It's Saturday afternoon and I've finally got a breather. I've seen 12 bands so far this week, and plan to see at least one more on Sunday.
The first three were on Monday, which I've already mentioned in detail. I mentioned the next 5 in passing, but I should write them up properly. As part of a transeuropean music conference which has been going on in Cambridge this week called Escalator the Junction Fiver on Thursday was deliberately showcasing European bands
- The Broken Family Band (The UK's favourite Alt-country heroes!))
- Moussevingt, (Luxembourg)
- Skip The Rush, (Holland)
- Alazarin (Holland)
- Niccokick (Sweden)
First up was Niccokick, who were very much the indie band next door. They got my feet tapping away, but weren't anything special. Their best feature was the outsandingly tall keyboard player who also played the tambourine, and had to bend nearly double to reach the keyboard. I thought they were moderately engaging but then I'm easily pleased.
Next were Alazarin, who also featured guitars, drums, bass and a keyboard, this time with a tall girl seated at the keyboard. I don't know if they were just a little unused to playing live but the one thing that let them down for me was the lack of any real gaps between the songs for the audience to applaud. They didn't really try to engage the audience at all it seemed, perhaps they'd seen how lacklustre we were for the previous band and were scared off. I quite liked their look (sparkly tshirts and very cool looking overall) and I liked their sound too. There were comparisons with Mogwai and Boards of Canada and Sigur Ros, which should give musos an idea of the sort of sound. By and large our party thought they could have been much better, though we were rather split as to whether they had any merit at all. I think Andrew would have found them much less disappointing if it weren't for the fact they were being mediocre in a genre he's particularly fond of. On balance I'd happily see them again.
Third up were Skip the Rush, and Mike commented to me within the first 30 seconds that this was a band we were probably all going to enjoy. By the 2nd song Jan and Owen were on the barrier, and I joined them about a track later. The thing this lot had which the others didn't was to me mostly in presence. The lead singer Jaap had a great style reminiscent a little of Jarvis Cocker, and unencumbered by a guitar he proceeded instead to tangle himself and the mic stand in the mic cable. So much so that eventually he gave up, stole the other mic from guitarist Frank and left it to a pair of roadies to fix. He wandered round the stage, leapt off to sing over the barrier at us, jumped back up and tripped over the monitors and sat their feet in the air carrying on singing exactly as if he'd meant to do it. The music was great in an indie-pop-rock style which I just can't describe because I'm useless at these things. But the vocals reminded us in places of Brian Molko only less nasal: a comparison which has apparently often been made before. Of course the rest of the band was great too, and Jaap later told us that they're very much a band who all contribute to the creative process. Thijs' on bass was the representative of the flopp-haired style of indie kid, and exuded cool. And all of them were remarkably able to cope with mishaps: in the space of one track the bass came unplugged, then the guitar, and apparently the high-hat cymbal fell over, but at all points 3 of 4 of them were in control and the music was remarkably little interrupted. We were definitely glad to grab a couple of their CDs from them at the end. Also available for 12 Euros from their website http://www.skiptherush.com/.
Next, in a change from the published order, were the Broken Family Band. Each of them with a made-up name for the occasion, from Jonathan Peanut the lead singer and guitarist to spanish guitarist 666. They played a mix of songs, some I knew, some I didn't. But all of them were excellent. It would have been nice to hear the accordian a little more, but the player made up for that by being very pretty. So we jumped up and down and bounced and sang and generally had fun. "12 Eyes of Evil" was a great highlight, as was "At the back of the Chapel" - both songs I really love. Good stuff. A bit of good natured heckling from the audience was pointedly ignored and put down, in a manner which was arrogant without being unpleasant. A great set, and well worth the fiver in inself.
Mike headed off at this point, as did much of the rest of the audience, leaving very few of us left to listen to Moussevingt. These are a very unusual 3 piece, each of them with a mic, a guitar or bass, and a keyboard or laptop or box of electronic tricks. So they combined angelically confident voices with rock guitar and bleepy electro-stuff. Their first track was I think the most ambitious, a cover of "My Funny Valentine". The vocals were haunting, but the whole thing was really rather bitty and felt a bit as if all the components were at odds with each other, rather than working together. By the last track they'd obviously reached something more polished though, and I felt that one worked really well. Not as engaging as Skip the Rush or the Broken Family Band they were interesting, and I'd be curious to hear more in future. This was only their 3rd ever gig, and I suspect with a lot more practice they could be excellent.
Jan and I were squeeing fangirls and spotted Jaap heading for the bar in one of the gaps, and got his signature, his phone number and gave him some hints for club nights to try out. Later I went and talked to the rest of the band too and we invited them to come to the park on Friday lunchtime and promised to try and find guitars so they could have an impromptu gig.
Unfortunately it wasn't to be. Keir was the only person reading my LJ or cam.misc who was interested enough to come and join us, though he kindly brought a bottle of Lambrini and some nice conversation. Unfortunately him and Jan had to head off before the boys arrived, so in the end Owen M, Mike and I were only saved from being outnumbered by the band by the arrival of Andrew. We had a couple of drinks in the slight sprinkle of rain, and Andrew passed on the phone number of Simon from Green Minds Promotions so they could see if they could get another gig before they went home, and we also wandered over to the Portland for a drink when Mike headed back to work, and while we had no luck getting a show there either we did have a nice chat before the band headed off again to meet someone.
They joined Mike, Florian and I again later in the evening in the Portland, for another part of the Escalator conference: part one of a showcase of british bands, although they missed the first two.
First up was Ecki, a pretty chap with a guitar who just stood and sang beautiful songs and played along. 5 or 6 mellow tracks with interesting subjects and nice playing and a nice bit of rapport and patter in between. He plugged his current album on Amazon, though admitted most of the songs he was playing were new and hence wouldn't be available til the next one is out. I liked it enough to add it to my wishlist anyway. Definitely excellent. He was later seen with a rather professional looking camera taking pics of the other bands.
Second on the bill were Diastole, a four-piece with a female lead singer who had a great line in raucous harsh yells but could still sing a pretty tune. The guitars were mostly thrashy rather than twiddly stuff, and they were pretty loud. I was finding it a little hard to see enough difference between the tracks, until she did a solo tune late in the set - which was exquisite, with a couple more after it that I could begin to see the variaton in. One to watch I think.
The third band weren't up to the same standard, playing fairly nondescript rocky stuff. Pleasant enough to bop along to, which I did. The boys from Skip arrived in the middle of their set, but didn't stay in the room to listen to all of it. They had a keen fan/girlfriend in the audience though, who seemed pleased to have me dancing near her :-)
The last band were much heavier than the rest. They were Right Turn Clyde (whatever that means) and dressed rather snappily. They were confident and polished, and played a good strong set, especially considering they had a temporary drummer who only took over and learned the set on Tuesday after their own drummer sprained his wrist. Much more of a metal sensibility, though the sort you could take home to meet your mum. I'd certainly be happy to see them again.
After that we hung around with the band for a while, while they talked to Richard Brown who was the promoter behind the event. He was pretty frank with them about how good they are and their chances of success in this country, but had some fairly positive comments and suggestions. Finally we headed off over to the Junction togo dancing, joined by the three Luxembourg boys of Moussevingt. These poor Europeans simply aren't used to British drinking hours and really couldn't cope with how early the pubs shut. Since the Junction was letting conference people in free that was where we went, though I think we'd all have had a better time at the Fez club they didn't fancy paying 8 quid a head. Maybe next time they'll believe me, I've already touched on how dreadful a place it is. Really quite quite scary. And that's before you get into the cake licking off bellies. Yes. Eeuw. Still, it was nice to have a dance and drink and a chat. And I had a great walk home through the night on my own, don't do that often enough.
Today is a quiet day of recovering, though I'll be heading over to Simes and E-J's anniversary party in a while, and then maybe heading out to Alternation to meet the boys again for some music hopefully more to their taste. Sadly nearly everyone else is away tonight, as they'd all have loved to come along too.