Archive for the 'music' Category

New Young Pony Club at Islington Academy

February 22nd, 2010

As part of the run up to the NME Awards 2010 on the 24th of February, the folks over at NME have been hosting a number of gigs including the first time Courtney Love has played with Hole in 11 years (which I am gutted I missed, and in fact knew nothing about!).

Tonight’s gig was at the Islington Academy and featured an action packed line up of Teeth, Lyrebirds, Chew Lips and the all new material from the New Young Pony Club.

In typical fashion, James caused us to be late (nothing to do with me being fussy about not eating at McD, Burger King, KFC, Subway or any other fast food joint) so we missed Teeth, but I wasn’t too sure about them having poked around their MySpace.

We arrived out of the icy cold in time to catch the beginning of the Lyrebirds set and though I think whichever guitarist plays the Stratocaster needs to stop wearing his guitar just over his cock, they were pretty good. Could have done with more showcasing of individuals rather than just all playing the who can thwack the strings the loudest game, that really does my head in.

Chew Lips came on after Lyrebirds. I’ve only just found out about Chew Lips today after poking around on and finding them listed on the event page for tonight’s gig, and I may have to admit that I then spent all of the morning listening to the tracks that they have up on their MySpace page. Live they were even better than their recorded material and good deep bass and quirky melodies, definitely had everyone moving.

Quick nip to the loo and a refill of the old JD and coke and we’re back at the front of the crowd in time for New Young Pony Club. Out they burst onto the stage with the lead singer Tahita sporting bright blonde hair.

This is the first time in a fair while that they’ve played London (or possibly anywhere?), having been locked in a cage writing new material for their new album due to be released mid next week.

For the first night of the tour and the first time they’ve played the material live, I have to admit they were a lot more refined than they were when I saw them at the Astoria a few years ago, Tahita has always been full of crowd moving energy but this time it was great to see the bass player really getting into it. Shame about the lead guitarist mostly looking frustrated with his guitar and the sound engineer, and madame keyboards still feigning boredom after how many years!

The new material was a bit of a mixed bag, some of the songs have lost a bit of that energy that I loved NYPC for when I first got into them, however others definitely embrace that feeling and kick it up a notch, should have grabbed a set list so I could work out which ones I liked!

All of the old material however was absolutely rocking and had the crowd bouncing away, I left the Islington Academy a very sweaty man. Good luck NYPC for the rest of your tour!

Curious Generation at Ronnie Scott’s Bar

January 19th, 2010

Curious Generation @ Ronnie Scott's Bar

I love music, and I sorely miss the times a few years back when I was invited by Talia over at to review new and upcoming artists on behalf of them, it’s such a good feeling to catch artists when they are on the rise to fame and they have a sort of freshness to them and haven’t become so big that it spoils the experience.

Apparently luck was on my side this week, a colleague at work happens to be dating the manager of one of those upcoming artists and happened to be able to guest list me + 1 at the “Curious Generation” night being held at Ronnie Scott’s bar.

First of all, just have to give a quick prop to how intimate Ronnie’s Bar is as a venue, okay the drinks are ridiculously overpriced, but the bar staff are friendly, the atmosphere is good, and you are literally right in front of the act performing.

Curious Generation are an events and PR agency from what I can make out, and they are bringing new artists to lots of well known and established venues with the hope of attracting the record label A&R folk and getting some of these new artists signed.

Four acts performed at Ronnie’s Bar, all with a range of styles and appeals.

Ryan Keen was first up and really struck a chord (oh, pardon the pun) with Chris and I, Ryan had a lot of similarities in his acoustic guitar playing style to those of Newton Faulkner who we fell in love with years ago whilst I was doing the review circuit for Londonist. Using his guitar as more than a stringed instrument by tapping in various places to squeeze out different drum like sounds, and finger picking riffs whilst also picking off different bass note riffs.

If you can excuse Ryan’s management lurking in the corner of your eye wearing suits about three times too large, he’s definitely worth checking out and is performing all over London as a warm up for other acts and on his own with Curious Generation.

Mads Langer is the guy we’d come to see, and for an absolutely tiny sized Danish lad, he packs a vocal punch. Not really the kind of music I’d listen to normally as it was vocally heavy and a bit overpowering in the small and intimate venue (even spotted the sound guy turning him down frequently), but you’ve got to give him credit for his vocal range.

Not quite as talented as some of the other acts when it came to his guitar playing, and he did look rather a lot like his head was going to explode when he hit some high notes, but I think I’d like to see him perform with a band (which apparently he does normally).

The Boy Who Trapped The Sun (or Colin MacLeod for those that like real names) was a tough cookie, and I think my view of him was pretty much skewed by not being 100% sure if he was a depressive, or had quite heavily been at the booze prior to his performance. Either way, if you’re going to get up on stage and win people over, then you should at least look like your enjoying yourself, or not bother doing it at all.

I’m not saying the guy was bad, it was just the rest of the package. Maybe on other nights he’d be worth seeing!

Kurran and the Wolfnotes probably deserve an apology, at this point Chris and I decided it was home time for us oldies and we left early on in their set. That and I was only really interested in listening to the Gibson jazz guitar and for some reason it was turned right down, boo.

Overall though, a great night. I’d be tempted to go back to Ronnie’s Bar again if they ran similar nights, or maybe I should be chasing Curious Generation around town instead.

Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster Fifties

November 1st, 2009

Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster Fifties

It’s only been six months since my last guitar purchase when I made the transistion from learning on an acoustic to learning on an electric guitar; I am still really stupidly happy with my Fender Telecaster Deluxe 72 and it’s mix of tones and sounds that are somewhere not quite Telecaster, not quite Stratocaster.

Unfortunately when you’ve been bitten by the bug, it doesn’t look like there is any going back. Since I first started learning to play my eyes have been glued to guitars, reading what the experienced players on the forums have to say, trawling YouTube for videos of good guitarists and seeing what they like to play with.

There’s no doubt that in terms of versatility Fender’s Stratocaster is one of the first to come to mind, and I figured that if I could find a reasonably priced second hand Stratocaster (I was aiming for one made in Mexico) then I’d have a choice of guitars to play with, ultimate goal being keeping me proactive about my learning.

So I popped into Rock Around The Clock (who by the way I usually rate much more highly than anyone you’ll find on the likes of Denmark St) and started enquiring about how often Stratocasters come in second hand, what sort of condition they are in, how much they cost and so on. I was told £500 realistically, which makes you question what condition the £250 models you see floating around on eBay are actually in.

I must have looked a bit defeated, because they pulled off another guitar from the rack, immediately I squirmed at the Squier branding knowing that they’re not exactly known for the same build quality as Fender’s main factory and the pickups aren’t usually all that great.

Blow me though, the sound was brilliant for the price, and thus I was convinced, I needed to have me a Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster 50s.

The Classic Vibes are designed and made by Fender supposedly as a homage to the “vibe” of classic guitars rather than a nod at any specific model of the times, but they haven’t skimped on this series, the build quality is amazing, the neck is as smooth as butter just like my Telecaster Deluxe.

I picked her up yesterday and within 5 minutes my guitar teacher successfully broke the strings whilst stretching them, so I had to patiently restring it yesterday evening when I had some free time before I could actually have a proper play with it, but it’s all set up now and plays absolutely beautifully.

It’s a lot lighter than I thought it would be in both weight and sound, a lot less meaty and vibrant than my Telecaster Deluxe, but I’m still having a lot of fun with it already and am completely glad that I picked one up whilst they’re still making these bargains.

Balé de Rua at Barbican

May 23rd, 2009

Bale De Rau (Image by Eric Deniset & Stéphane Kerrad)

Back at the Barbican so soon you say? I’m just as surprised to be honest; with the weather starting to cheer up there must be a lot more drive building up to get outdoors and get all cultural!

After dragging Gary to Star Trek last night it seemed only fair that we go to something a bit more to his liking; Balé de Rua is billed as a mix between hip-hop, African dance, samba and capoeira performed by an adrenalin pumped cast of 15 guys and 1 girl from Brazil.

The show is completely energy packed from the very beginning, completely living up to it’s description with backing percussion with Brazilian vibes throughout, and a showcase of a fusion of different styles of dance with a strong underlying theme telling the story of Brazil.

I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, but there were some really amazing bits of choreography, especially the dance off with popping and locking and lots of other hip-hop inspired moves.

Strong faves have to be the use of an orange haze light moved around on the stage to highlight and silhouette the female dancer during one of the pieces, and the somewhat harder to describe piece where all of the dancers are tied to each other by black ribbon wrapped around different parts of their bodies, each dancing whilst the whole circle of dancers contracts, expands and moves around the stage… that was really impressive.

By the end of the show the entire audience was on their feet, most of them dancing away and clapping along (I think we both have sore hands), some even singing along!

Thoroughly recommend getting a taste of what Brazil has to offer, go see it before the show closes at the Barbican on the 31st May.

Kronos Quartet / Wu Man at Barbican

May 11th, 2009

Kronos Quartet / Wu Man (Image credits: Barbican)

I often see events taking place at the Barbican that perk my interest but I usually don’t go as far as buying tickets because I’m never really sure if it’ll actually be my kind of thing or not, not exactly very experimental I know but I’m sure we’re all relatively guilty of not just trying new things every now and then.

Anyway, that’s why we have friends to invite us to things we wouldn’t normally go to, right?

The Barbican isn’t exactly my favourite venue with their strict policy on no food or drink being taken into the theatres, or the fact that they really don’t like you being even remotely late (or maybe that was just Owen nagging?), but it does have a pretty water garden outside at least.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Wu Man and the Kronos Quartet, I’m not heavily into classical music but I am very interested in Chinese and Oriental culture as a whole, including their traditional music which I’ve occasionally heard from various street artists over the years whilst making tracks around London.

There were two performances, the first was Yuanlin Chen – Tribe Amongst Mountains which was supposedly a world premiere, and at first I really didn’t take well to it. There seem to be a lot of contradicting sounds in Chinese inspired music rather than harmonious sounds, and it ended up sounding a bit like late night cat orgies in the car park outside my flat.

Things did improve later in the first performance with Wu Man playing the traditional Chinese instrument, the Pipa, which was really quite impressive and she had such an array of sounds that it could produce from it. I think I now want a Pipa myself, though perhaps I should stick to learning one instrument at a time rather than hoping to be anywhere near as good as people that have practised for most of their life!

The second performance of the evening was Tun Dan – Ghost Opera, in which the movements of the performers are meant to reflect the back and forth between spiritual realms. The piece uses the sounds of water, metal, paper and rock throughout, with combinations of some of these, such as metal being s
craped to produce a strong tone, then placed in water to change the sound.

I was pretty impressed with the general structure of the Ghost Opera and the way all of the performers played off of each other, but there were still a few cat-orgy moments involved.

Fairly confident that I won’t be going to see any other classical concerts for a while, but I’d happily go to see Wu Man perform with her Pipa again in the future as it’s obvious that she is brimming with talent.