Live Review

DTF#5, The Garibaldi Hotel, Northampton, July 12

If you are going to go out midweek in Northampton and get a good gig in you then chances are it’s going to be hosted by either The Roadmender [expensive ticket, 500+ people] or The Garibaldi Hotel [free ticket, 50+ people]. And so it goes again this warm July evening, with another Destined To Fail evening in this backstreet boozer.

Served up are a twin serving of Brighton, sandwiched between a more immediate ensemble in the shape of Blood-Visions. New Boots had been led to believe the locals were one of Northampton’s finest. That report, it unfolds, is pretty bang on the money. The quintet [4x guy, 1x gal] oscillate between hardcore punk and pop-punk/emo, and it is not immediately clear whether they are a “message band” [in the time-honoured tradition of Black Flag, Fugazi, etc.], or simply in it for shits and giggles [as they’re named after a Jay Reatard album let us assume the latter]. Regardless of intent the performance is carried to another level by the ferocious-yet-witty presence of frontman Joss. The songs lock into a simple riff-based groove and batter you into submission. If you like your music literally in your face you’ll find plenty to love with these visions.

Before that though the evening opens with The New Tusk, the Brighton trio that look quite like Husker Du and Soundgarden. Their sound is lot more indie though, with Cribs-style jittery guitar patterns sprinkled liberally throughout. Doomy bass lines propel the whole thing forward, and you can appreciate the live arena is their natural domain. It’s imperative to nod your head on this journey their on. It’s a solid rather than world beating start to the evening, and do definitely keep an eye on the name for future releases as they have all the classic makings there.

Headliners Birdskulls – Jack [guitar and vocals], James [normally/formerly Rory, bass] and Sam [drums] – are our second Brighton band tonight. With one solid album under their belts tonight they share their Lemonheads/Nirvana-indebted grunge pop with the uninitiated, and the audience and New Boots are ever so pleased they did, for they got it going on, as ably demonstrated on new song ‘Over It‘. There’s a self-titled EP released this autumn via Art Is Hard Records [and recorded with Theo Verney, no less]. Do check it out when it drops.

Reportage by Phil Istine

Bird Skullsbirdskulls setlistBlood Visions

Live Review

Billy Bibby & The Wry Smiles gig, photos

 

Former Catfish and The Bottlemen guitarist/song-writer Billy Bibby brought his new band to Northampton’s Charles Bradlaugh last weekend, and he didn’t disappoint. Playing recent singles including ‘Are You Ready?’, ‘Substitute’, ‘Always Something’, and new one ‘Hamburg’ his band are a tour de force of good time guitar rock’n’roll. The support wasn’t too shabby neither, with locals The Barratts and Kettering’s Monarchs up to their usual high standard.

Photos by David Jackson [http://davidtjackson.com]

Live Review

Twinfest 2017 live review

TWINFEST

Various venues, Northampton, June 22-25 2017

For those who do not know what it is, Twinfest is a music festival where bands from Northampton get together with bands from the towns in France and Germany that Northampton is twinned with; Poitiers and Marburg respectively. It is held at a number of venues over one weekend.

Thursday, The Pomfret Arms

Twinfest 2017 starts off right where Mano-Musikfestival (the sister event held in Marburg) finished in March, with the English bands who travelled to Germany in March welcoming the travelling German bands to Northampton.

Opening night, held in The Pomfret Arms converted barn, kicks off with a performance by Northampton folk duo The Straw Horses. Corinne and Rob were a huge hit in Germany this March, and their 30-minute set today proved why, as their immaculate performance matches the beautiful venue to perfection. Second to perform are Marburg’s post-rock instrumental band LDMR: well half of them anyway. With Mattes and Stefan not arriving until Friday morning, guitarist Jan and drummer Arne take to the stage alone to perform a few stripped back versions of the bands songs. The two musicians, despite missing 50% of their band, have the audience at the fingertips for the full length of their set and perfectly wet the appetite for what the German bands have in store for their hosts in the days to come.

Following LDMR were their best friends from Marburg, and travelling partners, garage-rock duo Helen. Starting off with the incredible track ‘Berglied’ [a song that will go on to generate massive sing-alongs from the audience at every venue they played across the weekend] Thomas and Franz wow the jam-packed venue from start to finish and leave to a rapturous applause, with plenty of new fans in tow.

Bringing the music part of the night to a close is local alternative/indie band Deaf Trap. Opening with a brand new, and as yet untitled, track the four-piece have the barn jumping from the first minute. Second and third songs, ‘Black Mass’ and ‘Digging a Hole’, see a riotous mosh-pit breakout, with the latter receiving a huge sing-along from the onlooking crowd. At one point bass player Tom Wright just about managed to keep playing despite being crushed under a falling PA speaker knocked over by the relentlessly dancing crowd, with a couple of sharp crowd members luckily jumping in to save him on this occasion. The band finish their set with crowd favourite ‘Fate Thinks’. It’s a fitting way to close the opening night with the band having closed their final set of the Mano festival back in March with the same song, in front of the overflowing Szenario venue in Marburg.

As is customary with Twinfest, the opening night was a chance for the travelling contingent to meet their English hosts and this tradition continued long into the night in the glorious Pomfret garden. A great evening of music is thus rounded off with many life long friendships beginning. This is what Twinfest is all about – and why the event is one of the most loved on the local musical calendar.

Friday, The Charles Bradlaugh

Day two begins with a large crowd immediately filling The Charles Bradlaugh to see Helen, with a lot of new faces joining the crowd members from their previous day’s performance who have come to see them again. Another impassioned performance from the duo see the band really hit their stride and set the tone for the whole evening. Franz and Thomas [two of the most humble people you could ever wish to meet by the way] throw everything into their performance and the crowd responds lovingly to that intensity. Their music, charisma and stage presence easily transcends any language barrier. They will clearly be a huge hit in any country, anywhere in the world.

In a role reversal from the previous day LDMR followed on from Helen, this time with all four members present and correct. If you have never seen LDMR it is difficult to do justice to the atmosphere they create with their purely instrumental music. It is simply electric. The addition of Stefan and Mattes transforms the band into a musical powerhouse that is immersive and evocative – and the lack of any vocals is truly irrelevant.

Then the crowd gets their first opportunity to see this year’s visiting French artists, the first of which being the incredible Hrundi. The French duo consisting of Jean-Francois and Nicolas are almost indescribable…How do you categorise a band that sets up a red telephone centre stage surrounded by four keyboards and a robot? With intrigue flowing through the venue Hrundi deliver a captivating set filled with moments of synth pop, comedy and funky dance bass lines that has the audience laughing and dancing in equal measure.

Returning headliners Presley Johnson are up next and, with the gig serving as an album launch party after a three year hiatus from playing live, the excitement in the venue is palpable. The four-piece deliver an rip-roaring set consisting of new and old material, each song going down a storm with their adoring crowd [new song, and current single, ‘Do It All Again’ being a stand out track].

After a break the aftershow party begins with local band, and Twinfest/Mano veterans, The Snakeman 3 taking the stage. Frontman Kenton Precious (a key figure in the Twinfest team) is on superb form leading the band through all of their [non]hits and ensuring that the energy in the room is not lost. Fan favourite ‘Where’s Cheadle?’ stands out as the highlight of the set on this particular occasion.

With the hour getting late the second French artist, acoustic-folk singer Violette, takes the stage in what was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festival. As with any gig after midnight you would fully expect the crowd to have dwindled in numbers. Not tonight. The English, German and French audience members all come back into the live room and, in a beautiful show of unity, all sit on the floor of the venue together to take in Violette’s beautiful voice. This unique and very heartfelt moment really sums up the vibe that is present all weekend.

Closing the second night of the festival are local rap/hip-hop five-piece The Drunken Mandem. Armed with a set full of huge singles, as championed by Radio 1 no less, the band ensure that the brilliant second day finishes with the Bradlaugh dancing, laughing and drinking well into the night.

Saturday, The Lamplighter

The always popular, purely acoustic section of Twinfest at The Lamplighter sees the pub garden full of festival goers from midday. Velvet Engine and Paul McClure kick proceedings off nicely in the cosy garden as the beers began to flow again. Stellar performances from Keiron Farrow and then Corinne Lucy followed with numbers in the pub increasing significantly as the afternoon progresses.

The festival then witnesses a particularly entertaining performance from a returning Tom Rose, a Twinfest veteran, before the incredible King Biscuit Boys play. Having only managed to bag a slot at Twinfest due to a band member recently moving into the area, the two-piece play through an array of musical styles, with an even bigger array of musical instruments, and keep the audience completely engrossed throughout.

Rounding off the acoustic session is one of the heroes from the previous night, French artiste Violette. Having clearly won a lot of new fans at The Charles Bradlaugh the night before, The Lamplighter garden is bustling with people eager to see her perform again. Tracks ‘The Rose’ and ‘Bluebird’ stand out in a set that suits the environment to a tee – and a worthy headliner to a fantastic afternoon of acoustic music.

The evening session, held across both the downstairs bar and upstairs function room, starts with French duo Hrundi. The downstairs bar is already full by the time the band arrived ‘on stage’, and they do not disappoint. Telephones, robots and synchronized dance lessons were all on show once again as the local audience danced lovingly along for the whole set.

Moving upstairs we encounter alternative rock duo Drinsipa. Clearly a huge hit with the travelling German bands in particular, their set sees numerous mosh pits breaking out, and the crowd ferociously demand an encore – and the first signs off a wobbly floor begin to show [a problem that would become a much bigger issue later in the night!]

It’s starting to seriously get hot in here, and sweat levels are approaching ’90s Roadmender levels. No matter though, for The Mobbs are here and they are, no jest, the best pub rock band in the land. Taking the garage templates laid down in the 60s, 70s and 80s and that means aping [to varying degrees] Them, Dr. Feelgood and Thee Milkshakes. What you get every single time gig is substantial energy levels, a rhythm section to sacrifice your firstborn to, and buckets of sweat, passion and focused anger [some of the latter is actually directed towards you the audience, but don’t take it too much to heart]. And tonight they play many tunes from last year’s ‘Piffle’ album, which means you also get some A-grade boot-stomping tunes. What more could you want from a live show?

LDMR from Marburg are a “post-rock” stoner/shoegaze instrumental quartet. Come back, they are actually very good! With cascading, waterfall-loud sheets of guitar creating a wall of noise they have an excellent foundation to build upon. Step forward their superb drummer, who is their own version of Gene Krupa, with dexterous skills and fluid responses to his band mates twists and turns to make this intense performance one to remember. Surely these guys are first on the list to bring back next year, please organisers.

The Jackal Nine have risen from the dead. Supposedly having split last year, the grungey alt-rockers are back (for good?). Except tonight doesn’t quite go as they would have hoped. After two songs the show is pulled by the landlord as the ceiling is bending from all the moshing. To avoid a collapsed ceiling and many injuries, it’s the right thing to do. But the look of disappoint on the band’s, and most of the audience, faces is a tearjerker and no mistake.

But at least spirits are immediately raised again with the appearance of Fox Chapel. The Northampton four-piece are the epitome of moody, proggy indie with a dance beat that’s as solid as they come. Their punk edges have tapered off in recent times to offer up in their places a more vulnerable core. The chorus-effects/washed guitars and edgy vocals of new single ‘Lie Low’ bring to mind The Cure and The Horrors. Their multitude fans go wild as soon as the things starts, and with good reason. 2016 single ‘Ice Cream’, meanwhile, with it’s post-punk leanings is dialled into the heart of the alternative ’80s scene. They finish their triumphant set with a new song that is angular, deep, and relentless. These guys need to tipped for the top in 2018 by some influential tomes. The debut album, when it lands, could be really something special.

Sunday, The Black Prince

Twinfest is something we try to go to every year. Between Eid and Twinfest it was certainly a weekend to show off the multicultural nature of one of the largest towns in Europe. We arrive just as the first artist begins her set.

Almost as soon as arrive there’s Katie Paton, who is performing with the VHS Pirates. She’s heavily involved in the local music scene, and a long-time friend. As always with Katie she was ready with a hug and a smile. Organisers Bee and Kenny are their usual friendly and welcoming selves. They have worked hard to make a go of it and they’ve constructed a fantastic new stage and made the Black Prince a place where bands really want to play. Some of the local bands even helped build and paint it. Recently The Drunken Mandem, a local band of young rappers with a great sense of fun who also played earlier in the weekend, shot some of their latest video there.

The clientele at the Black Prince is often described as “alternative”, at least by the kind of people who use the word “clientele”. If “alternative” means a great atmosphere that pulls you in and makes you part of it, if “alternative” means it is full of good people where even strangers treat you like a friend, if “alternative” means you go away wishing everywhere was like that… then vive la différence!

Your reporter settles at a bench near the front with some Twinfest Ale, brewed especially for the occasion. It’s a decent light bitter and a good session beer. The first act is Violette from Poitiers, who sings harmonious and melodic acoustic numbers. This pleasant and relaxing set is an agreeable way to ease everyone into the proceedings. At this point it begins to rain a little, just a bit of spotting though and absolutely nobody is bothered. Northampton takes the stage next with The VHS Pirates. Although missing one of their front men, Toby, the band have a surprise up their sleeve with local artist Katie Paton stepping in to help cover his absence nicely. They are a mostly reggae-oriented band but also go into jazz funk territory, a bit of ska and even some rock and indie. The band, as they always do, have the crowd dancing along throughout their set, with track ‘My Girlfriend Left Me’ in particular gaining a huge reception. So many local artists are underrated for their versatility and talent. The VHS Pirates are definitely amongst them.

The next band are guaranteed to wake up anyone on a lazy Sunday afternoon [possibly including the dead]. The first German act of the day, Helen, are just two men, one on guitar and the other on drums. They start with a bit of melody and harmonica but that does not last and soon they aree into a blistering set of heavy guitar and frantic percussion. As Kenny says when he introduces them they are two guys who sound like 20. They have clearly brought some of their local fanbase with them, and there is plenty of headbanging at the front of the stage. Tracks ‘Berglied’ and ‘Karpowitz’ are huge singalongs, as they have been most of the weekend, and with the band clearly revelling in the presence of some new found fans they bring the energy levels up to one of the highest points of the whole weekend.

It was back to local for the next act, The Wax Lyrical Sound. Just two weeks after promoting their new EP at the Prince they return for the last day of Twinfest. Frontman and lyrical wizard Simon Meekey is known for his eccentric outfits. For the EP launch he wore a Pacman jacket that glowed in the dark. This time he wears a Bugs Bunny t-shirt, with aliens on his socks, trainers and the front of his baseball cap. Apart from the one song where he wears a sombrero. As part of the set he reads out a statement in French and German that he has painstakingly learned, to great applause. Never one to back down from a challenge, he patrols the stage with great confidence and takes the crowd through the band’s high energy set with ease, often entering the crowd to perform up close and personally with the onlookers. The Wax Lyrical Sound have their own style that mixes rapping and soul oriented vocals over rock guitars, and their set covers everything from songs that are just for fun to political and social comment, and even one about the movie Halloween.

If all that sounds eclectic, and it was, it does not prepare for what came next. Poitiers took the stage again with Hrundi. How to describe their music…Two men, one on bass guitar and the other on keyboards, they mix in samples with funky beats and rhythms that remind one of everything from French cabaret to the soundtracks from old US TV shows. Very different and hugely entertaining, like so many today they get people dancing and laughing all through their set.

After last night’s debacle The Jackal Nine manage to squeeze onto the bill, which is actually handy as Luna Rosa are a last minute cancellation. Their super heavy alt-rock is real punk purity; we witness a group who are local heroes to kids. Said kids mosh appreciatively at the front throughout the whole set. It’s not music that’s gonna change THE world, but it certainly does seemed to have change quite a few worlds in attendance tonight. They finish with a doom version of Gorillaz ‘Clint Eastwood’, which is proper cheeky, and works better than you would imagine in your head. It also manages to raise spirits as the sun begins to set and energy levels need a boost. The salvage job is successful completed, chaps, hats off.

Sarpa Salpa are making waves in the town and it’s not very hard to see why, based on this performance. They really have the songs, such as debut single ‘Across The Water’, to punk-funk themselves from local stars into a future buzz band. The slightydelic indie-dance thing is a big, er, thing in this day and age, and the still young and innocent SS [as no one is calling them] are better than many of the big boys, frankly.

Next up are Monarchs. We will forgive them from breaking the Twinfest rule of not actually being from Northampton [they are Kettering boys, natch] because they are SO DAMN GOOD. They ooze confidence from the moment they kick off with ‘Eyes, Lies’ and that alone immediately wins the non-converted over. They do that polished heavy rock things that sits alongside Queens of The Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys, and Royal Blood. That they’ve some stellar tunes played with a fanatics touch is the icing on the cake. Sam, James, and Jamie are heavy players and are here to rule over us. Begin grovelling now, serfs.

Last up, headliners The Barratts. These guys are both making sure they head the Northampton pack out the door into the wider world, having already made entries into surrounding areas and London. The five lads are indebted to The Clash, Libertines, and Killers in their pursuit of the good times. They display pop hooks from the downtrodden. On ‘Same Old Kids’, ‘Match Of The Day’, or ‘A Certain Time Of Night’ – and indeed every song they play here – they have energy to burn, and there’s times where it’s like watching a pure speed-freak /ADHD exhibition. “Exciting” doesn’t even cover it. Imagine what some further refinement to their craft will do for them over the next year. This was the best way to end Twinfest. Northampton music is in safe hands with The Barratts flying the flag.

The final few hours are a time for everyone involved to reflect on a truly wonderful weekend. Old friends reunited, new friendships started – and some of the best music that Northampton, Marburg and Poitiers has to offer. Twinfest 2017 can be considered a huge success and will live long in the memory. Roll on 2018.

Reporting by Jordan Birch, Phillip Wight (Kingsthorpe Jazz), and Phil Istine

Photos by David Jackson and Phillip Wight [Kingsthorpe Jazz]

Live Review

Live Review: Miranda Lee Richards

Miranda Lee Richards

The Lamplighter, Northampton, June 25th 2017

“There’s a lot of sounds we play. Folk, folk-rock, psycheMLR Lamplighterdelic folk-rock, country rock, English folk. Folkin’ folk, haha!” So quips Richards tonight halfway through her beguiling set. It seems there’s a lot you can do with this folk thing.

For the uninitiated Richards is an LA native who grew up in San Francisco. Her first solo album, for Virgin Records, came out in 2001, and she’s in the UK promoting her just-released fourth album, Existential Beast. Over the years she has collaborated with/been in Brian Jonestown Massacre, Tricky, Tim Burgess, Neil Halstead, and the Jesus and Mary Chain, amongst many more. What brings her to Northampton is one of her two guitarists, local musician Joe Woolley. Completing tonight’s quartet are Randy Billings on guitar, and Sandy Smith on backing vocals.

Playing the likes of ‘Ashes and Seeds’ and ‘Lucid I Would Dream’ from Existential Beast there’s an undercurrent of the ongoing political crisis within these seemingly personal songs, as if tumultuous times in the US speak to the heart of who we are as a people. Some of this may be lost on a Sunday night crowd unfamiliar with her oeuvre, but those in attendance are in no doubt as to her sincerity in delivering impassioned roots music. The suitable [and frankly often gorgeous] embellishments provided by her troupe only enhance the uneasy, shifting moods the songs bring forth.

Richards displays an ethereal, floating vocal style that contractually here means a namecheck of Hope Sandoval, but the more earthy, yearning elements of her approach does also recall once-time Northants resident Sandy Denny, or a Jacqui McShee. The sound of the new album is a blend of styles: often it’s a reflection of the popular country/Americana that is almost mainstream now in her native land, but at times it can recall contemporary UK psychedelic acts such as Temples and Jane Weaver [with the instrumentation stripped back, of course], and she treads this merging between the olde worlde of the 60s folk boom and contemporary mores with panache.

Here and now in NN1 every song is greeted with an enthusiastic reaction that Richards herself reciprocates. All in all tonight gives us a mesmerising hour set of haunting psych-folk that no one in attendance will be forgetting in a hurry.

Phil Istine

http://www.mirandaleerichards.com

MLR poster

Uncategorized

Improving the ecosystem

Hi everyone,

Welcome to New Boots, a blog/magazine with the simply aim of covering the music scene in Northamptonshire (and also on occasion report on interesting things happening in the wider musical sphere).

I’ve written [and edited] about music for nine years now. Turning my attention more to the Northants scene in recent times, and following conversations with various people here, a few narratives are abundantly clear. There’s lots of great bands across all the genres in the county. There’s a load of interesting and supportive venues in Northampton [and beyond] for new music. We’re lazy, and use social media more than our feet and wallets. We lack written media support. We are far too insular in our own circles, and don’t work together enough to better ourselves.

In other words, the musical ecosystem has a few too many creases present to satisfactorily function. Put another way: is it just to produce great art and the reaction amount to “not a sausage”? New Boots looks to reinvigorate a moribund scene [“lacking vitality or vigour”] through the elementary use of words and pictures. Well it can hardly hurt, can it.

Everyone is welcome to contribute to New Boots. Send an email if you have any ideas for reviews, interviews, pictures, events…anything really. Onwards and upwards.

Phil Istine, editor