It was a privilege to watch this 12-piece dub/afrobeat/hip-hop group play at the Brixton Jamm. Before the night, I had only heard their recent single – ‘Work House’, which is a badass, well-produced, modern neo-soul classic, reviewed previously on Lost In The Manor. So while I was excited about their set, I didn’t quite know what to expect. ‘Work House’, it turns out, is not that representative of their live show. The song is a masterpiece, but compared to the rest of their set, somewhat conventional. Nubiyan Twist’s live show was an intense afrobeat, jazz party/workout with long improvised passages. From the start it was clear that none of the members had let their obvious talent go to their heads. All 12 smiled unpretentiously as they created a groove that invited us all to join their party. The African rhythms took hold of us and no-one could help dancing despite the Brixton Jamm being so rammed that we could barely move. This was a completely inclusive relationship between band and audience: the glue between the two entities was the hypnotic afrobeat groove, taking hold of everyone’s consciousness like a drug. She emerged gracefully from the shadows a few minutes into the first song, sidling between the keyboard player and the brass section to her place behind the microphone. With a look that could be described as somewhere between African Queen and Geisha, Nubiya Brandon used her long fingers and slender arms to form shapes in the air – looking like she could have come from an art-nouveau painting. Sassy yet elegant, feline yet powerful, Brandon cut an imposing figure on stage. However, what charmed about her performance was her lack of ego in terms of her place in the band. She oozed style and confidence, but as the frontwoman of Nubiyan Twist, saw herself as firmly being a part of the collective, and let all the other performers shine equally. Within the framework of the groove, each performer was given a canvas on which to explore new territory in their solos. I particularly enjoyed Oliver Cadman’s keyboard solos, with spiky left hand chords climbing through unexpected changes, and a nimble and innovative right hand. Denis Skully’s explorations on the tenor saxophone were imaginative and reminiscent of Coltrane. It was also a thrill to have Tom Davison on the decks, whose scratching and use of effects brought an urban dimension to their sound. Standing in the darkness on the far left of the stage stood Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Pill Adami, who was on percussion and vocals throughout most of the set. In a subtle way he seemed to conduct the collective, with his perfect sense of rhythm and impassioned vocals. Nubiya had already dedicated one of their songs to Fela Kuti, but for their encore, Pilo Adami slung a guitar over his shoulder and took to the centre of the stage to lead the band through Fela Kuti’s ‘Gentleman’. I bought the Nubiyan Twist CD and I can’t stop playing it. The performances are immaculate and the production tasteful. But every time a soloist gets going on one of the tracks, I just want it to continue. Listening to the record makes me want to see them live, to witness that incredible energy, that synergy of forces, the wild solos and to be a part of that Nubian Twist party again.
Words by Charlie Hannah. Read more by Charlie at The Dentist
I’ve seen Retrospective For Love perform many times. Every show so far has triggered a dual emotional response. Initially I’ve been hit by a surge of joy that original, clever and soulful music is still being made today. But somewhere on my journey home I get a sour taste in my mouth, due to the fact that, to my mind, they haven’t been getting anything like the attention they deserve. I have high hopes for RFL, whose influences range from J Dilla to Chet Baker, and I won’t be content until they’re headlining Glastonbury and beyond. That’s the attention they deserve. But late at night on a very cold and windy Saturday in March 2015, several things prompted me to feel that there is something of a sea-change happening in the career of this multi-national seven-piece neo-soul outfit… It was 11.30pm by the time frontman Davide Scortino greeted the audience at the Brixton Jamm. Wild afro, Sicilian drawl, cheeky smile: “Hello Lovers…” As they launched into ‘Leave me Alone’ the thronging audience were simultaneously transfixed by the strangely clunky, slightly unnerving groove. Although Davide is the frontman and songwriter, each band member has their own distinctive vibe on stage, and I can get fixated on any member’s idiosyncrasies for whole songs at a time. In this opener, bass-player Agostino grabbed my attention – how he held the reins of the groove, playing tastefully and inventively, producing a thunderously deep sound that resonated through my insides. Throughout the gig I was taken in by the spaced-out, effortlessly cool and sleepy jazz keyboardist Gaba, the still and stoic yet equally magnetic trumpeter, Hanno (who looks like a young Ginger Baker), backing singer Leslie’s constant rhythmic, sexy grooving, Alessandro’s crazy guitar patterns, the disconcerting beats of new drummer Daniel Bond, and of course Davide… “Some of you might have heard,” he said, “that we’ve just been signed to BBE Records.” (Former signings include J Dilla, Paul Weller, will.i.am and Roy Ayers.) Clearly most of the audience were already clued into this news, and erupted in approval. Davide continued: “This next song is called ‘The Picture You Show Me’ and it’s the first single off our album.’’ Single? Album? Record deal? Positive things happening to a band that actually deserves it. Davide leant forward with a fighter’s stance and a wide eyed, wired look of complete earnestness and self belief. He gesticulated aggressively as he spat the visceral verse rap, Leslie joining in to punctuate certain phrases. When the song arrived at the chorus, the two singers were separated by a major third, and united by the huge descending melody “Whaooooh”. It was simple and immediately accessible. This brings me to perhaps the most important fact about RFL. There are many bands out there with virtuoso musicians who gel and who can hold down a good groove, but without a descent songwriter, who cares? Davide is a versatile writer who has the ability to craft catchy hooks with edgy lyrics. Once the mainstream has gotten hold of this band, the media will be desperate to use ‘Kill Me’, ‘Empty Bottles’, ‘Sky With No Clouds’ and countless others for adverts, film and radio. For while nearly all members of the band are educated in jazz theory and have encyclopaedic knowledge of music from all different areas, the thing that sets them apart is the ability to write music that relates to people on all levels – not just hip-hop enthusiasts or jazz boffins, but everyone. Now, it might be due to the fact that they have a new drummer, but there seemed to be an urgency in the band’s playing that I haven’t noticed before. Agostino seemed to pound the strings with a more spiky and aggressive force, the new drummer hits harder, and the songs sounded generally fatter and heavier than I have heard them. And as I left this particular gig, I could taste something sweet (could have been all the sugary drinks). But also, it was due to a feeling of satisfaction that momentum is building for this remarkable group. I can begin to see the long road of well deserved recognition carved out ahead of them.
Words by Charlie Hannah. Read more by Charlie at The Dentist
A recent comment on Strong Asian Mothers’ Facebook page reads: “the name is highly deceiving”. Quite what the objector is expecting the band’s moniker to represent isn’t clear, but no doubt he was once as confused by Freddie Mercury singing the praises of fat-bottomed girls, and it was this famed lyrical sample that opened SAM’s Finsbury show. It kickstarted an instrumental that encapsulated much of the finest, phattest elements of the performance to follow: multilayers of iPad- and synth-generated floor-shaking sequences, shapely jerk-funk beats and, notably for such a digitalist act, searing horn interjections courtesy of an unassuming stage-left trumpeter. His, and the drummer’s heavyweight zig-zag tub-thumping, which at times could have serviced a Royal Blood track were the accompanying riffs more monolithic, neatly embellished a set that was largely pre-programmed. This included many of the vocal parts, leaving SAM’s two livewire frontmen to function as backing harmonists and animated tech ops activating the chart-chummy electronica and thinking-man’s R&B mashup. Infused with a wry irony reflected in such tunes as the closing opus to fast food, ‘Chicken’, Strong Asian Mothers were polishing a quirky, classy and saleable sound that is luring savvy onlookers.
There were more loops and backing tracks to follow from another four-piece, Sweden’s Simian Ghost but, along with more considered facial hair and added diffidence, the balance was weighted firmly in favour of the analogue, the tech touches an enhancement to twee indie-guitar pop, given clout by the strength of its melodic inspiration. A dusting of Grandaddy-like vocal lines floated atop lovely dripping guitar arpeggios, tubular samples and loping McCartney basslines. Simian Ghost’s sprawling songs crafted a wall of audio nougat, a pleasing melange that spurred one audience member to gift singer Sebastian Arnström a mid-set beer. Arnström’s stilted between-tunes banter was a blot on the mellifluousness, his under-the-weather demeanour at odds with the polka-dot sonics. Perhaps he should follow the lead of one Freddie Mercury who, as the aforementioned lyrics attest, was a master of faux sincerity when required; a canny tool for any frontman hoping to go the extra mile.
Words by Nick Mee. Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter
Live photography by Carolina Faruolo. View more of her work at cfarulo.com
If you’re a frequent weekend warrior at London’s music venues and indie club nights, you’ll most probably run into Decoy Jet. The four-piece from Enfield seem to be playing hipster hangouts across the capital every weekend, and as a result look more at home treading (and shredding) the stage than they do off it. For such a new, young band, they have fire-starting chemistry and commandeered the stage at Camden’s Proud like rocking out was all they knew. They look like the kind of band you will find soulfully jamming in their downtime and they probably spent most of their time in the school classroom coming up with chord progressions. At Proud, frontman Ted Joyce strolled on to the stage, Red Stripe in hand, and played so hard you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing in his head but music. Along with Alan Thompson on bass, Connor Johnson on lead guitar and Jonny Bailey on drums, they filled the room with an immensely tight fusion of 60s rock‘n’roll and post-punk revival, full of murderous riffs and licks. ‘Action Reaction’ saw them hurl into grungy garage punk with supercharged guitars, and ‘Don’t Need You’ was fiercely cool and full of funk, but throughout you can hear the influences from Oasis, Peace, Miles Kane, Nirvana, The Hives and The Stone Roses to name just a few of the long list of bands that came to mind during the set. ‘19’ moved away from snarling Brit-rock to a more current, exotic sound, like when The Strokes went less New York and more Machu Picchu. ‘Right Place, Wrong Time’ had the thumping basslines and catchy blues-rock riffs of The Black Keys, and Decoy Jet ended with the equally catchy but twice-as-dirty single, ‘Georgia’. The standout song of the night, though, was the as-yet-untitled and unreleased seventh in the set, which was an instant addiction. So if you’re looking for me I'll probably be on a street corner trying to score a release of this so I can turn off the lights, sit on the floor and listen to it on repeat for days.
Words by Holly Warren. Read more of Holly’s writing here
Words By Nick Mee - Follow Nick on Twitter @nickjmee
So the stage has changed position, the sound-system has been upgraded, there’s a new dressing room, back bar, toilets and space for a few more punters to lively up themselves on the dancefloor. Essentially, The Finsbury has had a makeover, giving it a slicker aspect and spec yet, crucially, without sacrificing the low-lit easy ambience, welcoming lack of pretention and fabulous acoustics. A grand redesign that would have Kevin McCloud spewing superlatives over the closing credits. Were he a live music fan.
First to grace the new crescent-shaped stage on one of many unofficial relaunches this month were HOO HAs, whose blend of blues-rock and Britpop was driven by rough-and-ready lead licks, evoking the current surfeit of post-White Stripes duos but given greater range and scope by the simple factor of being fleshed-out by a four-piece. Their reach was extended further by each of the band weighing in on vocals, the backers layering laddish unison chanting to HOO HAs’ catchy tunes, bringing to mind bygone bands such as early Kaiser Chiefs and – mainly due to the Albarnesque quaver of frontman Jamie – Blur, most obviously during the earthy tale of a day by the Westway, ‘Carnival’. HOO HAs’ rootsier stateside flipside was best captured on closing number ‘Early Film Noir’, a ballsy riff-fest driven by the raucous chops of guitarist Mark, animating the band and indicating there’s plenty of stage-stealing rock’n’roll posturing in these fellas when the fires begin to burn.
Follow-up four-piece Furs’ poppy electro-soul was enhanced by sample triggers and loops, leading to a vibe that fell somewhere between Spectorish wall-of-sound and indie twee, waving in the general direction of Camera Obscura or a more proficient Alvvays. Vocalist Elle is aptly named due to her chic, Jane Birkin-like Sixties allure, and her compact band dished up sweet helpings of sugary psych-pop on tracks such as ‘Just Kids’. Furs have a look and a sound that never seems to go entirely out of vogue, and, although their set needs the odd tweak to maintain the standard, are clearly a band of some potential. The Finsbury, too, requires a few final nips and tucks before the overhaul is truly complete, but in the meantime it’s just a pleasure to be watching bands there again.
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Charismatic, quick witted, versatile and in possession of a stunning, octave-spanning set of pipes, Nakisha Esnard was the gifted ringmistress of an oddly ramshackle show at a pre-festivities Finsbury. Fronting a pared-down reggaeish quartet and resplendent in checked shirt and bow tie, Nakisha thrummed at her mandolin while her super-soulful singing stretched the limits of her backers’ lazy skank palette, her prodigious energy initially too big for her band, even when her vocal meanderings focused on such prosaic subject matter as guzzling vino prior to the gig. Early doors, it all had the feel of a jam session, the Luton chanteuse even improvising a cheeky proposal to sack her group as another tune ran its apparently formless course. But perhaps this unorthodox, unstructured delivery was the better to showcase Nakisha’s hyperactive showmanship, her on-the-spot witticisms and off-the-cuff interactivity that drew the crowd to her. And, almost indescernibly, the band’s sparse dubisms began to assume an infectious, natural feel, no longer at odds with the singer’s expansive talents but offering a loose canvas to display her offbeat brushstrokes on original material that fused poppy r’n’b with all things roots. To further stir the melting pot, she finished with a ukelele-driven ska version of ‘Spice Up Your Life' sung in full operatic mode, which, as unlikely as it sounds, was hugely enjoyable. From the enormity of her voice right down to the personalised messages scrawled on the back of each of her flyers, Nakisha Esnard displayed effortless self-assurance as a musician and entertainer – a slick package given a twist tonight by its casual presentation.
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A band have to be pretty sure of their sonic prowess to face their audience with permascowls and hostility, but Loom have more swagger than a gathering of Gallagher brothers and certainly don’t lack for electrifying tautness and brute force. Blasting out angry grunge-punk of the weightiest order, their breezeblock miserablism is powered by a pounding rhythm section, two vigorous guitarists and a compelling frontman, Tarik Badwan, who, when not channeling a blend of Peter Murphy and Kurt Cobain, stands glowering and provocative. Who to provoke tonight, though, among the Finsbury’s typically diverse crowd, seemed to throw the band a little. Badwan’s forward surges were dramatic, but once at crowd-level it seemed there was nothing for it but to clamber back on stage. His coiled aggression was a fascinating watch, though, and the rest of the band offered a committed visual backdrop. Loom’s volcanically stroppy stance can’t detract from the fact that they are a band whose driving hardcore incorporates catchy refrain after catchy riff; a five-piece who, at their best nail the kind of pop-aware punk at which Nirvana excelled. ‘I Get A Taste’ was thrillingly spartan rock’n’roll, like a supersize Velvet Underground, while closing number and current single ‘Lice’ was another piledriver, Badwan repeatedly bawling “Get Out of My Head” before falling prostrate and exhausted on stage as the feedback faded around him. Heavyweight knockout indeed.
The evening had commenced with another eye-catching and uncompromising act, although Eighteen Nightmares at the Lux were on more of a psychobilly tip, playing fuzzy rock’n’roll with bombastic gothic vocals. The drummer and bowler-hatted bassist were done out in Joker-style make-up (the latter’s psycho-scarecrow look genuinely creepy), giving further indications of their schlocky horror bent. Their skittery rhythm and blues was reminiscent of The Cramps, sharing a slack and skeletal sound, although this nocturnal vaudeville act took a different turn during penultimate number ‘Master John’, when some glistening slide guitar came on like The Gun Club may have if they’d gone emo, giving Eighteen Nightmares their most distinctive song of the night.
In-between this heavy, heavy monster pairing were Haus, a youthful post-millennium-indie outfit, all polite melodies, spry dialect, contrapuntal chops, rimshots and tom rolls. Three guitarists seemed a touch OTT, given the marginal disparities in each one’s playing, but this is a style that relies on such subtle distinctions and, anyway, the six members look as much a set of mates as a band (presumably they’ll be ribbing the bassist about his 1980s denim jacket, collar-popped) and that’s enough reason to cement the line-up in itself. Theirs is an increasingly overcrowded genre, however, one in which Foals are probably as surprised as anyone to be the defining act, and, to rise above the herd, Haus may need to produce more of the heightened dynamics of their final two tunes, ‘Token’( I think) and ‘February’, which were quicker, bouncier and less regimented than those preceding. The band seemed to be more relaxed and fluid during these closing tracks and the crowd, which was at its most densely populated when these boys were on stage, responded in suitably animated fashion.
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Photos & Film by Chris Musicborn @musicborn @lostinthemanor
It’s hard to see how LazyTalk could become any more efficient at what they do. The band’s populist blend of ska-punk, drum’n’bass, British hip-hop and Jamie T-style street smarts is perfectly forged to whip up any crowd, including that at the Finsbury this Saturday night. Throw in a couple of anthemic, terrace-ready tracks, such as ‘Luzaville’ and ‘Memories’, and you’d imagine it’s only a matter of time before some sharp svengali picks up the band and runs with them. Frontman Piers Robinson has assembled a fluid quintet of skilled rebel-rousers, of whom the trump card could be keyboardist Josh, who took time out to blow gear-shifting sax solos when the tune demanded. Meanwhile, Piers wrapped his tongue around contemporary grievances ranging from the corporate dilution of pop to the perils of the pre-dawn bus-ride, all keenly observed and addressed in quickfire prose. Reappropriated covers of hits by Ini Kamoze and Dawn Penn (I’ll leave you to guess which ones) gave clues to the band’s roots - and there was certainly a punky reggae party at their rhythmic core - but LazyTalk picked and mixed from myriad sounds of modern urban Britain. Most of it was delivered strictly to crowdplease, and although the doubling up of tempo following a languid intro was a trick somewhat overdone, it never failed to lively up the dancefloor. An unashamedly bang-on-it good-time act with fire in their bellies and brains behind the beats, the five-piece put a smile on the face of a sweaty Finsbury, just as they did last time they played here some 18 months previous. This is a band who, by now, should surely be instigating knees-ups at bigger venues nationwide. LazyTalk just need an action plan.
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The lovely lo-fi psychedelia of Mazes’ Ores and Minerals LP has been one of the year’s more absorbing releases, but the band were a shadow of their recorded selves at Village Underground tonight, the loops that should have augmented the guitar, bass and drums trio felt somehow shorn of all melodic depth. This meant the focus fell too unforgivingly on the jagged string-picking and off-kilter vocals of Jack Cooper, who was reticent in the spotlight. Showpiece tunes, such as ‘Bodies’, ‘Hayfever Wristband’ and the ‘Mrs Robinson’-esque cover ‘Donovan’ were still pretty fabulous, strong enough to withstand a below-par performance, but, stripped of its studio subtleties, much of Mazes’ idiosyncratic poppy Krautrock veered disappointingly close to the landfill. A blip, perhaps.
No such crisis of confidence for Parquet Courts, so full of Big Apple swagger that they barely seemed to notice a couple of false starts and even got away with some interminable drone rock in ‘She’s Rolling’ (an antidote to the hardcore snippets that peppered the rest of the set) before kickstarting the pogoing and stage-diving proper with Light Up Gold’s zippy back-to-back openers, ‘Master of My Craft’ and ‘Borrowed Time’. Looking like four insouciant college kids, the Courts’ excitingly forceful hipster punk occupies an unlikely space where The Strokes might rub up against Discharge. Their slacker singalongs slammed into the sell-out crowd via a surge of distorted adrenaline and unrelenting high-speed 4/4, delivered in a whirl of hair, sweat, power chords and feedback. Guitarists Andrew Savage and Austin Brown took turns to bellow out lyrics in a Brooklyn drawl, the latter joking how he’s made more trips to London this year than to his mother’s - the band have more than quadrupled the size of venues they’ve played while doing so. The intimate ferocity in which they specialise is best suited to compact and sweaty, though, and it’s hard to imagine them pulling off such a relentless onslaught in establishments much bigger than Village Underground. Relish the moment, of course, but the Courts may have reached a career crossroads where the snotty attitude and humour of thrilling garage nuggets like ‘Master of My Craft’ and ‘Stoned and Starving’ point the way over much of the set’s powerful but perfunctory punk rock. After all, Parquet Courts may come on like indifferent wasters, but their wise-guy lyrics betray a band whose ambitions surely lie beyond just sharing the bill with Anti-Pasti at the 2016 Punx Picnic.
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In BBC4’s ‘Synth Britannia’ doc, prolific music writer Simon Reynolds contends that 1980s electronica acts developed a ‘fire and ice’ template, wherein a boffin figure handled the technology while a passionate female or gay male vocalist provided the sensual drama. Think Yazoo, Soft Cell et al. It’s a formula that Mano’s Daughter adhere to, contemporising the image thanks to their man behind the Moog who, in stubble and distinctive tee, resembles the hip guy from your office IT department. But over and above knowing where to locate the restart button, Matthias Garrick’s expertise at sequencing steady binary beats and hefty cadences was clear, as was his musicality – sublime keyboard runs colourised his act’s cyborg sheen as much as the heartfelt reverb-drenched vocal of Sarah Carter, who injected range into the duo’s downtempo balladry. Touches of Portishead’s ethereal chill leaked into a brooding sentimentality popularised by the likes of BANKS, leading to dense slab of moody modernism, occasionally so widescreen that the songs' abrupt endings came as a disconcerting jolt. And as well-conceived as each tune was, the set never really changed gear, its constant loping pulse rendering it somewhat repetitive. Mixing up the BPM here and there wouldn’t have gone amiss on this Saturday night.
If Mano’s Daughter maxed out the melancholy, Yurs bounced in from the other end of the emotional spectrum, a sunny blast of poppy tuneage that had the crowd jumping from first number to last. Their two frontmen sharing guitar and vocals were embellished by keys, bass and drums, with four of the five-piece spreading delicious harmonies around a powerful tenor, leaving traces of Byrds here, Monkees there. Direct comparisons to such giants would plainly be overdoing it just yet, but those layered voices are a wonderful card to play, and terrifically crafted numbers like ‘I’m Allowed’ had instant impact. In the main, the group drew on the finer stuff of noughties indie, a combination of catchy riffs, the lightness of touch of good-vibe American guitar bands and, most obviously, the effervescent dexterity of Supergrass, an outfit whose versatility was key to their success. Judging by this Finsbury show, Yurs also have the proficiency to change direction with ease, a quality that should scream commercial viability. Yurs ‘oping, anyway (bad closing pun should be read with a Westcountry accent for full effect).
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On occasion a reviewer will chance upon an act so familiar that any florid turns of phrase seem surplus to requirements. Blues-rock is the only appropriate descriptor of The Jack J Hutchinson Band, a trio with a decadent Seventies bent but very much of a genre that has been with us since white boys first turned their hands to Elmore James licks. No bad thing, of course, as when well-executed it is a sound to offer timeless pleasures. This outfit were reliant on theirs from main-man Hutchinson, a good ol’ guitar hero giving up all the hammer-ons and hirsute gurning you could desire. His adroit fretwork was at its most expressive in shorter bursts, however. Come the set’s end, and despite ably brandishing a bottleneck, his soloing had become so pervasive it was like listening to a medley of everything ever recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Hutchinson’s extended lead play may have been cover for an enforced line-up reshuffle necessitated by the disappearance of his regular bass player. The replacement did a steady job, if tentatively, his look of studied concentration a little at odds with a music so evocative of carefree rock’n’roll excess.
No such incongruity from Tied To The Mast, a rum-looking bunch who were as effective a band-as-gang as you’re likely to witness. Blasting out overdriven slacker punk, their three guitarists interwove thrillingly, also trading lead-vocal duties to subtly alter the feel of each song. Employing a powerhouse drummer and a muscular bassist, the band’s default setting was ferociously full-on, but they had a fine ear for dynamics, breaking down and dropping out in all the optimum places, constructing tunes from layers of contrasting volume. There was something of Dinosaur Jr to their distorted vibe; dirty and joyous, rather than dirgy, mainly thanks to those ever-fresh vocal interjections. ‘Bubblegum’ ended proceedings with a flourish, proving TTTM could pull out a blinding pop tune too, albeit with a white-noise sheen.
If anything, the volume pots were pushed further clockwise when Zoo Zero took to the stage, the four-piece announcing their arrival with a swirl of feedback, setting the tone for a set that enveloped The Finsbury in a six-string sonic shroud, darker than Tied To The Mast’s, more shoegazey and stoutly psychedelic. The clarity of the lead vocal, appearing occasionally amid the guitar maelstrom, offered footholds in the wall of noise, further enhanced by harmonies from the drummer. Peaking during songs built on near-Hawkwindish driving krautrock, Zoo Zero’s set may have struggled to sustain its high for the full 45 minutes, but affirmatively found fifth-gear again for the finale, a slab of pounding, glistening electric thrash that... well, that rocked really fucking hard, as even the most erudite reviewer would be content to admit. Zoo Zero’s debut album is out 30 September.
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Young Aviators @ The Finsbury 9/8/13 With an Oasis-like sense of dramatic timing, Babeshadow, the night’s scheduled headliners, apparently split up just prior to the gig. You could argue they chose a good day to self-destruct. Their support, Young Aviators – three young fellas from Ireland who crossed the North Channel to plant roots in Glasgow – proved themselves a tough act for anyone to follow.
Although occupying territory that has been generously populated with guitar-wielding wannabes since The Strokes swaggered on to the scene at the turn of the millennium, Young Aviators’ take on melodic garage rock had more than enough verve to rise above the hordes. Their clipped, driving guitar-based indie was tight, razor-sharp and, most crucially, built around memorable pop hooks delivered with uplifting three-part harmonies. At their most exuberant they brought to mind the finest practitioners of the genre, acts such as Arctic Monkeys and The Young Knives. And like the latter, Young Aviators are blessed with easy, appealing wit – no demure indie boys these. The singer offered a withering assessment of the band’s London mini-tour, one which “offered so much but delivered so little”, noting the aloofness of the capital’s gig-goers. This old-beyond-his-years cynicism was countered by a determination for the Finsbury crowd to prove an exception; the ‘self-help’ books that were distributed as ironic gifts were further evidence of the trio’s anti-earnestness. Two audience members were even invited on stage, with only the lankiest being deemed worthy of a prize. It was all a disarmingly funny foil to Young Aviators’ buzzsaw new wave: dynamic, chunky tunes like ‘Future Pill’ and ‘Forward Thinking’ were raw rock’n’roll belters, while ‘We’ve Got Names For Folks Like You’ was a groove-built blast of disco polemic, essentially a floor filler, but more daft punks than Daft Punk. The band encored with a high-velocity cover of ‘Get Over You’ by The Undertones, those expert Irish exponents of eminently hummable overdriven pop. That figured. Young Aviators are supporting Travis on a couple of dates later this year. ‘Driftwood’ after this lot? Don’t be altogether surprised if Travis suddenly announce their retirement in the run up to the show...
Prior to The Bishops, The 286 took to the stage minus their two cellists, which was a shame as it would have fleshed out the group’s vaguely anaemic Anglo-pop. The remaining quintet did include a violinist - Emma - who sawed away admirably behind her music stand. But the dominant sound was that of the electric piano, nudging the band towards the middle of the road. Some pleasant enough tunes could be found among the fromage, however, suggesting that The 286 could have commercial impact given the necessary studio sheen. Standing out was the penultimate Sgt Pepper-esque fanfare of ‘Month of Sundays’, delivered with an appropriately nasal vocal twang, before it was all back to Hamburg for the set-closing rocky rumble of ‘Little Louisa’. But whether it was the fault of those missing in action or not, there was little fluidity in the band’s sound, mirrored by their slightly stilted stage presence. The set snagged on a tentative approach, and if they don’t shake off the shackles and inject a little soul, then The 286 may be forever destined just to make up the numbers.
Manor House sure ain’t Mississippi, no matter how much Bourbon you knock back at the Finsbury, but last Sunday, with the thermometer stuck in the 20s come dusk, Meg Cavanaugh’s sultry country swing band brought a sense of the Deep South to this precious venue a few miles north of the River Thames. Originally from the Midwestern environs of Ohio and now based in London, Meg, Epiphone in hand, led her group with a crystalline vocal that shone more brightly even than her golden hotpants. Her worldly takes on heartache and hedonism were backed by luscious, never-faltering harmonies from keyboardist Bridget, and, behind these two, a trio of experienced hands looked, and sounded, as if they’d been a steadying presence on many a stage; the guitarist, in particular, added colour to the frame with his slide and subtle lead-play. It all resulted in comforting bluesy alt-country Americana, and while it seems a little lame to compare Meg to guitar-toting female solo artists on a similar tip, her more rockish numbers, such as the hooky ‘Adventurous’, brought to mind a rootsier Sheryl Crow. Meg has an easy on-stage charisma, too, supplementing between-song banter with jokes that’d make Frankie Boyle blush, and demonstrating that the best thing to do when there isn’t a trumpet-player in the house is to impersonate one yourself. A pleasantly laid-back scene-setter then, for a steamy summer evening, evocative enough to bring on a kind of hazy US dive-bar reverie, at least until a lamb doner, a pint of milk from Costcutter and a traffic snarl-up on Green Lanes swiftly fractured the illusion on the walk home.
Review by Monica Guerrasio (AAAMUSIC.co.uk) Sunday June 9th 2013
Writing a review is more complicated than it looks like; it’s basically translating music and feeling into words. A writer will find bands along the way that will make the task easier or more difficult. But personally I think the best bands are those that leave me speechless, and trust me it’s not an easy job. This happened last Sunday at The Finsbury Pub when Buzzard Lope got on the stage.
They played several tracks from the upcoming album Pyrrhic Victories, due in November. The trio was joined on stage by Gill Sandell playing the accordion.
The band opened with ‘Peak of Evolution‘ from the upcoming album, a rhythmic tune, fusion of jazz and blues accompanied by Sandell‘s accordion that gave the song a touch of folk.
‘Walk Don't Run‘ hits by surprise, you couldn’t see that coming. Roger Illingworth, the singer and main composer of the band, went up and down with his voices reaching high pitches and then going to a lower and deeper tone. Illingworth didn’t only play with his voice, he was possessed by the music; he literally bounced up and down on his stool behind the keyboard, his leg thumped against the floor following the beat of the song and his eyes were closed. He released all his energy which came out unleashed and pure. He looked completely submerged in the world created by the music and the lyrics.
The band went back to slower and evocative tunes like ‘Union‘ and ‘East by East‘, songs that surprised you at the last minute growing into two orchestral pieces.
Trying to draw a pattern of this gig was almost impossible; Buzzard Lope were all over the map with their songs: a mix of pure jazz, soul and pop.
The crowd was completely taken by the magical and dramatic atmosphere created by the band, awaken only when the music finished; always ready to burst in loud applause.
Lost in the Manor Presents Such is the refreshingly diverse nature of the Finsbury clientele, that the crowd on the final Friday of May included a fully kitted-out softball team, fresh from an evening swinging the bat in nearby Finsbury Park. Not that such overt Americana had any noticeable impact on The Black Ink, whose white-shirt-black-tie Brit-beat shtick disguised a psychedelic rock band of greater depth. Three of the five members strummed six-strings but never overwhelmed, adopting a share-and-share-alike approach to their playing that was complementary rather than intrusive; flourishes such as the sparkling slide riff on ‘Tangerine’ gave the song its singular hook. Tight and accomplished, The Black Ink were at their best when belting out pop-flecked uptempo stompers, energised by a vibrant rhythm section. Oh, and it has to be said, the anchorman, sorry, the lead singer, was a dead ringer for Will Ferrell. No jazz flute tonight, though, sadly.
Headliners The Bedlamytes may have been more rudimentary musically, but they boasted an immediate focal point in singer Jasmine, whose keyboard swells and runs elevated sometimes functional tunes to a more intriguing level. Her strong vocal resemblance to Siouxsie Sioux completed the quartet’s alternative-eighties vibe, one where the occasional driving riff and catchy dynamic crescendo stood out rather than any infectious track as a whole. Still, another night at The Finsbury, another set of ascending London bands for no cover charge. All in all, another Home Run, as they may have been shouting on the sports pitches nearby.