Thursday, 27 November 2008

Jeffrey & Jarvis looking rough

I saw 2 of my very favourite musicians this week. They have both inspired me in very different ways but both write the most brilliant lyrics.

Jeffrey Lewis is one of my all-time favourite recommendations (thanks Becky and Mark for handing me that treasured CD-R) but ironically he's one of the few musicians I never try to tell people about. I have almost no confidence that other people will see what I see in him and have been dumbfounded when people have heard his music and not loved it like I do.

I understand that he has a voice that might be grating to some people - but like many of my favourite singers he doesn't need an extensive vocal range to break your heart and make you glad to be alive. It's more about the way his voice cracks and breaks than trilling and fanciful singing. Less is more and all that. The way he says "Leonard Cohen?" in The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song was one of the first things to hook me into him.

Then I discovered brilliant lyric after brilliant lyric. Lyrics to make you smile even if he's writing about losing his mind or feeling futile and frustrated.

One of the few people that did get Jeffrey straight away is my lovely wife.
For someone that doesn't really like folk (or anti-folk) or listen to lyrics or, for that matter, most of the music I like it's almost miraculous that she LOVES him. But she does.

East River is one of our faves. The bit about him diving into the river and becoming scum and finding someone to become scum together with is awesome.

Anyway, back to the gig... it was Looking Rough At 30, a night in celebration of Rough Trade's 30th anniversary.

Jeff did lots of new material (including this which I've never heard before), all of which sounded great. Not a million miles away from his old stuff but just as funny, beautiful and brilliant - the best kind of folk (that a hippy-punk ever wrote). He also did his comic book rendition of the Life Of Barack Obama and Seattle which I love.

He signed a copy of his Fuff comic for me afterwards and I tried to talk to him about playing Nottingham the next time he tours. He took my email address but Bex and I were both suddenly a bit shy and so didn't chat for long. The last time we both saw him play in Nottingham I asked him to say "Leonard Cohen?" to Bex as he hadn't played 'The Chelsea Hotel...' and she loved it so much. He found it an odd request but did it anyway much to Bex's startled delight (who hadn't heard what I'd been asking him).

After Jeff came Jarvis.

He was so good. Funny, charming, full of great stories and, of course, everything a front man should be. He's now sporting a full beard (speckled with grey - he's 45, y'know?!) which he asked us to vote on mid-set...

Did we like it?

Did we think it made him look like Peter Sutcliffe?

First things first though, as he came onstage the band struck up and behind him onscreen it read:

"Good Evening Sheffield"
"Are you alright?"
"I said Are you alright"

And so he proceeded through the usual introductory onstage patter but miming it out in front of a slide projector.

The slide projector was there as he was chatting in between songs and giving context (sometimes) to the evening/the music. My favourite slides included one of Lee Hazelwood with some children wearing fake Lee Hazelwood moustaches (I mistook the children for dwarves and told Bex to look away) and a black n white one of a miner stood next to a glam rock wrestler. Jarvis explained that they were father and son and that the wrestler didn't want to follow his dad down the pit so became a wrestler...who put make-up on his defeated opponents!

I had a mixed reaction to Jarvis' first solo album. Lyrically it was good but musically I felt it was a bit unadventurous and the songs didn't 'get me' in the same way his stuff with Pulp did.

Live though most of the songs sounded great and really benefitted from Jarvis's anecdotes and explanations (such as the inspiration for Big Julie). Black Magic in particular was awesome.

Of the new material I particularly enjoyed Bones, and the story behind Girls Like It Too. It's a line from a letter John Peel wrote to his teenage brother and, as Jarvis rightly stated, probably the best sex education advice you can ever get.

There's tons of things I missed but this is going on and on.
Check out Youtube for a barrage of mobile phone clips of the gig, like this one explaining how a new Jarvis song in inspired by his childhood fear of having maggots in his eyes!


Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Monkey: Journey to the West

We saw Damon Albarn's Chinese Opera at the weekend... It was incredible! For those of you who don't know (this would've included me before the weekend) Monkey is based on an old Chinese fable about a monkey who is born from a stone egg, eats too many peaches of immortality in heaven and is imprisoned by Buddha for 500 years before being released and being tasked with helping a monk to bring scriptures back from the West, facing lots of obstacles and challenges like the Skeleton Demon and Spider Woman. Oh and there's a pig man, some other guy and a horse helping too. So the storyline is pretty easy to follow...

It's a great production, although I must confess to thinking "That's just a guy in a tracksuit with a tail... where's the monkey I was promised?" when we first walked in. It was especially odd because we arrived just as it started and they were very disorganised. I asked the usher to help us find our seats and he looked at the tickets, gestured vaguely with the torch and said "go round the back, they're over there". Obviously not the best directions, so we ended up watching the first half crouched in the aisle!

Anyway, it mixes Jamie Hewlett's animation with Gorillaz-style beats with chinese opera with buddhism with martial arts with Cirque Du Soleil type acrobatics with a bunch of girls spinning plates while doing forward rolls.

It's a real spectacle, I think it's only on a short while longer, but I'd recommend it. Plus you get to see the Millenium Dome and think "Hmm, not as big as I thought".

Here's a link to a trailer for the Opera:


Bex xx

Friday, 21 November 2008

DO'D and Monkey!


We saw David O' Doherty last night at Just The Tonic at the Approach. While the food was revolting - so bad we took it back and the manager actually looked embarrassed - David O'Doherty was great. If you've never been to Just The Tonic it's a comedy club which used to be at The Old Vic (now Escucha?!) and has had just about every big comedy name who's not shit playing there. It's really worth going along even if you haven't heard of the people playing because generally the standards are pretty high.

Anyway, you can see David O'Doherty here.

It's really very rare to enjoy musical comedy. A few years ago we saw him and Flight of the Conchord on the same night. We hadn't heard of either and were gutted to see two musical acts on the bill, given their high propensity for shitness, but both were amazing and we had to eat our words. Like when we saw Alan Carr at the Christmas JTT special and I booed a little bit when he came out because I thought he was crap from the Friday Night Project, then I laughed a lot and had to eat humble pie. He's very funny in person.

Anyway, DO'D was great! Next we're off to see Monkey Journey To The West in London this weekend. I don't actually know what it is much, so I'm off to do some internet research...



Thursday, 6 November 2008

Hello Gore... The Aftermath

Hello Gore. It was great wasn't it? Best Halloween Party EVER!

If you'd like to see some pics click here.

If you were on a pic and would like a copy, just let us know. There are some amazing photos and costumes, take a look!

To give you some idea of what kind of party it was... After Hello Gore (feeling green around the gills on Sunday) we swept up:

- Talc
- Straws
- Sweetie Wrappers
- Popcorn
- Cobwebs
- Fairy cake cases
- Fake Hair
- Feathers
- Plastic spiders
- Pumpkins
- Set lists
- Broken glass
- LOTS of safety pins
- A fake wound


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Back in the saddle


For a while now, I've been very busy with lots of stuff (brilliant stuff like getting married - yeah, LOVE being married! - and buying a house) which has meant that I've not spent anywhere near as much time collecting and listening to music and going to gigs.

Having done all of those things since I was about 13 I've come to kind of take them for granted. But when I haven't got a new record demanding that I listen to it again or a band that I'm really looking forward to seeing, it does sometimes take the edge off of life a little. After all, finding a new song or a new band is SUCH a joy!

So, it was a real treat this week to jump in the car with some of my oldest and dearest friends and head up to Birmingham to see Dr Dog.

The gig was in an odd setting - the small studio space next to the Glee Club.
It was a seated gig with an unexpectedly small capacity (about 50 /60 people max I would've said). And although I was initially a big gutted that it wasn't a big excited, chattering room full of fans waiting to wig out, it was fun. It felt more like a private audience. Or a bit like you were in the audience of Later with Jools Holland and it wasn't cack and the bands were really good and Jools didn't nob about interviewing Keith Allen or some old hack with a rock biography to hawk.

For anyone that doesn't know Dr. Dog are a 60s ish psych-pop band who like "Boggle, three-part harmonies, roman candles, slow dancing, the great outdoors, pizza parties, and diminished chords". They're great. They're songs are instantly familiar and yet full of surprises, melancholy but really uplifting.

The gig didn't disappoint even though lots of the stuff they played was off the new record or the one before Easy Beat which I haven't managed to get hold of yet. They record in a very specific way with analogue equipment and I was worried that they wouldn't be able to pull off the subtleties and Beach Boy-esque harmonies live. But they really did!

And one of them was dressed a bit like a gnome!

Check 'em out...

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