece backing band kicked in halfway through a deftly arranged cover of Ron Sexsmith’s Secret Heart, providing added muscle to the delicacy of the recorded version. The impeccably delivered performance climaxed with a frenzied jam on Nina Simone’s See Line Woman, before calming down for a final, haunting Let It Die.

Evan Dando – The Social, Nottingham, Thursday September 6

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on September 7, 2007

Fifteen years ago, as the poster boy for the so-called “slacker” generation, Lemonheads front man Evan Dando was riding the crest of a wave. While Kurt Cobain struggled with the pressures of sudden, unasked-for fame, articulating the pain of his generation, Dando’s easy-going brand of instantly likeable grunge-pop brought smiles to those same faces.

Earlier this year, Evan Dando turned forty. On the evidence of last night’s show – the second of two warm-ups for a major support slot with the Jesus and Mary Chain – he wears his age lightly, with a surprisingly healthy demeanour for someone who has indulged in the full range of rock star excesses. His lank, centre-parted hair still falls well below his shoulders. His face still bears that same dazed, doe-eyed, almost innocent expression. His audience may have settled into regular jobs and conventional lifestyles, but Evan remains the eternal slacker, making everything seem effortless and unforced.

Accompanied by regular collaborator Chris Brokaw, Dando strummed his way through a selection which spanned his whole career. Inevitably, old Lemonheads favourites such as Into Your Arms, Big Gay Heart and It’s A Shame About Ray drew the biggest cheers. But on this uncomfortably hot and sticky night, the show never quite took off.

Towards the rear, a brawl broke out. Shortly afterwards, Dando abruptly and ungraciously ended the set, and stalked off. (“I don’t like modern rock shows. I’ve played you nineteen songs. If that’s not enough, see me later.”) It was an awkward end to a pleasant but underwhelming evening.

Piney Gir – Nottingham Social, August 14th

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on August 14, 2007

It takes a brave act to tour the UK in the middle of August. It takes an even braver act to schedule the last date of their tour in a strange town on a Tuesday night, before an audience of just under thirty. And it takes an almost heroic act to play that date with a sunny good grace, seemingly untroubled by even the merest flicker of disappointment.

Piney Gir is a Kansas born singer, who moved to London in 1998. Originally an electro-pop act, she started performing her songs in a country style around four years ago, almost on a whim, and hasn’t looked back since.

Backed by a four piece band, and alternating between accordion and melodica, Piney’s stock in trade is a rambunctious “yee-haw” hoedown sound, its pedal steel twang balanced by a rockabilly stomp. It’s essentially good time party music, which needs a lively crowd in order to come into its own.

Without this suitably up-for-it atmosphere, the music was exposed as somewhat one-dimensional. Most songs were played at a similar rattling tempo, with little emotional range. By the end of the short set, what started as an affectionate tribute merely felt like shrill pastiche.

Los Campesinos! – The Social, Nottingham, Thursday March 1

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on March 1, 2007

Although they have been playing for under a year, and are juggling their musical activities with full-time degree courses, Los Campesinos! have already built up the sort of grassroots buzz that other, more career-minded young bands would kill for. As yet uncorrupted by success, the Cardiff seven-piece radiates a shambling, unforced charm which is hugely endearing.

Their songs are complex, cleverly worked affairs, stuffed full to bursting with tricksy arrangements, unexpected changes and literate, articulate lyrics. Despite all this precociousness, the material remains accessible, catchy and melodic. Yes, it’s as indie as indie gets – but there’s none of the sullen dourness which so often mars the genre. John Peel would have adored them, without a doubt. As one song puts it, their aim is “to find the perfect match between pretentious and pop”. You have to love them for it.

The band’s sound is propelled by fluid, chiming guitar runs, and augmented with violin, glockenspiel and melodica. Their short, energetic set climaxed with the crowd favourite and future classic You! Me! Dancing!, and the equally anthemic Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks. These are still early days, but their potential is huge. Once those finals are out of the way, there’ll be no stopping them.