THE VACANT LOTS: Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen. 13th June 2017.

14 06 2017
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Photo credit: Olivia Cellamare

 

Last night I saw The Vacant Lots for the second time. I wondered if they could top the first time I saw them. If I could relive that feeling again. And again. There was clearly no need for me to even question this. The Vacant Lots are easily one of the best bands I have ever seen live, and I honestly wish I could be in that moment of watching them every single day.

Their set opens with Departure. This is the perfect song to open with, it makes you feel like Brian and Jared are welcoming you into this world of theirs. It’s a noisy world but still the most peaceful place to go. Every song they play just makes me wish I had some musical talent. Instead I just write about it, sorry!

It’s hard to work out who to watch when you go to a show by The Vacant Lots. Brian lurks over his side of the stage, hiding sweetly behind a case with TVL written on it. He crashes the cymbal next to him as if something has come over him. Every word he sings is projected with this feeling that gets you right in the gut. For me, the way he sings Paint This City is one if the greatest moments. It’s my favourite song by them and to see it performed with this beautiful emotion is an honour to see. It’s his workstation and the noises that come from there are like a scientist at work. It’s just brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Jared performs Funeral Rites in a way that makes you want to get on the stage and sing it with him. Taken from the Berlin EP, which came out last year, this song is on the same level as what Brian does with Paint This City. These moments in the set really show just how amazing they are. It’s the only song in the set where Jared doesn’t play guitar. I need to talk about Jared and his guitar. If you’ve ever seen, or just listened to The Vacant Lots you’ll know just how great a guitarist Jared is. He’s got this effortless way of making you wish you could do what he does. But what he does is so rare. The noise that comes out of his guitar is like nothing I’ve heard before. It truly whirls its way around you then slowly finds its way into your soul. The band really come alive when you see their show. The songs take on a different meaning. Of course Mad Mary Jones is another stand out part of the show. Jared holds his guitar close and you cannot take your eyes off the stage.

The Vacant Lots are that band you discover on your own and you realise quickly what an impact they have on you. They’ll make you want to make your own noise, write your own words down in a scuffed notebook- sacred thoughts that no one rarely sees. They make you want to step into this world they create with their sound and to never leave. It’s home. It feels how home should feel. When you go to one of their shows, your surroundings don’t matter. You could be with a group of friends or you can be on your own- but you zone out and feel like you are the only one there. They are such a powerful band and criminally underrated.

Bands like this are rare. Bands that can evoke this kind of feeling and drive within you are so rare. We simply must treasure them. What I love about Jared and Brian is that they sound like they are from far, far away. The sound they have created changes with each record and EP they release, and for me that’s what keeps their live shows so influential and exciting. I can only hope the younger generation go to one of their shows and think, “One day, I’ll do that.”

I’ve got a few bands I always say that I could happily go to their show every night and not get bored with it- The Vacant Lots are no doubt in that list. Last night was a truly brilliant show. They don’t need to engage in pointless small talk- the music says it all. Also, I finally bought a TVL shirt so I’ll probably be living in that from now on.

Go see them. Stand at the front. Get your eardrums and mind blown.

 

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LITTLE DEATH MACHINE: Midnight Blue.

12 06 2017

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There are some bands that just make you really, really care about music. Some bands that get beautifully under your skin and take over the noise in your head. These are the bands we cling to, but the grip isn’t needed to be too tight because the love you have for them is going nowhere.

Little Death Machine have been an obsession of mine for a few years now, and every single time they put something new out- I just have to write about it. With everything they have released so far, it sounds like a step up from what has come before.

Their new single, Midnight Blue is what would happen if Trent Reznor and Brian Molko got together with a hint of Cold Cave. So for me, it is nothing short of perfect. Daniel’s voice on this is as strong as ever and it’s one of those songs that are just made to be yelled back to the band.

The wonderfully menacing and creepy sound in Midnight Blue is exceptional, and it is matched brilliantly with the video. I’ve always loved how Little Death Machine have this really eerie and dangerous sound. It’s like something or someone is lurking. Waiting and waiting for you. You may never know who or what it is. But maybe one day it will get you. Maybe you’ll be aware, maybe you won’t. Midnight Blue will be playing as it happens.

There’s this brilliant build up after the 2 and half minute mark where everything just hits you. Followed by a brief instrumental where it goes slightly tame, then Daniel’s vocals kick in again and this wave of unsteadiness hits you. A lot of bands try to get this eerie feeling within their music, and some just take it too far. Little Death Machine do it in a way that is nothing short of effortless, and of course leave you wanting more.

In my biased opinion, it is really one of the best things Little Death Machine have done. I remember hearing Hit Me ages ago and being in awe of this brutal sound. To hear them go from that to what they have created with Midnight Blue is just wonderful. They are really one of the best bands around.

Little Death Machine are having a single launch for Midnight Blue next Monday (19th June) at The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington. You can get yourself a ticket here: https://www.musicglue.com/little-death-machine/events/39803950-236e-0135-a8e7-4661067ffba2





L.A. WITCH: The Lexington, 18th February 2017.

20 02 2017

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If you’re a fan of the phenomenal L.A. Witch you’ll have seen that some low life decided to steal some of their gear after their show in Bristol last week. For some, they may have just packed up, cancelled the tour and headed home. Not L.A. Witch. They’re doing this tour until the very end and putting their all into every single show. The kindness and love from fellow fans and musicians has been overwhelming and just beautiful to see. I don’t think I’ve seen a bunch of people rally round like this, and it’s just a wonderful thing to see. For every shitty situation, there’s always some good. It’s the kindness of others that gets you through in instances like this.

I saw their first ever show in London in November at the Shacklewell Arms. A bunch of us crammed into a small, sweaty room to finally witness one of the best bands around. I’ve been going on and on about their music for 3 or 4 years now, and to have finally seen them last November was just a real highlight for me. To see them on Saturday? Oh man, it towers over that show for sure.

Their show at The Lexington was nothing short of divine. You could tell that they were playing with slight caution at the start, especially Sade as she was borrowing a guitar and pedals. However, the nerves slipped away with ease as she held that guitar as if it was her own. The way they played had no indication of what had happened a few nights before, but I noticed there was something about them this time that really hit me. They played with this unbelievable force and passion that made you just want to jump on stage and join in. They made you want to be part of their gang. It must be said that Ellie is a fantastic drummer and the way she basically annihilates the drums during Kill My Baby and Ain’t Comin’ Home is insane. For the most part she makes you wish you could play the drums, but for the remainder you just stare in awe of her beating the shit out of the drum kit.

Hearing songs like Good Guys and You Love Nothing was so great, especially as I don’t think Good Guys is really played much, or maybe at all. Heart Of Darkness closes the set. Irita really owns the set with her bass on Drive Your Car, and Sade rips into the song, Brian with this fury that is so wonderfully captivating.

As I gazed upon the stage, no part of me could think of a band that they reminded me of. I really cannot think of anyone or anything I have heard before, and I was instantly shot back in time to when I first heard them in 2013. It just smacks you blissfully in the face. I love being able to hear songs like Get Lost live because these early songs are the ones that had me hooked completely. Get Lost is a real highlight of the set because at the end, they just really let rip. It’s such a raucous song and they just do it so perfectly well in their set.  I guess part of me really loves them so much because if I had any musical talent, I’d want to sound like L.A. Witch. I stood with my eyes closed a lot and swayed during a few of their songs, just letting the music take me wherever. I’m having a really shit time at the moment, and I just wanted to hear something that would take me out of my mind and body. They most certainly did that, and for that hour or so- nothing in the world, nothing in my head mattered. I remember vividly closing my eyes during Ain’t Comin’ Home and just being covered in goose bumps. Most definitely one of the best shows I’ve been to in a long time and easily one of the best bands I’ve ever seen live.

Each song is played with this way of just leaving you stunned, there is simply no denying just how great this band is and with their debut record FINALLY coming out this summer- I think everyone is finally going to realise just how brilliant they are and I have every ounce of faith that their debut record is probably going to get played to death by me, easily.

I managed to get the set list from the show, so if you’re interested they played:

Intro

You Love Nothing

Kill My Baby Tonight

Brian

Untitled

Ain’t Comin’ Home

Sleep

Feel Alright

Drive Your Car

Baby In Blue

Get Lost

Encore:

Good Guys

Heart Of Darkness.

 





MACHIINE: The Shacklewell Arms, 20th January 2017.

20 01 2017

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I’m fairly sure I have just witnessed one of the best live bands around and have probably been to a gig that might end up being my best of the year. I’ve got others lined up, but this one is staying etched upon my brain. I can’t unsee any of it and nor do I want to.

Made up of members from The Underground Youth, Peace And Love Barbershop Muhammad Ali and PINS- Machiine just ripped a hole right through the Shacklewell Arms with no apologies. They completely and utterly destroyed the place with their destructive and rambunctious sound. The kind of sound that makes you want to make your own noise.

I have seen many great shows at this venue and I can honestly say I’ve not seen anything like this before. They blitz through their debut Teaser EP with also a phenomenal cover of Garland Jeffreys track, Wild In The Streets. I remember hearing that song when I was super young on MTV and it stuck with me. To hear a band like Machiine turn it into a brilliantly smutty affair was great, they made it theirs and more.

Craig and Mark prowl on the stage and circle the floor. The stage is too small to hold all seven of them. Each band member plays as if they have been in Machiine for decades and decades, they don’t sound brand new- but their sound is so unique. I think also, not knowing what to expect truly made this show what it was- sensational. That’s the only word. I’ve left wanting to start my own band but I have no musical talent, so I’ll just write about it instead. I can happily say that this is one of the most in your face and most rowdy shows I’ve been to. It was the right kind of confrontational and the way Mark and Craig are with each other is brilliant. Mark has this impish grin on his face as they rip through What Bad Boys Do whereas Craig leaves you in awe wondering where he goes when he performs the songs. Each band member takes you on their own journey. Ola bangs the drums and shakes the tambourine as if her life depends on it, and keeps the steady pace and groove of the sounds. Honestly, if you weren’t there- you messed up. You missed out.

I hope this is only just the start, a taster of what is to come because there is sincerely nothing stopping Machiine from not only being YOUR favourite band, but a band that rule the airwaves and the world. Give them the world, save us all. The crowd did seem a little reserved but maybe they just didn’t know what to expect, but trust me when they come your way and into town- go see them. Don’t pay attention to the crowd, just do whatever the hell you want.

 





THE DAMNED: Brixton Academy, 26th November 2016.

27 11 2016

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There are some feelings in the world that cannot be replicated. Seeing one of the bands that changed your life, the band you absolutely adore and play religious every day live for the first time is one of those feelings. Last night after waiting for what seemed an eternity, I finally saw mine- I saw The Damned live. To make it even better, it was their first record in full. The record I play every morning whilst I get ready for work. The record that can sometimes keep a brewing panic attack at bay. This show was going to mean more to me than just seeing a band I love live. It was something else.

The crowd, I have to say, were amazing. Everyone was so friendly and just genuine, lovely people.  I’ve been to too many shows where some dickhead spoils it for everyone. It was a dickhead free zone last night. Everyone knew of the importance of the show, the importance of The Damned. The next 2 hours were going to justify this.

The band walk on to the stage, Captain Sensible tells the sound guy to turn the music on the PA off. He blames Genesis and YES for Punk starting; for the bad we all got the good. The band rip into Neat Neat Neat and Dave glides onto the stage like some kind of messiah. Is this how people feel when they are faced with a religious experience? For me, this went deeper.

The first part of the show is their debut record in full. I was finally seeing the songs that keep me together right before me. The songs that clear my mind and make everything alright for a short amount of time. The songs that made me fall for Punk at such a young age. Maybe it is a typical thing to pick up on, but the way in which Dave leans into the crowd and says, “Is she really going out with him?” And they launch right into New Rose just blows my mind and is easily one of the best moments in the set. That song started it all 40 years ago and it still feels brand new.

I Fall and See Her Tonite are two from the first set that really stood out for me, just because I love them and the energy they all have when they play them. At one point during the set, Captain Sensible chases Stu round the stage in a playful schoolboy manner. It is so endearing and beautiful to watch. To see a band that have been around for so long and play with this wealth of energy is astounding. They are still one of the most influential bands around, and last night truly showed that.

Anyone who has seen The Damned over the past 20 years will know about Monty. He is someone you cannot take your eyes away from. He moves about on the stage as if he has successfully done a stage invasion but nobody minded, so he stays. He’s hilarious and a joy to watch. His energy feels like the backbone of their live shows. He sings along to the first set as if he is a fan in the crowd.

I’ve been to so many gigs but I doubt any will leave this kind of imprint in my mind. There is something about seeing one of your favourite bands of all time live that just does something to you that nothing else can. You just know that it will always stay with you.

Some may assume that Punk is dead but it really isn’t. It’s an attitude. It sure as hell isn’t taking a bunch of artefacts and burning them because you don’t agree with certain people backing 40 years of Punk. No names need to be mentioned. For me, The Damned last night showed us exactly why and how Punk will never die out. Before they went into their second set Captain said that a lot of people expected them to just go away after the first record- how wrong they were!

The Damned are a band that I hold so dear to me for so many reason, and to have finally seen them live and to see Damned Damned Damned performed in its entirety is just everything to me. I know I sound like a boring old so and so, but it was truly one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. They all conduct the crowd in their own way, and when Captain through his red beret into the crowd at the end, and Dave threw his arms around him- that’s when you knew. You just knew that this band are going to always have a firm plac





THE DAMNED: New Rose.

22 10 2016

 

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“I got a feeling inside of me
It’s kind of strange like a stormy sea.”

 

I’ve always felt like I was born at the wrong time. I wasn’t made for ’86 onwards. I was made for at least a decade before, but that’s only if you have the misfortune of looking through the band shirts I own and the records on my shelves. I think my head is there also, it’s never where it is probably meant to be. Let’s go back 40 years.

22nd October 1976, The Damned released their first 7” single- New Rose. The B-side was a cover of Help! By The Beatles. The Damned very quickly became one of the most important and easily, one of the best Punk bands to have ever formed. For me, I loved how strange they were and how their sound was unlike anything I had heard before. I can’t remember how old I was or where I was when I first listened to them, but I’m pretty sure it was my stepdad that got me into them. I love the video to New Rose. I love the close ups of Dave Vanian’s face and his black lipstick. He looked like a handsome Dracula who not much wanted blood but the souls of those who were going to give themselves over to The Damned.

I love the nod to Leader of the Pack by The Shangri-Las in the intro followed by the battle cry drumming which is brought together with a collective  yelp. This iconic intro to New Rose is one of the best I’ve ever heard and any time you hear it, you cannot help but join in. It’s such an important song for Punk. They’re such an important band, and they embodied frustrations in their own way and unleashed it so well on their first record. Their first record for me, is one of the best Punk records ever made. It’s got this raw sound flowing through it that isn’t found in a lot of the Punk records that came out around that time. The Damned took it further. They made it creepy, sinister but approachable. Nothing about them was vulgar or obnoxious (by no means am I saying any of the other bands were) but they could still shock someone’s parents if they weren’t of the liberal kind. The Damned were and are brilliant misfits who gave you a sound to belong to. What I found in their debut record is something I hadn’t found elsewhere before and New Rose started all of that.

Much like the Dead Boys, The Damned were “young, loud and snotty.” The absolute best way to be, especially for a rowdy Punk band. New Rose has been labelled as the UK’s first Punk single and it immediately set a standard that only a few could reach. Whatever The Damned intended to do with New Rose, I am pretty sure they have done. They influenced a wealth of bands and I’m fairly sure that they still do. I play my copy of Damned Damned Damned on a daily basis. I put my record player on most mornings as I get ready for work and I always seem to reach for this one. There is something about it that smacks you in the particulars and gets you ready to get out the house.  A month after New Rose was released, the Sex Pistols released Anarchy In The UK. Both bands have played such a vital role not just for what they did for Punk but for music in general. Rowdy in different ways, both demanded to be heard, again in their own way. Both bands were made to be played loud and 40 years on, we are finding ways and reasons to play them louder than before.

40 years have passed since New Rose was released on Stiff Records. A song that took pretty much only a day to record holds a legacy that not much can compare to. The Damned started something with New Rose that could never, and will never be finished.





THE KILLS: Roundhouse. 7th October 2016

8 10 2016


The thing about the aftermath of a gig is the comedown that ruins you. For those couple of hours when you’re crammed in a room full of people who are there with the same motives and thoughts as you is comforting. It becomes your own little world. A world you normally create within the walls of your mind, and in your bedroom. For those few hours you’re not on your own, you feel like you’re home. That’s the power and that’s the beauty of live music. It gives us all a place.

The Roundhouse is a venue I’ve never really felt anything towards. I’m not into big venues. I last went there last year to see Patti Smith and I had a great time. Last night, I saw The Kills on the last date of their UK tour. Was it the best place to see them? Yes. Easily. I saw them 8 days before on the opening night of the tour in Manchester, and even though they’ve been on the road for so long, their show last night looked as if they were just getting started.

Their set is made up of tender moments such as when Alison rests her head on Jamie’s shoulder at the end of Pots And Pans. To when he glides over to her holding his gun like a weapon, then facing it onto the crowd. The way they look at each other, the way they scale the crowd with their eyes, how Jamie is easily the best guitarist I’ve ever seen, how Alison bends her body backwards during Whirling Eye and you think she’s about to snap, how Alison stalks the stage- all these moments and more lock you in. You know where to look. But are you aware of how it’s going to make you feel?
There is something truly, truly special about seeing your favourite band live. Being at the front and one of them look at you as they sing a song you love. You wish you could thank them for these moments- so, I guess writing this is my thank you. Eyes locked and a line from Hard Habit To Break is sung at me. Aware but unaware. I can keep that moment locked somewhere forever.
The set is similar to Manchester but along the way they’ve added songs- they added Love Is A Deserter and Let It Drop. I hadn’t given much attention to Let It Drop, but sometimes when you witness a song live, it changes your view on it. The lyrics are great, and I’m not sure why I’ve not played it as much as others off Ash & Ice.

Let’s go back to the tender moments of the show. For the encore, Alison takes to the stage to perform That Love. A heartbreaker of a song, but if your mind is in a rut, play it and it will help. Trust me. I mean, you’ll cry but that’s okay. What comes after That Love? The Last Goodbye. I’ve always had a hard time listening to that song, and for a period of time when Blood Pressures came out, that song meant the world to me. It in a sense, became my world. For sentimental reasons, that record was my glue for a long time. I thought seeing it live would just break my heart. I’m not in that place anymore, so why would it? Because the lyrics are gorgeous. I don’t know where Alison goes in her mind when she sings this, but there’s no way I could do it. Despite all that, it was truly a beautiful song to finally see live. The lyrics are just beautiful, and the care and feeling that is within them is mind blowing.
The set ends with Sour Cherry. The perfect song to end on (check the lyrics.) But you just don’t want it to be over. It is over far too soon. You feel as if it has just started, and it is done.

The Kills are a band that have no bounds with regard to who is a fan of theirs or who goes to their shows. There is a beautiful mixture of people at their shows irrespective of age, gender, race etc. There’s just nothing there to pin point what kind of person loves this band, and that shows the power they have. It’s amazing to be part of, and as mentioned many times before, being in that moment where it’s just you, them and others who love them as much as you- it makes nothing matter. All that matters is the music.

The gentle songs like Echo Home break your heart (the lyrics are perfect) are intertwined with rowdy limb flailing Whirling Eye to U.R.A Fever. When you think you know what you’re going to get, they upper cut you and you are constantly left in awe. Your head is swimming, jaw on the floor and you want more, and more. I could quite happy watch them play every night and cling on to this feeling as tight as I possibly can. There’s no replica for this. You can’t substitute it for something else.
Your favourite band will always be your world. Live music will always be a way to escape whatever you need, and part of the escapism is finding something you need. And when you get it, cling. Cling. The Kills are medicine for the mind, body and soul. They create moments for you to live in. You feel powerful with their words ringing in your ear. Everyone does mention this bond they have, and it is truly one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see. 

I could quite happily write thousands and thousands of words about them and their live shows, but words don’t do any of it justice at all.

*all photos from the show are mine.